Winter in Melbourne has a way of inspiring a desire to fly away somewhere warm. We live by the sea on the southern coast of Australia where the water is freezing in the winter, so on a whim snuggled up in bed one chilly night we booked some flights northward to tropical Port Douglas where the water is 26 degrees.
Despite being born and bred in Australia, I’ve never travelled far north before. The moment we stepped off the plane the humidity kissed our cheeks and holiday mode switched on. We had absolutely no trouble adjusting to the heavenly temperatures and weather forecast of endless sunshine.
A great reason to travel north during winter is that you can snorkel the Great Barrier Reef without a stinger suit. No fixed dates are set in place for stinger season as Mother Nature does change her mind, but as a general rule the marine stingers are in full force between November and May. Many beaches have stinger nets in place to protect swimmers, such as Four Mile Beach, Palm Cove, Trinity Beach, Clifton Beach, Kewarra Beach, and Ellis Beach etc. Be warned, the stinger suits are not particularly flattering and come in all sorts of hideous colours, so if you want to avoid wearing an ugly neon stinger suit you are best to book your travel between May and November.
Port Douglas is 70km from Cairns with perfect access to two natural world heritage sites, the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.
The Great Barrier Reef is magical, as soon as you attach your snorkel and immerse your head underwater is a serene world of amazing coral, giant clams that open and close as you pass by, entire rainbows of different fish species, sea shells with eyes and legs, and even a friendly reef shark or two. I have never been so overcome by the beauty of the sea.
Another day, we drove to Cape Tribulation through the tropical Daintree Rainforest. The Daintree is 1200 square kilometres of absolutely perfect white sandy beaches, clear water, and lush green rainforest. Some of the nooks felt entirely secluded except for us and a few million sand-bubbler crabs. Cape Tribulation is the headland named by Captain James Cook after his ship hit the reef and needed emergency repair. The reef itself is named Endeavour Reef, after his ship The Endeavour.
We spent the rest of the day driving from spot to spot, each beach more beautiful than the one before. There is so much to see in the Daintree with reef trips departing from Cape Tribulation, 4WD tours, jungle surfing, kayaking, crocodile cruises, hiking, and horse riding. We mostly sunbaked on the beach and enjoyed the sunshine and magnificent views, but I would definitely consider staying a couple of nights in the Daintree next time.
We cooked a barbecue on the sand one evening that was not planned in harmony with the rising of the tide. As the water rapidly neared our picnic set up we rushed madly to rescue our dinner from drowning with lots of giggles. It was one of those magical evenings that you simply cannot replicate in a fancy restaurant or a luxury hotel. We star gazed, took a moonlit walk hand in hand, and sipped French champagne. It was a truly romantic holiday, one that I will always cherish as the first of many travel experiences together.
To begin planning your own tropical adventure, Visit Port Douglas & Daintree is the perfect place to start.