Remember those holidays during the BIG era (Before Instagram)? Life was simpler, and according to the photos, a lovely shade of sepia. Family holidays included loading dogs, kids and luggage into the 4WD or station wagon for the weeklong driving or camping trip. Carefully curated mixed tapes were sung over the tape deck, endless games of I-Spy were played, and road stops for photo opportunities were made outside iconic sightseeing spots found in dog-eared travel brochures.
There are particular destinations throughout the world that make us wistful for a time long gone by. These days, we’re travelling more than ever, venturing into far-flung corners of the globe and experiencing places and cultures generations before us never even dreamed of. But let’s be honest: for all the excitement of far-away travelling, holidays are never as fun as they were when we were kids. But far better than just forgetting about these places of childhood nostalgia, we’re still visiting them. Just like the Kerrigans had Bonnie Doon, so many of us will always have Port Douglas and the Daintree.
For all its sprawling luxury resorts and fancy bitumen roads, the heart of the Port Douglas region– and its people – still remains exactly the same: a sleepy little fishing village with a quirky community as warm as the coastal water that surrounds it and buildings no higher than a coconut palm tree. And out of the archives of tissue-paper lined photo albums, the memories of the holidays we used to have up this way come a-flooding back!
Flagstaff Hill, the ultimate viewing spot to oversee the sweeping majesty of Four Mile Beach and the Coral Sea, is a spot that takes pride of place in many a photo album. Back then, there were no fancy walkways or stairs - it was a scramble to the top over rocks and through bush scrub or via Murphy Street to grab that panoramic image of a beach-and-rainforest landscape. These days, the climb is easier, but the breathtaking views still the same. Without any major supermarkets to self-cater, mealtimes meant surf and turf at the Courthouse Hotel or pizza from the legendary Portofino’s. Although sadly no longer in existence, ask any local about their pizza specials and watch as eyes glaze over in fond, appetite-inspiring remembrance. Today, there are restaurants, cafes and bars to suit all cravings and budgets, and all effortlessly sliding into an element of tropical, holiday dining.
North of Port Douglas, the Daintree and Cape Tribulation were the gold stars of holiday adventuring. Just as untouched and jungle-y as it is today, it wasn’t until the mid-80s that the Bloomfield track opened allowing serious 4WD adventurers to explore the rugged north. Coincidentally, it was at the same time the area’s first backpacker’s hostel, aptly named The Jungle Lodge, opened to the public bringing forth a new type of adventure traveller to the region.
There are countless stories of the north’s resilience over the years – it’s survived cyclones, industry collapse, infrastructure follies. It’s lived through wildly successful developments and rock star status as a holiday destination to the rich and famous. But the one outstanding and defining feature that Port Douglas and Daintree has always maintained is its sense of survival, comradery and community.
There are locals still here that have lived through the days of exchanging eggs and seafood for professional services (hi Dad!), and visitors who have arrived for a weekend of relaxing and still haven’t made their way ‘home’ after 30 years (hi Mum!). There are iconic and ironic personalities that have created a thriving hospitality scene, a widely loved theatre arts group, yacht races, radio stations, and live bands that fill the streets with the sounds and memories visitors are yet to create.
So when you’re planning your next holiday away, spare a thought for the holidays of nostalgia, and remember it’s the people of Port Douglas that are the defenders of the good life and good times this little town has to offer. Rain, hail, cyclone or growth, the essence and spirit of this extraordinary little town is what keeps the locals here and the visitors coming back.
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