Tweet Manookatoo Adventures: Port Douglas - and Paradise

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Port Douglas - and Paradise


After 6 days "shore bound" at the marina at Yorkeys Knob by windy weather, we were happy to see a favourable forecast from Meteye, and on Wednesday morning, at 5:30am, we made our way back into Half Moon Bay. We followed the shoreline past Trinity Beach and Palm Cove, then took the channel between Double Island and Buchan Point (having watched the much larger Coral Expeditions cruise ship doing this two days earlier, we knew it was deep enough).
On our way to Port Douglas!
We cruised past Ellis Beach and Four Mile Beach, rounding Island Point and entering Dickson Inlet, or Port Douglas, just before 10am. Most tour boats had left for the day so we had no trouble entering Reef Marina, where we had arranged a berth. Port Douglas has always been a favourite place, as we had one of our first holidays, as well as our honeymoon, here. We were keen to explore, and walked along the waterfront and along Macrossan Street to Four Mile Beach, where we enjoyed a swim - inside the stinger net, of course - our first ocean swim in almost a week! We returned to Manookatoo for lunch, then ventured out again, taking the path to the lookout and returning along the foreshore. We enjoyed a late afternoon drink at the Port Douglas Yacht Club before dinner. We are fortunate to get a breeze off the water, as it is quite warm here!

Four Mile Beach
On Thursday we walked along the bike path and past Marina Mirage Resort to Four Mile Beach, where the captain enjoyed another swim but the first mate was put off by the amount of leaf litter and plant debris in the water - stirred up by the previous week's strong winds. We returned to Manookatoo for breakfast, then headed to Macrossan Street, to do some shopping together and for the first mate to have some "retail therapy". The shops at Port Douglas are either cheap touristy places or high end fashion/gift shops, so it was lovely to look but easy to resist buying anything. We enjoyed lunch at "The Tin Shed" Combined Club on the verandah over the water, then returned to Manookatoo and turned on the air-con; we don't use it very often but it was quite muggy! Later, as the breeze came in, we enjoyed sundowners on the Flybridge before dinner.
Approaching Low Island
Stinger season has begun
On Friday morning we enjoyed another walk to the beach and a swim - for both of us this time - then back to the boat for breakfast before we cast off from the Marina and headed out, bound for the Low Isles, 9.4 nautical miles away. There was a slight swell, with enough rolling waves to make the cruise interesting! We pulled up a public mooring not far off the beach, and were just contemplating a swim off the back of the boat when the sharks arrived - half a dozen reef sharks, lots of smaller sharks and quite a few large fish - enough to make us change our minds about a dip! The Low Isles is a popular tourist boat destination, and they feed the fish off the back of their boats as part of the tour - hence the attraction of marine life to our boat. We cruised ashore, anchoring away from the tourists, and enjoyed our first swim in Stinger Suits, then walked around the island checking out the lighthouse, keepers' houses and reef research shed, dating back to the 1920s, the first reef research undertaken anywhere in the world. It is bird nesting season, with many species from pigeon to tern to osprey choosing this as their baby raising location. It was lovely walking along the paths hearing all the bird sounds, and quite amazing how many birds there are on such a little island. After lunch we went ashore again, choosing a spot near where others had been snorkeling, and marveling at the beautiful coral and fish. Our best snorkel so far! As the afternoon wore on the tourist boats departed and we enjoyed a night on our own watching the Low Island light flash over the Coral Sea.
All alone at Snapper Island
On Saturday the first tour boat arrived just on 8am! We did our exercises, challenged by the swell, then had breakfast and motored ashore in the dinghy for another snorkel. The first spot we chose was too swelly, with little to see, so we moved and found a spot on our own to enjoy the coral and fish. Returning to Manookatoo we dropped the mooring, heading north just 7 nautical miles to Snapper Island, a much larger and higher island near Cape Kimberley, where we pulled up another public mooring. We motored ashore for a swim and reconnaissance - there are picnic and camping facilities here but it is much quieter than Low Island. We tried snorkeling on the southern side, near the camping spots; the coral was not very "clean" but there were some lovely fish. Cruising around to the northern side the snorkeling was much more rewarding, however as a consequence the beach was littered with coral and much harder to walk on, so we didn't venture far. As the sun set over the Daintree we marveled at the remote beauty that surrounded us.
Daintree River Ferry

