Monday, September 28, 2015

Travel with me: Port Douglas {Pic Heavy}

Port Douglas Marina Photo by Stitchimonsta

The Great Barrier Reef has been on my list of things to see for quite some time, the reef as we know it has been severely damaged in the past 10 years, no thanks to Rina Rinehart and co. It's also been an aim for us to travel around this country we call home and get to know the land, history, flora and fauna a little bit more. So, we flew off to Port Douglas for 6 days and 5 nights. FYI - this trip ended up being a lot more expensive than expected!

Warning... This is a very detailed post.

Port Douglas

Port Douglas Street Photo by Stitchimonsta

Port Douglas is located approximately 1 hour north of Cairns in far North Queensland. The influx of tourism has changed the town, there were resorts and motels at every corner, local travel agents and souveneir shops situated along the heart of Port Douglas. It is a resort dweller's paradise. If you love sun, beach and tropical rainforest, it is the place for you. Most tourists we met during our time were from different parts of Australia.

September is probably one of the best months to visit Port Douglas, we had incredible weather ranging from 26-28 degrees on a daily basis. You will need your dresses, singlets and short shorts!

Getting there (from Sydney)

The flight from Sydney to Cairns is approximately 3 hours, we got there by Jetstar and came back with Tiger (Tiger air was significantly cheaper - approximately $250 for 2, while Jetstar was approximately $450 for 2).

Ensure to pre-book a shuttle to transport you to and from Cairns airport to your resort, unless you are planning to hire a car. We used Krystal Transport which was probably the most cost effective at $32 per person, one way.

Where did we stay?

Most resorts in Port Douglas are quite expensive, we used Trivago and found a lovely little pool view studio apartment at Port Douglas Retreat, the early bird prices was $129 per night.

We loved the Retreat, our studio apartment had a balcony that overlooked trees and the pool. It is perfect for 2 people, it will be a tight squeeze for 3. A Kitchenette and a small fridge is available in the apartment, cutlery pots and pans etc. There is also a BBQ area by the pool that was frequently used by other families.
A view from our retreat

There is no room service, there will be a cost if you want new linens, however a communal laundry room with washing machines etc for $4 per load is available. We didn't have a lot of clothes so we literally just hand washed everything with the complimentary soaps.

Owners David and Joyce Costello were absolutely lovely, they provided recommendations and helped us book all our tours. The retreat is only a stroll away from the heart of Port Douglas and Four Mile Beach. There are walls of tour brochures at most resorts so you don't need to book until you get there.

Snorkeling with Sailaway

On Sailaway

As a first time "snorkeler" (and the thought of scuba diving scares the crap out of me) we decided to go with Sailaway. There are two options, Snorkel during the day or afternoon at Low Isles. We picked afternoon snorkeling to catch the sunset on the sail back at approximately $235 per person (plus $6 carbon off set tax per person) - includes all transfers.

The sail out to Low Isles was approximately 45 minutes and it was an amazing experience... sun... sea.. sail.. and music to chill with. 
Low Isles

Our guide took us on a snorkel tour.  We are both relatively confident swimmers, but never snorkeled before, hence we joined a beginners tour... we did end up spending some time waiting for beginner swimmers to catch up. If you are a confident swimmer, I would advise you to go with an intermediate group or just snorkel alone.

This tour is excellent for non-swimmers and beginner swimmers. Snorkeling gears and floating noodles are available. If you are an avid snorkeler or a confident swimmer, you'd probably be better off joining a different tour group and snorkel in the outer reefs (which was something I regret not doing).

We did see a tiny shark, a school of rainbow trouts, heaps of reefs and a great range of stripey and coloured fish. The water was a lot murkier than expected, you can really see how the health and quality of the reef has deterioriated over time.

Under water camera hires are available for $55 prior to boarding, you get to keep the SD card... however I highly recommend everyone to bring their own HD under water cameras or protective covers. The photo quality of the hire cameras were rather average - for the underwater photos I did have to amp up the contrast and saturation, otherwise it came out a little "muddy" looking.

Canapes, finger food and a complimentary drink provided on the sail back.

Daintree Discovery Tour
Mossman Gorge

Out of all the Daintree tours, we opt for a full day Daintree Discovery Tour at $190 per person including all transfers.

Our tour guide Cam was extremely knowledgable and provided a vast amount of information regarding different native animals, mangroves, sugar cane farming etc.

First stop was a stroll through the rainforest into Mossman Gorge.

Daintree River

We were then transported to Daintree River, provided with a cuppa and home made lamingtons before boarding the Solar Whisperer to spot crocs in their natural habitat. With some luck, we spotted this little guy above. Our boat guide, again provided us with insightful information about how the mangroves kept the riverbeds together and their internal filtration systems that allows mangroves to grow and live in saltwater.
Cape Tribulation

Cape Tribulation
After the cruise, we were headed towards Cape Tribulation - where Captain Cook struck his ship onto the reef in 1770 ... it was a world of troubles, hence named Cape Tribulation. Luckily a series of fortuitous events allowed Cook's crew to perform temporary repairs to the ship for sail. Otherwise Australian history may have been extremely different. Cape Tribulation is also the only place in the world where two world heritage listed sites meets (The Great Barrier Reef meets the Daintree Rainforest).

