Port Douglas, Yorkeys Knob and Palm Cove
Our look at Port Douglas and nearby villages includes a text summary, video and still images. Spool down the page to see all.....
Port Douglas and nearby villages
Port Douglas is simply fantastic. It's a short drive from Cairns and is an iconic Aussie destination. We comment on 'Port' below (use your 'down arrow' key or the slider on your browser page to move up or down this page) - but before we get to those comments, we thought we'd take you on a look at Yorkeys Knob and Palm Cove - villages of note on your way north from Cairns.
Port Douglas is a lazy hour or so by car from Cairns. While 'Port' is a high-profile destination, there's a few other places you should visit as you head for Port from Cairns. The first stop you should make is to Yorkeys Knob, just 20 minutes from Cairns (see more about Yorkeys Knob below), then a further 'must see' is Palm Cove, 20 minutes further on from Yorkeys Knob (see more on Palm Cove below). Both places are well sign-posted as you traverse the Captain Cook Highway. If we could say anything about the trip, it reminded us vaguely of the fabulous Great Ocean Road drive in Victoria.
Like Cairns, you will be spoiled by choice for accommodation, not only in Port Douglas, but also at the villages along the way. Both Yorkeys Knob and Palm Cove are also 'destinations' and accommodation in both places is rich in its diversity, as it is on or near the Captain Cook Highway as you drive north. We saw great caravan parks, mid-level fully-supported or self-catered apartments and high-end 5-star resorts dotted throughout the region. No matter what your budget, you will find accommodation well within your dollar range.
The villages leading to Port Douglas....
As we explain above, Yorkeys Knob is just 20 minutes from Cairns and we were intrigued to go there, if for no other reason than for its odd name! We found that Yorkeys Knob draws its name from two confluences - the 'knob' of land which protrudes gently into the Coral Sea, and 'Yorkey' - a man who came to be synonymous with the area in the mid to late 1800s.
'Yorkey' was in fact George Lawson whose nickname came from his place of origin - Yorkshire. How a Yorkeshireman came from the Mother Country to this (then) remote part of Australia one can only guess, but he may have seen parallels between the surf of Yorkshire's Scarborough Bays and this part of Queensland. In any event, 'Yorkey' settled here and was said to be a fine man, kind to aboriginals and children. He eked out a living as a beche-de-mer fisherman.
What is beche-de-mer, we hear you ask? Well, it's a 'sea cucumber' with a look like something you regularly flush down a toilet. Yorkey would harvest his beche-de-mer mostly on the reef of Green Island, some 16 kilometres directly east of the 'knob'. And 'harvesting' is the best description of catching beche-de-mer. It moves exceptionally slowly, and, as Yorkey found, it was easily available in shallow waters. Yorkey established a 'smoking station' on the Knob to dry his harvest and then presumably shipped it to places like Hong Kong and Singapore, where even today beche-de-mer is regarded as a prized delicacy.
Now we haven't tasted beche-de-mer despite looking for it in the restaurants of Yorkeys Knob (tourist operators take note!), but we are advised by gastronoms that it has the delicacy of taste and the texture of abalone.
If so (and we HAVE tasted abalone), we can only assume it has overtones of the sea with a distinctly 'chewy' texture. Eating abalone (and we presume, beche-de-mer) is like gnawing on a thong (Americans note: thong = 'flip flops'!).
Given its decidedly unappetising look, its subtle taste and its chewy texture, we wondered why beche-de-mer was and is so sought after in Asian cuisine.
Apparently it gives good flavour to soups and stews, but is also sought after for is supposed medicinal properties - and here, cheddas take note! Eating beche-de-mer, it is said, will lower your blood pressure, relieve arthritis - and is an aphrodisiac! What more could a chedda ask for?! This makes some sense as similar claims are made of abalone - and of reindeer horn. We've tried both - but if beche-de-mer is similar, we advise cheddas to settle for a good bottle of bubbly and a dozen Coffin Bay oysters.....
In any event, Yorkeys Knob is a great place. Its small but lively main street fronts the beach and there are a select number of restaurants and eateries along its length, and a number of good shops.
We found Yorkeys Knob very much to our liking and a little less frenetic than other villages we visited. We would certainly look at Yorkeys Knob as a 'base' next time we visit FNQ.
Like Yorkeys Knob, Palm Cove has been a favourite beach and picnic spot for Cairns people to visit over decades.
Its first European tourist was Captain James Cook who visited the area before sailing on further through the maze of the Great Barrier Reef and famously running aground on the Reef near Cape Tribulation. Later, G.E. Dalrymple’s Northeast Coast Expedition landed to explore the beach but was met by hostile indigenous people and a violent altercation ensued, later described as one of the 'largest beachfront invasions in Australian history'. Palm Cove was later to relive some of that past when it became a training base for soldiers during World War II, where no doubt its tropical beaches were used to mimic the coming invasions of islands occupied by the Japanese.
