Don’t wear a dress on a boat and other Australian lessons

Posh Port Douglas is a swanky resort town for Australia’s wealthy retirees.

It is in Northern Queensland near two World Heritage areas—the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest, which some argue is the world’s oldest rainforest.

My plan was to spend two to three days in town, explore the rainforest and the reef, and then slowly make my way down the Queensland coast. But Port Douglas had an unexplainable and addictive charm and two days somehow turned into two weeks.

There are a couple of distinct types of residents in Port Douglas: wealthy retirees who frequent the ritzy resorts, restaurants and golf courses, and young backpackers from all corners of the world who work at the resorts, restaurants, and golf courses. With minimum wage nearing $20 an hour, everyone is a winner here. Furthermore, it seemed that nearly all the waiters, hostesses, chefs, baristas and other service staff lived at Dougies.

Dougies is the hostel/campground I was staying at. Most of my neighbours had been there for months and I soon had many friends.

The members of the Port Douglas Yacht Club offer visitors sunset cruises Wednesday evenings. April, Matthias and I walked over from Dougies. Doug invited us for a ride with two other tourists and gave each of us a chance to steer. The port was beautiful, sparkling as the sun went down.

Doug gave us a Port Douglas history lesson while we leisurely sailed down the river. Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I enthusiastically volunteered to steer second. We were setting off to sea. The winds grew stronger and the water got choppier.

I was starting to regret wearing a dress. The boat rocked more aggressively. I started to panic but had to keep my cool and steer our boat with one hand—so we didn’t tip over—while doing my best to hold my dress down with the other. No one seemed to be concerned. Doug sat relaxed on deck, pointing in the right direction. We finally made our way back to the river and it was time to change drivers.

Don’t ever wear a dress on a boat.

I spent my mornings doing yoga at Port’s Four Mile Beach. It is a five-minute walk from anywhere in town, and with little visible development, it feels peacefully secluded. Sundays, April and I explored the local farmer’s market with its many exotic fruits, local art and homeopathic remedies. The freshly squeezed sugar cane juice from nearby sugar cane fields was a healthy and natural energy booster.

I met Jake while eating my breakfast at Dougies. He worked as a waiter at one of the chichi restaurants and had been calling Port his home for the past six months. I overheard him talking to his friends about going on a fishing trip, and though I am a vegetarian, I was keen on spotting a crocodile. Jake promised me a crocodile sighting if I joined them, and so I did—several times.

Jake insisted that the best fishing spots were the unmarked ones. I would sit and watch the crew as they tried to catch something, while also keeping guard from the crocodiles. One day Adam kept me entertained as he explained the art of opening a coconut. It was a full body workout!

One afternoon as I was waiting for my laundry to dry at Dougies, I met Dave, who revealed a secret that lay on the bums of the little green ants.

“You have to lick their bums,” he insisted. Seriously? Curiosity convinced me to give it a shot, and I was instantly amazed from the burst of fresh lime in my mouth. Apparently, some bars in the neighbourhood use these ants in their drinks, to give it an extra kick. I somehow later convinced April to lick the ant-bums as well. That day we went to a local bar to participate in cane toad racing, where the MC made April kiss her toad. With all that effort, I was disappointed that her prince didn’t show up.

I can’t say why exactly Port Douglas was so special. There was no shortage of mosquitoes or geckos. The humidity ruined my hairdo. There just was something about it that made people stay, get together, and enjoy life.

4 Comments on "Don’t wear a dress on a boat and other Australian lessons"

  1. Alexandra Little | January 9, 2013 at 2:31 am | Reply

    Seeing the pictures was nothing but stunning. The amazing clash of fauna and flora all in one breathtaking site. I wish I can get to experience Port Douglas. I’ll just bring some insect repellant for the mosquitoes. For geckos,I am not of them either. Humidity won’t be problem too. Thanks for sharing! –

  2. This is such a wonderful place. Worth visiting too! Though I would agree on you with the mosquitoes. Bummer. But we still enjoyed being there.

  3. I think this place is something. I havent been there so I guess Imma pretty thrilled having this on my to-do list. Thanks for sharing!

  4. It was a year ago when my wife and I went to this place. It has something that a lot of people would feel comfortable and at ease. The mosquitoes are not big of a threat since we had our insect repellent at that time.

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