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Port Douglas on a budget

Thursday, February 7, 2008
Port Douglas is a delightful village only one hour's drive north of Cairns. It is in one of nature's most beautiful places — wedged between two World Heritage sites — the Great Barrier Reef and the ancient Daintree Forest.

In the early 1990s, Port Douglas lost its sleepy town status when Christopher Skase built the Mirage, attracting the rich and famous. Five-star resorts and million dollar-plus homes have become the norm, and even the Hollywood set has discovered it for holidays and film locations.

While it does cater for those with champagne tastes and budget, Getaway can show the way Port Douglas can be enjoyed by the rest of us.

For starters, head to Four Mile Beach where the weather is beautiful year round and you won't see a sign of an exclusive resort — just a fringe of palms, tropical forest and kilometres of white sand washed by the turquoise Coral Sea. You can walk along the beach from Flagstaff Hill to the Mangroves of Dickson Inlet without the hint of development.

Twice a day, low tide reveals a hard sand platform perfect for a 7.6km beach ride to the river mouth and Alexandra Reef. Maybe even a midnight stroll. The beach is a popular attraction when there is a full moon and people gather to enjoy the peaceful ambience.

A five minute walk from the beach takes you to the centre of town. Macrossan Street runs though town and it has loads of clothing stores, galleries and gift shops.

The Sunday Markets are held in Anzac Park at the end of Macrossan Street. Established 20 years ago, goods for sale are made or grown by the stallholder. There is plenty of fresh produce, perfect for a picnic on the beach. The market opens between 8am and 1:30pm, and with the mountain ranges and Coral Sea as a backdrop, it's a pleasurable outing.

The award-winning On The Inlet offers modern Australian cuisine and fantastic views. Its deck is over the water of Dicksons Inlet and if you're there around 5.30pm, George the Grouper will turn up for his evening meal of leftover seafood.

The Port Douglas fishing fleet delivers their catch straight from the sea to the restaurant's loading dock. You can enjoy a drink and bucket of fresh prawns for around $16 or a main meal for around $30.

The Port Douglas District and Combined Clubs' galvanised iron façade may not look all that inviting, but it has a verandah hanging over the water and they serve hearty pub-style food at the right price. There are pool tables, raffles and poker machines and it is child-friendly.

Every Wednesday a group called WAGS — Wednesday Afternoon Gentlemen's Sailing — take off from the Marina for a twilight sail. If you are there at around 4.30pm and take along a bottle of wine as a bribe, chances are you will be invited on board. And ladies are most welcome. Sometimes the outing kicks on, and it could be the highlight of your holiday.

Many Australians will remember Ragamuffin III. The yacht has a colourful history, particularly for her involvement in the Sydney to Hobart race, but also the Admirals Cup, Sydney to Mooloolaba and Noumea and the Clipper Cup in Hawaii. You can have a fun day on board and be involved in sailing. Maybe you would just want to relax on the deck, snorkel the outer reef and feast on a true Australian barbecue. Just take along your bathers, hat, sunscreen and camera.

Right in the centre of Port Douglas and just 300 metres from Four Mile Beach is the ParrotFish Lodge which offers great backpacker accommodation, but with loads of character. It disproves any idea that backpacker accommodation can't have style. A bright blue ocean is painted on the floor and Aboriginal art decorates the walls. It begins with a very warm welcome and offers comfort, security and fun at the right price.

ParrotFish Lodge shares its profits with conservation organisations with a $1 per-person-a-night donation going to the Daintree Rainforest Foundation for its efforts in providing green corridors for the local cassowary population.


Far north Queensland.


Port Douglas District and Combined Clubs have meals and drinks at club prices. It is open between 10am-10pm, lunch is served between noon and 2pm and dinner from 5.30 until 8.30pm.

Ragamuffin III full day sailing and snorkelling to Low Isles Reef is $135 plus $4.50 per person environmental management fee. You take off at 10am and return at 4.30pm. Snorkelling gear, morning and afternoon tea, barbecue lunch and transfers to Port Douglas are included. Wednesday night sailing leaves at 5pm and costs $25 per person.

ParrotFish Lodge eight bed dorm rooms are $21 per person, six bed $26 and with ensuite $29, four bed with ensuite $35, twin/double rooms $76 and with ensuite $86.

For more information

On the Inlet
3 Inlet Street
Port Douglas 4871
Ph: (07) 4099 5255 or Fax: (07) 4099 5939

Port Douglas District & Combined Clubs
7 Ashford Street
Port Douglas 4877
Ph: (7)4099 5553

Ph: 0425 874 202
Ph: (07) 4099 5255 or Fax: (07) 4099 5939

ParrotFish Lodge
37/39 Warner Street
Port Douglas 4871
Ph: (07) 4099 5011 or Fax: (07) 4099 5044

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