Going Troppo: Cairns, Port Douglas and Trinity Beach, Queensland, Australia

24 Nov

So many Australians fly straight over Far North Queensland on their way to exotic tropical destinations like Bali. I wonder if they ever consider the beauty below?   
   As you may have seen from past posts, we’ve visited Cairns a few times. A younger sister, Jo, has lived there most of her life and her eldest daughter married a local cane farmer so we’ve combined family time with holidays. 

We’ve seen the north grow and change. In a good way. The first wave of Japanese tourists and investors kickstarted an economy that had been bumping along on cane sugar. Today, with the dip in the Aussie dollar, longer stay tourists are mainly Germans, North Americans, Brits and French. They still come to see the things you can’t see anywhere else in the world, at least not all together and and in such abundance; the sea life of the Great Barrier Reef, the wild life of the rivers and estuaries, and pristine rainforest all the way down to the finest of palm fringed white sand beaches. 
 Yes, there are creatures out to kill you, crocs and stinger jellyfish to name a couple, but as with all travel it’s a matter of risk management. Avoid crocs altogether if you want, but you are missing out on magic, and stinger suits these days even come with built in mittens. 

The biggest threat to FNQ is rapacious development, specifically the crazy mega resort and casino proposed for Yorkeys Knob wetlands (Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort aquisresort.com). If you want Singapore and Hong Kong style artificial, concrete towers to worship Mammon please go to Singapore and Hong Kong.

We’ve just spent twelve lazy days spread between Cairns, Port Douglas and Trinity Beach. As well as plenty of beach walking, swimming (in netted beach enclosures) and eating well (Stuart ate his weight in fresh fish and I ate mine in mango and papaya), we took two trips that will stay in our memories forever.


For those with limited time and tiny budgets, Cairns Esplanade has a huge, clean, free public pool, plenty of shady trees along the boardwalk and $10 daily morning yoga classes.  


As it’s coming into the hottest part of the year we bought an early morning reef excursion out of Port Douglas with Calypso. In thirty minutes we were anchored off Low Isle and pulling on our stinger suits and snorkels. Our group of 22 was split in two with a guide for each. We pootled along the semicircular reef pointing out giant emerald lipped clams, psychedelic fish, small reef sharks and vast beds of corals. The highlight for me was following three different sandy backed Green Turtles as they swam leisurely, popping up to the surface to breathe every five minutes or so. They were completely unconcerned by my presence, in fact one turtle chose to swim towards me and check me out just a few centimetres away. I love that these creatures, which are carnivorous only as juveniles, live up to 80 years grazing only on sea grass. 

 The Calypso fleet 

 Entrance to the inlet and Port Douglas Marina   

 Low Isle 

 Nervous anticipation beforehand…

We strolled on the tiny island, a bird sanctuary with the oldest lighthouse in the north, snorkeled slowly back to the boat for coffee and fresh fruit, then it was time to cast off and return to harbour.

 Ecstatic afterwards! 





The second excursion sounded too good to be true. A guided three-hour rainforest and beach trail ride at Cape Tribulation. No noisy, smelly four wheel drives or sweating on foot in croc country. Who could resist? Never mind that I’m allergic to horses, a well-timed antihistamine would sort that. It was also a chance to surprise Stuart (never easy to do). As anticipated he discounted riding, and as I said ‘No’ to his every guess he truly had no idea what he was doing for the afternoon. The Cape Trib rides are managed by former rodeo bull rider Steve who buys ex-racing mares thereby saving them from the knackers. Happy horses, happy riders.

The drive north from Port Douglas past sugar cane fields and densely forested deep green hills was beautiful. At Daintree River we bought a return ferry ticket, crossing over into a time when people celebrated the natural world. Speed bumps and 20k signed sections for cassowaries to cross might seem absurd, but check out Instagram for the many photos of adult birds and chicks strolling across the asphalt.
  Cane Train  


 Cow Bay 

 Our group of six riders included four advanced, young, female riders plus two beginners (us). No worries. Steve gave us a crash course in trotting and cantering that took all of two minutes and we were away. 
 Stuart on Topaz with Steve instructing. 

 Mr Bean on duty

Most of the time we walked quietly through fields and rainforest alonside an estuary with just enough cantering and trotting to take the breath away, but when we came through a gap in the trees onto the beach I felt my eyes fill with tears. How fortunate were we to have this experience. No time to dwell on it though as Steve shouted back that we were to canter along the sand by the water’s edge.

The lovely Little Ringer

On the return we spotted a lone, young, blonde man preparing to swim from a sand bar at the river mouth. Only twenty metres away was a crocodile warning sign, “ACHTUNG”, in big letters. I realized then why, of all foreign languages, they sign in German.

  Mr Bean and his best friend, Steve.

The trip back south to Trinity Beach was atmospheric as we passed cane burnoffs and stopped for a cup of local Daintree tea, sipped amongst galahs and cockatoos. 

Daintree River at dusk.


This is as low key as it gets for a seaside town; general store, corner cafe, bar, pub and two restaurants  ranged along a gem of a beach. No hotels or backpackers and minimum three night stay in apartments keeps it pretty quiet.  

Our son Cam flew up from Melbourne for a weekend of sun, sea and family. 

Cam with the newest member of the Mawer-Greenwood Clan.


 A last meal together before it’s goodbye to Jo for another year or so.

My dream is a Tickle-Elliott family reunion in Palm Cove, yet another well kept FNQ secret. I have a place in mind…. 




2 Responses to “Going Troppo: Cairns, Port Douglas and Trinity Beach, Queensland, Australia”

  1. Sally August 3, 2016 at 7:28 am #

    Your blog has brought back many happy memories of our time in N.Queensland. I felt it was very unspoilt and we even extended our time in Port Douglas. Snorkelling on the GBR was one of the most memorable times of my life so far. An Elliott/Tickle reunion sounds like an awesome plan! Let’s make it happen :).

    • Sharon Tickle August 3, 2016 at 8:41 am #

      How cool would that be Sally. We just need 12 people! Sxx

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