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Trip Report cairns to cooktown trip report ( including port douglas)

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have been meaning to post
this was OH's 50th bday trip mid August 08

decided to take him up to Port Douglas - use that as a base to explore Cairns and surrounds and get up to Cape Tribulation for the day, hopefully

looked at all sorts of possibilities, as you do, but decided against staying in the Daintree - for us , Port Douglas had more to offer us and was more central...even though romantic setting of the Daintree was beckoning!
(once in the Daintree - there is nothing to do( so we were told by a booking agent) but to explore the Daintree itself and relax and we wanted to actually pack in as much as possible in the five days we had for our short break)
both of us had done the reef a few times so that wasnt on the agenda,either...we considered doing a couple of nights at the daintree and then port douglas but the thought of packing up and moving didnt appeal

i had holidayed at Palm Cove with the kids a couple of years ago and we had gone out to Low Isles ( fabulous) and we had visited the reef on one of the boats years ago and done the glass bottomed tour etc
Palm Cove is lovely but i just wanted to stay somewhere different, somewhere with a bit more going on at night

we didnt really want to laze on the beach, either, so staying right on Four Mlle Beach wasnt a priority ( although i did enquire about beach front accommodation and later checked it out- only a few properties cater to this but you probably wont get a view anyway)
t we did want to be central to the restaurants etc on Macrossan St so i did a lot of researching studying the layout of the village

this is where you really need to be careful when youre booking online...know exactly where the accommodation is located and dont rely on the booking agents to know everything...
in my research i found that lots of the places advertised are so far from the action - not walkable - that 15 - 20 minutes into town will kill you if youre walking in the muggy wet season!

the entrance to Port Douglas is a long road into the village itself and this is full of resorts and what not
but id not like to stay there unless youre specifically wanting a resort atmosphere and focusing on lazing by the pool because you do have to catch a shuttle into town - to walk in the heat would be nigh impossible...so pick your months to visit....may to oct is best but august is the most popular for tourists

i like to be close to shops - somewhere i can duck out to wander by myself whilst OH has a nap..this way i can enjoy guilt-free browsing... i wouldnt have wanted to rely on a shuttle bus or taking the car in every time and finding parking- walking is what i do best

we chose not to stay in Cairns either...
i have been there several times and, although i like the esplanade especially since the renovations ( the pool is fantastic), i still prefer Palm Cove or Port Douglas- just cleaner and more village- like- Palm Cove is really romantic at night- just strolling down the beach esplanade is lovely

Cairns is great for kids btw
that pool and playground are wonderful

after much research i booked the Mantra Aqueous apartments right near the corner of Macrossan
we were really pleased with the location..( 300 aud a night- more than what we wanted to pay but considering it was a birthday we werent going to quibble- it was a new- ish place so at least we were confident that the decor would be fresh)

it was quiet but an easy five - ten minutes would get us right down to the bottom near the harbour and we were away from the noise of the pub and any backpackers...there was a Coles supermarket so we stocked up that first day..
The apartment was lovely
very spacious with a lovely kitchen - not that we ended up cooking but it was nice to have it in the mornings
there was a great little balcony area with a spa overlooking the pool area
you can get rooms down on the ground floor that lead out to the pool but we didnt bother, seeing as we dont spend time swimming

what i found out when trying to decide on where to stay was some of the nicer accommodation nevertheless was exposed to the noise from 3am revellers...though the hotels may not have been located on Macrossan st- even being behind the pubs can be very noisy so double check if this is an issue for you

we rented a car from thrify and picked it up from cairns airport - a mitsubishi overlander..having got in at about 645pm..
Mantra Aqueous reception was closed by the time we got there so we parked the car next door just for that first night...some accommodation/ residence with a bit of extra parking it seems! working out the code to get in was a bit tricky so we had to ring for assistance

the first day ( a Friday) we set off to visit Palm Cove- just a stroll down the beach and esplanade and then headed off to Trinity
my friends had raved aboutTrinity beach and it was pretty but im still glad we chose to stay in Port Douglas - Trinity is a sleepy place and good for a holiday with kids where you just want to do the beach thing

