07 August 2008

Trip to Cairns and Port Douglas

We just got back from our first longish trip in the new car, and the first longish trip in any car since my hip operations 18 months ago. We went up to coast to Cairns and Port Douglas and back again. We been told by a lot of people that good deals on hotels could be had, as the whole region is suffering from lack of tourists (cost of petrol is one reason; cuts in airline services is another), and so it proved when I checked on my favourite online booking site, Wotif. We left on Monday, 28 July, driving only as far as Townsville (300 km). The drive was very good: beautiful weather, and very little traffic on the road. The independent truck drivers are said to be on strike, so instead of the usual steady stream of semi-trailers, we saw about 6 in 4 hours. The main highway is two-lane most of the way (one lane in each direction), and the road surface is often in poor repair, so the lack of trucks was most pleasant. We did a bit of shopping and checked out a retirement resort (Carlyle Gardens) in Townsville that looks much like Panorama City in Lacey, Washington (where my parents lived): about the same size (number of residents), same sort of facilities and activities, and so on. I've been doing some internet research for a couple of years, but this is the first time we've actually gone to inspect one of these resorts. Eric's not keen, but he knows that one of these years we'll probably have to move somewhere for medical reasons, so he's willing to look at places that might suit us. Their website, by the way, is a bit out of date; it doesn't show the large new section that is under construction. We'll be returning for a closer look on their open day in September. We had a great drive up the coast, stopping briefly at Paronella Park, a mostly-ruined place with a fascinating history as a popular tourist destination in the 1930s and 1940s. We really enjoyed our 3 days in Cairns. We stayed three nights in a 5-star hotel (Cairns International) for about the cost of our usual 3.5 star motels. The weather was beautiful, so we walked around quite a lot (more than I've done for two years; very tiring, but definitely good for me). We ate in one of our favourite seafood restaurants (Barnacle Bills), among other places. Trips to the reef and rainforest are no novelty for us, so we didn't do any of that. Goofing off, and not accessing the internet, makes a really great break for us. Then on to Port Douglas, just a hour's drive up the coast from Cairns, where we stayed for 3 days at Le Cher du Monde on Macrossan Street, the main shopping-and-restaurant street. The apartment was quite comfortable and the location was ideal. Ours faced the pool, so if there was any street noise at night, we didn't hear it. More goofing off in beautiful weather, interspersed with long walks around town. We were interested to see that the old place we'd stayed in years and years ago (Coconut Grove) has recently been replaced by a large modern upmarket resort building. On our way back down the coast, we stopped for two nights at Port Hinchinbrook in Cardwell, a resort that turned out to be almost deserted of visitors, with extremely limited food options. We ended up driving the 3 km to Cardwell (a small town strung out along the sea shore) and picking up takeaway food (salads and sandwiches) there. Our cabin was otherwise pleasant, and had its own outdoor spa. Our original plans called for taking a cruise to the resort on Hinchinbrook Island for the day, but we chose not to, preferring to sit around reading our books instead. Then home to Airlie Beach the next day. I'm working on an album of photos of the trip and will post a link here when it's done and uploaded.