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The Rock-itt : February 2011
you can do without a car. A hire car will how- ever open up the area for exploration and there is a lot to see around this part of Oz. A Hyundai Getz from Budget car rental will cost you about $302 for a week right now, pick up and return from Cairns airport. First timers to PD will no doubt want to get out to the Barrier Reef to snorkel or dive. I haven't gone out to the outer reef since the first time we visited but it is certainly worth doing. The big Quicksilver catamarans leave from the Marina in the morning and will have you back by around 5.30pm. Be warned though it's quite a long trip - over two hours sailing out to Agincourt Ribbon Reef. It's also not that cheap, currently $200 for the day trip but that does include lunch and your basic snorkelling kit. It is a great experience though - my wife is not happy in the water but she really enjoyed seeing the reef from what is basically a submarine with glass sides. I tried scuba diving which was fun; the same thing will currently cost you an extra $142. Be prepared for company, these cruis- es are very popular and you'll be sharing your experience with about 300 others! www.quicksilver-cruises.com/ My favourite option is a trip out to the Low Isles, you can see them from PD. There is the choice of a bone jarring speedboat trip out to them which takes about 20 minutes or a leisurely full day cruise out on one of the trip boats. The Shaolin is a good choice, a real Chinese junk built in the 1960's but with all mod cons. The full day will cost $135 an adult, $65 for a child and it carries a maxi- mum of 24 passengers. I'll let you into Port Douglas's two best kept secrets. The Combined Services club which is tucked away from the town at the estuary entrance is one of the best bars I have ever been in. They have recently had their deck rebuilt making it easier to get a table for din- ner and the views from it are magnificent. In the distance are the hills of the Daintree Rain Forest and immediately in front of the deck you can watch the coming and going of the tourists boats and help yourself to some of the best bird watching in Queensland with a cheap schooner in your hand! The food is good at the Services club as well but if you feel like a change seek out the Yacht Club which is at the opposite end of the Marina from the shopping centre. Great food under the stars. We had bandicoots running around our feet whilst we ate and thousands of fruit bats flying overhead, the true tropics. There's cane toad racing at the Tin Shed Pub on Macrossan Street most nights and the Central Hotel next door shows feature films on a big screen in their beer garden. Good book shops, great bars, great shop- ping and some really up market restaurants if you want to splash out - Port Douglas has it all. Don't miss the Sunday market held on the waterfront at Anzac Park from 8am to 1.30pm every Sunday. A great way to meet the locals and pick up a bargain. If you take the hire car option I would recom- mend a drive to Daintree village, about 50 minutes north of Port Douglas. You can take a small trip boat from here up the Daintree River and take a look at the crocodiles lazing on the banks. We usually go out with Bruce Belcher and we've seen amazing wildlife with his help - tree pythons, sacred Kingfishers, black bitterns and of course loads of crocs. $25 for an hour very well spent. www.daintreerivercruises.com.au/ Cape Tribulation is also well worth the trip. It's about an hour and three quarters from Port Douglas and it's the only place on Earth where two World Heritage sites meet - the Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rain Forest. It's an easy drive involving a short car ferry across the Daintree River. You can actually drive the coast road up to Cooktown from Cape Trib but you need four wheel drive experience because shortly after Cape Trib the road becomes dirt and there are some serious rivers to drive through - don't do it!! On your drive back to Cairns you can detour to Kuranda, either by driving up there or by taking the Skyrail Rain Forest cableway. A great way to do it is the cable way up and the train down into Cairns. Kuranda itself is tour- ist central but if you need the T Shirt to go with the trip you won't be disappointed! Virgin Blue or Jet Star will get you to Cairns for $328 return this month (Feb) you may encounter a little bit of the wet but you'll have a ball. Tell 'em Malcy sent you!!! From the highest spot in Port Douglas, looking down on Four Mile Beach. I disturbed this beauty whilst snorkelling off the Low Isles The view from the deck of the Combined Servic es club at Port Douglas, Paradis e!