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Port, Palm, posh meals and pies...North Queensland

Using Trip Advisor to sort out where to eat, rest and play...

Where to stay Port Douglas or Palm Cove? We couldn't decide either, and in the grip of indeciveness we booked one night at Yorkey's Knob, close to the Airport, and then three nights in both Port Douglas and Palm Cove!
Port Douglas has a perfect location to explore the Daintree National Park, Cape Tribulation, and of course the Great Barrier Reef. It also has the magnificent, but underwhelming, four mile beach, but is expensive, busy, and in our opinion not as charming as Palm Cove.
Oaks Lagoon swim out apartments
Palm Cove is closer to Cairns Airport, (26 kms) and is yet to be over developed. There is plenty of luxurious beach front accommodation and restaurants which compare favourably to those in Port Douglas. From here you can access to The Great Barrier Reef, Atherton Tablelands and if staying put in the village enjoy a fabulous esplanade, jetty and beach area. We found it cheaper than Port Douglas...
So of the two destinations we would choose Palm over Port for our next holiday in the region. Click here for more discussion on where is best!
I find booking family travel (hotels, restaurants and activities) so much easier to fathom these days using Trip Advisor (Click here to see our Queensland reviews). It saves endless hours researching at the computer and we've not yet been disappointed. Just call me sad, but generally I don't look much below top 12 and I get a real buzz at trying out anything ranked in the top three on Trip Advisors recommendations...
In Australia if we are by water we will often try to eat at the local Surf Lifesaving or Yacht club. You don't need to be a member to eat at these venues you just sign in as a guest on arrival. In towns often the RSL (the Returned and Services League of Australia) can be a good bet for a reasonably priced meal.
PORT DOUGLAS

'Ewww! Does that mean that anyone can swim up to our back door?'
Yes, and if they do, we can get our own back and swim up to their's...
That last comment probably won't win me a Parent of the Year award, but what is it with teenagers and their privacy?! I had visions of sitting on the back deck with a bottle of red enjoying the sunset, the kids splashing around in the pool with their new friends...
 
Nah, I should have done my research better. The reality was they needn't have worried. Unless the other guests were descended from polar bears, or came ready prepared with wet suits and waterproof thermals, there was not going to be too much activity in the pool in July... Too jolly cold and very brrrrr...
 

A quick trip to Port Douglas' Four Mile Beach however, reinforces the delights and attraction of a cold hotel swimming pool. Swimming in the local waters come with several warnings; if the Crocs don't get you, the stingers in summer might! Although don't let the jelly fish put you off going to the beach, the area gets netted for swimmers protection during the marine stinger season.
 

Four Mile Beach with it's firm sand is a perfect beach for a long walk or for jogging. The palm trees along the edge mean that even in the height of summer you can always find some shade...
 

What we did love about Port (as the locals call it), were the restaurants...Here are some of the ones we tried...
  • #1 Trip Advisor Salsa Bar & Grill - 26 Wharf St, Port Douglas, Queensland 4871
 

Salsa was booked 10 days ahead, and had three pages of people on the waitlist when we tried making a reservation for dinner. That tells you something n'est pas? However we were able to walk in and get a table for a late lunch at 2pm. This was cleverly timed to judge for ourselves what all the fuss was about and why they won Best Modern Australian Restaurant in Queensland, along with a stack of other awards in 2012...
Salsa Bar and Grill is housed a traditional Queenslander house with views across to the water. To us it was fine dining in a relaxed Aussie way. Our lunch was interesting, delicious, impressive and a restaurant that you would want to return to again and again, it was equally as good as Silky Oaks Lodge Treehouse Restaurant (#1 Trip Advisor Mossman restaurants) which we raved about in a previous blog.

Salsa Bar and Grill, Port Douglas
We also tried out the following
  • #3 Trip Advisor Whileaway Coffee Shop - my sort of place great coffees, milkshakes, smoothies in a bookshop - tick tick
 
  • #13 Trip Advisor Port Douglas Yacht Club - a great setting, nice barramundi & chips and if you turn up on a Wednesday at 4pm there is a chance you get invited out to crew on one of the boats. friendly, good value
 
  • #14 Trip Advisor Port Douglas Surf Life Saving Club- food was really very good, and different, great value, need to book in school holidays, very laid back like being at a mates place for a Barbie. Cool wind off the beach, bring a cardi.
PALM COVE
 

We stayed at The Elysium Apartments, Palm Cove (# 2 Trip Advisor) which we reckon should be #1! The apartments are set back one block, tremendous value, the pool is not massive but big enough, we couldn't fault the layout in our 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment. We hired a internet modem for the room $12 per day - hallelujah a place that recognises that a modern family needs to be wired 24/7 even on holiday!!
 
View of Palm Cove beach from the jetty
We loved the beach at Palm Cove and walking along the Esplanade could easily over time become one of my all time favourite walks. Palm Cove is big enough to give you choices, small enough to make you feel like you got to know the place.
  • # 2 Trip Advisor Chill Cafe - A warm fabulous welcome, great food and the best coffee we found in Palm Cove, Not sure why we tried anywhere else because this place was perfect, and 2 minutes from our apartments.
 
  • # 3 Trip Advisor Vivo Bar & Grill - We had the $39 two course special which included a glass of wine. Very nice food, nice evening, no complaints but not wow-wee!
 
  • # 18 Trip Advisor The Surf Club - great $15 steak deal on Wednesday nights, steak was better than the one at Vivos the previous night at half the size and double the price.
 
  • # 31 Trip Advisor Portobello - this restaurant was packed every night, so lucky we branched out lower down the Trip Advisor list to find a hidden gem, for fantastic pizzas and all things Italian.
KURANDA
 
# 1 Trip Advisor Petit Cafe - This is where Trip Advisor is brilliant! Tucked away in the market area, we would never have found this gem of a French Creperie without help... The Buckwheat pancakes were the best I have ever had, the tea and coffee less good, not sure whether this was because of the water which can be highly chlorinated but do not miss when in Kuranda.
Crepes to die for at Kuranda!
BABINDA
 
# 1 Trip Advisor Babinda Bakery - fabulous traditional bakery of extremes. The selection of great Aussie meat pies, sausage rolls and pastries make this worth the stop off, the coffee was much less of a highlight but they are forgiven (sort of) because the staff were so friendly.
 
Pies galore at Babinda Bakery
CAIRNS
 
# 6 Trip Advisor Caffiend Cafe Art Music - tucked away down Graffiti Alley, a visitor to Cairns would never find this hole in the wall cafe. It gets my vote for the best coffee on our trip, their barister has just won Barrister of the year for the region.
 
These were just some of the places we found using our trusty Trip Advisor, but don't just go for our choices, have a look for yourself and let me know if you have any other good places to share!

Little Wandering Wren

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