Port Douglas - Part I

Zipadedoda of Dart
David H Kerr
Fri 12 Sep 2008 15:43

We arrived off the entrance to Port Douglas Harbour and the Douglas creek at first light on the morning of 9th September. It was once again a “grey day” but that did not detract from the attractive nature of the entrance and the delightful architecture of this charming small town. The entrance is a little like that into the river Yealm in Devon. That is in so far as the fact that there is a bar over the entrance, with leading marks. That are WRONG! Follow these at your peril. That said, there were two sets of clearly marked Red and Green Channel markers. This leads you up to the river, and past the pile moorings, for the live aboard boats, and in fairly short order Marina Mirage presents itself on the port side.  This is a very well put together small Marina with a significant number of the boats being charter boats of all types. For there is a great variety of commercial craft. From high speed catamarans, some of which were from the same drawing board as “Darth Vader”, to old fashioned Paddle Steamers, to a mixture of sailing vessels. We had been pre-allocated berth B13, which was quite easy to find and to negotiate. But at low water our newly painted keel was resting in the mud beneath us. 16:29:13S 145:27:61E. It was directly opposite the fuel dock, so not the most peaceful spot in the marina.


    Marina Mirage and the shopping arcade behind


It is hard to believe that in 1877, this town was the centre of the Australian Gold Rush. Supporting some 30,000 miners and prospectors. There were allegedly over 100 brothels in town and innumerable bars and other diversions for the hard working “digger”. After the gold fields failed, the town fell into steep decline and at one time the population had dwindled down to a mere 300 souls,  The industry at the turn of the last century (around 1904) was transportation of sugar cane, from the wharf near the mouth of the Douglas creek. The storage sheds on the quay  were then used to store the sugar cane, brought here by narrow gauge steam trains from the surrounding farms.  What remains of these sheds is now used by the “combined clubs”, which is a great spot for a value for money lunch whilst watching the activities on the water.


In 1911 disaster struck Port Douglas in the form of a Cyclone. This wiped out most of the buildings in the town and surrounding area. One of the very few surviving buildings (originally constructed n 1880), was the church of St Mary’s by the Sea.


    St Mary’s by the Sea


This was “relocated” to its current site after the natural disaster and is now a very popular venue for weddings for out of town folk’s.


Today, Port Douglas is a thriving tourist resort. Aimed mostly at the more well healed Aussie. The marina itself boosts an up market shopping arcade with what must be around 40 plus retail and F& B outlets. Part of which is the old train station. There are fashion shops galore, and restaurants to cater for every taste on the planet. Just loads of “therapy” outlets from Acupuncture to aromatherapy massage, and all manner of other treatments and pampering available for those in need of de-stressing. Not to mention the obligatory Didgeridoo boutiques and Australian and Oceanic art shops.


    Downtown Port Douglas architecture


As mentioned earlier there are many charter boats based on the creek.  This is because of the fact that Port Douglas is an ideal stepping off point for the Great Barrier Reef and the Low Isles. These being just 8nm east of the town. Here you can snorkel, see Turtles, coral gardens and generally have an aquatic frolic. Or if you please you can take a dive boat or a high speed reef ferry. For these looking for a more relaxing adventure, there is the Lady Douglas.


   The Lady Douglas



This converted river paddle steamer (the paddles are now strictly for decoration), plies the creeks inland from the town. In search of Salt water Crocodiles and other Flora and Fauna unique to Australia and this part of the Queensland coast line.


One of the advantages for the visiting yachtie of all these charter boats, is a very well stocked Chandlers run by very helpful friendly folks and an infrastructure of Marine engineers.


The following day we rented a car to tour the area and visit some of the more interesting tourist attractions in the region…………………


At this point I will leave you with another Aussie gem we saw in a lunchtime restaurant. Next to the till, where you paid for your “grub”, in advance, was a glass jar with coins in it. Attached to this ornament, was a hand written notice that said, and I quote “Big tippers make the best lovers”. How could you resist? Even if the lady behind the counter weighed in at around 20+ stones……….