If there is one thing you simply MUST do whilst in far North Queensland it is the Great Barrier Reef. We headed out on a day trip with Tropical Journeys onboard Calypso.
The staff were unreal - absolutely fantastic! They conducted talks on the marine life, the reef and took smaller snorkelling tours whilst on the reef as well to point out areas of interest.
We had a nice lunch onboard (cold meats and salads).
Staff also took photos of us underwater which came out 5 million times better than our disposable udnerwater camera - not suprising really!
Take a relaxing stroll along the gorgeous Four Mile Beach where you will see palm trees and coconuts. The beach is a stunning tropical looking beach rather than your tacky tourist filled beach. The beach was just a 5 minute walk from our hotel on Davidson Street.
Port Douglas is a very quiet little town and the centre of the "action" is on Macrossan Street. It is here where you will find an assortment of restaurants, shops and bars.
We booked our reef and rainforest tours on Macrossan Street and we cashed travellers cheques at a bank where they were having a charity day.
As well as the Great Barrier Reef, one of Queensland's biggest natural attractions is the Daintree Rainforest. We booked our trip with BTS Tours at their office on Macrossan Street. If you're coming from Cairns expect a long day 7am until 7pm where as if you're coming from Port Douglas you will be picked up around 8.45am and dropped off back at your hotel at 5.45pm - result!
Our tour group was a small one and only consisted of 7 people and a guide which was nice. There was myself, my boyfriend, a Scottish backpacker, a young Aussie couple on honeymoon and a middle-aged Scandinavian couple.
Our day consisted of-
*A river cruise on the only boat permitted to operate on the Cooper Inlet where we saw saltwater crocodiles.
*A yummy BBQ lunch (and our first taste of Daintree tea) cooked by our guide at a little creek. While he prepared the food we were able to have a little wander. One couple borrowed the canoes and explored the lagoon, one guy went for a swim (too cold!) but I chose to watch the fish and turtles swimming in the creek. The fish were particularly funny because they would follow you as you walked!
*Cape Tribulation - a stroll along the beach and to the lookout for some gorgeous views.
*A walk in the rainforest where we were lucky enough to spot a wild cassowary.
*A brief stop at Alexandra Lookout for the view.
We also had an ice cream stop at a little cafe and we had some cake and squash in the afternoon (I think our guide was obsessed with food).
I fell asleep in the minibus on the way back to the hotel but it was a good day.
If you're in Port Douglas the chances are you are there for the Great Barrier Reef. The company we went with are part of the Quicksilver group and are called Silversonic (see my photos for a picture of the boat).
We were picked up from our hotel in the morning and taken to Marina Mirage where we were checked in onto our boat. From there you are briefed about the day and safety etc. All equipment is provided but bring your own towel, swimsuit, sunscreen etc. We chose to do snorkelling and because of the jellyfish risk we borrowed wetsuits for a small fee. We spent 5 hours at the reef and were taken to 3 different sites. A buffet lunch and afternoon tea are also provided on board.
There are guides on hand to help you as well as give you an optional guided tour of the reef. Don't worry if you're not a strong swimmer (i'm not) there are life jackets and flotation devices (noodles) that you can borrow. I found it pretty terrifying letting go of the boat at first but once i dipped my head down and caught my first glimpse of the reef it was amazing!
Take some money with you because there is an underwater photographer on board and you can purchase a photo of yourself in the reef. You may also want to bring an underwater camera as they are much cheaper on land than on the boat.
See website for more details.
If you're in Port Douglas and you have time I would strongly recommend a visit to the Rainforest Habitat. You can get a taxi bus from Macrossan Street and the driver will tell you when you are there.
The Rainforest Habitat is a bit different to a zoo because the animals are all fairly free roaming. They are obviously confined to the habitat grounds but don't be surprised to see birds waddling by as you have your lunch. The habitat has a large variety of birds flying about so if you are phobic you may not like. You can get quite close to them on boardwalks and watch them eating. You can also buy a spotters guide from the cafe for about a dollar which will help you identify what you are seeing.
At the entrance, in the gift shop, you are able to buy some feed and within a gated area of the habitat are free roaming wallabies, kangaroos, ducks and other birds which you can hand feed. The wallabies are adorable! Some of the birds can be a little over enthusiastic and peck your hand so you're better off throwing food to them rather than hand feeding. In this gated off area there are also some alligators and the scariest looking crocodile I have ever seen (don't worry, they are well fenced off from you and all the cute fluffy animals).
There are koalas here but they just do what they do and sleep in the trees, however, you can have your photograph taken holding one at set times during the day! This was the highlight of my day as I always wanted my picture taken holding a koala. There was also the option of holding a small crocodile and a snake but as you have to pay upfront I decided I could only really afford the koala picture.
All in all a great day out!
This is the premier beach of Port Douglas and from town you can walk to the beach in under 5 minutes and then continue to walk along the sandy beach for hours.
What I like about this beach is that you could spend all day there without a hint of any kind of development. The accommodation and houses are neatly hidden behind the many swaying palms.
