Port Douglas and the Australian Tropics

Continuing our journey in the Great Barrier Reef region, from Cairns, we next went to Port Douglas Australia. We took the easy, 50-mile drive up the magnificent Cook Highway, along which you are surrounded by palm-lined, white sand beaches on one side and an impenetrable, mountainous tropical rainforest on the other.

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The town was founded in the 1870 gold rush, and still retains some of its historic charm with a tree-lined main street, containing causal, open-air markets and restaurants. One caveat, however, if you plan to stroll the street around dusk, bring earplugs, or better yet, a noise-cancelling headset. The trees are filled with birds whose chirping, when combined, probably exceed 50 decibels.

However, as with Kuranda, we went to Port Douglas less for the town rather than for the area’s natural beauty. We experienced this beauty in two primary places and two very different ways (which we will discuss in our next several blogs):

  • With a drive and walks through the Wet Tropics World Heritage Rainforest; and
  • Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef.

Port Douglas Restaurants

Since we were staying in Port Douglas, we had a chance to explore three of the city’s restaurants:

  • On the Inlet. This restaurant seemed to be more of a locals’ spot. It was outside, on a water inlet. Service, food and atmosphere were all very good. We started with yellowfin tuna tataki in shallot-ginger sauce and crispy soba noodles, followed by a particularly good pan-fried coral trout fillet with lemon-caper butter, kipler potatoes and brocollini. The wine was a nice 2015 Marlborough New Zealand Pinot Grigio from Villa Maria.
  • 2 Fish. A very popular seafood restaurant on main street for which reservations are necessary. We began with Grilled Red Claw Yabbies, a type of crayfish that was served with garlic and caper butter and herb salad. For main courses, we had swordfish with leak risotto, tomato collis and olive tapenade, topped with a grilled tiger prawn; and grilled coral trout with bean sprouts, papaya salad, mango, chili and coriander salsa, and a lotus root crisps. While the yabbies and the swordfish were excellent, the trout required the salsa for taste. Our wine was a Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay. The service, meanwhile, left much to be desired.
  • Nautilus. Our experience here was a very mixed experience. We enjoyed the atmosphere of an outdoor tropical forest setting in the middle of the town. It is very romantic and probably the place were many proposals are made. We also enjoyed our meals to various degrees. Tom was very pleased with his char-grilled prawns, Moreton Bay bugs, baby squid, seared scallops and black mussels in a mild, green peppercorn cream curry sauce. Joyce couldn’t find a seafood dish to her liking and settled for a decent taro gnocchi with asparagus veloute, truffle butter and parmesan. We enjoyed the 2015 Nanny Goat Pinot Noir we had with the meal. Our greatest disappointment, however, was the service, especially what we perceived as the shameful lack of knowledge and the cursory service of the so-called sommelier. While we would recommend it for the atmosphere, don’t expect the food or service to be at a similar level.

Hotel

We stayed at Le Cher du Monde.  This is an “apartment” right in the center of town, so it gives you more room than in a hotel room. We had a microwave and stove top, along with basic pans and dishes and a small refrigerator. The owner, Rob, purchased the property 3 years ago and has been making improvements such as new beds, better wifi etc. He has a positive attitude, a lot of energy and is very helpful. No elevator which may be troubling for some people. Off street parking and a guest laundry are provided. If you plan to spend time at the beautiful pool area, bring your own towel or rent one for $5. You can also buy a towel at the nearby Target store for $5 and take it home.

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