Port Douglas Vacation

Port Douglas Vacation

Friday – Day One:Our vacation began on Friday afternoon as we headed to Sydney Airport to catch our Virgin Australia flight to Cairns. The flight is only about three hours long from Sydney to Cairns (roundtrip flights average at about $300) and Port Douglas is about one hour from Cairns so we arrived at our hotel – Thala Beach Lodge just in time for dinner at their lovely restaurant, Osprey’s.

Thala Beach Lodge is actually not in Port Douglas. It’s a fifteen minute ($50 cab ride) into town so it may not be the choice for everyone, but we absolutely loved it. It’s situated on a beautiful property with it’s own private beach along with two small swimming pools. All of the rooms are private little bungalows – more spacious than a normal hotel room and all with their own private balcony. You walk down a well-lit dirt-road path to get to the rooms and some are a bit more strenuous to get to than others, but ours was the perfect distance from the main lodge and the beach. The staff are amazing – extremely helpful and they also offer shuttles back and forth into Port Douglas that run every two hours ($8/person) so we didn’t find that we were too secluded. We would absolutely stay at Thala again and certainly would recommend it to friends.

Saturday – Day Two: We’d originally planned to relax all day Saturday. We woke up and had breakfast at Osprey’s, went to the beach for a swim, tanned for a bit, lay by the pool – and by noon we realised that we might want to leave the property for the afternoon. We consulted with the very friendly Travel Desk Manager, Debbie, and planned an afternoon of River Drift Snorkeling down the Mossman River. Neither of us had been snorkeling before so it was definitely worthwhile if only as a warmup to our trip planned to the reef. Our guide, Amy, was fantastic. Super patient when it came to teaching me how to snorkel and also very knowledgeable about the area and all the plant and wildlife in it. All in all it was a great afternoon, though the river sort of pales in comparison to the ocean so I might not recommend it if you’ve been snorkeling/scuba diving before.

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After heading back to Thala to clean up, we caught the shuttle in Port Douglas and had an amazing dinner at Nautilus. Food was delicious, but the best thing about Nautilus is really the atmosphere. It’s literally built into the trees. Absolutely gorgeous and service was fantastic. Read McKay’s full post on Nautilus here. It was a perfect end to our first full day.
Sunday – Day Three: This was the day that we had been looking forward to most (and that I was also slightly dreading). Sunday was Great Barrier Reef Day! We did some research and chose to go out to the reef on the Quicksilver Silver Sonic. They picked us up from Thala at 7:15AM and were on the boat by 8:30. Despite them overselling the “hot shower” on the boat, which really just turned out to be a hose out back, we really enjoyed our trip. We’d been warned to stay away from the bigger boats that take on way too many people and can’t give anyone enough attention, but that really wasn’t the case on Silver Sonic. There were about 60 people on the boat (snorkelers and divers), but it really didn’t feel like there were that many people onboard. The only other thing that was a tad worrisome was the amount of people who got sick! The boat was quite fast and in the two hour ride from Port Douglas to our first dive location – I would say that nearly half the passengers were either throwing up into paper bags or looked like they were about to. Luckily we were part of the other half who weren’t sick, just mortified.

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Once we got the first site, it was go time. They fitted us out with wetsuits, flippers and masks and gave us a lesson on the skills we would be tested on before our instructor would be able to take us under for our first dive. I struggled with the task of switching from one breathing apparatus to the emergency one (which you rarely have to use, but have to demonstrate that you are able to do it in order to be able to dive), but after my fourth attempt – we were off! Only 13 of us were introductory divers so it was great to have our own private instructor (we had Jenny – who was wonderful) that took us out in groups of 3 or 4 for a 30 minute dive. After we got used to the breathing – it was AMAZING.Silver Sonic took us to three locations. We did scuba at two of them and snorkeled at the last one. It was a pretty much perfect day. I FULLY recommend that everyone do it – it really made the entire trip.

