Far North Queensland has the tropical luxury of Port Douglas with lazy ceiling fans, cocktails and fantastic food but also back to basics four-wheel driving beyond Cape York with hidden pristine beaches. Even the main road from Cairns is a World Heritage area. The Coral sea is the most eye-catching aquamarine but take heed of the signs warning of salt-water crocodiles (salties.) The realisation that you're no longer top of the food chain gives you a whole new perspective on life. Still wanting to feel small in the marine world but much safer? Take a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas. Much quieter than the backpacker chaos of Cairns, no "salties" out this far, choose a boat with a marine biologist on-board and swap watching on BBC 2 for a snorkel and flippers. See it soon - global climate change might mean its all gone in thirty years time. Even that fact on its own has been life-changing for us.
We visited the reef with Wavelength www.wavelength.com.au/ - oldest in operation, set up by a marine biologist
Shop 20, Meridien Marina Mirage, Wharf Street Port Douglas
+61(0)7 4099 5031
At ground level its a classic Australian pub- patterned carpet, slot machine, sport on the television. Climb the narrow stairs to the roof top terrace and you're high above the Rocks, seemingly eye to eye with the sails of the Opera House. You can sit back with a cold schooner of beer to watch the traffic of Sydney ferries coming and going. At this height the intrepid Harbour bridge climbers look less like ants and more like people. Best of all, its the closest pub to the Bridgeclimb so you can celebrate with your foolhardy friends who've braved the climb whilst you've enjoyed an effort-free view of Sydney Harbour.
Fjall Garden is an amazing bar just 500m above the main cable car station in Are. It's done out as a hunting lodge, with open fires and a sundeck with reindeer skins on the south terrace. It has amazing apres-ski with live bands from 4pm. Best of all, you can get up to it from town on the little funicular railway, or ski down from the chairlifts. It's only a 500m slide if you have to ski back to the main village well refreshed and wobbly of leg.
Top of the funicular from beside the Are ski shop.
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