Visiting Port Douglas

The perfect base from which to immerse yourself in Australia’s tropical north.

Visiting Port Douglas, Australia

Situated in far north Queensland, the tropical paradise of Port Douglas is one of the must-visit places if you’re considering an expedition to Australia.

Established in 1877 when gold was discovered nearby, Port Douglas has since grown into one of Australia’s premier tourist hot-spots.

The best way to get to Port Douglas is to fly to Cairns — it’s then 70 kilometres (40 miles) north to get to Port Douglas. There are transport services but it’s best to hire a car as this will be useful for getting around the area.

The unique location of Port Douglas has it situated between two World Heritage areas — the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.

In this article we take a look at some of the highlights that you should definitely include on your visit to Port Douglas.

The Great Barrier Reef

Port Douglas is the best departure point for exploring the enormous Great Barrier Reef.

There are a huge range of tours available — ideally you should be looking for a scuba or snorkelling tour, but there are also other types of tours available if that’s not your thing.

Snorkelling is a great way of getting a close-up view of the stunning coral and marine life that inhabits this precious part of the world. Scuba diving takes it to another level — it would be ideal if you could do a basic scuba certification course before arriving, but even if you’re not certified there are introductory dives that you’ll be able to do that will let you immerse yourself in the underwater world of the reef.

The Daintree Rainforest

The Daintree is the oldest living rainforest on earth.

Just twenty minutes north of Port Douglas, head to the Mossman Gorge as this is the easiest way to get a feel for the enormity and diversity of the rainforest.

You can go swimming in the Mossman River, walk along tracks, and get a close up experience of the birds and wildlife that call this forest their home.

Cape Tribulation

Just to the north of the Daintree River is Cape Tribulation.

On the edge of the rainforest and the reef, you can stay in Cape Tribulation and enjoy bush walking, kayaking, horse-riding, or just hang out and enjoy the relaxed pace of tropical north Queensland.

It’s a forty five minute drive from Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation — it’s a spectacular drive with several look-out points that will demand that you stop and take photos.

An exciting adventure where you’ll feel like you’re exploring uncharted territory in the wilds of the Australian bush.

Enjoying the accommodation options available in Port Douglas, Australia. Photo: Gareth Johnson

One of the joys of visiting Australia is the sheer diversity of its landscapes, environments, and its flora and fauna. Port Douglas gives you a unique opportunity to experience the tropical rainforest of the Daintree, the laid back beach lifestyle of northern Queensland, and the breathtaking beauty of the Great Barrier Reef.

This is what a tropical holiday should be.

Post-cards from paradise in Palm Cove

It’s not that I judge a place solely on whether or not they have good wifi, but let’s be honest, it is a pretty important factor.

According to recent analysis, Australia’s broadband speeds are a little bit slower than Romania, and based on my experiences of tropical far north Queensland I’d suggest that, on the whole, broadband speeds in this part of the world are probably a bit worse than sub-Saharan Africa.

I was so happy to check into the Palm Cove Tropic Apartments and find that not only do they have wifi that works, but it is available in every apartment. Trust me, that’s really not that common around here.

Wifi sorted and emails quickly checked, it was time to explore the small coastal holiday community of Palm Cove.

Wow.

If you Googled something along the lines of ‘tropical holiday Australia’ I’m pretty sure that it’s a picture of Palm Cove that would come up.

There is not much more to this little town than a beachside road which is lined with palm trees, restaurants, cafes, and hotels; the white sandy beach; and the clear blue ocean that stretches out to the Great Barrier Reef.

This is the perfect base from which to explore everything that this region has to offer — snorkelling or scuba diving trips out to the reef, whale watching, expeditions to the Daintree Rainforest, or just relaxing on the sand and working on your tan.

The best way to get to this region is to fly in to Cairns. There is public transport and shuttle services, but hiring a car will give you a lot more flexibility and independence.

