Everything you need to know for the perfect Port Douglas escape
Owing to its prime location on the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is known for its superb snorkelling and diving opportunities, and Port Douglas is an excellent town to access it from. But it’s also about so much more than that.
Port Douglas is a place where you can find boutique craft shops, fishing boats flogging prawns right off the pier and people selling mud crabs and rock melon on the side of the road. It’s also a place where you can stay in a stunning private villa where luxury, privacy and serenity all go hand in hand.
Just over an hour’s scenic drive along the coast from Cairns International Airport, Port Douglas is a beachside holiday town where you can come to escape from it all. And the best thing about it: you can come all year round.
Stay: Niramaya Villas and Spa
It’s nice to bob in a warm pool surrounded by nature. Even better when it’s your own private pool. In your very own private villa. That’s exactly what you get at Niramaya Villas and Spa – and then some. Designed around the traditional open-air villas of Bali, this spacious home away from home is seriously impressive, even for those who are accustomed to staying in luxury private villas.
You have a private plunge pool heated to a heavenly 30 degrees all day and night long.
The walls in all the main living spaces are fully retractable. And because the weather’s warm all year round and you’re still protected from the rain even when the doors are all retracted, you’ll probably leave them open most of your stay, day and night. The design allows you to feel protected from the elements as well as integrated into the tropical gardens that surround the detached villas.
As you enter the front door of the villa there’s a stepping-stone walkway flanked by lily ponds and trickling water features. This leads to the roomy living room, chill-out space and dining areas – of which there are two (one indoors, one outdoors). Then there’s a large set of double doors that lead to the bedroom and ensuite. And last but certainly not least, a private plunge pool heated to a heavenly 30 degrees all day and night long.
If you want to treat Niramaya like a retreat, you can. Or if you want to enjoy beers by the pool and some late-night swims, then that’s OK too. It’s up to you. It’s your sanctuary.
The bathroom is pretty special, too, and continues the inside-outside theme. There’s a big, oval-shaped stone bath and spacious shower area, both backed by large glass windows revealing private leafy gardens behind.
The villa’s setting is tranquil and feels totally removed from the real world. If you want to treat Niramaya like a retreat and get reiki and do yoga while enjoying the private, quiet, natural surrounds then you can. Or if you want to enjoy beers by the pool and some late-night swims, then that’s OK too. It’s up to you. It’s your sanctuary.
For packages and prices, visit www.niramaya.com.au.
Niramaya Villas and Spa w: www.niramaya.com.au t: (07) 4099 1855 a: 1 Balé Drive, Port Douglas, QLD
More than being just a place to have a facial, Niramaya Day Spa offers a holistic approach to wellness, healing, relaxation and beauty. Balance your chakras and energise yourself with a reiki treatment. Or perhaps join a yoga class on the grass out by the spa’s lily pond. There’s also life alignment, which helps to release energy blockages, and guided meditation and visualisation.
Other treatments include relaxing, Swedish, hot stone, pregnancy and scalp, neck and shoulder massages, as well as scrubs and facials.
Voted the number one restaurant in Port Douglas on TripAdvisor, Rasa Restaurant has both a la carte and degustation dining options. The five-course degustation is a real treat that takes you through a variety of fresh seafood and meat dishes, before ending on a colossal high with an indulgent dessert.
A world-class composition of creamy peanut parfait with textures of chocolate.
The degustation kicks off with a crispy soft-shell crab served with smoked corn puree and coriander remoulade. Next it’s on to a well-balanced dish of polenta-topped mahi mahi alongside pumpkin purée spiced with Thai flavours and coconut milk. Thirdly there’s a five-spice quail served with salad dressed in a sweet concoction of orange and yuzu. Then it’s on to a duck course comprising roasted duck breast and confit duck rillets with a flavour-packed master stock caramel.
Then to the dessert – that aforementioned crescendo. It’s a world-class composition of creamy peanut parfait with textures of chocolate. And there are quite a few textures: from smooth and light as air, to dense and creamy, all the while punctuated by the crunch of three different flavours of crumb. You’re never short of exciting flavour and texture combinations with this delight of a dish.
Rasa Restaurant w: www.niramaya.com.au t: (07) 4099 1855 a: 1 Balé Drive, Port Douglas, QLD
When was the last time you painted? If you’re like most, that’s probably a good few years – some haven’t even given it a go since school. Champagne & Canvas is a relaxing afternoon painting session out on the grass overlooking Niramaya’s main pool. Passionate painter Rebecca Gaine leads the relaxed guided class and takes you through the steps to create a painting that you can take home with you at the end of the class. All the while sipping on chilled champagne and nibbling on delicious canapés.
Play: Sailaway Reef & Island Tours
Take a trip out to the Low Isles in the Great Barrier Reef on a Lagoon 500 Catamaran and snorkel with turtles, manta rays, hundreds of fish and colourful coral. Snorkellers with Sailaway reportedly see turtles on almost every trip out the Low Isles.
Snorkel with turtles, manta rays, hundreds of fish and colourful coral.
The Sail & Snorkel, Sunset Sail trip starts at 1pm and finishes at around 6pm. It takes about an hour to make the scenic journey out to the beautiful Low Isles, and then it’s time to jump in. You’ll snorkel for about 45 minutes before heading ashore to Low Isle’s beach where you can go on an optional heritage walk. Then at 4pm you head back to the boat to refuel with some canapés and a well-deserved beer or wine before heading back to Port Douglas – not forgetting to catch the sunset as it dips behind the reef on the journey back.
Sail & Snorkel, Sunset Sail costs $221 per person and runs from 1pm-6pm seven days a week. It’s recommended that you bring a beach towel, swimwear, T-shirt, hat, sunscreen, camera and sunglasses. Sailaway Reef & Island Tours offer a number of other tours.
Sailaway Reef & Island Tours w: www.sailawayportdouglas.com t: (07) 4099 4200 a: Shop 18, The Reef Marina, Port Douglas
Stop for a bite to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner at one of the great restaurants that overlook the marina. There’s Hog’s Breath Café, Lure Restaurant and Bar, On The Inlet and Marina View Restaurant and Bar. There’s also a shopping arcade where you can buy sunglass, hats, thongs and the like. Or, make like the locals and buy some prawns straight off the boat from local fishing vessel Santiago – Santiago docks in The Reef Marina every third weekend of the month (Saturday and Sunday).
By Christina Wylie
It’s recommended that you rent a car during your stay in Port Douglas so that you can get around as you please – not everything is within walking distance.
Where is Port Douglas?