Port Douglas and the Daintree – the Delights of the Rainforest

So we sailed on to the sun
‘Til we found a sea of green
And we lived beneath the waves
In our yellow submarine

Another John Lennon/Paul McCartney song

We had left Cairns just before a covid case emerged and were lucky to miss the week long lockdown there. This seems to be the story of our travelling life over the past two years. Don’t follow us as lockdowns seem to happen in the wake of our leaving. We were caught in Western Australia for eight weeks from April 2020 but heck, who wouldn’t want to be stuck in the beautiful seaside town of Jurien Bay, just north of Perth. Warm temps, clear blue seas and a laid back town with not a lot to do. That was a while back and now we are watching again as Australia’s southern states and NZ go through spreading coronavirus and state and regional lockdown nightmares with seemingly little light at tunnel’s end. Our daughter Brigette and son-in-law Ralph go into their third month of lockdown in northern Sydney with two young children who are unlikely to be back in school until late October. Christmas family get togethers are looking increasingly difficult. But here we are hqppy to be in Port Douglas where the lack of the usual tourist crowds makes for a relaxing and laid back atmosphere with all the amenities – pubs, retaurants, shopping – available. This is not gloating just an appreciation of how lucky we have been. And a realisation of the difficulties many face.

The Palmer River Roadhouse – a mechanic and a non-mechanic enjoying a beer

From Cooktown we had Australian census night at the Palmer River Roadhouse. Plonked on the side of the Mulligan Highway the roadhouse has a dozen camp sites with power and the roadhouse itself. It really is a country pub with petrol and we had a pleasant meal accompanied by our campsite neighbour. David hailed from New Plymouth, NZ, came to South Australia as a young man and now at 80 years old and after the loss of his wife was caravanning around Australia. He was the epitomy of never judge a book by its cover. Rough as and although softly spoken his views on life were lets say rightish of centre. He had been a truck driver most of his life until a major heart attack led him to restoring cars. He taught himself “on the go motor mechanicing” and showed us photos of the most beautifully restored vintage cars you could imagine. Obviously passionate about something he came to late in life this became he and his wifes business. I’m willing to bet his latter years were the ones most enjoyed. We filled our census form in on line. David filled in the paper one given to him at the roadhouse. “Then I threw it in the bin” he said. “You can’t do that ” I said. “I don’t want the government to know about me” he said. Again I’m willing to bet there is a story behind this. We didn’t pursue it.

A night in Tablelands Camping Park (what really seemed a down and out permanent camp for hippies and layabouts but very pleasant) we stopped in Mossman for three nights before venturing into the Daintree National Park. Mossman boasts the Mossman Gorge and we walked the two hours through the rainforest alongside the Mossman River. Recommended.

Daintree township is in the Daintree River which runs from the hills emerging south of Cape Tribulation in the Coral Sea. Cape Tribulation was named by Captain Jame Cook as the area where his troubles first began after the Endeavour first hit a coral reef. We are in the Daintree National Park, a World Heritage listed region as the oldest rainforest in the world. The first inhabitants arrived 30,000 years ago. The discovery of gold around the north eastern rivers put an end to their quiet existence and as in all these circumstances violence and atrocities ensued. Nevertheless the Yalanji people now are prominent in the area and manage and promote the Mossman Gorge and parklands. Eco-tourism is a major part of the Daintree and business is suffering in the pandemic. The region is beautiful with both native flora and fauna flourishing. We stayed in the Daintree Village camp and took an early evening boat trip up then down the Daintree River. With the dearth of tourists we were the only passengers and enjoyed two hours on the river with our knowledgeable skipper Alex. There were several crocodiles sunbathing along the route but the birdlife was what took our breath away. Morning swiftlets darting across the water, the Sacred, Azure and Little Kingfishers, flycatchers, trillers and butcherbirds abounded along the river banks. And all accompanied by an expert commentary made for a fabulous and educational trip. And the biggest kingfisher of them all was also in abundance – the Kookaburra. Of course by its very nature the rainforest is inundated with rain and whilst this is the dry season great cloudbursts made their presence felt occasionally.

