I didn’t choose to avoid Cyclone Cook but it just so happened that my trip to Cairns and Port Douglas coincided with the bad Auckland weather from 9 to 16 April 2017.
This post is to record memories of my trip and a guide for those looking to visit Cairns and Port Douglas.
We flew in to Cairns in the morning and pick up our rental car.
The drive from the airport to Port Douglas took us past the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. A return ride on the Skyrail cost $77 giving visitors a sky view of Cairns’ Rainforest. We gave that a miss and instead drove up to Kuranda Heritage Market.
We arrived at our lovely Port Douglas Motel and stayed there for three nights. We were initially quite reserved when we read about having to share a communal kitchen but the kitchen was neat and with an open plan next to the pool, making ‘dining in’ is as pleasant as ‘dining out’.
This was one of the best day of the trip.
Mossman Gorge was a beautiful surprise. The gateway was through the Mossman Gorge Centre. Entry fee of $9.50 included shuttle to the beautiful rainforest with walkway through the rainforest to the lovely waterfall and clear water suitable for swimming. Mossman Gorge forms the southern sector of the renowned Daintree Rainforest.
Going further south, we made a stop at Bruce Belcher’s Daintree River Cruises. If you want to spot a crocodile (or more), take this cruise @ $27 per adult. Our guide had a dog with him and that reminded me of my Toby at home.
We went to Daintree Village and had our afternoon tea at Daintree Village Hotel.
We missed out visiting Cape Tribulation where two spectacular World Heritage sites meet (the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef) as it was getting too dark. The Daintree Rainforest is a world untouched by the world of urban development, noise and air pollution.
For better planning, it pays to start the trip earlier (perhaps from 9am) so you could visit Mossman Gorge, Cape Tribulation then Daintree in that order. To get to Cape Tribulation, you need to go on a car ferry so look out for the ‘Ferry’ road sign before heading to Daintree Village.
We made in just in time back to Port Douglas for captivating views of the sunset at The Reef Marina.
Today was a free and easy stroll to explore the town. Macrossan street is the main street full of shops and restaurants.
We visited Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort so if you are looking for a luxury stay, this is the place to be.
Goodbye Port Douglas.
Arriving Cairns, our first stop was at Cairns Botanical Garden. The Botanical Garden is a ‘must do’ when visiting Cairns as it is like no other botanical gardens I have seen with its walking tracks abound in this natural wonder of rainforest.
We checked into Cairns New Chalon, situated at old Bruce Highway, 5km from the city centre. This is an older hotel but clean and well kept with a nice pool. If you want to stay in a comfortable reasonably priced accommodation away from the city, this is the place to come to provided you have a car. The only downside is that although the pool is open till 10pm daily, there were no lights in the pool so we did not enjoy the pool facility as we only got back to the motel till later most evenings the four nights we were there. The motel came with free (and fast) wifi which was a bonus.
After a relaxing afternoon, we visited the night market shopping for some souvenirs. The food court looked tempting and we went back another night to feast on those dishes!
Atherton Tableland is a ‘food paradise’.
We planned to visit Skywalk and Paronella Park hence we took the route heading south towards Gordonvale to Atherton. We could have planned the trip better instead of a last minute decision to combine the trip. This route is not recommended as it is very windy driving through the Gillies Range for a big part of the journey. There is nothing much to see till we reached the beautiful village of Yungaburra. We also didn’t get to see Atherton Tableland as a ‘food paradise’ as such on this trip.
This journey (waterfall circuit) however brought us past various waterfalls (we visited Malanda Falls and Milla Millaa Falls) and the region’s natural wonders such as the Curtain Fig Tree, Lake Tinaroo, Mt Hypipamee Crater, Undara Lava Tubes, Broomfield Swamp, Paronella Park and the twin crater lakes of Barrine and Eacham just to name a few!
After a late lunch at Millaa Millaa, we headed towards Mamu Tropical Skywalk. This walk is through an elevated walkway, 350 m long, rising from ground level to 15 m above the ground, meandering through the canopy of lush tropical rainforest. A 10 m long cantilever and a 37 m high observation tower with two viewing decks, providing spectacular views over the North Johnstone River gorge and surrounding rainforest-clad peaks. I am glad I braved though the see-through steps (do not look down or you will get shaky knees) and climbed up the observation tower !
Our final stop was at Parenolla Park. We paid for the entrance to this park when we visited Skywalk. The cost is $62 each for entrances to both parks. Parenolla Park features José Paronella’s castle (now in ruins). He chose a special part of Australia and created Paronella Park on a 5 Hectares section beside Mena Creek Falls. You can view part of the section and Mena Creek Falls for free by driving past the Park but you won’t have access to Paronella’s Castle or the Park.
This was a great day with a difference. The visit to Cairns/Port Douglas would not be complete without a trip to the Great Barrier Reef. My friend visited Fitzroy Island while we did a snorkeling trip to the Outer Barrier Reef. The ride on Sea Quest was 90 minutes each way and took us 70km offshore from Cairns. We were treated to a sumptuous buffet lunch with cold meats (juicy prawns included) and salads, bread rolls, hot soup and fresh fruit. The snorkelling trip to two open reef sites cost us $145 (including $20 levy charges) per person. I was initially planning to do a scuba dive but was a bit reserved after news of yet another recent incident where a scuba diver (same boat trip as my colleague) died while scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef.
Snorkelling is somewhat safer as it is suitable for swimmers and non swimmers alike. For confidence, you could even put on a life vest (and grab a swim noodle too) and the tour diver has a ‘float tyre’ that you can hang on to and he pulls you along. I thought that was a great service and we had a few people who ‘snorkelled’ without much effort on their part.
We arrived back to Cairns Marlin Marina around 4.30pm and walked to the Esplanade for a dip at the Lagoon. The Lagoon is a 4800sq m salt water swimming facility that offers an all-year round, free and safe, swimming location without stingers and crocodiles. The Lagoon is filled with salt water from the Trinity Inlet which is filtered through a state-of-the-art filtration system. I rated Cairns highly because of this awesome pool.
Dinner was at the night market food court. For an extra big plate at $16.50, we get to pile as much as we could of delicious meat and seafood. Yummilicious !
Last day and we will be flying home tomorrow morning.
We went to the Saturday crafts market at the esplanade and explore the city visiting Cairns Central for window shopping. The ‘highlight’ of the day was changing a flat tyre as it was Easter Saturday so we diy. No roadside assistance required.
With the whole afternoon being free and easy, we decided to have a go again at Atherton Tableland. This time, we did the food trail (part of Savannah Way) driving through Kuranda on the road leading to Broome. We went as far as Mareeba, a town on the Atherton Tableland in Far North Queensland, Australia. The town is 417 metres above sea level on the confluence of the Barron River, Granite Creek and Emerald Creek.
Our first stop was a Jaques Coffee for lunch.
We were heading for Golden Drop Winery to taste their mango wine but got diverted and ended up at de Bruceys Boutique Winery instead. Their ‘Envy’ Crème Liquer was a total giveaway of melon (honey dew) that we could tell by smell without even having to taste it. Such refreshing drink, a great summer treat.
On the return trip, we stopped for ice cream at Emerald Creek Ice Creamery.
The last stop for the day was a Yorkeys Knob on the eastern coast of Australia. Westing from the Coral Sea – approaching land from the east, Yorkeys Knob sits very prettily on the hem of the great Barrier Reef.
We said goodbye to Cairns & Home sweet home !
Jolt ! Back to reality.