Traveling MSY > LAX > SYD > CNS > Port Douglas took us a total of 34 hours, thanks to a flight delay in Sydney (the trip should only take 29 hours normally). It was worth it, though, to get to this seaside town with lots to do. Here are the highlights from our four nights here, and why we think it was the perfect place to start our adventure Down Under!
We Got Acquainted with Australian Wildlife
The Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas was our first stop because… koalas! We thoroughly enjoyed exploring the wetlands, rainforest and savannah habitats within the wildlife center. We learned about several different species and where they’re found within the country, which was good to know once we set off in the rental car on our own. Otherwise we wouldn’t have known what a Cassowary is and why we should avoid them at all costs! We loved seeing the wallabies, kangaroos, crocodiles, Jumanji pelicans, and native Australian birds.
We also learned that koalas sleep for 20 hours a day. During the other four hours, you can find them chomping on toxic eucalyptus leaves, which make them feel intoxicated. The toxins seep out through their pores, which gives them a very… distinct… odor, which we didn’t discover until we opted to hold one for a photo. Gotta wash that shirt I was wearing!
We Went Diving At the Great Barrier Reef
Diving the Great Barrier Reef was the main reason we traveled to Port Douglas. The GBR spans more than 1,400 miles and several coastal towns, so deciding where to depart for the dive was no easy feat. We chose to dive the Agincourt Reef, because our research showed it was one of the highest visibility and most diverse parts of the GBR, offering 21 dive sites in total, all near the continental shelf.
We booked with Quicksilver because of their convenience and the amenities available on their boat, Poseidon. The guides were very knowledgeable, professional and made the full day trip fly by. We dove three sites – The Point, Three Sisters and Stonehenge – and thoroughly enjoyed all three areas. We saw sharks, eels, cuddle fish, sea cucumbers, insanely gorgeous coral and so much more during our three dives – total of about two hours under water. We don’t have a specialized lens for our go pro, so the photos and videos don’t do it justice, but it was definitely one of the most beautiful and captivating underwater experiences we’ve had to date. We definitely understand why the GBR is considered one of the great natural wonders of the world!
We Explored the Daintree Rainforest
The Daintree Rainforest is the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest on the Australian continent, and its considered spiritually and culturally significant to the aboriginal tribal groups in the area. Our concierge at By the Sea Port Douglas highly recommended seeing it, so we had to go. We’re so glad we did! We hopped in the rental car and made the slow, exploratory two-hour drive to Cape Tribulation.
We drove to the Cape Tribulation Beach House, and walked out to the edge of the water. We couldn’t get over how much the coastline there reminded us of Hawaii – very lush forest and mountains surrounding the water line. No swimming in the water, though, thanks to man eating crocs and stingers… plus it was rainy and overcast (adding to the rainforesty vibe).
The Marrja Botanical Boardwalk was one of the coolest stops we made. It’s a short boardwalk where the mangroves meet the rainforest, and where you can see the evolution of flora and fauna that have been growing there for the last 400 million years… no big deal. We really enjoyed walking through, discovering trees and plants we’ve never seen before, and reading the informative panels.
Next we had lunch at the “On the Turps” Restaurant at Heritage Lodge & Spa – an incredibly tranquil restaurant in the middle of the rainforest.
Obviously we had to stop at Daintree Ice Cream, where they make their own tropical fruit ice cream from fruit grown in their orchard. We tried the sugar banana, black sapote, wattleseed and passionfruit flavors in their daily tasting cup. Deeeeeeelish!!
We made our way back to Port Douglas, eyes peeled the entire time for a Cassowary, to no avail, sadly… or maybe that was for the best.
Off to Adelaide tomorrow!