Palm Cove Tropic Apartments are modern, stylish, and comfortable self-contained units — available in a one bedroom or two bedroom configuration. As well as having good wifi, there is a really nice pool area surrounded by tropical gardens. If you are holidaying for any length of time then a self-contained apartment is perfect — you can cook some of your own meals, do your washing, and really relax and create a bit of a home-away-from-home kind of vibe.

This isn’t really the territory for young families, the apartments have a quiet, restrained atmosphere that is incredibly relaxing. All of the apartments were fully booked at the time that I was staying, but I hardly saw or heard another guest — it really was a luxurious little escape from the rest of the world, perfect if you and your partner just wanted some time out together where you could work on your tan and have an excuse to drink cocktails all day.

I had good intentions of being a bit budget-conscious and cooking my own meals, but there were just too many good cafes and restaurants right on my doorstep — favourites were the Rising Sun, the Chill Cafe, and Vivo. Huge breakfasts, amazingly fresh seafood, and great coffee. It’s comforting to know that wherever you are in Australia you can get really good coffee.

The Palm Cove Tropic Apartments complex is managed by partners Wayne and Scott who have been in Palm Cove for the last five years.

I always think that it must be tough having to work somewhere tropical like this region — it must be incredibly tempting just to strip down and head to the beach, but perhaps over time you become a little desensitised to the blue skies, the squeaky sand, and warm water. Perhaps.

Palm Cove feels very much like a grown-up kind of holiday. Restful, relaxing, stylish, and sophisticated. This is a pace of life that I could definitely get used to.

Port Douglas — Thala Beach Lodge

  • This is a stunning place to stay — situated on a private headland just south of Port Douglas. Thala Beach Lodge has been beautifully constructed within the forest, with a clever use of open, plantation-style architecture, and stunning views along the coastline. It’s hard to imagine that they used to grow sugar cane here — the land has been carefully replanted and restored. This is the kind of modern, eco-friendly luxury where you can have complete privacy if that’s what you’re looking for. I love anywhere with a beach bar, and drinking sun-downers while the cool breeze weaved through the coconut palms was a blissful way to end the day. They’re not really targeting the family market here, this is where you would come for a romantic mini-break, just you and a lover. Beachside weddings are popular at Thala. Australia has yet to embrace marriage equality, but if you were looking for somewhere tropical for your honeymoon this would fit the bill perfectly. One of the features Thala Beach Lodge is popular for is its star-gazing walks. After dinner, Rosie from reception led an expedition into the the darkness of the bush and enthusiastically pointed out the constellations and other stars and planets of interest. The resort is equipped with an impressive observatory station with powerful telescopes so that you almost feel as if you are within touching distance of those distant galaxies.

Do you have wifi?

I love travel. Any excuse I can find I will be packing my bags and heading off somewhere new, somewhere exotic, exploring distant lands and meeting interesting people. I love travel — as long as there is wifi.

It is not that I am addicted to social media channels such as Facebook or Twitter (although, if I’m honest, I probably am), and it is not that I have some sort of compulsion to upload hundreds of photos each day (although I do like doing that).

The real and legitimate reason is that I need wifi in order to be able to work. I am a travel writer, so my travels are never really vacations– I always need to be filing stories, collecting information, and making notes. I never really go anywhere without my laptop, and wherever I am I always seem to be searching for a wifi hotspot and a power outlet.

Doesn’t everyone need wifi?

It is easy to be critical of people who feel the need to log-on or check-in while on vacation. Surely you should be taking a break from all of that and just enjoying wherever you are and whoever you’re with! However the reality of our modern lives is that almost every aspect of our day-to-day lives requires the ability to connect to the internet — staying in touch with friends and family, keeping an eye on your bank accounts, or confirming your travel arrangements. Wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing, you’re going to need wifi.

Don’t let wifi ruin your holiday

I am the first to admit that my never-ending search for wifi does quite often interfere with actually enjoying the place that you are visiting.

I was visiting New York City a few months ago with a friend, and he got totally fed up with me when I virtually spent the entire holiday sitting in the same small cafe on the Lower East Side. They had really good wifi and great coffee — what is there to see in New York that is going to beat that?

