Life aquatic at a tem­ple by the sea


The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

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

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