Note: This beach has a net during the jellyfish stinger season so when the net is in place please only swim inside its protective barriers.
The Daintree Rainforest is a tropical rainforest on the coast, north of Cairns in tropical Far North Queensland which was added to the World Heritage List in 1988.
It contains 30% of the frog, marsupial and reptile species in Australia, 65% of Australia's bat and butterfly species plus 20% of all the bird species in this country.
One of the best ways to experience the magnificent Daintree Forest is through a guided tour that is offered through many tour operators from Cairns, Port Douglas or Daintree.
We just returned from Port Douglas and did a day tour with Tony's Tropical Tours. I can't praise this highly enough. Our day was just mind blowing. Tony is a true example of what a guide should be. Very professional and friendly and funny with that Aussie temperament.We spend the day going from one place to the next with ease.Started the day at Mossman Gorge and went from there, all the while he was pointing things out that we would have missed and not known what to look for. He supplied us with a great hearty lunch and then a swim and another walk in the rainforest, again pointing and explaining.
This was our second trip to Port Douglas, first time round we did the hire car bit and self drive and learned virtually nothing. This time we decided to spend the money and do a tour and we haven't regretted the decision. It was money well spent. Highly recommend it.
These guys are great, they deal with all the boats in Port Douglas and give great unbiased advice as they don't OWN any of the boats and really know which trip is best for everyone, whether you want to dive, fish , snorkel or sail.
They don't charge a booking feee and are happy to offer free advice and information
I always go out to the reef with these guys, all they do is snorkelling, They take a maximum of 30 passengers and unlike Quicksilver they go to the best 3 sites on the day- not the same place EVERYDAY
As a result their sites have no diver related damage and are nice and shallow.
Its small, personal and friendly. These guys are great with beginner and experienced snorkellers, plenty of attention and assistance.
They have advanced eco accreditation and were one of the first companies in Port Douglas to become eco accredited.
The Bally Hooley is a small steam train that runs for 4km from the Port Douglas Marina Mirage centre up to St.Crispins Station near the Sheraton Mirage Resort. This cute little train is a bit of a novelty and a fun way to keep the kids amused. Ok, we are not kids and we really enjoyed a ride!
Jump on the train at the main station at the Marina Mirage centre. Then sit back and enjoy the scenery as is chuffs along to St.Crispins Station. Upon arrival you can get off and go for a wander along the edge of the Sheraton's golf course and check out the lake.
When the Bally Hooley reaches the end of the line at St.Crispins Station the driver then has to push the engine around on a large turntable to reconnect with the train for the return journey.
Trains run every Wednesday and Sunday (see website for timetable)
Prices as at June 2007 were: Adults $5/Child $2.50/Children under 4yrs Free
Port Douglas is set on a headland, and on one side you have the pretty Dickson Inlet and harbour. In my opinion, the best way to admire the inlet is to find a table at one of the bars/restaurants that overlook it (see my restaurant tips), and sit back around sunset time. You can watch the boats coming back into the harbour and enjoy the stunning Port Douglas sunsets.
Perhaps you will even get the chance to get out on the water if you take one of the trips out to the reef.
No swimming in the inlet though - there are even signs warning about crocodiles!
Do me a favour next time you are there and see if the "Coral Sea Calling" attraction is still docked around the back of the harbour (near the Bally Hooley station). It was a boat with this whole 'coral' formation built on top, along with fish and a waterfall - very strange. (see photos 3&4)
Also by the inlet you may spot a cute little white church. This is St. Mary's by the Sea (photo 5), a historic church dating back to 1880. These days it has been fully restored and is very popular for weddings due to its picturesque location by the sea.
Port Douglas is the closest gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, and on our first visit to Port Douglas we took a trip out to the Low Isles. Located 15km from Port Douglas, the Low Isles is a large coral cay surrounded by many different species of hard and soft corals.
This beautiful coral island is the prefect place for beginner snorkellers and families. There is a sandy beach to relax on, and calm water to swim and snorkel in.
We travelled out there on the Quicksilver Wavedancer, which departs most days from Port Douglas Harbour. We really enjoyed the trip and made use of their snorkelling equipment to get up close with the local underwater life.
If you are susceptible to seasickness (as I am) you may want to have your tablets on hand - on the trip back to Port Douglas the wind had picked up and it was pretty choppy.
Each Sunday in Port Douglas the whole town turns out for a shop and a browse in the weekly market. It is located in Anzac Park, by the inlet, from 8am-12noon each Sunday.
The market sells a very good range of items. My parents always buy lots of fresh fruit and veggies there, along with honey and jams. The bananas are said to be the best in the area and always good value. You can always find various tasty treats to snack on while you browse.
There are plenty of stalls selling all sorts of arts and crafts - last time I was there I was quite taken with some bright modern paintings. You can stop off for a foot massage or how about getting a temporary tattoo along the way.
The market is one of the highlights of a visit to Port Douglas - it has such a community feel about it. Even Alex liked it, and he doesn't 'do' markets ; )