Far North Queensland

Posted by Steven on August 11, 2022



Where an ancient rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef.


Our team recently spent ten days exploring this diverse and fascinating region in April 2022. Cairns welcomed us without a mask in site. It’s back to normal here in the far north of the Australian continent.


First stop was Port Douglas, a vibrant beach side community with good quality accommodation and excellent restaurants. Bookings are essential as every night out here is busy, with delectable food offerings and plenty of people watching. We dined at La Cucina, for authentic, ‘high end’ Italian fare. The waiters from the old country are skilled and very Italian in their temperament! Lots of gesticulating and emotions on display in this popular corner eatery on Port Douglas Main Street. It was a delight.


An early morning walk from the well positioned Peninsula Boutique Hotel affords a stunning sunrise beach walk. The short hike up to a lookout over the whole of Port Douglas was worth the effort. We had an early morning swim before breakfast in the ‘net’ on Port Douglas beach.


As the sun rose over the beach we enjoyed local fresh fruit at the peninsula, with peeps of the sea, through the palm trees, contemplating our trip into the Mossman Gorge later in the day.


Port Douglas shops have a good selection for those who may have forgotten to some essential beachwear. A trip to Tommy Bahamas for flip flops and we were ready to head off and explore.


We caught the Sunday market in full swing by historic St Marys by the sea and drove through sugar cane plantations glimpsing the occasional view of the extraordinary coastline. We made our way inland to the river system known as the Mossman Gorge. Locals were swimming in waterholes as we drove by.


Our arrival at Silky Oaks Lodge for a light lunch in the river terrace open air dining area, did not disappoint. This multi million dollar refit is a stunning upgrade to a resort, sited in a very special place.


You can swim in the cool green river here or bask by the natural ‘waterhole’ style swimming pool. We did both during our stay.


The rooms at Silky Oaks are sleek modern with natural materials of local wood and deep grey green marble elements, which complement their forest surroundings. The addition of a gypsy style fringed hammock on the balcony is a nice touch, as are the dark grey baths sited outdoors, where you can bathe in candlelight while listening to the forest sounds around you.


Equally luxurious are the offerings from the on site spa with a range of treatments that combine ancient concepts for wellness from the local Indigenous peoples.


Evening canapés in the open air bar, followed by a fine dining experience topped off a wonderful first day in this stunning lodge.


The next day we went Walkabout with Juan Walker, a local first peoples guide who is a fountain of knowledge about plants and animals in this region. His people have always lived in this region.


The Walkabout tour is an adventure to say the least! Juan’s grandmother was born in an ancient birthing pool 100 metres inland from Silky Oaks Lodge. He spoke of the ancient tribal ways of living here and the sadness of times that followed as that way of life was disrupted.


As well as his guiding business, Juan teaches at the local primary school and enthusiastically passes on his knowledge with all who spend time with him. It was a privilege to learn more about 40,000 years of human habitation on this continent.


We learned how to throw our spear further, with a woomera, then explore the mangrove system at low tide in search of the delicious mud crab. We speared the crabs as the tide recessed in a surprising surge of adrenaline, tapping into our origins as hunter gatherers.


With our catch in hand, we headed off to cook our crabs in the Mossman Gorge, over an open fire. Time for a quick swim in the cool green river before our lunch of limes, grilled fresh mud crab and damper. A very special experience indeed.


Walking around the grounds at Silky Oak Lodge you can find a huge range of flora and fauna. Carry a small stick and watch out for the odd golden web spiders hanging over head. (A tip my wife learned after she had walked straight into a spider’s web!)


The day before a guest had encountered a cassowary on the trail. These imposing large blue flightless birds are prehistoric and an essential part of the ecological system here in the rainforest.


The next day we explored more of the Daintree with Matt of Far North Queensland Nature tours.


The wonderful Solar Whisper tour on the Daintree River will bring you up close and personal with crocodiles both large and small, as well as delightful green tree frogs and birds of all descriptions. A favourite was the stunning blue ‘Azures ‘ of the kingfisher family. An Evening stroll on the board walk in the heart of the Daintree Rainforest revealed forest dragons, snakes, white tailed rats and more beautiful birds including the red mouthed shining cuckoo. A fish dinner on the beach before heading home to the splendour of Silky Oaks Lodge, saw the end of another wonderful day.