One minute you are swimming in the warm, clear waters of Port Douglas’s Four Mile Beach, the next you are standing on the shoreline watching a four metre croc swim past not five metres from the water’s edge. Such is Far North Queensland. Beautiful one day, life threatening the next. Not really as I don’t think there has been a crocodile attack on a beach in Australia for years. Certainly not in Port Douglas. Stats show 33 croc attacks in Queensland since 1985 – 11 fatal. Most are in isolated river systems in the far north and often through stupidity. Luckily someone had spotted this big boy coming around the point and the beach was closed. Locals didn’t seem that concerned.

We love coming back to Port Douglas as it has the right mix of beach and rainforest beauty and a tourist township offering local and upmarket cafes, restaurants and shopping. MaCrossan Street, the main shopping street is a mixture of pubs, pizza joints, cafes, art galleries, surfwear shops and clothing boutiques. It leads down to the PD Surf Club on the beach at one end and a large park and surprisingly well appointed marina at the other. The Pandanus Campground is a ten minute walk to town and a five minute walk to the beach. The town was eerily quiet with some retailers admitting that they were losing money but stayed open to keep a presence. Meanwhile as in all of Queensland the two campgrounds were teeming. We rode through a couple of the resorts, the Mirage and Sea Temple to see no-one idling alongside or swimming in the magnificient pools. Mirage staff reckoned they were at ten percent occupancy at the tail end of the season. Such is the pandemic in FN.Q. We booked a trip with Sailaway Yachts out to the reef for a day snorkelling. Again the boats were only running when they had a full complement which seemed about every third day or so. Our trip was to MacKay Coral Cay on the outer reef and we snorkelled alongside green turtles, giant clams, exotic fish life, massive sea cucumber and the most beautiful coral reefs.

MacKay Coral Cay – about two hours sailing to the outer reef – simply stunning

The cay itself is the most spectacular and sun drenched white sand courtesy apparently of the sea cucmbers digestive system. Sailaway have a marine biologist on all their trips and we soon learnt of the delicate balance between the coral reef life, natural events and unfortunately mankind. The part of the reef where we were is undamaged and thriving but this is not the case along the Great Barrier Reefs 2,300 km length and on its 2,900 individual reefs. The major threat is climate change and rising sea temperatures which causes coral bleaching. This phenomonen is the evacuation of the corals by the colourful algae which lives inside it causing bleaching and an upset of the symbiotic relationship. Fortunately there is a great focus on reef preservation, reseeding and conservation that gives hope for the reef’s future. If mankind could only get over itself and understand the importance of preservation then perhaps the future may not look so grim.

We love Port Douglss. It offers such a variety of natural attractions within an easy distance alongside some good old holiday relaxation and indulgence We will be back.

2 thoughts on “Port Douglas and the Daintree – the Delights of the Rainforest

  1. Hello Margaret and Mike:- Another wonderful geography lesson received from Mr. Gato today. You are amazing Mike the way you describe your travels so well, which gives us a very good picture of our wonderful country and makes one feel they have been there. Loved the notice about the croc. passing by at an approx. time – how do they know? You certainly covered a tremendous amount in your travels and we are most appreciative that you take the time to share it with us and your friends. We have enjoyed every single news post – please keep it up. Our life in comparison seems very dull being in lockdown, but we are happy and making the best of what is available. Recently we have been for drives within 10kms. radius to Abbotsford and Cabarita, which are unknown areas to us on the Parramatta River. We were most surprised at the beautiful homes, some fetching $10million and more. We have also enjoyed reading and learning of the history of each parkland.and having a picnic lunch in the car. Now that we are restricted to 5kms., yesterday we drove over to Bronte for a change of scenery and sat on the grass overlooking the beach and watch the world go by with many people getting their daily walk hour including many with their dogs. We do miss not seeing the family, but we keep in touch by phone frequently and by zoom. Last week we celebrated one of our son in law Tim’s 50th birthday with a zoom party which included all our family, his parents at Dee Why and his 5 siblings with their spouses and children some living in different states, all of whom we know well. It was great fun, and after many skits by his siblings on living with Tim growing up, we all closed down two and a half hours later. As you can imagine, we two were quite exhausted from concentrating on all the conversations. Our daughters Kate and Emma organised another zoom party today to celebrate Andrews 50th Father’s Day with all our family. A great catchup once again. Continue to enjoy, keep well and safe and with our love as always. Thea and Andrew.

    Sent from my iPad



  2. Thanks Thea and Andrew
    We have enjoyed our travels immensely. Hopefully these can continue and one day (soon) we can get to Sydney and catch up. All the best and Happy 50th Father’s Day Andrew


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