Weekend In Port Douglas, Far North Queensland: Things To Do
Walking in the North Queensland heat, there’s a big smile on my face when Glenn and I finally reach the largest swimming waterhole at Crystal Cascades. At the end of the cliff is a waterfall surrounded by lush rainforest, and there are about five other people basking in the sun on the boulders and enjoying this unspoilt sanctuary. I’m eager to get out of my sweaty tee, dive into the inviting fresh water and start enjoying another tropical holiday.
Being on assignment with lastminute.com.au, I thought it’s wise if I capture some images first for our Instagram collaboration – business before pleasure, I remind myself.
I get the perfect shot and as I nimbly inch my way back to where we’ve left our backpacks, a small misstep on one of the precarious boulders means a slip, the kind that you’d laugh at if it had been captured on video. Though I am only half submerged in the water and fortunately free from scratches and bruises, my iPhone has tragically gone for a ride in the creek.
Glenn will attest that I can live without food (ok, except ice-cream) but can’t without my mobile phone. However, I’m unusually relaxed about the mishap – I’ve wanted to visit North Queensland for the longest time and now that I’m here, nothing’s going to ruin this tropical paradise holiday. Or maybe the laid-back, country town vibe has rubbed onto me but that’s not a bad thing, right?
After replacing the iPhone (Apple, waterproof smartphones toute de suite), we drive north from Cairns to Port Douglas where our accommodation is located. Once we get onto Captain Cook Highway, the coastal drive is a continuous winding route embellished with incredible ocean views and stunning mountainous scenery, you know, the kind that reminds you of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” while driving along in a cool convertible. We don’t have said vehicle of choice, but we raise our hands way high out of the car window nonetheless as we belt to drive tunes, exactly like how you see them do it in music videos.
We finally get to our retreat at Niramaya Villas and Spa after an hour’s drive. Arriving much later than intended, the Balinese styled resort, which is seriously fit enough for royalty, make up for lost time. This luxurious sanctuary is set on 15 hectares of gardens and is architecturally designed to invigorate with its expansive living experience. We have our own plunge pool, lounge pavilion and al fresco dining area where you can host family dinners.
We start the next morning with an early stroll along Four Mile Beach, which is considered the premier beach of Port Douglas. People are already swimming minuscule strokes in the stingers net (Australia is prone to all sorts of dangerous creatures and between October to May, jellyfish are present and ready to sting), well-suited paddle boarders challenging themselves against the waves, ladies power-walking towards the other end of the beach and tourists like ourselves sauntering under the strong sun.
A visit to Port Douglas isn’t complete without going to Mossman Gorge. About a 15-minute drive from our resort, Mossman Gorge is part of Daintree National Park, a World Heritage Site, and also homeland of the indigenous people. The park features a walking track that loops through the lush rainforest, a suspension bridge running across Rex Creek which I must admit is rickety but in an absolutely fun way and several water holes including one where we go for a dip. Downstream from where the water rapidly cascades over granite boulders, the water is made up of natural underground springs and rain.
The other best thing about spending time in North Queensland is, of course, having easy access to the Great Barrier Reef. Scrolling through trust-worthy Instagram, we settled on a day-trip to Green Island for some sunbaking and snorkelling. Departing from Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal, the catamaran ride is a 45-minute journey that can get choppy for some (so prepare a bag if you’re likely to spew up your breakfast, or stay classy and take a motion sickness tablet).
We’re fortunate to visit on a day with miles of blue skies and crystal clear waters, the kind where you’re proud to photograph and show off to your friends and family. After meticulously lotioning up with copious amount of sunscreen, we dive into the warm sea. As we venture further from shore and closer to where the ferries disembark, it’s a world of breath-taking sea life and coral reefs.
No trip of ours is truly complete without a few narcissistic photography sessions so we take some pictures and feature Niramaya Villas as a backdrop for the mens resort wear story. Towering palm trees, infinity pool and lounge deck chairs, the results showcase dressing for a resort holiday and I’m not talking about the predictable buttoned-down linen shirts and pastel boat shoes.
The drive from Port Douglas back to Cairns airport is a winding but scenic route that features lush mountains, towering palm trees and the North Queensland coast line. During low tide, the exposed sea bed mirrors a barren landscape that stretches out for a good kilometre where the sea meets. What looks like a desert makes up some of the best Instagram images I’ve captured. I recommend to pop down either dawn or dusk when the tide is low to get some of the best views.
There’s more to do in North Queensland that I wish we had time for – the Skyrail Gondola that takes you over the World Heritage listed Wet Tropics Rainforest, Lake Eacham in the Atherton Tableland (swimming in the clear, blue lake that’s now an extinct volcano? YES, please!) and the Cathedral Fig Tree. Hey Glenn, another trip soon?