It was time to leave the rainforest at the edge of the reef and head inland by helicopter from Cairns to an Australian cattle ranch experience in ‘laid back luxury’ at Mt Mulligan Lodge. Situated in the red dirt country of the Atherton Tableland, at the foot of majestic Mt Mulligan (known by the first peoples as Ngarrabullgan) this lodge is a site to behold.


Generous guest pavilions housing a total of 20 guests, are situated on the water’s edge of a sparkling eucalyptus-fringed weir. The weir and lodge swimming pool capture the majestic beauty and moods of the 18-kilometre long limestone escarpment that is Mt Mulligan.


Interiors reflect the farming heritage in the most luxurious way possible. Rooms are large and spacious, each with views of the glorious rock escarpment which towers above the ranch. Longer and wider than Uluru, this mountain demands your attention and leaves you in wonder about the almost 40,000 years of human occupation in this area. Mt Mulligan is known in Dreamtime stories as the birthplace of the rainbow serpent.


We were fortunate to join the muster on this 28,000 hectare working cattle station with guide Simone, who has so much knowledge of this very special place. Real life Australian cow cockies, their horses and dogs were assisted by helicopters and four wheel motorbikes to move hundreds of cattle across this red earthed landscape. This was a quintessential Australian experience.


The main magnificent main pavilion at Mt Mulligan is a generous take on pastoral living, with extra high ceilings, recycled timber beams and lavish camp-style chairs. Young children fished at dusk for barramundi and to their delight, they were successful. A quiet kayak on the weir afforded us with wild life spotting opportunities, as did a walk on the trail around the weir.


Mt Mulligan Lodge offered up an exquisite dining experience as we sampled a seven course degustation next to a red hot brazier, watching the moonlight reflected on the surrounding weir.


The following day we made the more adventurous trek to a waterfall in the foothills of Ngarrabullgan, where we swam under the waterfall, just after sunrise and contemplated all those who had swum here before us. Beautiful views over the valley as far as the eye could see, are etched into our memories forever.


It was time to depart Mt Mulligan via helicopter, with a new adventure waiting in the wings.


We were off over the Great Barrier Reef, to Lizard Island. A one hour flight from Cairns this island is the most Far North of experiences in the Great Barrier Reef system. Due to the scientific marine research station being sited here, Lizard Island affords its guests outstanding snorkelling experiences. Vibrant violet and iridescent blue clam gardens, colour explosions of tiny coral fish, and the amazing excursion of swimming alongside sea turtles. This island has it all. A remote Great Barrier Reef island which delivers the ultimate in barefoot luxury.


An exclusive Great Barrier Reef experience, away from the crowds, you will appreciate all this island has to offer. It is a relaxed beach cabana vibe without any real pretension. Staff are warm and welcoming.


Staying in the beach front suites, we loved being able to step off our private deck, down the sandy path, to where the beach and Great Barrier Reef awaits.


A number of signature Lizard Island experiences are on offer here, and we particularly enjoyed our gourmet picnic on one of the Lizard Island remote beaches, under a jauntily stripped portable beach cabana.


You can travel to the private beach in your own motorised dinghy or arrange a drop off and pick up by boat. Time seems to stop with only the aqua blue clear water and the coral white sand between your toes. A deep sea fishing experience aboard the stunning 50 m launch Pisces resulted in a fine catch of coral trout which the chef at Lizard Island proudly served to discerning diners in the beach side restaurant that evening!


A tour of the outstanding new offering known as ‘The House’ at Lizard Island revealed an exceptional quality build with 260 degree views. This property is an architectural masterpiece with its own staff, plunge pool and the luxury launch Pisces at your disposal, offers the very finest and exclusive experience at Lizard Island. It was hard to say goodbye to this exceptional place.


Our last night we spent at the Crystalbrook Riley in Cairns with a vibrant Mediterranean style dining experience at Rocco up high, overlooking the harbour.


Far North Queensland has so much to offer and will not disappoint the curious and discerning traveller.