SUNNY SIDE UP
Come fly with us to the sun-kissed Aussie town of Port Douglas. MELISSA GARDI invites us along on her coastal family holiday
Once you’re a parent, the recipe for a perfect holiday is simple. Often the ingredients start at sleep and end at sunshine –who wants to spend time and money on a family trip only to return home more weary and sleep-deprived than before you left? It’s impossible to know if the postcard-perfect image will deliver all those family essentials that will make the trip something ideal to escape to, instead of something to escape from. But if your ideal getaway involves the tropics and exploring the great outdoors with ease, then head to Port Douglas: the hotspot of Australia’s Far North. After an hour’s drive north from Cairns airport, you’ll arrive at Port Douglas’ chilled-out centre. It’s where lush rainforests and exotic birdlife meet white sands and the legendary seventh wonder of the world, Great Barrier Reef – the only living thing visible from outer space. Sun seekers revel in golden rays all year round and Port Douglas’ balmy climate won’t disappoint. It’s got that sense of endless summer magic as visitors graze through the streets on everything from sights and sounds to shopping. The chilled-out vibe of this coastal resort town makes it an easy place for the family to relax. The main strip is friendly to navigate with a pram, and casual is where the mood is at. Boutiques and galleries stand alongside herb and health stores: Port Douglas has a holistic side, and hardworking parents can take turns making the most of the wellbeing and massage therapies. Once the sun sets, the town’s buzz turns up a dial – diners and drinkers feast on local fare and there’s plenty of quiet areas for those early-to-bed. Early risers will find delicious pastries (and coffee) at Mocka’s Pies while dining outdoors at The Little Larder lends itself to messy eaters. Port Douglas gives you the chance to join your little one in trying new solids – you’ll spot crocodile and kangaroo on local menus. An appreciation of community is most apparent at the weekend market. Operating for more than two decades, it’s chocka with Aussie arts and crafts. There will be plenty for the entire family as you wander the maze of handcrafted jewellery and colourful wooden crafts mixed in with puppets and locally made glasswork. In a scene that’s known for family outings and boaties, the updated marina, or ‘Marina Mirage’ as it’s known, welcomes all walks of life. Amongst the tourist shops overflowing with souvenirs, Hemingway’s modern craft brewery stands out from the crowd; its seasonal brews and woodfire pizzas are a favourite for families wanting to casually dine against a serene backdrop.
When it comes to parking the pram and pulling out the portacot, there are dozens of family-friendly options. If you’re wanting to be central, book a room at Club Tropical (clubtropicalresort.com.au). While self-contained studios are available, being in the heart of Port Douglas makes it an ideal base for the first one awake to take a townie stroll with bub. For those who want to be near the centre but not amongst it, QT Hotel (qthotelsandresorts.com) is where it’s at. This 160-room hotel has retro stamped on everything from the architecture to the furniture. The onsite restaurant can cater to every whim. Besides riding the largerthan-life rubber duckies in the hotel pool or exploring the water gardens, take a breather from the crowds in your self-catering suite. As part of the Executive Suite Collection (executiveretreats.com.au), each property owner brings their own sense of style to multi-bedroom luxury villas, located just five minutes outside of the town centre. They feature ample indoor/outdoor living space, local art, and daybeds where your baby will have plenty of shade from the sun-drenched patio before playing in the plunge pool. The executive chef kitchens make it easy to prepare every type of meal, although if you’re wanting something special (without the clean-up duty) you can order meals to be delivered. Surrounded by World Heritage forest, it’s all about the great outdoors at Thala Beach Nature Reserve (thalabeach.com.au). Throughout this eco-retreat, the entire whanau can take in the views by way of daily tours through the unique rainforest, woodlands, mangroves, and marine coast. Each suite is set either amongst the tropical rainforest, or high above the treetops with views stretching across the Coral Sea. You’re bound to spot locals – animals that is – from the musky rat-kangaroo to the red-eyed green tree frog. Because Thala is situated on a private 145-acre headland between Cairns and Port Douglas, it’s a playground for the entire family. Bub can even learn how to dance to the soundtrack of local kookaburras! Port Douglas’ scope for relaxation stretches well beyond where you decide to lie your head at night. The golden Four Mile Beach is a must, which can be accessed from one of the town’s main streets. At the northern rocky headland, put baby on your back and get your hearts
pumping with a climb to the Flagstaff Hill Lighthouse to survey the surroundings from towering heights: beside the eastern end of Port Douglas and Mowbray River, the beach expands to the foothills towards Black Mountain. Given its proximity to two World Heritage areas – the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Forest – there are plenty of tours catering to all types of traveller be it by foot or boat. Sail to the lower isles and outer reef in a glass-bottom vessel run by Tropical Journeys (tropicaljourneys.com). Show and tell bub about the 1500 species of fish, turtles, dolphins and rays that come into view underneath the boat. And a game of tag will ensure that both you and your partner can snorkel the sparkling sea (calypsoreefcruises.com). Just north of Port Douglas, you’ll find the Daintree Rainforest, a World Heritage site estimated to be more than 135 million years old, and home to more wildlife than anywhere else. Hike some of the 1200 square kilometres or dip into Cape Tribulation or Donovan’s Beach. There’s bound to be plenty of firsts for the entire family in Port Douglas. And without a doubt you’ll all take home the best souvenir: an amazing feeling of a sun-kissed escape.
The logistics When to go
While being in the tropics lends itself to wetter summers, temperatures soar in February and the peak season extends from May through September
How to get there
Air New Zealand (airnz.co.nz) flies direct from Auckland International Airport to Cairns every week, Thursday to Sunday. Flying from elsewhere in New Zealand? Cairns is still within easy reach, with just a quick transit in either Brisbane or Sydney. Upon your arrival, rent a car for the scenic one-hour drive up the coast
You’re bound to spot wildlife! The World Heritage Forest is home to 400 species of butterflies and birds. It’s great to teach your little ones about the wonders of nature
Executive Suite Collection