The one with the rainforest
A bit of a luxury, not having to check out until 11am today.
The hotel offered a laundry service of fifteen items for $25 which we took advantage of yesterday so we managed to get most of our laundry done making packing up much easier this morning.
Packing for all eventualities for six weeks is quite tricky, and before we came away we had a bit of a suitcase nightmare resulting in us needing to bring two smaller cases each instead of one large case each. This has actually worked out better in the long run but unfortunately when re-packing stuff I left some items at home by mistake so I’ve wanted to keep up with the laundry where we have the facilities
A final breakfast at Bang and Grind and we said goodbye to a very sunny Cairns (I told you the lads brought the sun with them!)
The drive to Port Douglas is only about 70 minutes so we did our usual thing and stopped off at various places en route. First stop was Yorkey’s Knob. Because we are childish.
Second stop was Palm Cove. This is a lovely little bay with an esplanade and is, I suspect, a thriving holiday destination for those looking for something quieter than Cairns.
We followed the Captain Cook Highway (I will be starting a campaign when I get home to call our roads by much more exciting things than A,B and M) on towards Port Douglas, stopping off at Rex Lookout.
We arrived at “By the Sea”, our apartment complex in Port Douglas, late in the afternoon. We had already had good communication with the ladies there, as they had messaged us saying they thought our apartment might be too small for 5 nights, but we stuck with it. They had also advised that there was a bit of a hospitality staff shortage in Port Douglas and therefore it was advisable to book restaurants in advance. But we have learnt from earlier in the trip that doing so sometimes makes it tricky to be a bit more relaxed about what you’re doing in the daytime. It was a good decision as we were so central and there are dozens of places to eat and shop here.
The apartment is cosy, but it’s plenty big enough for us two, we just need to be a bit organised and tidy! (Thank goodness for packing cubes!)
After we unpacked we went for a walk. There was a footpath signposted to the lookout and lighthouse which we made an attempt at starting but halfway round it became clear that my (rare) choice of flip-flops wasn’t going to cut it this time, so we found our way back to the main path and vowed to come back later that week to complete it.
That night we ate at a great little Mexican that specialised in tacos - they were the best we’ve had out here, but the restaurant operates a frustrating online ordering system which would probably be ok if it worked properly. They suggested we ordered as we went, so each time we had to check out and pay, but because it didn’t like our credit cards we had to keep selecting the option “pay at table” making the whole process laborious. Why can’t I just ask for two margaritas and then pay for everything at the end? Really frustrating and the ladies at By The Sea said we weren’t the first to mention this.
We noticed here that again most of the places seem to be closing by 9pm.
Given our disappointing snorkelling experience in Cairns we thought we’d have another go, as my brother had said we might have better luck further up the reef.
The sun has stuck around so after a morning spent on the beach we set off to the Marina for an afternoon only snorkel, the reef being only a half hour boat trip away. We chose a small trip again - only a maximum of 23 - and also chose one this time which was a “snorkel from the beach” instead of straight from the boat.
We cruised to the Low Isles and snorkelled for a good two hours. It was such a better experience than the trip in Cairns just because the sea was calm and the sun was out. We saw much more, and although turtles and rays have still eluded us we did see a shark (a good way away as to render it unidentifiable) and plenty of big shoals of beautiful fish and corals, much more what we had expected. (Harry and Ben had snorkelled in Cairns the day before and had luckily seen way more than we did on our trip there).
Once again we asked the crew to recommend good places to eat and they came up trumps with a couple of recommendations, one of which we tried out tonight.
The Thai place they had recommended was closed, especially unfortunate as it was a bit of a walk, so we went to the second option, Watergate.
This is one of the higher-end restaurants in PD but still fairly casual, and still closes at 9pm! The food was excellent though, we shared a starter of bruschetta, followed by korean bbq chicken supreme (his) blue swimmer crab & local snapper cannelloni (mine). Ian won food choice this evening. We snuck in a couple of espresso martinis and pink gin kisses for dessert before they started cleaning up around us!
