Port Douglas marina at sunset.

PORT DOUGLAS: Where life's cares simply melt away

12th August 2016 3:00 PM

RELAX. That's the first thing we tell ourselves to do.

We're bouncing away in the back of a shuttle bus with that "we're on holiday" glee. But we hardly notice the almost complete lack of suspension in the well-travelled Toyota HiAce because we're too captivated by the scenery unfolding behind each hairpin turn.

It's no wonder the 75km drive between Cairns and Port Douglas is acclaimed as one of the most spectacular along Australia's coastline. The road snakes around the mountain ranges, which roll into the bleached sand and a glittering aqua stained-glass sea. We wonder if the driver has a hard time keeping his eyes on the road.

WIN A ROMANTIC WEEKEND ESCAPE TO PORT DOUGLAS 

The last time my husband and I had a night off together was the Blue Moon of July 31 last year. I remember the date because coincidentally it was a "once-in-a-blue-moon" occasion.

As he is a chef our days are spent tag teaming: while one's at work, the other is home/sleeping (and no, only on strawberry moons does he feel like cooking fancy dinners at home). So with a baby in the oven we booked a romantic "last hurrah" escape to Port Douglas. A babymoon.

With a short four days off the hamster wheel, our holiday criteria was simple: sunshine, relaxation and a little indulgence.

 

QT Port Douglas.
QT Port Douglas. Kiri ten Dolle

You feel the tension in your muscle fibres ease upon arriving at QT Port Douglas, our home for the next four nights. Maybe it's the light, misty rain that falls momentarily as we step into the open-air lobby, the "sha-sha-sha" of cocktail shakers or the cabana-lined lagoon pool that deserves its own postcode. It might be winter, but it's a beautiful 26 degrees - fitting for a resort that evokes 1950s Palm Springs.

 

Cocktails by the pool at QT Port Douglas.
Cocktails by the pool at QT Port Douglas. Kiri ten dolle

We take the first day to lounge by the pool, take a quick dip to the swim-up bar for a "skinny pash" (a calorie-reduced cocktail, or mocktail in my instance, made on agave nectar where "every sip is like a sit up") and put everything on the room tab. Thankfully, there are no aggressive noodle-bearing children in the pool. It's quiet and peaceful and I'm not alone. A number of other ladies are baring their bump for a bronzing.

Pink Floyd and Bob Dylan echo from the speakers of Estilo bar, where there are also ping pong and pool tables for guests to enjoy. The decor is shamelessly kitsch and the staff are clad in quirky, retro attire.

 

QT Port Douglas pool.
QT Port Douglas pool.

The frivolity continues down to the room. Our one-bedroom apartment is in the Daiquiri Wing overlooking the palm-fringed pool. The room is white, bright and spacious, set off by a kaleidoscope of colour in the finishing touches. You know you're in far north tropical Queensland when your room comes with a complimentary pineapple.

There's a kitchenette and living area with a balcony shaded by vibrant heliconias and lipstick palms. The king-sized bed is as comfortable as clouds and big enough not to bury the husband in the umpteen pillows a pregnant lady needs in order to get some shut eye.

There's also a laundrette and generous bathroom with spa bath, complete with pina colada-smelling, rum-infused body goodies. Not to mention the Dominos and Pick-up Sticks available for purchase from the mini bar - all adding to the fun, nostalgic vibe.

 

Another cool feature for the environmentally friendly folk is the $10 food and beverage voucher you receive for every night you decline a room remake.

Bazaar is QT Port Douglas's interactive take on a buffet-meets-delicatessen. It's a great spot to soak up some morning rays once you drag yourself out of bed. Grab a newspaper and a seat overlooking the lilly pad-dotted pond and enjoy a coffee and your choice of the breakfast buffet. The iconic blonde arc of Four Mile Beach is a mere 400-metre stroll across the road to walk off any overindulgence.

 

Bazaar Marketplace at QT Port Douglas.
Bazaar Marketplace at QT Port Douglas. Andrew Watson

In the evening, Bazaar offers a culinary sprawl of food including a local seafood station. There's even a candy bar among the dessert offering so you can fill your pockets for later. After dinner, take a moonlight dip in the indigo-lit pool to wash away what remains of your pre-holiday cares. Or enjoy a movie under the stars at the Moonlight Cinema. Guests get upgraded to "gold grass'' and comfy beanbags. There's tasty street food available, another candy bar and licensed bar.

When you're ready to peel yourself away from the resort's banana lounges, you can get a complimentary retro bike from reception and pedal into Port's heart.

When you're ready to peel yourself away from the resort's banana lounges, you can get a complimentary retro bike from reception and pedal into Port's heart. It's about a 20-minute ride from the hotel (40 minutes by foot) and a great way to explore the bustling Sunday morning markets in Anzac Park.

We watch a long-haired chap juice sugar cane lengths - probably from nearby Mossman, the region's sugar growing centre and gateway to the Daintree Rainforest - using a contraption powered by a stationary bike. The refreshing nectar quenches our thirst as we perch ourselves under some coconut palms and watch the cruise liners trail from the harbour, headed out to the Great Barrier Reef.

The township of Port Douglas is laid-back, retaining a real sense of community. Despite a sticky, steamy heat even in July, its atmosphere is chilled and reminds me a lot of Noosa: one street of restaurants and dress shops, bookended by ocean.

From the QT hotel you can also climb aboard the Bally Hooley steam train and chug into the marina. It's worth the $12 return ticket to the marina station purely for the experience. The steam locomotive was formerly used by Mossman Sugar Mill to haul the sugar cane from the fields to the region's mill.

 

Bally Hooley steam train will take you from QT Port Douglas to the marina.
Bally Hooley steam train will take you from QT Port Douglas to the marina. kiri ten dolle

Hemmingways Brewery at the marina is a great spot for sunset drinks and shared plates as the yachts sail in on twilight. After dark, Macrossan St comes alive with live entertainment at most venues. Five bucks will buy you a toad at Iron Bar's nightly cane toad race - a quintessential FNQ experience.

Set at least one day aside to explore the Great Barrier Reef. Quicksilver Cruises will take you out to Agincourt Reef where you can snorkel and scuba and helmet dive in the clearest of waters. Or you can take a scenic helicopter flight.

A visit to SpaQ is a must. We surrender to a couple's massage: a relaxation de-frag for him and a muscle-melting pregnancy massage for me. We leave Port Douglas feeling gravitationless, but there's nothing like a newborn to bring us back down to earth.

Weekend magazine is giving one lucky reader the chance to win a romantic weekend away for two to Port Douglas. Click here to enter.

SpaQ at QT Port Douglas is a must-visit.
SpaQ at QT Port Douglas is a must-visit. contributed

EAT, STAY, PLAY:

QT PORT DOUGLAS: 87 - 109 Port Douglas Rd, Port Douglas Qld 4877

COST: Two-night Stand package, including accommodation in a Resort Room, welcome cocktails, breakfast daily and one dinner at Bazaar for two, priced from $255 a night. Valid for stay until December 20.

MORE DETAILS: Call 07 4099 8900 or visit qthotelsandresorts.com/port-douglas

The writer travelled with assistance from QT Port Douglas.