The words ‘winter warmer’ gather new meaning in Port Douglas, the tropical town an hour north of Cairns which dishes up a taste of tropical weather 365 days of the year. It’s a place where ‘summer like’ days are filled with adventure, and can easily turn into long, lazy nights sipping cocktails and enjoying the fresh produce on offer up here.
It’s ambitious to discover all of its natural beauty – where the rainforest meets reef – in just one weekend. That’s why you need my handy 72-hour guide:
It’s 4pm on Thursday and we’ve arrived at Thala beach Nature Resort. It’s a Tropical North Queensland welcome, sipping welcome cocktails, served with uninterrupted views of the Coral Sea.
We are taken to our Coral Sea Bungalow – where the rooms are designed to make you feel like you are on your own on an island – but in reality Port Douglas is only a short 15 minutes away.
Rai, Thala’s cocktail expert whips us up a personalised passionfruit, pineapple lychee cocktail. He’s one of those cocktail masterminds where you can give him almost any brief and he’ll come back to you with a cocktail that’s out-of-this-world good.
Lucky it’s not far to go for dinner either - Thala Beach Nature Reserve’s restaurant Ospreys heroes local produce from the Port Douglas markets every day, which keeps guests on their toes with a changing menu every day.
Our picks were the soy and ginger beef tempura nori roll with beef tataki and pickled wakame salad, enoki mushroom aburi and wasabi aioli.
For dessert, try the lime and almond tart with coconut cream jelly, lime curd, coconut sorbet and toasted meringue.
A short buggy ride over to Thala Beach Nature Reserve’s Oak Beach, you’ll find an insta-worthy sunrise over the Great Barrier Reef. The beach is completely untouched and we were the only ones on it for the sunrise show – making the early wake up call completely worth it.
From the Port Douglas Marina, we went out with Sailaway Port Douglas. The luxurious sailing catamaran allows you to fully enjoy a day of snorkelling and sailing.
Once at the Outer Reef we were able to snorkel literally straight off the back of the boat or off the coral Cay – giving us more time to spend with Nemo, giant clams and amazingly
The team at Sailaway know that snorkelling is hungry work – and kept us well fed during the day with massive buffet lunch spreads.
Tonight we stayed at the
recently refurbished Sheraton Port Douglas – complete with two hectares of lagoon
pools and a swim out bar. The Instagram opportunities don’t stop there - try the seafood buffet onsite for the best local catch.
We are met by Jason from Back Country Bliss Tours for a day
trip through the Daintree Rainforest. This tour is super intimate – and we were one of only three people. Beginning the day at Mossman Gorge with a traditional Kuku Yalanji smoking ceremony, cleansing us of bad spirits! Exploring the Daintree National Park at an easy pace listening to traditional stories of this glorious part of the world. After a well earned lunch, we travel to a secret location on the Mossman River for our one of a kind River Drift Snorkelling tour, searching for turtles, water dragons and the elusive platypus.
Down to business. Port Douglas is renowned for its amazing food and great spots for sundowners so we knew we wouldn’t be disappointed in the foodie stakes.
For lazy afternoon drinks – try Barbados at the marina. Our pick was the ‘dodo bird’ cocktail - a combination of Belvedere Pink grapefruit Vodka, St Germain Elderflower, strawberry puree, topped with ginger beer. You’ll be set for a lazy afternoon in a beautiful setting with some great tunes.
For dinner – try Zinc Port Douglas. Zinc's menu present fine, contemporary Australian cuisine with traditional European flare utilising the abundance of fresh local seafood, meats and tropical fruits and vegetables.
For after dinner drinks – set your sights on Jimmy Rum’s Mixing lounge. The atmosphere of this lounge is a bit of a cocktail in itself – a mix of intimate, classy but still with really fun vibes. Take it from me, the bartenders are amazing and the drinks list is way too long to attempt in one night.