So for those that are not familiar with Australian geography (myself included pre-trip), Queensland is one of six states in Australia, and covers the northeast coast (a part close to the equator). Queensland is famous for Brisbane, the ability to hold a koala, the gold coast, and the piece de la resistance, the Great Barrier Reef. When we decided to honeymoon in Australia I gave my husband one requirement, I must hold a koala bear. His requirement, dive the great barrier reef, so naturally, we had to head up to Queensland after Sydney.
After a short 2-3 hour flight into Cairns, which included popsicles, full meals, and practically a red carpet (I love you Qantas) we had arrived. We were renting a car as we were staying about an hour north of Cairns in a town called Port Douglas. What you’ll find with our travels is that we go where the Starwood’s are, and Port Douglas checked all the boxes. Now, Australians drive on what I call, the wrong side of the road, and as Steve is the navigator, it meant I was in the driver’s seat. This is the second time I’d been driving on the left side of the road, the first time was in desolate Middle Caicos but this, this was a trafficked area. Our “left’s are easy, right’s are hard” mantra was going to be helpful, but would not calm my initial nerves, especially since I almost took down a row of cars just trying to leave the rental car lot. But there we were with no other option but to drive it. So after realizing the right lane was the fast lane, putting the windshield wipers on everytime I meant to put on my blinker, and navigating what felt like 100 roundabouts, we, and all other drivers on the road, arrived at their destination unscathed.
We stayed at the Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas hotel*. Many reviewers mentioned that for a hotel, it was beautiful but a little dated, and we didn’t mind. The hotel itself sat a few yards above beautiful four mile beach, had sweeping groups, multiple pools, and was a short car ride into the main town area where lovely restaurants and boutiques dotted the street. You could even walk into town via the beach and take a bus back if you were so inclined. We were slated to spend 5 nights in Port Douglas, and would be maximizing every possible moment.
That started with visiting Mossman Gorge. Part of the allure of Port Douglas is not only does it have a beautiful beach and access to the Great Barrier Reef, it is surrounded by the Daintree Rain Forest, a beautiful lush rain forest in Queensland. The Mossman Gorge contains beautiful water falls, swimming holes, trails and look-outs for visitors to explore. After checking in at the visitor center, a free shuttle bus drops you off at the trail head. Not knowing what to truly expect, we were off. The water hole is one of the first things you pass, but we wanted to save that for the end. After a few hours of walking through well defined trails and bridges, we circled back to the watering hole where families, friends, and people of all ages were jumping right on in. Since the water was total run-off from the mountains, it was freezing, though I still took the plunge in…sort of. I don’t think I dunked my head. Though who knows, I may have been bribed with chocolate or gelato afterwards if I did.
Mossman was beautiful and set the tone for a great rest of our time in Port Douglas. Our dive/snorkel adventure was still a few days away, and my main requirement, hold a koala bear was next up.
The Port Douglas Wildlife Habitat is an incredible experience. We spent a good half day there and I would do it again in a heart beat. We arrived as the habitat was opening (which I would recommend), and the entrance fee was pricey, but so worth it. I think it was 35 dollars maybe? As you enter the wildlife habitat you can purchase in their cafe area bags of feed for the wallabies and kangaroos. Bags cost between 3-5 dollars and lasted the entire time we spent feeding the animals. Upon entrance, you are first greeted by delightful little wallabies. I literally was taken back to my days watching nickelodeon after school and Rocko’s Modern Life. I never really knew what a wallaby was but there I was feeding them!
After Wallabies we graduated to full-on kangaroos. Even ones with little joey’s in their pouches. It was adorable! The area was also fairly open, and you were co-mingled with kangaroos, pelicans (their beaks are terrifying – they warned us not to get too close), and Emu’s. My husband actually fed an Emu, I was too terrified. Since the animals were so used to humans feeding them, I wouldn’t use the term aggressive, but at the same time, the kangaroos demanded their snacks. I joked that one was a gate keeper that wouldn’t let you pass without paying a toll. We hadn’t even seen the koalas yet and already I was thrilled. We spent at least 1-2 hour feeding all these different animals and chatting with some of the staff about the various animals before us. After we ran out of feed we went into the cafe area to figure out when and where I could hold a koala. Times were posted in the cafe, as well as various tours. We took a tour of the birds of the habitat and were not disappointed. There were two birds that stuck with me. One was a bird who looked like he had been attacked by another animal, feathers missing, and in complete disarray. When we asked the guide about this bird, he said that the bird had lost his soulmate and could not bare life without her, so he had started to pluck away at his feathers. Kind of the most romantic bird ever, no? The second bird was this agile, athletic thing where you could throw a worm anywhere and it would catch it. We all got the opportunity to throw worms and that bird did not disappoint. If he could be a wide receiver for anyone, football would not be a fair fight.
Now after we saw the birds, it was finally time for my main event. Which again, much like the Grand Canyon was almost secondary at this point. After feeding the wallabies and kangaroos holding a koala seemed cool, but it wasn’t a fully interactive experience. A very tired, adorable animal is plopped on your chest and then a minute or two later extracted from your body and draped across someone else. Not nearly as fun as little creatures feeding from your hands, but no less cool. Bucket list item complete!
I feel like I could go on forever, but will break out the Great Barrier Reef into another post. Until then, drive safely!
*Recently underwent extensive renovations