Potterin’ in Port Douglas

Our final port of call in Queensland was Port Douglas, some five hours up the road from Townsville. The last stretch from Cairns is an hour’s drive along one of Australia’s most scenic coastal roads with the rainforest on one side and the Great Barrier Reef on the other – truly magnificent. I can say that as someone who’s driven along the Great Oceant Road (Melbourne to Adelaide) in both directions.

We arrived at our billet for the next three days, late afternoon, having eaten lunch en route in Innisfail. Actually, I just had a glass of water as the cafe where we stopped couldn’t really cope with a vegan, our first (and only) dining fail.

The town has a large retail centre with plenty of small specialty shops, many housed in a large and diverse range of Art Deco buildings. The CBD was largely rebuilt in this style following a cyclone in 1918 which destroyed much of the town. It sits on the Warrina Lakes, a 50 hectare recreational park with kilometres of walkways through open parkland, lakes, wooded areas and rainforest trails. We learned that in 2017 the town broke the record for the World’s Longest Banana Split!

Having stretched our legs and taken a few photos, we resumed our journey and were delighted as we approached our hotel, overlooking the beach. It was another one-bedroomed apartment, with yet another spa bath, great in-house dining and spectacular views.

Given that Port Douglas is the gateway to the World Heritage wonders of Tropical North Queensland, the closest mainland port to the Great Barrier Reef, and only a short drive into the heart of the Wet Tropics rainforest at Daintree and Cape Tribulation, you might be expecting we enjoyed a busy couple of days exploring. But no, we were rain-forested out and spent the time relaxing on the beach, cycling round town investigating its lovely shops and dining options. We basically chilled for our last few days in the Tropics.

Named in honour of a former Premier of Queensland, John Douglas, the peninsula was the traditional home of the Yirrganydji people until European settlement turned it into a remote port and fishing village. Port Douglas really developed in the 1980s, thanks largely to the late (now disgraced) entrepeneur Christopher Skase, becoming a sophisticated and upmarket resort town in contrast to Cairns’ tourist scene. Largely because it’s better connected: the outer Great Barrier Reef is less than an hour offshore, the Dickson Inlet and estuary is packed with fish and crocodiles – steered well clear of these – and sunset sailing from the marina is too good to pass up.

We really liked the town, it’s an intimate and relaxed place where food, wine, arts and culture are much appreciated. It also has a fabulous long sandy beach, some spectacular property porn, a large and lively Saturday market and some lovely walks around town and the headland. After three restfull days (and nights) we flew back for an overnighter in Sydney. We’d much enjoyed Port Douglas, it’s yet another place we’d be very happy to revisit.