Around midday, we were transported to a private area of Daintree to enjoy lunch that was packed by our guide. We also earned some free time to look and walk around the forest.

Wild Turtles!

Cassowary Falls - Private Property

After lunch we headed towards Cassowary Falls - unfortunately we did not spot any cassowaries..we were extremely disappointed, as it would be amazing to see this beautiful endangered creature outside of captivity. But... our journey carried on in a Land Rover through "Riverhome" a cattle property to enjoy a magneficient waterfall view while feeding wild fish, eels and turtles.

If you are planning to go on a Daintree tour, do not look past this one, it's one of the only tour that will take you onto private property. Whereas Mossman Gorge, Cape Tribulation etc are all open to the public.

Lady Douglas

Lady Douglas took us around Dickson's Inlet, it's more of a scenery cruise. We attempted to spot some crocs but didn't have any luck.

Pre-booking is not required, you can jump on this boat at any time, at $35 per person, it's a bargain compared to the other activities. Nibbles and a complimentary drink is provided.

This is a great, calm cruise for the family, especially if you have young kiddies.

Kuranda, Scenic Rail and Sky Rail with Down Under Tours
Scenic Rail to Kuranda

We were tossing up between Skyrail and Wildlife Habitat on our last day, however decided against wildlife habitat since we can go to Taronga Zoo and Featherdale Wildlife park in Sydney.

Joyce from the Retreat helped us book a "tour" with Down Under Tours this includes all transfers, sky rail and scenic rail at $158 per person.

This was probably the worst "tour" out of all other tours we've been on. We were picked up at 7:55am, boarded Scenic rail at approximately 9:50am - the ride went on forever. We reached Kuranda at 11:30am and was advised to hop onto the sky rail to go back to our shuttle at 1:30pm. So we had roughly 2 hours to "experience" Kuranda... we didn't have enough time and literally had to run through all the attractions.

Kuranda was initially home to hippies, the current markets in Kuranda were comparable to Paddy's Market. We were extremely disappointed. We were expecting tie dye shirts and hand made merchandise.

Although we did see some agile wallabies having breakfast on the way there.

While in Kuranda, we decided to cuddle a koala - since QLD is the only state in Australia that still allow visitors to hold and cuddle a Koala. We envision this to be banned fairly soon. So off we went to Kuranda Koala Garden, entry was approximately $17 per person and koala photos were $20.

The wallabies and other marsupials were severely over fed, most were sleeping and did not give a stuff about our food pellets.

We had roughly 30 minutes remaining so we paid a visit to the Butterfly Sanctuary, entry fee was approximately $12 per person. This is worth going.. how often do you get to hold a butterfly or multiple butterflies!! Make sure you wear colourful cothes and a nice big white straw hat (the butterflies loves it!)

Overall we had fun, but we were both disappinted with our Kuranda trip with Down Under Tours, scheduled times to catch our rides were poorly matched, so a lot of people (us included) waited over an hour at the bus stop when we could have spent a bit more time at Kuranda markets. Our self guide pamphlet instructions were ambiguous, we had to ask a few staff members to interpret the brochure and find out where to go.

My advice... GO THERE YOURSELF. Even just for that day, hire a car and drive there.


Four Mile Beach

Cane Toad Racing at Iron Bar

Daintree Ice cream

Ice cream made on premise and all key ingredients are grown on site! It's one of the best ice creams I've ever had!!

Flavours: Raspberry, Macadamia, Wattle Seeds, Black Sapote
Draintree Estate Chocolates - Locally grown cocoa!
2. Honey

3. Daintree Tea
The tea leaves are all grown in Cairns, you can taste the freshness. Other brands such as Lipton and Twinnings are picked/packed/processed overseas and take months to get into your local supermarket.


  1. Looks like you had a nice trip. I'd like to go there once. It seems so lovely. ^^


  2. Your pictures are stunning. Everything looks amazing. I want to hold a koala bear so much!

  3. Lily!! It looks like you had the besttt time!!!! The photos are amazing!!

    This Damsel Loves Blog

  4. That looks like a great place to retreat! It looked fun and relaxing at the same time! Did you enjoy snorkeling! I missed snorkeling, and I will one day return to that.. <3

    The scenic rail looks wonderful! I wanna go there some day!!

    Celly | Asian Beauty and Makeup Blog

  5. So, so, so jealous of you! Looks like you had an amazing trip and took some gorgeous pics!

  6. Omg what a fabulous trip! I miss travelling with just the hubby and I, it's whole different experience with four kids in tow lol
    We're already planning on heading back to QLD next year- it's so beautiful up there and Spring is def the best time to visit x

  7. Happy birthday my elevator buddy. This post is great I am going to definitely look these up when I plan my trip!


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