Alex Newlove checks into the Sheraton Mirage hotel, in Port Douglas, Tropical North Queensland.
Check-in experience: Even arriving at midnight following a one-hour drive from Cairns Airport, staff rush to your aid the moment they see you reaching for your suitcase handle.
An expansive split-level lobby is newly styled as part of the resort's recent $40 million makeover. The theme is plantation elegance, with touches of green, rose and gold on the soft furnishings to break up the sprawling whiteness. No soulessness allowed though, despite all the white: I'm loving the cheesy Vegas-style grand piano elevated over a fountain.
The property: Two hectares of bright blue saltwater lagoons hug all the resort's facilities, meaning you get around via a series of covered pathways and bridges. The main swimming areas have sandy beaches, abundant loungers and canopied day-bed cabanas.
There's much competition for the latter — you have to book and spend at least $150 on poolside food and drinks throughout the day. There are already so many clever spaces that invite you to intermittently explore and relax. The resort's buildings are so glisteningly white you need sunglasses to look at them. The wider grounds have 150ha of lush gardens, including an 18-hole golf course.
Room: A Mirage Studio Suite, third floor, muted tones and priced from $500 a night. 52sq m with a living area and patio.
What's in the neighbourhood? To your east is the Great Barrier Reef, with Port Douglas a five-minute drive away. As well as being the departure point for visiting the reef, Port Douglas is an upmarket tourist village with a plethora of great restaurants and shopping.
Drive north for 45 minutes and you'll begin to hit the Daintree Rainforest and its associated attractions — crocodiles, cultural experiences, forest walks. The resort sits on Four Mile Beach — true to its name in length, with white sand, startlingly blue water and overhung with palms. Personally, I can't get on board with swimming anywhere crocodiles do, even if there are supposedly safe times of the day to take a dip.
Food and drink: Feast Restaurant: A jack-of-all-trades eatery with a la carte lunch and dinner, breakfast and dinner buffets and outdoor deck overlooking the lagoon pools. Breakfast from 7am, which can be a little late if you're on a tight schedule. Earlier by arrangement.
Lagoons Bar: The quintessential resort swim-up bar. 24/7 in-room dining.
The bed: A canopied king made cocoon tight so your feet are bound ballerina-style when you first get in and you have to kick around a bit to free yourself. Insanely comfy with convenient features such as a bedside phone with built- in phone chargers, good reading light and over-bed fan.
The view: The tops of palm trees and you wake up to parrot squawks.
Bathroom: Open-plan marble, with his and hers sinks and a downpour shower with a view over the patio and strategic slat blinds for privacy.
Value for money: Depends how much time you plan to spend in your room. For $350 a night you will get a standard Mirage Resort Room, which sleeps up to four. You will lose your patio, 10sq m and possibly the view.
Facilities: 24-hour business centre with free computer and internet use. Across the road from the main resort is the Mirage Country Club, which has a gym, golf course, tennis court and lap pool.
Perfect for: This is the spot for holidays where you plan to spend at least a couple of days slothing about by the pool.
Would I return? Yes — literally the only problem with this hotel was that the grounds are so lovely, you feel discouraged from venturing out, despite being flanked by natural wonders.
The Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort is on Port Douglas Road, Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia. Phone: +61 7 4099 5888.