we drove down south to Cairns - stopped at Rusty's to get some fruit and vegetables then wandered down to the Cairns Wildlife Dome( $22 aud each to get in) to have a look at the birds- we parked in the casino - the dome is on top of the casino...
the dome was a disappointment
not nearly enough to see and i was looking forward to showing OH the bird sanctuary in Kuranda in a couple of days time when we planned to visit Cairns again
we had a decent coffee and cake at 'Fusion' which was supposedly voted Cairns best cafe
OH was famished so we didnt go back to the harbour area that day where there are plenty of eateries

the next day, saturday we set off after a breakfast of delicious rolls and pastries from 'Brumbies' right next door to the apartments ( what a bonus)

decided to head up toCapeTribulation and see if we could make it to Cooktown
we started off at 9 am
it was quite cool for us - 21 degrees celsius
we purchased a ferry ticket to take the car across the Daintree river crossing- 19aud return and we were on the bloomfield track
( in the end we didnt use the return fare because we went round via the inland route from Cooktown)
we passed the Alexandra lookout and headed towards Cow Bay ( about 6km off the road) what a pretty beach that was- had we had the kids with us we wouldve lingered longer
next was Thornton beach - another great spot

by 1120 we were at Cape Tribulation
id seen the pics and i was really expecting something special- it was really the reason i didnt want to take a coach day trip because i wanted to be able to hang round longer but to my surprise we didnt want to stay all that long
it was just so windy on the beach that we stayed no more than half an hour- barely walked a few metres
it was cloudy so it just wasnt as spectacular as all the promo pics id seen- im sure it is beautiful but i just didnt see it that day - i have seen many beautiful beaches in my life and this was nice but just not as magnificent as i thought itd be
im glad i bought a postcard because my photos turned out quite ordinary

at 1:10 we were at the Woobadd Creek crossing
as we approached we saw another 4wd struggling with a trailer, stuck on a submerged rock
OH went in to help and they finally managed to get the vehicle up and over ...
we avoided that spot - thanks to the hapless folk before us!
it is a really picturesque spot so it was lucky we took some time there lol

we reached Wujal Wujal and took some pics of the Boomfield river down below
the road was good but we glad to hit the sealed road to Ayton at 1;20pm after travelling 40km on an unsealed surface

we arrived in Rossville at 1:55 and it was warmer now - 23 degrees
)there was a petrol station round Mungumby Creek near the Lion's Den Hotel but we didnt have to worry)
at the Mulligan hwy we turned right to travel the next 25 kms to Cooktown ( left turn wouldve taken us to Lakeland 52kms away)

we stopped at the Black Mountain Section lookout next - this is a mountain that is disintegrating through the action of water and erosion - it looks like a pile of boulders making up this giant black mountain

onto Cooktown - we finally arrived at 2:30
this was special for me...
i have read so much about Cook and his troubles round the reef..
it was just so great to be able to see where he pulled in the 'Endeavour' for its repairs..
Cooktown itself isnt anything special - i think it should be because of its historical significance but the river bank area is nicely maintained for the most..
it's a wide river, the Endeavour
you can see the beaches across the water- i wouldve loved to have had a boat and gone over for a look round the other side

we ate our picnic on the bank and then headed up by car to look further...
found the statue of Cook finally!
had a coffee and cake at the Sovereign Hotel and bought a couple of souvenirs at the local store

we left at 4 30 ( it was a 2 1/2 trip from cape tribulation and, for me, totally worth it - i just checked with OH and he said had it been a 4hr trip down some hwy the destination wouldnt have been worth it ( he knows nothing bout james cook - thats why!!!!)but having driven the Bloomfield Track it was great fun- he also added that ours was a 'soft road' vehicle and had there been any more water back at that creek we wouldnt have made it so im not sure that you can do it in an ordinary sedan then because of that water crossing )

back at the Black mountain at 440pm and then on through unfenced territory with lots of cattle by the roadside and sometimes spilling out on to the road itself - gotta be careful here..
past Little Annan River with lots of kangaroos terrorising us with their 'jump over the road in a single bound' antics
i was a bit nervous, hoping we'd cover most of the ground before real dusk...
we were back in Lakeland by 5 15 and going past the Byerston Ranges...
got out for a pic at James Earl Lookout

at 630pm it was still not quite dark

it became very winding down from Mt Malloy to Port Douglas but we made it back safely without incident to Port Douglas by 7:30pm

we figured it's about a 3hr drive from Cooktown to Port Douglas along this inland route
..it really was the highlight for us- just doing that driving !

