Enjoy Port Douglas

Port Douglas in tropical North Queensland is one of those little coastal towns that has somehow managed to be hip and cool yet quaint and charming at the same time. Just an hour drive from Cairns, this former fishing village has turned into

a sophisticated tourist mecca without all the hustle and bustle of places like Broadbeach or Noosa. While the permanent population may only be 3200 people, this number doubles in size during the peak season of May-October when the

weather is usually sunny and dry. My recent trip to the Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas proved its popularity amongst travelers even outside of the normal school holidays. The Friday afternoon I arrived the line for check in was out the door

but the staff managed to move it along relatively quickly and I was soon on my way to a newly renovated Lagoon Room overlooking one of the sparkling saltwater lagoon pools. The water looked so inviting after a morning of travel I quickly

dropped my bags and headed straight to the pool for a dip. The main pool with it’s swim up pool bar was beginning to draw a crowd so I chose to laze about in the water in one of the quieter sandy edged lagoons. The weather was warm and

balmy and the cool saltwater was just the remedy for my afternoon fatigue. Revitalized I headed into town on the resort’s shuttle service ($5 one way). First stop was a place I heard about called On the Inlet where the daily entertainment is

provided by George the groper who is lured into making an appearance by staff dangling tuna carcasses. Clearly George had a prior engagement on this particular evening so after a refreshing glass of chardonnay and an hour of watching the

boats go by, I made my way into the centre of town to meet up with friends for dinner. There are so many restaurants to choose from in Port Douglas but Bistro H by Harrison’s colonial style building and it’s candlelit garden patio was too

alluring to pass up. After a beautiful dinner of cauliflower popcorn, Hervey Bay scallops and paper bark baked whole coral trout it was time to hit the sack in my Sheraton signature bed. After a good night’s sleep I was up early the next day

for a morning stroll into town along the magnificent Four Mile Beach. The view out to the Coral Sea is stunning and walking along the water’s edge is the perfect way to start the day. After a bit of window shopping at the little boutiques and

souvenir shops along the way I stopped in for coffee and a browse at the Whileaway Bookshop and Café. This busy little café has good coffee, fresh French pastries and an interesting selection of books. Definitely worth a visit. Now that I had

my caffeine hit, I was off to Mossman Gorge, a pleasant 20 minute drive north from Port Douglas past sugarcane fields and lush green mountains. Located in the southern part of the World Heritage Listed Daintree National Park visitors can

take in the beauty of the pristine Rainforest, cool running streams, towering mountains and the dramatic gorge as guests of the local Kuku Yalanji people. Start by visiting the Mossman Gorge Centre, an Indigenous eco tourism development

that not only maintains the sustainability of the World Heritage Park but also features a welcome area, art gallery, café, gift shop and tour desk. It is here that you can purchase tickets for transfer on one of the Centre’s low-emission shuttle

buses that safely transports visitors up to the Gorge. After a five minute bus ride and another five minutes walking along elevated boardwalks we arrive at the mouth of the Gorge and it is spectacular. With crystal clear water running over

massive boulders into large swimming pools, it is impossible to resist a dip into the fresh mountain water. While I stood there with my feet in the icy cold water my body soon adjusted as the sun peeked through the forest canopy and

I quickly plunged my head underwater for a refreshing wake up call. After about an hour of swimming, climbing along the rocks and shooting down the natural rock slides, I was ready to leave feeling at one with nature. Back at the resort

things were heating up again by the pool bar so I ordered a a Greek salad with grilled prawns ($27) and waited to find a quieter place to settle in. The salad took nearly thirty minutes to arrive but I took it with me and found a sun lounge at

one of the quieter lagoons. The salad was pretty standard and due to the long wait time the prawns were cold. After lunch I was happy to relax by the lagoon with a good book. That night it was into town again for drinks and dinner with

friends. Our first stop was the Court House Hotel for a game of pool. Port Douglas’s oldest pub is located on Macrossan St (Port’s main street) behind a heritage Queenslander façade with wide open verandahs and fresh seas breezes. It is

definitely worth stopping in for a drink with live music in the beer garden most nights of the week. From there we walked up Macrossan to Zinc for a memorable meal of beef carpaccio, pan seared barramundi and coconut and lime panna

cotta. No visit to Zinc would be complete without a trip to the toilets where you will find a floor to ceiling fish tank that runs the whole length of wall between the men’s and women’s bathrooms. The following morning I was up bright and

early again for another walk along Four Mile Beach to the waterfront Sunday Markets at Rex Smeal Park. Here you will find market stalls selling souvenirs and local handmade arts and crafts but it is the fresh produce that really makes this

market special. I drank coconut water from a freshly cracked coconut as I looked on in envy of the all the people stocking up on local fresh fruit and veggies for the week. It was then time to board the Bally Hooley steam train at St Crispin’s

Station for a 30 minute ride to the Marina. This historic little steam train has been operating for over 55 years and is the very last one to be used by the Mossman Sugar Mill before switching to diesel locomotives. Now it was time to check out

and head back to Cairns for my flight back to Brisbane. While I made the most of my weekend in Port Douglas there is still so much to do. With snorkeling at the outer reef less than an hour offshore and Cape Tribulation just two hours north,

a return visit is on the agenda for next year. See ya then PD!
– Brooke Baxter

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