My hubby and daughters are scuba divers, so the Great Barrier Reef was put on the itinerary, even though summer isn't the ideal time up north. Based on this forum, we opted for Port Douglas as a base. For a coastal resort (not really our thing), it's nice.
I highly recommend our lodging--By the Sea--almost at the (quiet) end of Macrossan right by the beach. We had a two-bedroom apartment with well-outfitted, full kitchen. There was a nice porch, which we would have gladly eaten on if it hadn't been so darned hot. The By the Sea staff are unbelievably helpful, reserving the diving, lending a laptop and all the gear you could want.
On our first day, we went to Mossman Gorge and took the Dreamtime Walk with a Kuku Yalanji guide. It was informative, though I would have happily gotten into more depth. Afterwards, we got off the bus at the main trailhead and walked the loop across the suspension bridge and through the rainforest--absolutely lovely. Officially hot, we joined the hordes of others cooling off in the river.
Dinner at Watergate was good but not as good as expected, and service was slow. We chose it largely because we could get in on short notice and because our vegetarian found something to eat.
Day 2 was the rest of the family's day on the reef with Calypso. For the GBR, this is a medium-sized boat. On this day it was mostly scuba divers, but some snorkelers. The operation is very organized, there is enough staff, and everyone is cheerful and helpful. The boat goes to three different locations, so you get a bit of diversity that way. The reef looked healthy, and there were lots of (mostly small) interesting fish as well. The lunch on board was a cold buffet, which was good but not special.
While they were diving, I took a walk on the beach--not as long as I would have liked due to the heat. I was mesmerized by the tiny crabs that sift the sand for food, leaving balls of sand behind. The beach was nearly deserted (did I mention it was hot?) save a few people swimming in the netted-off, supposedly jellyfish-proof area. I wandered around town, but since I didn't need resort wear, there wasn't a whole lot to do.
The following day we drove back south and up into the Tablelands. We checked into our Yungaburra lodging (Allumbah Pocket Cottages--very nice, though we were only there to sleep) and then met up with Alan Gillanders (Alan's Wildlife Tours--found, yet again, on this forum), our guide for the afternoon, evening, and next morning. I can't bring myself to use the number of exclamation points I'd need to describe Alan adequately. He asked what we were most keen to see and then proceeded to guide us (in our car) to where we could see them, all while explaining loads of natural history. Night-spotting after dark was cool, but my favorite was seeing a platypus. A fitting end to our Australian adventure.
And then it was back to the United States and that other 30 degrees--Fahrenheit.
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