Port Douglas

Arriving from Cape Tribulation late morning, Helen and I discovered it was the final day of a food festival and that today was Seafood Day.  Stalls were set up along the marina wharf, operated by local restaurants etc. We were in time for a late lunch of salt & pepper calamari and marinara pizza. For dinner, we bought cooked prawns at the seafood market to end an altogether fishy day.

A steam train operated by a local railway enthusiasts’ club was operating for the occasion stopping at the station right next to the marina. We speculated that the very narrow guage track was originally laid to transport sugar cane to the wharf.

The beach at Port Douglas is nothing remarkable when compared to many other beaches on the NSW and QLD east coast. It faces south-east and the sand is very hard (perfect for cycling!). Walking along the beach then back through the town we passed a restored, wooden schoolhouse that is the oldest building in North Queensland.

Near the jetty at the eastern end of town is an ex- church building with interesting stain glass windows and an outlook over the water.

There are three types of caravan park: the big one further from town with lots of things to amuse kids, the little one close to town with very small sites and an urban outlook, and in between them is the leafy one with larger sites and no jumping castles. We stayed at Pandanus Tourist Park, which is one of the latter and it was very pleasant.

Mossman Gorge

Only 20 km from Port Douglas, Mossman Gorge offers a pleasant day or half day trip. After parking at the visitor centre most people take the shuttle bus ($9 adult return) to the gorge itself, though a few hardy and/or thrifty souls were seen walking (private cars are not allowed). From the set down point, there are boardwalks into the gorge, with lookouts over the river and a sandy beach popular with swimmers.

At the end of the board walk is a 2 km loop walk, which I rated at 2 plus or minus 1 on Tim’s Footwear Scale (1=thongs, 2=sneakers, 3=hiking boots).

After doing the loop walk, we were warm enough to really enjoy a dip in the rather cool river.

Great Barrier Reef

Based on advice that the reef gets more colourful the further north you go, we chose Port Douglas to do our Greater Barrier Reef snorkelling trip because it was the northern most town with a competitive reef tour industry.  Some diving tours support both snorkelling and scuba diving, some boats  are very fast, some take a large number of passengers. Some go to the Low Isles rather than the outer reef. We chose a slower, smaller boat that specialises in snorkelling on the expectation that the sites would be optimised for snorkelling and that the other clients would be there for the same reason. We were not disappointed. The operator was Wavelength Reef Charters. Their boat takes at most 30 guests and took 1 hour 45 minutes to get to the first site on Opal Reef.

We spent one hour in the water at each of three sites.

Aside from Captain Tim (no relation), the crew, Gemma and Taylor, were marine biologists as well as excellent communicators, demonstrators and photographers. They took hundreds of photos of the coral, marine life and guests, which we could buy at the end of the day on a thumb drive. So, whilst we did not take the following photos ourselves, we did see all of the things that they show on the day that they were taken.

Every site had the best coral and marine life that we have seen on this trip but the highlight at the first site (“Beautiful Mooring”) was a young, green turtle swimming casually through our group.

At the second site (“Bashful Bommie”), a large male Mouri wrasse checked us out.

The third site at South North Opal (S.N.O.) , lived up to its nickname “The Fish Bowl”. Can you find Nemo?

Back to Cairns next, where THe Big Lap takes a surprise turn


-Tim & Helen