Escaping the cold clasp of winter into the arms of summer? Cairns and Port Douglas are popular destinations for a Winter Sun break. Loads of brochures about where to go and what to do but there must be more. What are those secret spots that only a local knows? We asked Cairns Travel Journalist and Holiday Girl, Fiona Harper to share her top 5 secret spots and to do's so you can make magical FNQ memories on your precious escape.
Tighten your kaftans girls, here we go.
Secret # 1 Full Moon Rising - The Perfect Picnic Spot
Want to share a full moon picnic with a loved one? Sshh, this really is a local's secret. As the sun disappears behind the ranges, head to Vasey Esplanade at Trinity Beach. But before you do, slip into some comfortable walking shoes, pack a rug along with your picnic hamper and make sure you've a bottle of your favourite wine. Oh, and take a torch too because it's likely you'll be tempted to remain long after darkness has descended.
Take the stairs at the northern end of Trinity Beach. Walk past the apartment building and follow the path through rainforest until you come to a dirt road which is officially known as Wilma St. Walk for about 5 mins, veering right until the Coral Sea reveals itself between the trees. Perch yourself high on the flat-topped boulder, cast your gaze eastwards and allow the magic to happen. You won't have to wait long.
Secret # 2 Turning Japanese - Great Food at a Great Price
Thanks to a thriving inbound Japanese tourism industry, Cairns has a plethora of good Japanese restaurants. One of the best is Kanpai in Shields St. If you're not inclined towards Karaoke, and I'm definitely not, get in early so you can leave before the microphone becomes a tool of aural destruction. But for me, it's all about the food, which is consistently superb, fresh and inexpensive with perky friendly staff.
Secret # 3 The World's Best Hotel Swimming Pool
If the kids love to swim and that's your ticket to a relaxing holiday, then Pullman Port Douglas Sea Temple Resort & Spa (quite a mouthful, I agree) is a serious title contender for the best pool on the planet. I once tried counting the number of strokes it took to circumnavigate the entire length of the watercourse (the word pool is totally inadequate in this case) so I could calculate just how far I'd swum. I lost count after reaching four figures, which happened around the same time I found the pool bar. As its name indicates, the entire resort is water-themed, with the pool meandering under foot bridges, through overhanging ginger plants dripping with ridiculously sized scarlet buds, lapping suites, villas and apartment patios with swim-up access. It's heaven on a stick for any self-respecting water baby.
Secret # 4 Four Miles of Beach Bliss
Not so much a secret, but something not to be missed. Thank goodness that past city planners of Port Douglas didn't follow the same rule book as those of many other tropical destinations. From seaward the village-like town is barely visible above scores of coconut palms that line 4 Mile Beach. The beach is popular with walkers and joggers thanks to its firm packed sand which doesn't stress the leg muscles too much. Great for a game of beach cricket or soccer. A couple of times a year competitive runners and mountain bikers get to share the fun too as the beach becomes part of the course in a handful of athletic events that weave amongst picnickers, sunbathers, sandcastle builders and frisbee-chasing dogs. Don't worry, there's room for everyone.
Secret #5 Hit the Road and Grab a Mango
Hire a car, create a playlist of favourite driving music and head north from Cairns on what is a serious contender for Australia's most scenic highway. Take your time and take advantage of the lookouts and beaches along the way. Officially known as Captain Cook Highway after notable navigator James Cook, a handful of local's want it renamed the Barrier Reef Highway. Though I personally would prefer to keep Cooks' moniker on it. A 50 km stretch of sweeping bitumen that hugs the coast most of the way to Port Douglas, if you time your visit right (usually January to March), a grove of overhanging mango trees at Ellis Beach laden with sweet juicy mangos are ripe for the picking.
Fiona Harper is a freelance travel writer specialising in travel boating and lifestyle genres. When not on the road checking out divine holiday destinations, she can usually be found bunkered down in a tropical location working on her next writing project.