Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Gateway Cairns

Reef to Rainforest activities. Backpackers to luxurious hideaways. Beaches, pools and outdoor spas. Laid-back resorts. Great food, wine and shopping. What more could you want? I found nothing lacking on my recent visit - and can't wait to go back!

Fly into Cairns airport and drive 5 minutes to the all-new Skinny Dips Resort at 18-24 James St. I have fond memories of my stay there 10 years ago and spending time in their pool and outdoor cafe where the locals hang out. With a new chef, Kim, the restaurant has been transformed into the Montage Bistro. The entire complex has undergone a facelift under new management. This is gonna be a great place for post Mardi Gras recovery and any time of year you get to Tropical QLD.

If a smaller place is your cup of tea, drive 15 mins. further to Kewarra Beach and enjoy the homey feel of Boyz on the Beach. Your co-host, Bob, is also a tour operator and arranges 4WD escapes for guests. Ask about the rainforest and waterfall tour inside the stunning World Heritage region.


After a few days in paradise, head to heaven in Port Douglas (about an hour's drive). If you choose to stay in town, you can stay at woman-owned and managed Pink Flamingo, a relaxed and hip resort with outdoor gardens, showers and spa baths. The clientele is mixed but no worries about privacy in your private villa or feeling comfortable around the heated pool and outdoor lounge area.

Tip from the locals: Have brekkie at Cafe Ecco on the main street and say hello to David and Joe (who also have accommodation in Palm Cove.)


Or head 12 km up the mountain to Mai Tai, for a romantic getaway. You don't have to die to be in heaven is their slogan at this Balinese style retreat. Perched high on top of a mountain and nestled into lush tropical surroundings, Mai Tai offers complete privacy and magical views across the rainforest. I recommend staying in the deluxe suites which has a spacious outdoor shower... for the ultimate tropical experience.

Andre and Anthony are perfect hosts; they love sharing their personal paradise with discerning travelers. They arrange tours with local operators like RC Safaris that takes you to Cape Tribulation in the Daintree Rainforest, and Synergy, a catamaran that takes your snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. Even breakfast with the birds at the nearby Rainforest Habitat, an authentic environmental wildlife experience.

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