Make a splash

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

Full of flavour: Trop­i­cal fruit at Rusty’s Mar­ket restau­rants abound, their ta­bles ex­posed to the balmy trop­i­cal breezes. Salsa Bar and Grill, looking over Port Dou­glas Park to the sea, of­fers a var­ied Aus­tralian con­tem­po­rary menu and proves an in­spired choice; pres­i­dents and prime min­is­ters have dined here. Be­tween mouth­fuls we praise the but­ter fish on po­tato and gin­ger mash, and ex­press amaze­ment at the light­ness of the gnoc­chi. Washed down with a bot­tle of Aus­tralian sau­vi­gnon blanc, this meal and this town com­plete a day in which the plea­sures of be­ing tourists in our own coun­try have been dis­cov­ered afresh.

Our last day in Cairns al­lows time to fully ex­plore the Sebel. There is an invit­ing pool deck sur­round by palms but our room is sus­tain­ing enough, with its gen­er­ous re­fur­bished bath­room, sofa, ca­ble tele­vi­sion chan­nels and views. Col­laps­ing here, book in hand, with room ser­vice a mere phone call away, has no end of ap­peal.

But high tea in the lobby is a must. To host this rit­ual

Age of el­e­gance: The newly ren­o­vated light-filled lobby at the Sebel Cairns with ap­pro­pri­ate style re­quires dra­matic ar­chi­tec­ture, and the Sebel’s mas­sive col­umns echo fa­mous Asian trop­i­cal ho­tels. A tim­ber-railed mez­za­nine floor ac­cen­tu­ates the spa­cious­ness, while floor-to-ceil­ing arched win­dows fill the soar­ing in­te­rior with light.

We note the con­tin­u­ing pres­ence of sun­shine as we munch on del­i­cate sand­wiches, bis­cuits and lus­cious lit­tle cakes, all made on the premises. Three huge car­riage lamps, cleaned and painted dur­ing the Sebel’s re­cent mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar ren­o­va­tion, hang above tra­di­tional arm­chairs newly uphol­stered in lively stripes and hot pink. Tea in hand, jug­gling jam and cream-laden scones, we are merely prim­ing our­selves for the ho­tel spa.

Mii Spa is part of a pres­tige group that of­fers a long menu of treat­ments us­ing Swiss prod­ucts and a nat­u­ral Aus­tralian range. Lemon myr­tle, mint, david­son plum and tea-tree pro­vide the back­ground aro­mas. In a sunny room de­signed for cou­ples we un­ro­man­ti­cally de­cline the chance to share a deep gran­ite tub for two be­cause this week­end we have spent enough wet time to­gether. De­cid­ing to go straight for a re­ju­ve­nat­ing fa­cial and firm mas­sage we emerge tri­umphantly an hour later. Walk­ing on air, we hit the town for a fi­nal look around.

Cairns Hire Boats pro­vides us with a hum­ble ves­sel con­sist­ing of a canopy and a flat deck mounted on a cou­ple of pon­toons. We spend sev­eral hours motoring around the man­grove-edged in­lets off Cairns, where shabby tubs and glossy, boast­ful yachts have have dropped an­chor. A fly­ing fish gra­ciously leads the way, flash­ing in the bright sun­light. Leonie Coombes was a guest of the Sebel Cairns.­bel­ www.queens­land­hol­i­

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