Where to eat, stay and snorkel in the Queens­land coastal town


Qantas - - Contents -

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.

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