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We just missed Kylie. The little Aussie icon left the day we arrived at the Sheraton Mirage where she was staying in a secluded villa with her Spanish beau. I tell ya, mate, her visit was the talk of Port Douglas.
Although, as is custom when a famous guest is staying, the girls at the resort were resolute in their silence about Ms Minogue, but they did confirm that her man was looking good on the golf course the day before.
They're used to celebs around here. They still talk about ladies' man Matthew McConaughey wooing local lasses at haunts like The Ironbar - the best place, I can attest, to find a good time after midnight.
Then there was the time Bill Clinton and wife Hillary vacationed here in 1996 when he was still, er, seeing Monica Lewinsky. Talk about sin city. And Clinton was also dining at one of Port Douglas' top restaurants, Salsa Bar and Grill, when he was informed of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
Also, that other far less sexy Aussie icon, John Farnham, has a villa at the Sheraton too. The 21-year-old resort, while it's showing its age a little, is still the height of decadence with its sprawling seaside location along Four Mile Beach, the best breakfast buffet to feast upon, and its 2ha of lagoon-style swimming pools.
Talk to a few people around Port Douglas and they will tell you there's no better place to be corrupted, and the town is gearing up for Carnivale, their annual week of revelry starting on May 22.
Still, for all this wealth and decadence, it's a laidback and inviting place to hang out. With its wealth of natural wonders and delicious produce from both the sea and the land, there's no better place to indulge. So here goes ...
Like any small seaside town worth its weight in prawns, or scallops, or barramundi, finding the best place to chow down in Port Douglas is all about yarning to the locals. Ask around to see if there's a trawler in port selling fresh seafood straight off the boat, or take a wander down the inlet and around the marina looking for the "Fresh seafood here" sign.
It was a bro' from west Auckland - he'd been here for four months and was loving it - who sold us a bag of prawns for $20. We reckon it would have cost upwards of $80 elsewhere.
Chuck them on the barbecue, with a heap of garlic butter, and have a feast. The prawns lasted us two nights with the first meal an epic 14 prawns each affair, and the second night the rest went into a delicious linguine.
Yes, similar to our Bluff oysters, the variety in these parts are beautiful too. I never thought I'd say that, because the phlegmy taste and texture of these much sought-after shellfish has never appealed. However, while on board luxury yacht Galaxy 1, I was converted by the oysters with salmon roe sprinkled on top. I want more, more, more.
And get me another chilli margarita while you're at it. That rather potent surprise can be found at Nautilus, a restaurant nestled in the trees above Port Douglas' main street which is one of the most stunning settings you're ever likely to find.
Lying on a sun lounger at Coconut Grove apartments, where we stayed during the second part of the week, I have a single guilty thought: why bother leaving? We have our own swimming pool glistening in front of us, a barbecue primed for another onslaught of prawns, and a chilled Coopers ale - Australia's finest beer if you ask me - within arm's reach.
It's not quite as extreme a holiday destination as Queenstown but Port Douglas is the jump-off point to many adventure activities - be it diving, surfing the canopy of the Daintree Rainforest, or doing a safari in search of crocs. The newest attraction to get your blood boiling is the Australian Muster Experience, in the Whyanbeel Valley about 30 minutes north of Port Douglas. The best thing is you don't even have to take part - just sit back, relax and watch as Australian cowboys - and a few girls - riding bulls and bucking broncos get hurled, ten-gallon hats and all, into the dirt, on to fences and over railings.
The people of Port Douglas love their town. They're a friendly lot, although in the flippant, local kind of way. There's no better place to sample this hospitality than at the Yacht Club, with the best toasted sandwiches and chips in town ($6), and the Combined Club (aka the Tin Shed), which is like the RSA, on the inlet. Don't expect to be pampered, just well fed and watered.
I want what he's having. The bloke sitting next to me at the Sheraton's longest dinner - a special version of chef Klaus Keller's longest lunch, which is a key event at Carnivale each year - has got the beef dish. You see, during this dinner it's down to chance whether you get the Piri Piri Roasted Daintree Barramundi or the Mustard and Bacon Crusted Fillet of Beef for main. I had already organised with him to swap if he got the fish and I got the cow. But now I've changed my mind because his looks incredible. And I can hardly ask this bloke if I can have a taste of his, like I would my loved one.
Never mind, because the barramundi was beautiful.
Surging up and down on the swell aboard Galaxy 1, headed towards the Great Barrier Reef and the snorkelling and sunbathing mecca of the Low Isles, I sensed Kylie was here.
You see, she was rumoured to have gone out on this very boat. Maybe it was my new-found love of oysters, and their supposed aphrodisiac qualities kicking in, but as I lounged on the leather cushions of this luxury boat I couldn't help but wonder which seat Kylie might have sat in just a few days before.
Again, the crew were not saying anything, but if the beaming smile Dean, the yacht's jolly chef, had on his face was anything to go by, then the hot pants had definitely been here.
Scott Kara travelled courtesy of Port Douglas Daintree Tourism.
PORT DOUGLAS CARNIVALE
The annual Port Douglas Carnivale is dubbed a celebration of life in tropical paradise. The party starts on May 22 with a parade along Macrossan St and ends on May 31 with the Meridien Marina Seafood Extravaganza where you can eat endless prawns and devour vast amounts of oysters. Other events include art exhibitions, the Clipper Cup yacht race, the Sheraton's Longest Lunch, and lots of family events. And
while you're at it, don't forget to pop into local watering hole The Ironbar for its infamous Cane Toad Races.
Air New Zealand fly direct to Cairns, then it's a 45-60 minute drive to Port Douglas.
WHERE TO STAY:
Coconut Grove, 56 Macrossan Street.
Luxury apartments. Terrace and penthouse apartments have private
pool and spa. Carnivale Special: stay five nights from $160 per person, per night twin-share including dinner for two at Zinc Restaurant to the value of $150. Offer valid until May 31. Visit coconutgroveportdouglas.com.au
Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas, Davidson St. Luxury resort accommodation with rooms, suites and villa options available. sheraton.com/portdouglas.
PLACES TO EAT:
Salsa Bar and Grill, 26 Wharf St
Nautilus Restaurant, 17 Murphy St
Il Pescatore, Sheraton Mirage, Davidson St
Port Douglas Yacht Club, in the marina, just off Wharf St
The Tin Shed, 7 Ashford Ave
Go to pddt.com.au