Where to eat, stay and snorkel in the Queensland coastal town
SUN, SAND, RAINFOREST, REEF: THE OCEAN COASTAL GETAWAY IN FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND HAS IT ALL, WRITES JO MCKAY
THE FIRST morning I am in Port Douglas, it’s cloudy and wet – not exactly what I expected for my sunny Queensland getaway. But it’s still decadently warm so, despite the drizzle, I pull on sneakers and head for the beach.
The sun is not quite up and I’m interested to see the ocean and environs in the bleary early-morning light. Strolling along a stretch of Four Mile Beach, I am passed by joggers, dog-walkers and fellow amblers, all immune to the overcast skies and showers. In turn, each person smiles and offers up a warm “good morning” or “hello”. A few minutes later the clouds part, the drizzle ceases and the sun, now just above the horizon, lights up the sea. The scene is magical and majestic; a glorious cliché.
If I were a person looking for metaphors, I would say this tableau might represent an accurate analogy for Port Douglas itself. After all, this is a town that is used to the vagaries of fortune. And whatever the highs and lows, the attitude remains upbeat and positive; there always seems to be sunlight on the horizon.
Founded in the late 1870s, Port, as the locals call it, was first a gold-rush town then an export hub for sugar cane. Both booms were followed by busts and for much of the middle of last century, it was little more than a fishing village. That all changed in the 1980s when tourism arrived – and one notable investor, Christopher Skase, opened an iconic hotel. The Sheraton Mirage was celebrated locally and internationally but Skase’s demise brought more tough times, as did the GFC. Now, in 2017, the tide of fortune has changed again: tourism operators are noting record bookings, locals are buoyant, there’s an influx of new investment and, overall, a palpable sense of excitement.
Before arriving, I’d heard the town described as a mix of Byron Bay and Noosa; it’s close – there’s a subtle bohemian vibe here as well as the cosmopolitan feel of Noosa’s Hastings Street – but Port Douglas definitely has a charm all its own. From the pretty main street (Macrossan) to the newly bustling marina, from the thriving dining scene to the ever-friendly locals, the shining sun is on the horizon once more. Port Douglas also has the happy luck of having two World Heritage-listed drawcards on its doorstep: the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree rainforest. No visit to this area is complete without experiencing them.