we were glad to get some take away at what became our favourite little pizza joint - Mango Jam
the vegetarian pizza was divine

on Sunday we woke to a 26 degree day - nice and warm
another breakfast of 'brumby's' rolls and the newspapers
we had a lazy morning and left for Kuranda round 11 30 after a leisurely stroll and a few purchases at the Port Douglas markets down near the water ( great markets)
we opted to take the car - even though OH has never been on the skyrail nor the train
( i have a few times with the kids but since we had the car we decided not to add to the cost)
we stopped at the Henry Ross lookout to capture some of the views afforded by the skyrail
headed straight for the bird sanctuary but again i was disappointed - this time by the state the birds were in
many had plucked themselves through stress
even living in that 'free flying' spacious aviary, the birds obviously have issues
they also get stimulated by the crowds and then start de- pluming themselves
such a shame because only the previous year the kids and i enjoyed two hours there communing with the beautiful macaws eclectus conures etc - all so tame so wondrously tame for big birds that can bite hard!
still OH, a bird lover, was impressed especially by the cutest and most brazen little hummingbird that had found its way into the aviary one time and got to stay..

i bought some honey from my favourite honey shop and some beeswax candles - love sampling the honey !
we had coffee and i bought a beautiful bookmark from 'cuscus' - a fabulous store for browsing
we left Kuranda village by 420 and walked to Barron Falls- one of the highlights of the train trip we didnt do( so i was glad we actually found it)
we walked - easy- and took loads of pics and by 5 10 we were back on the hwy heading back to Port Douglas

stopped at Kewarra Beach Resort- i had stayed there about 20 years ago and it was as beautiful as ever- now theres a nice place to stay!

had to get ready for the big birthday bash - we had chosen Nautilus for our romantic dinner
you cannot beat it for ambience - what a beautiful setting ( but in the end i wished wed just gone there for coffee!)
we chose the chef's special- they bring out about 6 courses - all a bite of something and im sure some of you foodies would be impressed but, frankly, i wouldve been happy with an entre and main and a dessert with some good coffee to round it all off...
it was all a bit too exotic for me and even though i felt full afterwards i still felt ripped off - 224 aud for bits and pieces was a bit rich for me
but again- the atmosphere was fantastic, lit up by candles and surrounded by jungle,balinese decor with high backed chairs affording privacy and space for each table
truly the nicest place ive ever sat in restaurant-wise (in Oz) considering it had no water view!

Our last day was spent exploring a little more round Port itself
we hadnt even been to the famous Four Mile Beach at this point
so we rushed up to the lookout and took pics - great view!
we stopped in to check out the Sheraton Mirage - a place i used to rave about back in the early 90s when we visited for lunch
it was tired looking
the pools needed a good resurfacing and the dining area was looking a bit drab- new carpet is needed
certainly not worth the money youd be paying - but it was glorious in its time

a quick visit to Yorkey's Knob - bit of a wild and windy beach , very long but not too appealing- im thinking for future holidays with kids
at 245 we turned off the Bruce Hwy to Yarrabah
bit of a steep climb later ( about 10 km off the hwy) found us on an aboriginal reserve
what a beautiful place - 'Paradise by the Sea" it was called quite aptly
but definitely not for tourists
we didnt get out of the car
drove round for a few minutes, snapped a few pics of the bay and headed back...at a clip!
...stopped at another innocent looking bay - just gorgeous but full of signs warning of crocodile attacks
there were piles of rocks everywhere -kinda amusing.... i guess for when you do find yourself hanging out of a croc's mouth - at least you could thump him and give him a decent migraine for his troubles
...before he stuffs your body into a river bank hole that is lol lol

that evening we headed into Cairns - parked on the esplanade and enjoyed a good pizza at the 'Rattle and Hum" before dropping off the car at Cairns airport and catching our virgin blue flight at 730pm

this short trip wasnt the most conventional of quick getaways because of the driving we did but, as i said, we are not ones to lie on a beach when it is just the two of us travelling...
just shows, though, how much ground you can cover without getting up at the crack of dawn, without doing guided tours and without getting eaten by a croc!

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