The worst example though was when I was a romantic mini-break to Florence. I was climbing the small narrow steps to top of the massive dome over the cathedral when my (then) boyfriend poked me in the ribs and said: “Do you really have to be emailing right now?” “But I’ve finally got a good signal!” I protested. He was not amused.

How can travel providers impress the modern traveller?

  • Hotels need to be providing free, easy-to-use, high-speed wifi that guests can access in-room. There’s very few places in the world that don’t have the infrastructure to support this — the technology is there, hotels of whatever star-rating need to prioritise this as part of their investment and refurbishment programs.
  • Restaurants, cafes, and bars may not always want their guests to sit around for hours sipping a coffee while they check their emails or upload photos, but you can earn a lot of brownie points (and reviews and social media coverage) by ensuring that your patrons know that you’ve laid on free wifi for them.
  • If you’re a tourist attraction of any shape or form, you’ll probably have some sort of cafe as part of your operation. Make sure that your guests know that you have provided free wifi for them here — that will encourage them to stay and spend on refreshments as well has encouraging them to write a review and post social media updates about their experience with you.

Log-in and get ready to travel.

A tropical escape from a fake news world

Travel is a great way to change your perspective

A tropical escape from a fake news world

​We seem to be living through one of those periods where nothing really seems to make sense. It’s hard to know who to believe, and the accepted order of how things get done or how we live our lives no longer seems to apply.

It’s easy to feel completely overwhelmed by the hopelessness of it all, but it’s also a salient reminder that no matter how crazy the world around us gets that we need to make the most of the time we have now, the opportunities that shouldn’t be put off, the moments of pleasure that are brief but have to be grasped before they slip away.

In that spirit, I blew the budget and booked a vacation to Port Douglas in Australia’s tropical far north.

The flight

I flew with Qantas from Melbourne to Cairns and it’s an easy flight — just in time for one bad movie and a meal that they described as breakfast.

I picked up a hire car from the airport and drove the short distance north towards Port Douglas.

The resort

I was staying at Thala Beach Lodge. This is a special kind of place, on a private headland just off the Captain Cook Highway, between Cairns and Port Douglas.

It’s hard to believe that this magical corner of the world used to be a sugar cane plantation — it’s been lovingly restored to coastal forest with it’s eco-friendly bungalows nestled within the tree-lined coast, with wallabies for neighbours and stunning coastal views all around.

The weather

I don’t really understand how anyone who lives in tropical areas actually does any work. This is the kind of weather where you really just want to be sitting by a pool, working on your tan, sipping on a mojito or five.

I spent one day exploring the markets of Port Douglas. Every Sunday morning, the park surrounding the small church near the marina is transformed into a busy hive of market activity. This is a huge market, lots of stalls, beach-style crafts, jewellery, and clothing. There’s also a lot of stalls selling freshly squeezed sugar cane juice, mango ice-cream, and other tropical delights that are impossible to resist.

The reef

Of course, tropical north Queensland is all about the Great Barrier Reef.

Port Douglas is one of the best access points to launch your Great Barrier Reef expedition and there are a huge range of cruises and tours that operate from here. Quicksilver is the big operator here with trips out to the Low Isles or a specially built pontoon secured on the outer reef.

One of the best ways to experience the reef is scuba diving — even if you don’t have your certification you can still do an introductory dive which is breathtaking. Everyone can snorkel though and this is a surprisingly good way to come face-to-face to the spectacular sights and colours of one of the great natural wonders of the world.

The prescription

If the news from around the world is leaving you feeling jaded and cynical, it’s time to embrace a tropical escape that is your best chance to restore hope that someday, somehow, things might just get better.

G-TV: Friday 18th July 2014 — Thala Beach Lodge

A quick report from my accommodation for the first night of my expedition to Tropical North Queensland — this is Thala Beach Lodge.

@gtvlondon

Read more from Gareth Johnson