Day 2: Port Douglas and The Daintree

Where Else But Queensland?

Day 2: Port Douglas and The Daintree

Words: Andy. Photos: Christopher (

Holidays are all about sleep-ins and taking things a little bit more gently, but we missed the memo on that, so were out the front door by about 730.

It was nice to wake up to the sounds of the local bird life, which all have a great set of lungs, probably strengthened by the tropical climate. By the time the rooster started crowing, I knew my sleep time was over. Not much time for pottering about, but there’s plenty of time for that at home – we hit the road for Port Douglas.The sweeping cane fields in the golden morning light popped against the backdrop of mountains which, in the morning have a hazy mist running through them, layering them in colour from the nearest green range through to a darker green then grey.

Port Douglas appears like an oddly manicured landscape in the middle of the natural beauty of the area, but has a friendly feel once in the town centre. The locals are super friendly and give possibly the best customer service ever. Yep, that’s a big call, but it’s pretty clear they love their lifestyle and and the place they chosen to call home.

Breakfast at Fresq, and even though the credit card winced a little at the price, the food and coffee were delicious (and the service was great, but you knew that). I had Chilli Scramble, which was scrambled eggs with Asian salad, sourdough, chilli jam and a side of salmon, Chris enjoyed an Eggs Bennie (with bacon and hard hard hard eggs!).

We had a little wander, bought a few things (as you do) and hopped back in the car to travel back to where we came from before scooting off in the other direction to the Daintree after a quick costume change.

Solar Whisper was our first stop, which is a river cruise operated using a solar-powered powered boat. As the craft approached the pontoon, Peppa (the dog, not the pig) stood astern, supervising the approach. We boarded and headed downstream on the wide Daintree River, where the tide was falling, and the crocs were enjoying some sunshine.


Scarface was the first croc we met. Our tour guide told us all the crocs have names because they see them almost every day, and because of their territorial nature, will generally be in the same area from day to day. Scarface is a big male and they think he’s about 70 years old. He’s lost nearly all of his teeth now, though, so his life of fighting and womanising (apparently he’s got a number of girlfriends along the river) are definitley in their winter years, since the life expectancy for a croc is roughly the same as you and me.



We punted a bit further up the river and saw a young croc, born in 2020 by the guide’s calculations, which at only a couple of metres in length is still suprisingly vulnerable to predators. It’s not until they reach about six years they can rest easy, but the early years of a crocodile are fraught with danger from the time mum wishes them a nice life and boots them out of the nest after about two months. And we thought the baby boomers were harsh!



There wasn’t a lot of bird life along the shoreline, but what we did see was uniquely beautiful. A striated heron stood firm on a branch waiting for lunch to arrive as fish headed for the elusive safety of the mangrove roots in the falling tide, should they be lucky enough to avoid the gaze of the hungry bird. We were also lucky enough to see the wee Azure Kingfisher (wee is my descriptive term, not the actual name of the bird). Its azure blue plumage made it easy for us to see, and it even gave us a show, diving into the water for a feed.



We rounded the corner into Lizzie’s creek. Lizzie is a female croc they named after Her Majesty because she’s prone to giving a royal wave to people as they pass. We weren’t blessed with the royal wave today. Lizzie sat in the sun, smiling, as we paused then drifted further along the creek. Baby crocks on branches met with oohs and aaahs from the boat, and everyone kind of freaked out when something behind us plunged into the water, but it was just a big white bird, the PTSD prevents me from remembering what type.



Back on the main river we crossed over to the other bank to try and spot some snakes, but they must have warmed themselves up enough by the time we got there because there were none to be seen. The skipper, Peppa the Schnauser, obviously knew her routine, and we were lucky to have her on board because she’d decided to take a swim two days ago near Lizzie’s spot, which could have been pretty traumatising for the tourists who were laughing as they watched her splash about before the tour guide went to her rescue. Either way, she assumed her position at the front of the boat as we approached the pontoon and guided us safely back to our mooring to disembark.

