Back from our liveaboard adventure at 8am and utterly exhausted, we waited 4 hours to get access to our hotel room. We rested all day and got ready to pick up our car rental the next day to get my parents at the airport. Mom and Papa both turned 60 and retired this year and decided to go on a big trip of their own to celebrate! The beginning was to be spent with us along the east coast of Australia and in Tasmania, beginning with Port Douglas. With a couple of greeting signs and big grins, we met them in the arrivals lounge for a long awaited reunion after 9 months apart. And off we went! An hour drive up to Port Douglas brought us back to the Lazy Lizard Motel which Alan and I had previously stayed in for some nice dinner and celebration.
From Port Douglas, our next exciting destination was the Daintree tropical rainforest. It is not only the largest area of continuous rainforest in Australia at 1,200km2, but the oldest in the entire world! It is vast, lush and beautiful. We started our visit at the southern end of the rainforest, in pretty Mossman Gorge. Luckily, the fact it is winter here meant little humidity and no mosquitoes, a happy surprise for us all. Mossman is very easily accessible for people of all ages, there is a bus transfer available from the visitor centre at the entrance of the park all the way to the start of the (mostly) flat boardwalks that meander through the gorge. Longer more difficult walks that take you deeper into the rainforest are also accessible from this point, but if time restricted like us, don’t worry you will leave satisfied with the short walks It’s a great introduction to the rainforest and you will have a hard time believing the spectacular trees and root systems all around you are real.
Next up was the region of Cow Bay, only a short drive north and ferry ride away from Mossman. We would have loved to have more time up here to go further up to the famous Cape Tribulation area, but as we only had a day, we thought better to stay in the lower areas of the rainforest. We were happy this included a stop to a spectacular lookout on the meeting of the Daintree river with the ocean. The striking difference of blues between both bodies of water clearly delineates them and looks just beautiful from above. Although we had the view to ourselves for a few minutes, a tourist bus arrived shortly prompting our departure. This is a must see if you are in the area and only takes a few minutes. Next on the schedule would be a stop at the famous Daintree Ice Cream Company, where ice cream is made from local and unusual fruits grown on site. Each day four flavours are available, which you can only buy as a set of four scoops. Although I have no memory of what the fruits used the day we visited were, I can tell you that they tasted like odd versions of coffee, creme brulee, chocolate and lemon. The lemon was by far the best to us, but each was very interesting to try.
To finish the day we joined a river cruise tour looking to spot mom and papa’s first crocodiles. Joined by two couples and their children (including one woman who almost gave papa a heart attack as she loosely held her daughter standing near the edge of the boat on croc infested waters), we meandered along the river spotting birds and crocodiles. We never found ‘Scarface’, the big male resident croc, but saw one of his girlfriends ‘Elizabeth’, resting quietly on the river bank. We also saw several baby crocs in the shallower parts of the river, which were very fun to see. It’s hard to think they start out so cute and small. Cruising along and constantly looking around eager to spot as much as possible, our guide emphasized the power of these creatures, warning us not to ever bring dogs to the area as they have been lost to crocs before, as was a cow once!
The next day we visited another nearby rainforest and its main village, Kuranda. Set within the rainforest, the cute village offers a selection of cafes, restaurants and shops, as well as cultural experiences, cruises, a butterfly sanctuary and the Kuranda Skyrail, which we spent a good hour on. The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway takes you from Kuranda down to Cairns or vice versa, with two stops along the way for short walks within the rainforest: one to a spectacular waterfall, the other within the heart of the rainforest through an amazing selection of plants, trees, huge bush ferns and turkeys. Many live in the area and use the tall trees to sleep in at night for protection against predators like snakes. Skyrail is touristy for sure, but nevertheless a fun and relaxing way to visit Kuranda’s main attractions – another alternative being to take the scenic Skytrain up or down the rainforest covered mountains. The end of our first cableway journey led us down to Cairns where we visited the Tjapukai Cultural Centre, looking to provide my parents with an albeit basic, fun and diverse introduction to Aboriginal culture. We had a few humorous attempts at boomerang and spear throwing, watched a cultural performance, followed by some didgeridoo playing. We were the only people in the audience that day but everything still ran on schedule for us.
Our two nights in the area were spent at the Cedar Park Rainforest Resort, a very nice 6 room complex in the middle of the forest. Each of the rooms is individually decorated and provide a unique and unusual experience, ours resembling a ‘James Bond room’, as Papa described. The outdoor restaurant on the veranda is lovely, with blankets provided in case you are cold and a fireplace to enjoy your coffee after dinner. The food here was pricey but delicious. We enjoyed two dinners here and each enjoyed our dinner both nights. Best of all, the owner does not eat gluten so the array of gluten free dishes (including desserts ) for me was great! Kangaroos come by for a visit in the evening, peacocks in the morning and all sorts of birds happily start chirping at 5am for a nice and early wake up call.