Hiking through tropical rainforest, swimming in magical Mossman rockpools and diving with turtles on The Great Barrier Reef were just some of the highlights of our escape to ...
This year to celebrate Justin's birthday, we decided to use an old Virgin flight credit to escape the winter and soak up the sunshine in tropical north Queensland. The closest airport is Cairns, and we caught a group transfer from the airport to our Port Douglas hotel with Eclipse Transport.
Where we stayed
There are plenty of accommodation options in Port Douglas, so you won’t have any problem finding something to suit your taste or budget - especially if you’re cashed up. Most of the exclusive resorts line the main boulevard on the way into the village some with scenic golf courses and spa facilities - check out the deluxe pool at Sea Temple Resort!
You can find more affordable mid range resorts in the blocks between the village and Four Mile Beach and there are many backpacker options too. I used this free map to look up the names and locations of resorts in Port Douglas. You can check reviews and recommendations on TripAdvisor or Hostelworld and latest deals all the accommodation booking giants.
Since we’re in saving mode for our big trip to South America later this year, we decided to keep the accommodation budget down and stayed in a self-contained studio apartment at Port Douglas Retreat.
The retreat was only a couple of blocks back from Four Mile Beach and the chilled village center, which was convenient because we didn’t have a car and wanted to go out at night. As it turns out our stay coincided with the annual Port Douglas Carnivale and the village was alive with street parades, dancing, music and fireworks!
Our studio was on the first floor and had a king size bed, a small lounge with tv, kitchenette and a balcony overlooking a free form swimming pool and bbq area. It was perfect for our needs as it was convenient, clean, comfortable and quiet (mostly just other couples).
Magical Mossman Gorge
Nestled among sugarcane fields and the World Heritage Listed Daintree National Park, is magical Mossman Gorge. This is the traditional homeland of the indigenous Eastern Kuku Yalanji people and part of the oldest rainforest in the world - estimated at being between 100 million years old to 180 million years old!
It’s easy to see why the Kuku Yalanji considered Mossman Gorge a special place, with it’s river of purest mountain water rushing along a dramatic gorge of massive granite boulders through lush rainforest. It is pure heaven!
While there isn’t regular public transport to Mossman Gorge, we took a mini-bus transfer with BTS Tours which collected us from our hotel and took us to the Mossman Gorge Visitor Centre at 9:30am, where we had free time until they collected us at 12:45pm and returned us to our hotel.
Justin and I did the gorge circuit hike (2.7 km) which was an easy hike through ancient rainforest alongside the gorge in parts. There’s a small side track down to the gorge around half way where you can rock hop and enjoy the serenity of this special place.
We wandered up a short way to discover our own little slice of this heaven … a sparkling rockpool in the rainforest all to ourselves, where we swam in cool pristine mountain water and basked on boulders ... Magical!
Scuba Diving @ the Great Barrier Reef
My birthday present to Justin this year was a cruise to the World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef for an introductory dive course.
After reading a few reviews on Trip Advisor, I decided on Poseidon Cruises, as they use smaller boats and dive on one of the best preserved parts of the Great Barrier Reef, Agincourt Ribbon Reefs.
Poseidon caters for both certified and introductory divers as well as snorkellers. As a beginner you get the chance to dive with a qualified dive instructor at 3 reef sites at a depth of up to 12m. For the ultimate experience, we signed up for all 3 dives but both felt afterward that 2 dives and 1 snorkelling would have been enough.
After a short lesson on the way out to the reef, you go through a series of tests to make sure you understand what to do in the water, before you’re off and away in groups of 4 to explore this amazing world under the sea! Luckily we had a sunny day and good visibility, so the colours of the reef were bright and so much better than they look from up in the boat.
We swam through colourful coral gardens, schools of wrass, cod, parrot fish, found huge Nemo’s, giant clams and a sleeping reef shark. At the second dive site, Turtle Cove, our instructor warned us that they hadn’t seen turtles for a while - so you can imagine then how thrilled we were when 2 turtles joined us on our dive soon after jumping in! We had a ball ducking and diving on the reef with our gentle new friends.
We were super impressed with the Poseidon’s crew and their casual but professional service. We couldn’t fault their food, boat, kit or crew and would confidently recommend them for diving on the reef.
We arrived back in the harbour around 4.30 pm, elated but exhausted from our day on the reef. Just as I’d hoped, Justin was totally blown away by the whole experience ... Happy Birthday Babe!
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