Port Douglas

Walking through Jurassic Park - the Daintree Forest by Marek Charytonowicz

We have felt the touch of tropics in Port Douglas but we haven't seen the tropical rainforest yet. So we decided to take a day tour to the famous Daintree Forest - over 1200km2 and the largest continuous forest on Australian continent. It dates back to the times where places like Uluru were covered in rainforest and some species of plants retain the original characteristics from 110 million years ago.

Our guide - Wayne - picked us up in the morning with other five people. He was a very knowledgeable guy, looking like Leslie Nielsen from the 'Naked Gun', which made the trip even more entertaining.

We started the exploration at the Mossman Gorge next to the local indigenous centre. It's a beautiful spot in the forest where Mossman River meanders through large boulders - and where you can swim in refreshingly cold water. We didn't have time for that just yet as we were going to take a river boat cruise and see some crocodiles.

It turned out that the crocodiles are quite shy and hidden in their nests at this time of the year. The cruise was very relaxing on these calm river waters, with both sides overgrown with mangroves and large blue butterflies passing by from time to time. We've spotted only one and a half of a croc - half being a tail of a nesting female on a muddy mangrove bank. There was one male on this river - we were told - but he was busy patrolling the banks and decided not to show up.

After that we headed towards Cape Tribulation where in 1770 captain James Cook's ship scraped a reef and later run aground badly damaged. It wasn't until the next day when the crew managed to reflect it. Cook named this place Cape Tribulation '...because here begun all our troubles".

Apart from rich and dramatic history, this area is also one of the few places where the rainforest meets the reef. Because Great Barrier Reef at this point comes to the very shore, there are no waves that would result in salt spray in the air and the forest is free to come to the very water edge. Cape Tribulation's beach looked beautiful and wild with its turquoise waves but like all beaches around this part of Australia this time of the year, was frequented by marine stingers so swim once again was out of question.

To my pleasure though I managed to find some seriously large Golden Orb Weaver spiders - easily the size of my hand - sitting completely still in their webs next to female toilet. Yes, my relationship with spiders and bugs is a complex one.

After that was time for dinner and - finally - a swim! We drive a little bit into the forest and after enjoying some steak and fish (happily together on one plate) we jumped into a forest river. After a day in the heat and high humidity this felt like paradise - the cold water of slightly brownish colour cascading over the round stones and broken tree trunks. It was one of the most refreshing experiences of the last week or so. Amazing. 

The last attraction of the trip was a walk in the forest starting from an old wood mill location (that also has a resident venomous snake as Wayne casually mentioned). After that - we jumped in the van, to the ferry and then to Port Douglas. 

Just in time to book some sea kayaking for the next day. The exhausting duties of a holidaymaker…

The heat of the Coral Sea - Port Douglas by Marek Charytonowicz

Welcome to the tropical paradise. Please remove any t-shirts as they'll stay constantly wet in 33°C+ for the duration of your stay. Please put on the sunscreen generously as Queensland, Australia is the cancer capital of the world. Expect extremely high humidity, high temperatures and ocean that is as hot as a spa bath. Oh yes, and filled with marine stingers - so kind of out of action unless you wear a full body black neoprene stinger suit at all times (sexy).

Welcome to Port Douglas:)

Well, actually despite all of the above IT IS a tropical paradise. Located between an inlet of a forest river on one side and a four mile long beach on the other, this small town is a relaxing colonial town with one main shopping street with cafes and restaurants, several resorts and countless apartments for rent. All in the shade of massive palm trees lining the streets on both sides.

The bay and town is surrounded by mountains - which are always covered in clouds and seem to fully control the passing by summer storms. Meaning - no matter how hard it rains there, it hardly ever lands on Port Douglas.

It is a perfect place to stay for a while, a calm, relaxing base from which we took numerous day trips to the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Forest and Mossman Gorge. It's tropical - humidity is constantly very high and so is the temperature. Even the ocean - filled with marine stingers at this time of the year unfortunately - is 30°C so you feel no refreshment at all. And you need to swim either in a stinger suit or within a designated area on the beach, surrounded by a special net that stops the jellyfish from going through. Either way - not much fun really.

It is still a stunning view though, with a stretch of sand going on for four miles, dotted with coconut shells and with stormy clouds above the mountains on the horizon. In the evening it turns into a purple and red stage where giant bats make their evening migration to the mangrove forests nearby. When you're sitting in one of the fish restaurants by the inlet, enjoying a delicious reef trout and waiting for George The Groper to come around - a six foot long local reef fish that comes regularly for feeding here - you're just amazed by this spectacle in front of you. And then you take a short walk to your apartment to cool down and plan another day in the tropics.

Having and apartment is amazing. We loved the road trip but constantly changing place means you need to find a place to eat everyday, make sure it's not closed, spend money, be limited to what you can eat - a bit stressful after a while. 
 
Our apartment in Port Douglas was a lovely little flat, just next to the beach in one side and the main street with coffee shops and a few restaurants on the other. Clean, simple and very comfortable it welcomed us with a nicely cool air when we came from the Cairns airport on the first evening, drenched in sweat in 33°C+ heat and 90% humidity. So we loved it from the first sight and that affection deepened as we started cooking our meals and enjoying the relaxed time of being in one place for longer. It actually became a benchmark for our future accommodation choices.

We loved Port Douglas and the relaxing atmosphere it offered. It was really hard to board a Quantas propeller plane to Townsville on the way to Airlie Beach. But there was a sailing boat awaiting us there to take us to the Whitsunday Islands and another adventure...