With a permanent population of just less than 5,000, Port Douglas is situated some 70 kilometres north of Cairns and was named after a former premier of Queensland. Established in 1877 after the discovery of gold nearby it quickly grew and at its peak the town had a population of 12,000. In 1891 a railway line was built from Cairns to Kuranda so the town’s importance diminished together with its population.
Port Douglas has a tropical climate with hot summers, warm winters and an annual average high temperature of 28°C and a minimum of 21°C – but has an average annual rainfall of 2032.4mm (80inches)!
We arrived in Cairns from Ayres Rock in beautiful sunny weather having had torrential rain at the Rock and were picked up to follow the wonderful coast hugging Captain Cook Highway with the sea on one side and high, forest clad mountains on the other. In direct contrast to the Red Centre, the land was lush and green. Dropping the only other two passengers at Palm Grove, a few kilometres from Port Douglas, we passed between tall palm trees with the sea and a beautiful white sandy beach a few yards away to reach our hotel where we were to stay for three nights.
The next day we gave ourselves a free day to explore the town and take advantage of the aptly named ‘Four Mile Beach,’ about 100 yards from the hotel, where a huge squared net stretched into the sea. When swimming we had to stay within the confines of the net as it was the season for the box jelly fish. Luckily, we didn’t see any of the deadly creatures and the water was lovely and warm.
Our stay included a safari trip to Cape Tribulation in the Daintree forest to the North where we barbecued in a large, purpose built corrugated iron roofed barn. It was there that we found that the rain forest lived up to its name as a huge deluge rattled on the roof for fifteen minutes or so. Later we walked through the forest to a secluded beach but were slightly put off by large yellow signs proclaiming, ‘Warning. Crocodiles. Attacks may cause injury or death.’
The real highlight of our stay was a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef, a one hour boat ride, where we donned full cover Lycra wet suits and snorkelled in the crystal clear shallow waters over the reef. The colours of the coral were wonderful, ranging from pink to green, blue and red, all in a myriad of shapes and sizes. Brightly coloured fish swam close to our masks and darted around the coral in shoals as if putting on a display purely for our benefit.
Later, at a deeper location where we seemed to be flying over high ramparts of coral, giant clams rested peacefully on the pure white sand far below whilst big fish and small sharks swam lazily around us.
After a wonderful meal on the boat over the reef we returned to the hotel, exhilarated by the experience of swimming on the Great Barrier Reef.
by Terry Took © 2013
Terry Took was born in Yorkshire but has lived in Tynemouth for over 50 years. He spent 45 years in the Merchant Navy which included 27 years as North Sea Pilot. He then spent five years as a lecturer at the Marine Department of South Tyneside College.
He is now an Elder Brother in Trinity House and Marine Director.
If you have any comments or would like to contact Terry then please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.