Did I mention everyone up here is super friendly? Back at the check-in point for the cruise I asked the operator about what could be seen on the other side of the river, and he rattled off a heap of places to go and see, so we headed for the ferry (which is actually a punt) and paid the $39 return fare to drive further along the Great Barrier Reef Tourist Drive up to Cape Tribulation.

Those pictures you see of winding roads shaded by a canopy of green is what you’ll see in real life as you leave the ferry and drive even further north. The Daintree Forest is the oldest rain forest in the world, and no words can really describe the beauty you see in every direction. Leaves of all types in various shades of green fill the entire landscape. Thick broad leaves amongst the thin or equaly expansive palm fronds, and thick vines growing up ancient tree trunks is what the untrained eye can see, and I can only imagine how many species of plant my horticultural friends could identify. We stopped at Alexandra lookout to check out the terrain, and the views didn’t disappoint!


We drove as far up as Cape Tribulation. Chris saw a cassowary in one of the spots en route, but I was too busy driving to notice. We found a great little cafe on the side of the road, part of the Daintree Eco Village and decided it was time to eat. A steak sandwich for Chris with a large almond flat white, a falafel salad for me with a banana berry smoothie. On the way back we stopped at Oliver’s Creek to walk through the mangroves. There’s an excellent boardwalk through the mangroves, easy walking and accessible for people using mobility aids with fairly gentle short slopes.

Mangroves are fascinating to look at with their various root systems, all designed over time for survival. Flat vertical roots that look a bit like the fins of a washing machine’s agitator anchor them into the mud, safeguarding them from drifting away due to the movement of the tides. Other roots act like snorkels, poking out of the mud to trap air for the trees to compensate for the extremely low oxygen levels in the mud. How do they cope with the salty water, I hear you ask? Sacrificial leaves. Dotted throughout the canopy of mangrove trees you’ll see the odd yellow leaf. These are the leaves the tree uses to expunge salt.

It wasn’t all mangroves. there were plenty of palms – my favourite were the fan palms, which tower above you like umbrellas as you wind your way around the the pathway. The basket ferns are also interesting as they sit perched high up like birds nests, positioned nicely to catch the falling leaf litter which mulches down and feeds it.

Back in the car we headed back towards the ferry, stopping off at the Daintree Icecream Company in Diwan. By this stage it’s pretty obvious I’m out of ketosis, but the icecream is D E L I C I O U S ! ! ! All of the ingredients are grown on site. Bananas, jack fruit, coconuts just some of the tropical flavours they grow and use. We had their four-flavour cup with jack fruit, passionfruit, coconut and wattle seed. Again: delicious! They get plenty of tourists through, and we were grateful for having arrived five minutes before a big tour bus. Icecream safely in our bellies, we drove further south towards the ferry and made one more turn off to Cow Bay. Not moo cows, but sea cows, which we didn’t see (because you can’t go into the water, remember!) It’s a picture perfect tropical beach with a lagoon (don’t get too close to the water’s edge!) and palm trees, one strung with a swing, the other with a swinging rope. We left those for the kids.



The drive back always seems much shorter than the drive out, and we reached the ferry, not before I saw my first cassowary! By the time I got my camera out, the last of its tail feathers disappeared into the bushes and for many obvious reasons, I wasn’t going to get out of the car and chase the photo opportunity.

We circled around to Daintree Village on the way back, a little bit out of the way looking for a general store, only to discover the nearest one to us is about a kilometre up the road from where we’re staying, but the village is really cute, and we wouldn’t have otherwise seen more fields of cows accompanied by their companion egrets. While the cows graze, the cattle egrets stand close, looking for all the world like personal trainers coaching their bovine clients, muttering words of inspiration into their ears. As it turns out, their just waiting for the cow to disturb an insect of frog to it can scoff its next meal, so the words are more likely to be be “I’m hungry! Hurry up!”.

Mossman Gorge tomorrow!



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