Another beautiful day trip in this region is the Whyanbeel Valley, about 40 kms north of Port Douglas on the Daintree Valley Road. This is a farming valley, mainly sugarcane and cattle, banked right up against thick rainforest and waterfalls visible high above in the range.
We first visited Hogland Art Glass in 2006 when Ola and Marie had just opened this gallery to the public, and we were blown away by their exquisite glass. They also work in Nelson, NZ and create special pieces – e.g. for the Americas Cup and Olympics, and sell to glass collectors as different as Bill Clinton and Elton John! Ola is however so welcoming to all people and was happy for Ian to take photos of the studio. We spent ages ogling the displays, when a beautiful piece leapt out at us and said “Pick me, pick me!” So we did, and it is a perfect size to sit on our caravan table and catch the sun’s reflections for us each day.
Nearby is High Falls Riverside Restaurant, located right alongside the Whyanbeel River which is more of a gentle, babbling brook in this ‘drier’ season. It was a lovely accompaniment for a perfectly presented, tasty and very reasonably priced seafood lunch. Their speciality is exotic tropical fruit grown on their farm so we were able to walk off lunch and finally match the trees with their fruit. So… it was all so good that we had to return a second time so we could have a smaller first course and still fit in the plaintain banana fritters. Absolutely to die for!
We have enjoyed Cairns previously; Ian in 1995 for radar training when he worked for Coastwatch, then both of us attended a 3rd Cavalry army reunion in 2006, and again briefly in 2013 to attend a wedding in Port Douglas. We also have several friends here, so it is always a pleasure to return to this friendly city.
Earlier stays have been in hotels, so our week at the Coconut Holiday Resort was quite a different – but amazing – experience. This is a huge park, with condos, villas, cabins in addition to caravan and camping sites. Fortunately the layout is so well designed that it was a pleasure to stay here, even in Week 2 of Queensland’s school holidays! There is a beautiful garden pool, plus a lagoon pool (including a hot and a cold spa) and a waterpark which mainly attracts the older children. The range of family activities is incredible, with organised activities every day and evening, and it was great to see so many mums and dads and their children having the best time with each other! The range of cool gear to rent was just brilliant too – check out this ‘wagon’…
A trip to the Great Barrier Reef is pretty much mandatory in this region. We chose a full day Reef Magic cruise, travelling 1.5 hours each way on a catamaran out to their Marine World activity platform out at Moore Reef. Heaps of activities to please everyone from 2 to 92, including helicopter scenic flights, snorkelling, diving, helmet diving for non-swimmers (yes, it looked VERY weird), fish feeding, a safety enclosure for the babies and toddlers, and – hit of the year for Ginny – a masseuse on board!
After her massage and lunch, she barely managed to lever herself on to the glass bottom boat but was soon going ooh and aah at the beauty of the coral reef and the variety of fish. There were many “pan sized” ones according to Ian which caused a few gasps of “But they are protected!” among the assembly. We also went in a semi-submersible contraption which was great for seeing the fish glide past you rather than looking down at them.
Sadly no turtles, but we did see whales breaching on our way home which was very special. Another day in paradise!