Life aquatic at a temple by the sea
ROOM AT THE INN
THIS former Mirvac property, run since December last year by Accor under its Pullman banner, is perfectly named. Well, almost. While its long moniker — Pullman Port Douglas Sea Temple Resort & Spa — surely means the phone operators have to draw breath when taking calls, it’s the Sea Temple bit that really matters.
This sprawling 194-room resort is indeed a place of devotion to water. A meandering lagoon pool, dotted with waterfalls and bridges and palmstudded islets, wraps clusters of accommodation blocks (there are also golf or beach villas and penthouse units with spa tubs) and draws focus from almost every viewpoint.
While the resort is at the southern end of, but not bang on, Port Douglas’s Four Mile Beach, the river-like sense of the lagoon makes it feel as if you could swim effortlessly out to sea.
It’s been six years since my previous visit and the property and its palmy 4ha grounds (attended, unbelievably, by a team of just two eager gardeners) are flourishing. General manager Kelvin Dodt tells me Accor is set to spend big on the public areas, conference facilities, restaurant and bar. ‘ ‘ To start, there’ll be new lobby furniture by early next year,’’ he says.
The accommodation consists of strata-tiled apartments so it’s harder to get owners to agree on the scope of improvements but there’s a suggestion of a refurb of soft furnishings and fixtures, which is needed, if the broken blinds in room 184 are any indication.
But I am being pernickety because the otherwise well- maintained apartment-style guestrooms are ultraspacious, feature spa baths and big tellies, and come brilliantly equipped with kitchens and laundries, just like ersatz holiday homes.
Self- catering is a doddle as Port Douglas has good supermarkets, seafood suppliers and delis or there are gourmet barbecue packs via room service from $65 for two.
If you opt for a ground-floor swimout apartment, you can splash from your covered terrace into the lagoon via a child-proof gate.
With massive sandstone pillars and high ceiling, the open-ended lobby has the feel of a tropical Great House. To one side is Aqua restaurant where all meals are served, either indoors or under umbrellas on a lagoon-facing terrace. The food is fresh and wellpresented, with a degustation menu at dinner, and the waiters take care to explain, say, the fish of the day and its origin (‘‘sweet and firm from the reef’’ is good enough for me) and to bring, unasked, a side-plate of lemon and lime slices to accompany the mineral water. If you’re in house on a Sunday, there’s the agreeable prospect of Tapas and Cocktails by the Lagoon from 2pm with live entertainment.
The most visible evidence to date of the Accor connection is the recent revamp of its day spa. The new Vie Spa is part of a rollout of the brand across selected Accor properties, from Quay West Resort Magenta Shores on the NSW central coast to Port Douglas’s nearby sister property near Cairns, Pullman Palm Cove Sea Temple Resort & Spa. The menus feature some crossover of the signature therapies plus tailored offerings.
At Port Douglas, the light and bright Vie Spa is tucked upstairs from the lobby and offers 10 large treatment salons — all-white decor with batik throws on the beds — including a deluxe suite for couples and two Vichy shower rooms; in the leaf-green and pale yellow relaxation room, there are cosy couches on which to sip herbal tea and ponder how to walk downstairs on blissfully jellied legs.
Treatments include a 90-minute hot stone healing and foot renewal ($195) and a sensational 90-minute combo of blue cypress scrub and sea kelp and indigenous clay wrap ($215).
Vie Spa’s secret weapon is widesmiling Thai-born therapist Apple (she admits it’s not her real name but its wholesomeness suits her well).
I prolong my departure by slowly eating the scoops of sorbet that Apple has served me. The flavour is mango. It’s tropical paradise on a spoon.
Susan Kurosawa was a guest of Accor.
The grand lobby overlooks the lagoon pool at Pullman Port Douglas Sea Temple Resort & Spa; left, Vie Spa has 10 large treatment salons