Port o' call for long weekend
A LONG weekend in Port Douglas can feel like a two week holiday if you do your research, have a plan and stick to it.
Fortunately, Port Douglas was completely unscathed by Cyclone Yasi.
This once quiet fishing village claimed glamour in the 80s when Christopher and Pixie Skase came to town and built Sheraton Mirage.
It didn't take long for other developers to follow, and now Port (as it is affectionately called by locals) has managed to get the mix of sophistication and laid-back charm just right.
The two-hour flight from Brisbane and the one hour scenic drive from Cairns puts you in holiday mode immediately.
At this time of year the shopping, dining and accommodation bargains are many.
Too many choices to list. Properties range from boutique hotels to tropical resorts.
If you are a large group, it's worth taking a private villa. Executive Retreats has a luscious list of glam properties, many of them in the uber-fabulous Murphy Street up on the hill, running parallel to Macrossan Street, the heartbeat of Port Douglas.
We stayed at Beachfront Mirage, a gated complex of stunning architecture and tropical living just moments away from the golden sand of Four Mile Beach and next door to the famous Mirage Golf Course.
Our villa, Meryula, lay hidden behind lush gardens – a property of opulence with games room, tennis court, gym and large saltwater swimming pool. A perfect one to gather in with the family or a group of friends.
Sunday morning markets
If you did nothing else on a weekend visit to Port Douglas than stroll the markets, you'd be well rewarded.
Every Sunday the stall holders set up in Anzac Park by the water, offering everything from hand made fashion designs to freshly squeezed pineapple juice. Part of the fun is in the quirkiness of the stall holders.
If you're lucky, the choir will be singing inside nearby St Mary's by the Sea church.
Eat and drink
The Court House hotel across the road from the markets is a Port Douglas institution, the oldest pub in town, operating since 1878.
“Meet you at The Courty” is something the locals say often to each other.
This gathering spot on the corner of Macrossan and Wharf streets makes a tangy margarita which will invigorate you after a morning at the markets. Sunday afternoons at The Courty take off when the live music starts.
Salsa Bar and Grill, down the road in Wharf Street, has won so many awards there is no room left to hang them on its walls. Owner/operator Bill Conway presents inspiring tropical fare in the white Queenslander with its abundance of louvres and seamless indoor/outdoor dining.
Bill's yellow fin tuna tartare is the stuff of dreams and we never tire of his take on the classic Caesar salad with Cajun chicken.
Dining really can be anything you want in Port Douglas. Sitting beneath the towering palms at the iconic Nautilus Restaurant, as Bill and Hillary Clinton did on their visit in 1996, is unforgettable, but then so is sitting out on the expansive decks of the Combined Services Club overlooking Coral Bay to the brooding mountains beyond.
The duck spring rolls at the unmistakable Iron Bar in Macrossan Street are worth a visit to Port Douglas alone for.
On The Inlet is as renowned for its Sunday prawns and beer as it is for its location over the water at Dickson Inlet.
Shopping and more
Apart from some leisurely strolling up and down Macrossan Street, peeking into art galleries and book stores, making a mandatory swimwear or resort-wear purchase, stopping at one of the pavement bistros for coffee, we don't like to do too much.
But we always hike up to the lookout and gaze across the sweeping crescent of Four Mile Beach. And a Port Douglas weekend is not completed unless we take a drive to Mossman Gorge to swim amongst the boulders in the cool fresh water.