Where Reef Meets Rainforest
North Tropical Queensland
With the sun getting warmer, Elle Matula heads
north to discover the Daintree rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef for the weekend to luxuriate with the family in a land of year-round sunshine, sand and surf.
Cruising along the Great Barrier Reef Drive,
I find myself at the epicentre of some of the most spectacular scenery in
Australia I have ever seen.
Stretching from the shores of Cairns,
Port Douglas and up to the rainforests of Cape Tribulation, we are passing through
the only region in the world where two World Heritage sites collide: the Great
Barrier Reef hugging close on the coastline, and the 140-million-year-old Daintree
Rainforest bursting from the mountains.
To keep the little ones entertained, we take advantage
of the secluded beaches, spot hidden waterfalls along the way and stop at Rex Lookout
for a family selfie, our backdrop the magnificent blue ocean of Trinity Bay
stretching out into a seemingly endless horizon.
Cradling the picturesque Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas’ atmosphere is a
vibrant mix of barefoot beach ambience and tropical resorts.
holidaymakers have long relished the natural beauty and year-round warm climates,
and mine is no different.
We soak up the sunshine as we stroll between Macrossan
Street’s boutique shops towards the Reef Marina for brunch. Absolutely spoiled for
choice in such a small town, Lure Restaurant & Bar ends up being a wise choice for
both our holiday budget and its delicious menu.
Overlooking the sailboats casually
floating in and out of the wharf, our locally sourced seafood is served outside on
the large deck, with enough room for the kids to safely wander and play.
The Great Barrier Reef
Swimmers on, we sail away for an afternoon of underwater exploration with
Quicksilver Cruises, which
offers child-friendly reef tours fit for toddlers
through to teens.
We choose the Outer Reef Tour, a popular choice with its
underwater observatory, snorkelling platforms and specially designed introductory
scuba dive areas with lessons offered for children aged 12 and over.
The open water
doesn’t scare the kids as they dive in head-first in search of Dory, Nemo and –
fingers crossed – a few Squirts!
Using the swimming noodle to float above the
colourful corals, I bask in a moment of pure relaxation and bliss.
Low Isles is perfect for families that prefer to feel the sand between their toes
while splashing about in more shallow waters.
Accommodation and Food
After an afternoon in the sun and three turtle sightings, we escort our
rumbling tummies back to our rooms at the beachfront Mandalay Luxury
Apartments for a
home-cooked dinner. Later on, our private patio proves
to be a relaxing night time retreat after the kids are tucked away in bed.
An early morning start takes us shopping at the Mossman Markets. Shaded under
towering raintrees, we stop to chat with the local farmers and sample their exotic
fruits and vegetables.
We make a day out of our visit to the small town and enjoy
lunch at The Junction Cafe, an accidental find which turns out to be an absolute
I have since tried desperately to replicate its coconut and mango quinoa
porridge (tried being the key word).
Our early start also means we get to experience the Daintree Rainforest as it
should be... with no-one else around.
Driving onto the Daintree Ferry and
crossing over the river en route to Cape Tribulation, we make a quick stop at the
Alexandra Range Lookout for, well, yet another family selfie.
Driving deeper into the forest, we keep an eye out for cassowaries while our
little adventurers begin their unique
Jungle Surfing experience.
quite like zip-lining nearly 20 metres in the air, looking down on the world’s
oldest rainforest and out to the coral fringes of the Great Barrier Reef.
If you are anything like me, and your fear of heights starts to kick in,
be in better hands. The guides have a PhD in encouragement, are the Kelly Slaters
of jungle surfing and with a Masters in rainforest ecology, they will hit you with
more interesting facts then Wikipedia, but with way more panache!
For daring of a different kind, stop and dine at the local
Mason’s Café for a
delicious crocodile, kangaroo or emu burger before a refreshing swim in
Before returning back to Cairns, a stop at
Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures
simply can’t be missed.
Home to over 2100 metres of boardwalks
leading you through
an array of tropical birds, reptiles and other native fauna, it is also one of the
best places to see crocodiles in Tropical
Coasting once again along the Great Barrier Reef Drive, with the Coral Sea now
glistening on my left-hand side, the weekend has ended all too soon.
As I listen
to the kids energetically practicing their reenactments of jumping crocodiles for
show and tell, I mentally start planning my next coconut and mango quinoa porridge.