Where life’s cares sim­ply melt away

Get sun­shine, re­lax­ation and in­dul­gence in equal mea­sure in Queens­land’s trop­i­cal north

Life & Style Weekend - - TRAVEL - with Kiri ten Dolle

RE­LAX. That’s the first thing we tell our­selves to do.

We’re bounc­ing away in the back of a shut­tle bus with that “we’re on hol­i­day” glee. But we hardly no­tice the al­most com­plete lack of sus­pen­sion in the well-trav­elled Toy­ota HiAce be­cause we’re too cap­ti­vated by the scenery un­fold­ing be­hind each hair­pin turn.

It’s no won­der the 75km drive be­tween Cairns and Port Dou­glas is ac­claimed as one of the most spec­tac­u­lar along Aus­tralia’s coast­line. The road snakes around the moun­tain ranges, which roll into the bleached sand and a glit­ter­ing aqua stained-glass sea. We won­der if the driver has a hard time keep­ing his eyes on the road.

The last time my hus­band and I had a night off to­gether was the Blue Moon of July 31 last year. I re­mem­ber the date be­cause coin­ci­den­tally it was a “once-in-a-blue-moon” oc­ca­sion.

As he is a chef our days are spent tag team­ing: while one’s at work, the other is home/sleep­ing (and no, only on straw­berry moons does he feel like cook­ing fancy din­ners at home). So with a baby in the oven we booked a ro­man­tic “last hur­rah” es­cape to Port Dou­glas. A baby­moon.

With a short four days off the ham­ster wheel, our hol­i­day cri­te­ria was sim­ple: sun­shine, re­lax­ation and a lit­tle in­dul­gence.

You feel the ten­sion in your mus­cle fi­bres ease upon ar­riv­ing at QT Port Dou­glas, our home for the next four nights. Maybe it’s the light, misty rain that falls mo­men­tar­ily as we step into the open-air lobby, the “sha-sha-sha” of cock­tail shakers or the ca­bana-lined la­goon pool that de­serves its own post­code. It might be win­ter, but it’s a beau­ti­ful 26 de­grees – fit­ting for a re­sort that evokes 1950s Palm Springs.

We take the first day to lounge by the pool, take a quick dip to the swim-up bar for a “skinny pash” (a calo­rie-re­duced cock­tail, or mock­tail in my in­stance, made on agave nec­tar where “every sip is like a sit up”) and put ev­ery­thing on the room tab. Thank­fully, there are no ag­gres­sive noo­dle-bear­ing chil­dren in the pool. It’s quiet and peace­ful and I’m not alone. A num­ber of other ladies are bar­ing their bump for a bronz­ing.

Pink Floyd and Bob Dy­lan echo from the speak­ers of Estilo bar, where there are also ping pong and pool ta­bles for guests to en­joy. The decor is shame­lessly kitsch and the staff are clad in quirky, retro at­tire.

The fri­vol­ity con­tin­ues down to the room. Our one-bed­room apart­ment is in the Daiquiri Wing over­look­ing the palm-fringed pool. The room is white, bright and spa­cious, set off by a kalei­do­scope of colour in the fin­ish­ing touches. You know you’re in far north trop­i­cal Queens­land when your room comes with a com­pli­men­tary pineap­ple.

There’s a kitch­enette and liv­ing area with a bal­cony shaded by vi­brant he­li­co­nias and lip­stick palms. The king-sized bed is as com­fort­able as clouds and big enough not to bury the hus­band in the umpteen pil­lows a preg­nant lady needs in or­der to get some shut eye.

There’s also a laun­drette and gen­er­ous bath­room with spa bath, com­plete with pina co­lada-smelling, rum-in­fused body

When you’re ready to peel your­self away from the re­sort’s banana lounges, you can get a com­pli­men­tary retro bike and pedal into Port’s heart

good­ies. Not to mention the Domi­nos and Pick-up Sticks avail­able for pur­chase from the mini bar – all adding to the fun, nos­tal­gic vibe.

