Andrew Blythe explores Port Douglas and discovers a whole new way to relax and have fun.
Hanging upside down from a tree, thirty metres above the ground, I had to remind myself that this was my choice; besides, a 68-year-old grandmother had just completed the run and no way was I about to wimp out!
Jungle surfing is a breeze, especially if you like being strapped into a harness – and in close proximity to a beefy guide – of hurtling on a flying fox through the hinterland's pristine rainforest canopy.
‘Surfing’ from treehouse to treehouse our guides give us instructions using the names marked on our crash helmets – I'm 'Barbie' and hubby is 'Princess Leia'. The kids in our party shriek while the American tourists giggle and progressively lose their inhibitions; however, they still watch their ankles as they’ve been convinced the gouges in the trees are from cassowaries on the attack! After this, the optional cruise along the Daintree River spotting crocodiles is almost a wind-down, although I notice no one leans too far from their seats while taking photographs!
The day had started much more sedately. Breakfast with the birds is an institution at the Port Douglas Wildlife Habitat. Under a giant domed roof a buffet breakfast is served while water birds, curlews, lorikeets and cockatoos fly overhead. To the delight of kids a snake handler passes from table to table with his slithering assistant; their parents are not so sure.
If wildlife watching is your thing the Habitat hosts two world-exclusive breeding programs: the only breeding pair of Black-Necked Stalks in captivity, along with a special enclosure for the Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo. At the Habitat you also get the chance to pat a koala and a crocodile, though not at the same time! Plus you can explore further and see the birds and marsupials in three specially-constructed climactic environments.
If all of this sounds too energetic then proximity is the key. We stayed at the Oaks Lagoons resort just outside of Port Douglas. The rooms form a complex that encloses six separate lagoons and give a sense of privacy that you just don’t get with communal swimming facilities. If your room is on the ground floor then it comes equipped with a ‘swimout’, direct personalised access from your room to one of the lagoons. There are also central barbeque facilities, but if you feel like being a little reclusive then the rooms are equipped with private patios, perfect for sunning and reading the day away.
Oaks Lagoons is also blessed with staff that know and love the area. While staying there I get cravings for gourmet nibbles; they know just where I need to go. I fancy seeing more of the surrounds, but don’t want to drive. They have bikes and helmets all ready to ride. And as this is Port Douglas, renowned for 80s opulence, of course I want to look at the shops!
They advise to spend at some time wandering around the town. We stroll around on a Sunday when the Cotter’s Markets – stalls that must have produced their wares locally – line the foreshore, with a wide selection of produce that tastes as good as it looks. I find a palm reader, who tells me that the girl of my dreams has just entered my life, and wander back over to hubby afterwards and ask him if there’s something he hasn’t told me! The local historical society has a delightful display of memorabilia in the old court house, and a steam train – the Bally Hooley – takes visitors for a panoramic ride from the marina.
Port Douglas is one of those places I had often heard about but never had the chance to get to. If you’re looking to slow down, or speed up for a while, it has something to cater to all tastes.
Andrew Blythe was a guest of the Oaks Lagoons Resort and toured courtesy of Jungles Tours on their “Go Jungle Surfing” day tour.
For more information things to do and see in Port Douglas go to www.tpdd.com.au
Stay at the Oaks Lagoons, cnr Langley Road & Port Douglas Road, Port Douglas. For reservations phone 1300 839 400.