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McKay hanging out with the Giant Grouper Fish
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Holding a Giant Sea Cucumber
We arrived back in Port Douglas and were back to our hotel by 5:30PM. Just enough time to shower up and get ready for another trip into Port Douglas to enjoy the best meal we had the entire trip – the Chateubriand Steak for two at Harrison’s restaurant. An amazing meal. Ridiculously decadent. A MUST for your trip to Port Douglas. See McKay’s post on our dinner at Harrison’s here.
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Monday – Day Four:We had another early morning start with our 7:15 pickup from the hotel to embark on our half-day tour of the Daintree Forest. Our guide from Daintree Discovery Tours, Peter, picked us up along with eight others and drove us about an hour to Daintree, a village of just 48 people. Once there, we were lead on an hour long river cruise along the Crocodile infested Daintree River. It was a bit cold and we were told that because Crocodiles are warm-blooded and need to remain in the heat, we may not see any that day because the water was warmer than the air at that point. We did end up seeing one “smaller” 2 metre lady-croc at the end of the tour. Pretty cool site from close-up.

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Croc!
After the river, we switched vehicles and headed off-road and into the rain forest in our rickety, yet trusty Land Rover. The drive ended at the beautiful Cassowary Falls (which are only accessible via private property so we were the only ones there) where we were able to go for a brisk swim under the waterfall. It was a very fun morning and Peter was super knowledgeable, but if we were to do it all over again – I might opt to hire a car and drive through the Daintree Rainforest on our own and make a stop at the Mossman Gorge for a swim.
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Cassowary Falls
We returned to Thala by 1PM where we spent the rest of the day having lunch and lounging by the pool with your standard cocktail out of a coconut drink, followed by a bottle of wine on the beach. We opted to stay at Thala for the evening, canceling our dinner plans at 2Fish, another well recommended restaurant in Port Douglas, and instead had another dinner at Osprey’s.
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Tuesday – Day Five: We decided on a day of extreme relaxation for our last full day of vacation. We woke up early to catch the sunrise at Thala Beach. We were up at 5:30AM, but it was worth it. Such a beautiful sight and so peaceful being on the private beach all on our own. We were back in bed by 6AM of course…

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Sunrise over Thala Beach
A few hours later…we woke up for a quick run on the beach, breakfast at the hotel followed by more lounging by the pool. And of course…no vacation is complete without a massage so we scheduled noon massages at the hotel spa.Following our morning of relaxation – we headed back to the beach. Thala offers a very cute option to have a picnic basket made for you. They have three kinds – vegetarian, meats and cheeses, or seafood so we had the seafood basket delivered to the beach with a bottle of wine and were very impressed. Really nothing to complain about with that day…

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After the full morning at the beach, we headed into Port Douglas early that afternoon for some shopping and an early dinner at Salsa. Salsa is another highly recommended restaurant where bookings are essential. We still had Harrison’s on the mind, but Salsa was right up there. A more casual feeling spot, but with dishes that look like they could be somewhere much more upscale. The service was fantastic and the Chocolate Souffle dessert was DELICIOUS.After dinner, we swung by Iron Bar to catch the Cane Toad Races. We’d heard about them and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. At 8PM every night, people gather around in the back area of Iron Bar to see Cane Toads race. You put in $5 to be entered in the lottery in hopes that your number is chosen and you are selected to be a Toad “Jockey”. If chosen, you get up on stage, are made to kiss your frog on the head and cheer it to victory. We weren’t chosen sadly, and unfortunately the whole event was sort of a bust. Still worth checking out, but we didn’t stay long. We headed back to the hotel just in time to catch one of the Star Gazing tours that the hotel staff provides a few times a week. The stars are AMAZING from here. So clear and bright.

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Wednesday – Day Six: As it happens, check out at Thala was strictly 10am so we decided to get on an earlier flight back to Sydney. We headed out to the beach for our last morning feeling rested and ready to get back to the city. After a big breakfast at the hotel, we caught the shuttle to Cairns Airport and were on the 1PM flight back to Sydney.

Amazing trip. We will definitely plan another trip out to Port Douglas soon.

View all the photos from our trip here.

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A Little Recap –

Where to stay: Thala Beach Lodge.
Pros – private beach, amazing staff, beautiful bungalows.
Cons – far from town, a little isolated so you end up eating most meals there, a little more rustic so not for you if you prefer a luxury resort.

Other places that we considered: Sea Temple Resort, Peppers Beach Club

What To Do: Scuba Dive and Snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef with Silver Sonic.

Other companies that were recommended – Poseidon, Aristocats and Calypso.

Visit the Daintree Rainforest.

Where to Eat: Harrisons, Nautilus, and Salsa.

Other restaurants that were recommended to us: 2Fish, Sassi’s and Watergate.