Another cool fea­ture for the en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly folk is the $10 food and bev­er­age voucher you re­ceive for every night you de­cline a room re­make.

Bazaar is QT Port Dou­glas’s in­ter­ac­tive take on a buf­fet-meets-del­i­catessen. It’s a great spot to soak up some morn­ing rays once you drag your­self out of bed. Grab a news­pa­per and a seat over­look­ing the lilly pad-dot­ted pond and en­joy a cof­fee and your choice of the break­fast buf­fet. The iconic blonde arc of Four Mile Beach is a mere 400-me­tre stroll across the road to walk off any overindul­gence.

In the evening, Bazaar of­fers a culi­nary sprawl of food in­clud­ing a lo­cal seafood sta­tion. There’s even a candy bar among the dessert of­fer­ing so you can fill your pock­ets for later. Af­ter din­ner, take a moon­light dip in the indigo-lit pool to wash away what re­mains of your pre-hol­i­day cares. Or en­joy a movie un­der the stars at the Moon­light Cin­ema. Guests get up­graded to “gold grass’’ and comfy bean­bags. There’s tasty street food avail­able, another candy bar and li­censed bar.

When you’re ready to peel your­self away from the re­sort’s banana lounges, you can get a com­pli­men­tary retro bike from re­cep­tion and pedal into Port’s heart. It’s about a 20-minute ride from the ho­tel (40 min­utes by foot) and a great way to ex­plore the bustling Sun­day morn­ing mar­kets in Anzac Park.

We watch a long-haired chap juice sugar cane lengths – prob­a­bly from nearby Moss­man, the re­gion’s sugar grow­ing cen­tre and gate­way to the Dain­tree Rain­for­est – us­ing a con­trap­tion pow­ered by a sta­tion­ary bike. The re­fresh­ing nec­tar quenches our thirst as we perch our­selves un­der some co­conut palms and watch the cruise lin­ers trail from the har­bour, headed out to the Great Bar­rier Reef.

The town­ship of Port Dou­glas is laid-back, re­tain­ing a real sense of com­mu­nity. De­spite a sticky, steamy heat even in July, its at­mos­phere is chilled and re­minds me a lot of Noosa: one street of restau­rants and dress shops, book­ended by ocean.

From the QT ho­tel you can also climb aboard the Bally Hoo­ley steam train and chug into the ma­rina. It’s worth the $12 re­turn ticket to the ma­rina sta­tion purely for the ex­pe­ri­ence. The steam lo­co­mo­tive was for­merly used by Moss­man Sugar Mill to haul the sugar cane from the fields to the re­gion’s mill.

Hem­ming­ways Brew­ery at the ma­rina is a great spot for sun­set drinks and shared plates as the yachts sail in on twi­light. Af­ter dark, Macrossan St comes alive with live en­ter­tain­ment at most venues. Five bucks will buy you a toad at Iron Bar’s nightly cane toad race – a quin­tes­sen­tial FNQ ex­pe­ri­ence.

Set at least one day aside to ex­plore the Great Bar­rier Reef. Quick­sil­ver Cruises will take you out to Agin­court Reef where you can snorkel and scuba and hel­met dive in the clear­est of waters. Or you can take a scenic he­li­copter flight.

A visit to SpaQ is a must. We sur­ren­der to a cou­ple’s mas­sage: a re­lax­ation de-frag for him and a mus­cle-melt­ing preg­nancy mas­sage for me. We leave Port Dou­glas feel­ing grav­i­ta­tion­less, but there’s noth­ing like a new­born to bring us back down to earth.

PHOTO: TEQ

PHOTOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

QT Port Dou­glas is Mad Men meets the Hamp­tons in trop­i­cal North Queens­land. Set around a large la­goon-style pool (pic­tured above), the re­sort boasts 169 spa­cious rooms and hol­i­day apart­ment vil­las per­fect for busi­ness or leisure travel. En­joy de­li­cious...

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