After studying the tides and doing his research, the captain dropped the mooring at 7am on Sunday, and we cruised across the sea to the mouth of the Daintree River. With a dynamic (shifting) sandbar, we were keen to cross on a rising tide, and we watched the depth gauge drop steadily with some trepidation, following the entrance markers then keeping an eye on Google Earth and the "blue dot" as  we made our way upstream. We passed a couple of shoaling bends with very little under the keel, and the captain kept a "tracker" on the chart to make it easier to come out again! 9.5 kms upstream, the ferry to Cape Tribulation road crosses the river, and we anchored just after that for breakfast, before taking the dinghy to shore. Apart from tourist information signs and two croc tours, there is little here - Daintree township is further upstream. We decided we had seen enough and, with the day already warming, crocs in the river and the tide at its highest, we pulled up the anchor, returning downstream more easily with the aid of the captain's track and entering the Coral Sea again at 10:30. We made the 2.5 nautical miles trip back across to Snapper Island, and were amazed to see many small boats anchored near the sand on the south west side. This is obviously a popular destination for a "Sunday drive" for locals looking for a place to swim, fish, snorkel and relax on their own desert island! We were even able to help out one boat which had come from Daintree and was missing its bungs (they keep the water out) - champagne corks made an adequate replacement for the trip back - but I wouldn't fancy being in a boat taking in water as it cruised up that croc infested river! As the afternoon wore on, all the locals left, and we were alone in our tropical paradise again, enjoying a late afternoon snorkel before sundowners on the Flybridge, admiring the colours in the sky over the Daintree as the sun went down. The inky skies later that night also had us sitting on the front of the boat admiring the Milky Way before bed.
Sunset, Snapper Island
We have done very little walking these past few days so, conscious of maintaining fitness, we completed our exercises on a rocking boat on Monday morning, before a refreshing swim and breakfast. Later that morning we took the dinghy to the shore again for some more snorkeling - the coral is so beautiful here that, even though it was high tide and therefore not quite as close to see, it is hard not to enjoy looking at it. Returning to Manookatoo we dropped the mooring and headed back across the sea to the Low Isles. On the way across, the Captain mixed the dough for his delicious focaccia and left it to rise, to be cooked for lunch. We picked up a mooring at Low Island, then began to cook the bread before a swim and snorkel, but the generator refused to start! Suspecting another impeller had gone, we dropped the mooring and headed into Port Douglas, preferring to be able to get help if we needed it (this also enabled us to connect to electricity and cook the focaccia, which was delicious!) - but the captain was able to replace the impeller himself, problem averted. We walked up to the Combined Club in the afternoon, enjoying a drink on the balcony as we watched the antics on the boat ramp - always entertaining - then returned to Manookatoo for salmon dinner on the back deck.
View from the Combined club
A massive thunderstorm woke us in the early hours of Tuesday - it dumped 40mm of rain on the city! Drizzle persisted during the morning, but, undaunted, we took a bike ride along the tourist train track to St Crispin station, then rode a different bike track back to the boat. We then walked up to the shops to restock, returning to Manookatoo for a freshen up before going out for lunch at the Central Hotel. A lazy afternoon followed, with a sunset drink at Hemingways Brewery to finish off our time in Port Douglas.
Return to Low Island
On Wednesday we took an early walk around the streets, stopping to buy some Mocka's Pies - famous in this part of the world - to have for lunch. After breakfast we cast off from the Marina and headed down Dickson Inlet, back towards the Low Isles again! This will be our "final fun" week of cruising before we return to Cairns to prepare the boat for its summer hiatus, so we are off to explore some more of what the Great Barrier Reef has to offer....

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