Far North Queensland (FNQ) is hot, tropical and a world class destination for those looking to explore the Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas, and the Daintree Rainforest/Cape Tribulation.
Where To Stay
When in FNQ, Turtle Cove Beach Resort (http://www.turtlecove.com) is our choice for accommodation. This gay resort is located about 15 kilometres south of Port Douglas, set in a stunning national park and boasts its own secluded beach. The resort is out of the way and a wonderful place to chill out. (See our full story on Turtle Cove Beach Resort : http://gaymenonholiday.com/?p=129)
A Few Tips
Our first tip for your tropical adventure in this part of Australia is hire a car for your stay in FNQ. Driving the coastline from Cairns to Port Douglas on to Mosman Gorge and up to the Daintree Rainforest is quite magnificent. The road winds along the coast with the Coral Sea lapping at the edges on one side and the mist clad mountains on the other. Closer to the Daintree the lush green carpet squares of cane fields dominate the landscape. Secondly, travel outside the period of November to April due to the sea stingers. These potentially deadly creatures are found close to the shore line during the hottest months of the year.
The main gateway to the Great Barrier Reef is Port Douglas, with its world class opportunities for snorkelling and scuba diving. This small sophisticated town is filled with a range of excellent restaurants, bars/lounges and coffee shops. The Cafe Ecco and Bar has delicious homemade cakes, freshly squeeze juices, smoothies, funky cocktails and great coffee. The blackboard menus excite the taste buds with tropical delights and daily fresh food. For something really hearty, after a visit to the local gym, try the German Breakfast. This busy, trendy restaurant is gay run and owned by David and Joe who have welcoming smiles and a winning formula. (Insider Tip: Immediately to the left of the restaurant is a small lane that leads to off street parking at the rear of the coffee shop, very handy on busy days in Port Douglas.)
For special occasion eating try the outdoor garden of world famous Nautilus Restaurant (http://www.nautilus-restaurant.com.au) or slip around the corner to award winning Harrison’s (http://www.harrisonsrestaurant.com.au) with their outstanding signature seafood creations. We can highly recommend both for that memorable celebration or romantic treat.
Every Sunday Port Douglas hosts markets in its main waterfront park. The markets are highly popular and full of irresistible treasures so we suggest you go early. Port Douglas also has a huge Marina where you can catch any one of a wide variety of water craft to various Coral Sea islands and to the inner or outer reef. The Marina is also a great place for a delectable seafood lunch, simple fish and chips or for mellowing out with a sunset cocktail.
Great Barrier Reef
One suggestion for your trip to the reef is to book on the Calypso (http://www.calypsoreefcruises.com). This beautiful, gigantic catamaran takes a small number of guests to the outer edges of the reef (Cost approx. $240) You can snorkel very safely in the shallow ‘coral garden’ of the Great Barrier Reef. You are always guaranteed to see brilliant vivid corals and a myriad of tropical fish and who knows, you may even find Nemo. Among the unique kaleidoscope of coral shapes and colours we swam with vibrant parrot, angel and clown fish.
The Calypso visits three sites in one day, providing an insight into this gigantic, rare and extraordinary living organism that is the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef. Most people take the guided snorkelling adventures and others take the scuba diving excursions. The crew is very knowledgeable and helpful, especially about ensuring you find the best corals and fully explore this underwater wonderland safely. A further bonus to this great day out is the excellent morning tea, buffet lunch and afternoon tea.
Daintree and Cape Tribulation
From Turtle Cove Beach Resort the drive to the Daintree River and Cape Tribulation is amazing and well worth a day visit. See the world’s most ancient rainforest, beautiful beaches and if you take a river cruise, more than likely a crocodile or two. On a leisurely one hour cruise using Daintree River Cruise Centre (http://www.daintreerivercruisecentre.com.au) we saw several adult male and female crocs lazing in the sun and a baby croc just a few months old stretched out on a small log among the mangroves. We also spied golden headed, green tree snakes, brilliant white egrets and stunning azure blue kingfishers.
Once we crossed the Daintree River on the car ferry (Cost approx. $24) we drove to the Daintree Discovery Centre and about a half a kilometre past, we took an easy rainforest stroll on the Jindalba Boardwalk (https://www.aussiebushwalking.com/qld/jindalba-boardwalk). This ancient forest is filled with a canopy of tall trees, huge twisted hanging vines and king ferns. It’s a real feast for the senses.
Feeling pleased with our exercise for the day we drove onto the Daintree Ice Cream Company. Don’t miss it. Surrounded by mountains and tropical gardens we savoured the four flavoured ice cream cup of soursop, raspberry, yellow saboter and wattle seed. Heaven in a cup.
For an overnight stay in the Daintree Rainforest there is good Eco accommodation, pubs, restaurants. If you’re feeling more adventurous try horse riding or sea kayaking. Further up the Cape the sealed road ends. However, before this you will see more stunning forests, beaches and camping tends to take priority in this part of this ancient land.
On our way back we turned off to explore Mossman Gorge. It is worth spending an hour or two here. The walk through the Gorge is spectacular, particularly after rain when the creeks and water falls are surging. Here you can take guided walks led by local Aboriginal people. On the day we were there we saw people taking a dip in one of the many water holes and showering under a waterfall.
Time for a Cocktail or Two
An ideal end to a day’s adventure in FNQ is a pre dinner drink around the bar at Turtle Cove Beach Resort and then join the Turtle Table for dinner, to meet new friends from around Australia and the world. After dinner the hot tub is the perfect way to round off all the ‘Top End’ treats.