The time has come for us to leave Cairns and drive an hour up the Tropical North Queensland coast to the town of Port Douglas. We go for a walk along the Esplanade one more time before loading our luggage into the car. We finally hit the Captain Cook Highway at around 10.30 after striking a detour caused by a motor vehicle accident. The drive is a very scenic one and the low lying cloud hovering over the mountains makes for a mystical feel. On the way we pass through a small township called Palm Cove. The beach here has that tropical feel, even without the sun, where palm trees line the space between the road and the sand. Following our stop at Palm Cove we continue to drive north towards our destination.
This particular stretch of the Captain Cook Highway has the perfect balance between bush and sea: it is where one environment connects with the other. Approximately 40 minutes north of Cairns we arrive at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, a family run wildlife park specialising in the exhibition and care of crocodiles. To our surprise the park was extremely busy for a Tuesday afternoon. Our first stop within the park is the crocodile exhibit. It is designed to look like a swamp, making it an ideal place to house the 30-40 crocodiles in this particular section of the park. We observe the crocs while we wait for the 1 o’clock presentation to begin. During the show we watched the crocs perform a number of behaviours like they would in the wild including snapping their jaws, jumping out of the shallow water in an effort to obtain food and even a death roll. Who would have thought that crocodiles could move so fast!
After watching the crocodile presentation we explore the rest of the wildlife park. We visit the enclosures of Australian animals including kangaroos, cassowaries and koalas. We even patted a wallaby! At 3pm we go to Hartley’s Lagoon for a river cruise in a replicated version of a crocodile’s natural habitat. There are 30-something crocs in the lagoon including three males (the largest one’s name is Ted). On the cruise we see a couple of crocodile’s nests and watch as crocodiles are encouraged to leap out of the water for food. Unfortunately most of the crocs were uninterested in the food since they had been fed earlier in the day and prefer to eat less during the cooler winter months however we were still lucky enough to witness a croc or two snap for food. Having had the experience of observing crocodiles up close in a protected zoo environment, I have discovered a newfound appreciation for Australia’s most iconic reptile.
We arrive at our hotel late in the afternoon, Pool Port Douglas, soon after departing Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. Our three bedroom, two bathroom double storey apartment is ultra-modern and very spacious – there is plenty of space for our family of five to enjoy. The best feature of our apartment is that it opens directly out to the resort’s pool and has a view of the mountains too. Too luxurious to resist, we promptly change into our bathers and enjoy our first of many swims in the pool at Port Douglas.
Following our stint in the pool, we get ready to eat out in the Port Douglas township. We decide to dine at Rattle n Hum like we did in Cairns, however this time we order pizzas as well as calamari. We eat our meal in the rear dining area away from the bar inside. The flame torches at the venue reminded us of Tribal Council in the reality show Survivor. My first impression of Port Douglas is a positive one: it is a tranquil coastal town with almost everything you could want – a supermarket, retail stores, plenty of resorts and a beautiful beach to boot. Port Douglas may be small, but it is much classier than Cairns.