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Published: June 22nd 2017
Geo: -16.4958, 145.467
Port Douglas lays an hour's drive north of Cairns airport. The entrance to the town is via a long palm tree lined road with plenty of top of the range hotels and resorts dotted along it. We were staying at the Mantra Aqueous apartments in the centre of town. I am a total convert to staying in an apartment rather than a hotel as there is more room and flexibility. All we had to do was call at the supermarket which was located on the Port Douglas road leading into town and stock up on wine and stuff for breakfast. Room 17 on the first floor overlooks the pool and has a spa bath on the balcony. We had to try that with glass of wine in hand naturally! The town itself is full of boutiques and restaurants and bars but none of it is tacky and it has an open feel about the place. As it was the low season it was also very quiet and some of the restaurants were closed for a long holiday. We walked down to the marina for a beer before investigating a restaurant for the evening. "On the Inlet" is a popular
seafood restaurant right on the water, in fact the decking extends over the water and lots of fish can be seen below. We had an excellent dinner and despite it being low season the restaurant was full.
Our first excursion was to Cape Tribulation which is only just over an hours' drive further north of Port Douglas and named after one of Captain Cook's ships which came to grief on this coast. It is a pleasant drive with acres of sugar cane surrounded by mountains covered in rainforest. Hopefully, no more rain forest will be cut down to grow the sugar cane and further up the coast even tea plantations. First we had to cross the Daintree Ferry, which is a cable ferry costing $23 return but which runs all day long and is very efficient. A short distance after the crossing there is a lookout point called the Alexandra lookout which is good for views of the coast. All along the road are signs to be wary of the Cassawary, the huge rare bird native to Queensland. However as we mad Englishmen were out and about in the midday sun, not surprisingly we did not see one. There are
also only 1100 of these birds left in the whole of Queensland so you are really lucky if you see one. I was expecting Cape Tribulation to be a rocky outcrop like Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, but in fact it is an area of rain forest jutting out and forming a Bay with a long empty sandy beach called Kulki lookout. I would have paddled in the Coral Sea except for the warning notices about jellyfish and an emergency supply of vinegar to pour over any sting- no thankyou! The road from here turns into a gravel road which we travelled down a short way to investigate the Beachside bistro and Bar. This turned out to be not actually on the beach and the bistro only sold hamburgers and other junk food so we had a beer and left. Thankfully we found Whet which is a surprisingly elegant bar and restaurant where we had wonderful Mushroom soup, Prawn cocktail salad and scrumptious chips. Thus replenished we set off down the coast again and visited the Daintree Discovery Centre. If we had visited this first we would have appreciated what we saw in the Rainforest later much more.
In fact a visit to this place saves you trogging round all the rest apart from the beaches. An audio guide takes you along an aerial walkway and up a tall tower so that you see all the various levels of the rainforest from floor to upper canopy pointing out various different species of plant on the way. This is the oldest rain forest in the world and the tour was very well done and we both appreciated the education. Sadly we did not see any of the birds or butterflies that were around but did not reveal themselves for our benefit.
Back in Port Douglas we had dinner at Bucci, an Italian restaurant. We tried the calamari stuffed with a spicy sausage and covered in a pesto sauce and squid ink. Not to everyone's taste and I enjoyed it but Stefan did not. Next we tried the Linguine al Granchio- too sweet for Stefan fine for me but huge portion. Because Stefan couldn't eat his they scrubbed it from the bill and gave him a spaghetti meatball to try which was very nice but again huge. So we couldn't fault the service here and it is worth a try.
next excursion was to Mossman Gorge only 15 minutes drive north of Port Douglas. After parking a shuttle bus takes you up to the Gorge for a small fee. The walk to the gorge is well laid out and the first stop is a pool containing lots of fish where you can swim. How I wish I brought my swimming gear. There are other viewing points along the way for good photos of the river. A circular route through the rainforest has been created with a good sandy path but as the tree roots and rocks still get in the way closed in toed shoes are recommended. This is the jungle so don't forget to get covered in insect repellent. We forgot on the first night out and got covered in bites. A bottle of water is also essential as this is an hours walk through the rain forest with no other facilities. As we had been to the Daintree Discovery centre we were armed with the knowledge of buttressed roots, ferns, epiphytes and vines so it made our trip more enjoyable. The forest is really beautiful and although we never saw any wildlife other than the plants (yes it
was mid day again!) we really appreciated the plant life. There are many signs about the trees and photo shot view points. After the circular walk through the forest I really wished I had brought my swimsuit but at least I had a paddle to cool off.
Dinner on our last evening was at Zinc which is next door to the hotel and turned out to be the best food of all the restaurants we had tried. The beef Carpaccio in particular was brilliant. The staff as is usual in Australia were friendly and attentive. It had been an enjoyable stay and we would recommend travelling to this far north east corner of Queensland, a beautiful state.
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