After arriving in Cairns, my little sister and I headed straight up to Port Douglas. Situated about an hour north of Cairns, Port Douglas is a tiny town which has become increasingly popular with Aussie tourists. The number of people in the town at any given time is often double the actual population of 5,000 or so permanent residents. Accommodation and dining options seemed to be unlimited, and I was shocked to find that some of the restaurants were booked out days in advance. On our first night, we discovered that the Italian restaurant that a work colleague of mine recommended was booked solid until 10pm three nights later. Fortunately, there was a Mexican restaurant with only a two hour wait. The Mexican food wasn’t half bad for a tiny Australian town. Kudos to Port Douglas.
Just south of the town was Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures – just one of many zoos that dot Far North Queensland. We began our adventure there with a boat ride on Hartley’s Lagoon – a man-made lagoon with roughly 20 or so crocodiles in it. The boat was full of children which made for a miserable ride and I was hoping the driver would sacrifice one to a hungry croc. Alas, he did not, but our time there improved greatly once we were back on land. A crocodile show was next on the agenda and it was spectacular: one giant croc and two well-trained idiots in its enclosure.
We got to meet a cassowary named Big Bird:
And it was Melissa’s first encounter with a kangaroo.
She also became quite fond of this little guy: a pademelon.
Of course, just like any Aussie animal park, there was a koala for the petting. And if you’ve ever pet a koala, you’ll know that they smell like marijuana. Or eucalyptus they say, but I’m still convinced all koalas are stoners. I mean, their daily routine involves 20 hours of sleep and 4 hours of eating. Munchies much?
Between Port Douglas and Hartley’s was the Rex Lookout – a fantastic spot for a photo op of the Far North Queensland coast.
In the opposite direction, just north of Port Douglas, sits Mossman Gorge. Located near the southern tip of the Daintree Rainforest, the gorge has an Aboriginal cultural centre, some great rainforest hiking trails, and even a few swimming spots (but it was a bit chilly so we opted to not take a dip). My friend Andrea was in Port Douglas at the same time and she gladly tagged along.
Back in town, we also opted to avoid swimming at Port Douglas’ Four Mile Beach.
It is true: everything in this country wants you to do.
Port Douglas is also home to the world’s creepiest mannequin:
For the true Queensland experience, we also got tickets to see the cane toad races. Cane toads were introduced to Queensland in the 1930’s to eat a beetle which was threatening the state’s sugarcane crops. Unfortunately, the cane toads didn’t do a good job at eradicating the beetle as the beetles sat atop the sugarcane out of the toad’s reach. Instead, the useless toads spread over great distances and have become a massive pest, probably one of the most noted pest species in Australia after the rabbit. The cane toad races – put on in a bar in Port Douglas – are a tacky tourist trap but fun nonetheless. I’m just glad my ticket didn’t get called. Those lucky participants had to kiss their toads before the race. Ick.
In addition to deadly beaches, creepy mannequins, tacky touristy toad races, and halfway decent Mexican food, Port Douglas also serves as an excellent jumping off point for day trips to the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest, and Atherton Tablelands. More to come on each of those in separate posts.