About an hour’s drive north of Cairns is a resort town known as Port Douglas. Highly recommended over Cairns by my Aussie friends and supposedly home to some of the best tropical beaches on the planet, my mom had booked us into a beachfront apartment at Beaches Holiday Apartments for three nights to close out our exploration of far north Queensland. And the apartment was amazing. A few yards away from the sand, walking distance to the little village, well-outfitted and comfortable, with AC blasted non-stop (this was necessary). I would definitely recommend a stay here to anyone looking to go to Port Douglas. I would also definitely recommend Port Douglas to anyone who wants to explore the Great Barrier Reef.
The first day we got in we checked out the beach, where these warnings were posted every 50 feet or so before walked onto the sand. Queensland is home to the notorious box jellyfish – one of the many creatures in Australia that wishes death upon anything it touches. Since it’s prime jellyfish season, any swimming in the 80 degree water was limited to a small area that was netted off against the “stingers,” which is what Aussies like to call jellyfish.
After a quick stroll, I convinced my parents to drive back up the street to the nearby Wildlife Habitat. I told them I would catch hell if I let them leave the country without holding a koala or feeding a kangaroo. Since my first experience in Brisbane at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary had been so magical, I assumed all Aussie petting zoos would be like this. There was definitely a multitude of wildlife (including cassowaries, these ridiculous blue-necked, angry-looking, emu-like flightless birds), but the koalas were fewer and the kangas must have just been fed, because they were just not interested in interacting with us at all. But we managed to coax a few wallabies over to charm my parents. I also managed to get my dad to hold a koala for the obligatory photo op, but my mom was too terrified to even get close.
I cooked my parents a meal that evening to thank them for the trip and because eating out in Australia (especially in tourist towns) is pretty expensive and I felt bad having my dad constantly pick up the check.
Since all Reef tours the next day were sold out, we decided to be land explorers again, but self-guided ones this time. My dad and I took turns driving all the way north, through Daintree and up to Myall and Cape Tribulation beaches. Cape Tribulation beach is the furthest north you can drive without an all-wheel drive vehicle. I was a little disappointed because I had visions of reaching the verrrrrry far north tip of the peninsula, but these hopes were dashed by an Aussie cabbie laughing and telling me that only way up there was by plane. Maybe for my next trip!
We lounged on the beach and hiked through some swamps that warned us about the crocodiles in the area (yeah), all the while being warned not to drive to fast by the Cassowary Crossing signs that dotted the road the whole way up. Apparently, if you come across one of these in the wild, you need make yourself bigger than it is (likely by holding something over your head because these guys are TALL) and looking it directly in the eye. Otherwise, you’ll receive a swift kick to the back. Cassowaries are big on the sucker punch, apparently.
We had dinner that night at Finz, which had a menu like nearly every other restaurant on the block, but the sound of their prawn appetizer was better than the rest. The food was pretty much average, but then again maybe I just don’t like Coral Trout (I tried something new).
The next day was our reef tour, which requires a post entirely in and of itself (and I still need to develop the underwater photos). We ended up having Chinese for dinner at Jade Inn, which had really great Chinese (but we were also starved from a day on the water and in the sun, so anything probably would have been delicious). We crashed immediately after because we had to wake at 3 a.m. to drive back to Cairns and catch our 5:30 a.m. flight… lovely.
We flew back into a chilly and overcast Sydney, but our pilot gave us a spectacular show by flying directly next to the CBD, Harbour Bridge and Opera House. I snapped a picture just before it was too late, but will remember to get a better one next time I’ve flown in.
Thus far into my expatriation I have managed to already cover a solid quarter of the country. Not extensively, maybe, but I’ve gotten the highlights and know what to repeat and what to skip now from Sydney up to the north-east. Time to start focusing on the South East. Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road, anyone? I’m ready for a summertime road trip!