Today dawned bright and sunny so we thought we’d go to Mossman Gorge. This is one of the more accessible waterfalls nearby, you drive to the visitor centre and then they bus you up to the gorge itself - this is because the land between the visitor centre and the gorge is privately owned so they have permission for people to travel by bus but not to walk.
The gorge is beautiful and once again was flowing quite hard due to the recent rains. There were mixed reports on whether you could swim or not - we had been told in advance we could (and the tour we had previously looked at said there was a swimming opportunity here) but had decided it would probably be flowing too strongly. In the end there was a notice on the bus saying that the local indigenous people had requested that visitors did NOT swim. We didn’t see anyone swimming in the main falls, however there was a smaller creek about 800 meters away which was much slower and safer and people were swimming in there.
There was a rainforest walk marked which, according to the man at the entrance, was supposed to be suitable for ‘people used to walking’ so we thought we’d give it a go. The first part of the walk form the bus drop off to the gorge is all boardwalk and really easy, (although lots of steps, so not suitable for wheelchairs or buggies).
Then the walk proper started, it wasn’t anything unexpected for about half a mile but then the going started to get tough - where before there had been rock steps put in the path, these now felt more like random boulders. Then we started having to cross small streams and mini waterfalls where the stepping stones were sometimes underwater. All in all the 2.5km walk turned out to be a 2.5 mile hike, which doesn’t sound much until you add in the 30º heat, the 80% humidity, tree roots, running water, ascents, descents, one dodgy knee (him) and one dodgy hip (me). It was probably worth it but we were absolutely drenched by the time we got back to the car 3 hours later, so we ditched our planned visit to Daintree Forest Visitor Centre and went back to the apartment and then on to the beach! I think we’d seen enough rainforest for one day.
Tonight we ate at the Star of Siam, the Thai restaurant that the snorkel crew member had told us about. He had told us it was a BYO so we went off with a carrier bag of wine we’d already bought the day we arrived. The food was great, another place that we probably would have walked past without noticing, it’s so good to have a little bit of local knowledge.
Today we’re off to do one of the most touristy things we can around here - the SkyRail and the
Kuranda Railway. Skyrail is a cable car which carries you for about an hour over tropical rainforest, part of Australia’s Wet Tropics World Heritage area. You can alight at two stops on the way up; the first, Red Peak, has a boardwalk where you can join a Ranger guided tour if you wish, and the second is Barron Falls. Once at the top you arrive in Kuranda village, which generally seems to exist to serve the tourists that arrive at it every day. There are lots of local shops and galleries, restaurants and cafes (plus a few tat shops of course) and a Butterfly Sanctuary which we visited, which was very good.
To return to the bottom you can either travel back on the cable car, or you can take the Kuranda Railway, which is the original railway completed in 1891. The train journey takes about 2 hours and travels through 15 hand carved tunnels, over 37 bridges, past spectacular waterfalls and into the Barron Falls - there is a 10 minute stop here and it is the same place we saw Barron Falls from earlier in the week.
We had a really great day, it was a terrific way to see just how vast and beautiful the rainforest is. If I were to visit it again I think I’d just do a return trip on the cable car. The train was really hot, and although it was an experience the views are of course better from the cable car. Once you’re back at the station you have to get a shuttle bus (air conditioned thank goodness) back to the Skyrail Car Park to collect your car.
Our final day in PD was a relaxed one. We woke to more glorious sunshine so we spent the morning on the beach, then enjoyed a long leisurely lunch at Epicurean. This was the only place I pre-booked in PD as it had such great reviews, and rightly so. It’s relatively new (opening just before the dreaded Covid) but it has taken a simple idea and delivers it incredibly well. They don’t offer an evening service, just lunch, the idea being you enjoy sharing platters and the wine is the main focus and no time limit on your table. We whiled away three hours over a charcuterie board, some extra cheese and two bottles of wine, went back to the apartment to pack and then re-attempted the failed hike from earlier in the week.
Our time in Port Douglas ended with a huge rain storm that lasted all night, which felt like a fitting end to our stay as we journey back to Cairns tomorrow morning to fly to Adelaide.