Palm Cove was originally named 'Palm Beach' but the Burgermeisters of the region wisely re-named it 'Palm Cove', presumably to differentiate it from its more famous twin, Palm Beach Florida. Palm Cove's natural attractions - its palms and its exquisite beach - became a tourist magnet during the 80's and 90's, no doubt on the back of Christopher Skase's interest in Port Douglas to its north.
Today, Palm Cove is ringed by famous resorts and other accommodations, and attracts tourists from around the world. Its palm-dotted beach is its main attraction, and the main street of its village runs the length of the beach. Good restaurants and eateries to match all tastes - not to mention quality shops - are strung out along the main street, so it's possible to sip on a latte while taking in the magnificent views - or buy your latest designer cozzy or pair of budgies before crossing the road and slipping into the Cove's warm waters.
A word of warning though - swim at the lifesaver controlled area, for good reason. The lifesaver on duty will guide you on the sea's condition, and the 'nasties' which may be present, depending on the time of the year you visit. Until late May, 'stingers' can be present - but during the 'dry' months - June to September-ish, the water is safe and inviting.
We visited late May, and the lifesaver on duty told us the stingers had left, but he said, the water was cool - even though we found it otherwise. He described the briny at the time as 'spanner water'..... and we couldn't help but ask him why he described it that way. In his laconic Aussie drawl, he said it was 'spanner water'..."because when you jump in mate, it tightens your nuts...."(!) Enough said!
See below some of the images of Palm Cove - and definitely put it on your itinerary as you visit FNQ!
To view our images of Palm Cove below, click on the first photo below left - it will enlarge...then click on the right of each picture or on arrows at the bottom of the each image to advance to the next picture - look at the captions too!.
There's no other town in Far North Queensland that comes to ‘top of mind’ after Cairns, than Port Douglas.
But calling Port Douglas - or ‘Port’, as it’s known locally - a town, is something of a stretch. Port Douglas is a village with a permanent population in the low thousands, swelling considerably during the tourist season.
Port has had its trials over the years after first being established to serve the gold, silver, tin and logging activities of the late 19th Century. As industries changed and after surviving some bad weather in the early 20th Century, Port settled back to become a relaxed fishing village for decades.
With the rise of tourism in the latter half of the 20th Century, Port took on a new patina as Southerners discovered the village and increasingly holidayed there.
Thus in more recent times, Port Douglas’s fortunes surged on a new ‘gold rush’ - the numbers of tourists from all over Australia and the world who flocked there during the good economic times of the late 20th Century.
This ‘rush’ was driven largely by the then activities of that now deceased old corporate rogue, Christopher Skase, who, awash with money from his ownership of the Seven Network (when television was actually a worthwhile investment!) built the Mirage Resorts there.
Skase famously went broke, buggered off to Spain (and died there), but not before his developments and love for Port Douglas put the village firmly on the national and international tourist maps.
Today, Port remains an unfailingly attractive tourist magnet. In the early part of the 21st Century, Port may not be as ‘frizzy’ as it might have been in its Skase days, but that’s all for the good. Today, Port has resumed its mantle as a gentle, friendly village - which in its own way, makes it more attractive. The best benefits of its days as a white-hot ‘jet set’ location remain, to provide tourists with great shopping (up-market too, if that’s what you want), great restaurants, a marina, exceptional golf courses - and all levels of accommodation.
Christopher Skase may no longer be there and his final days may have been questionable, but his legacy lives on.
Port is now simple but sophisticated, welcoming everyone from backpackers to international tourists to an iconic location. You must visit there and spend a day or two.
kiss a cane toad!
While Port may be sophisticated, there are...well, some fun things to do as well! If you visit South Australia, a 'must do' is a visit to the State's wine regions; a visit to Victoria is not complete without taking in an AFL match, and you can't say you've visited Sydney unless you've climbed to the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
In Port Douglas on the other hand, the 'in' thing to do is to kiss a cane toad - and where better than the Iron Bar in the centre of town. The Iron Bar itself is an institution, looking, as it does, like a good old Outback dunny! But while the decor might be described as RUSTic, the food is great and the beer cold - both delights which have and continue to attract international and local visitors alike. Sean Penn has been seen there as has Bill Clinton, so keep an eye out for the celebrities.
But its major attraction is the Cane Toad Racing event each night at 8pm, where $5 will get you a great hour or so's entertainment - and the chance to 'jockey' a cane toad at the race track in the centre of the room. If your ticket is drawn, you get the unique privilege of jockeying one of a number of toads with names like Fat Bastard, Pigeon Toad and Camel Toad, to name a few.
There is something of a catch. Like all good jockeys, you must kiss your mount before the race begins, so be prepared to pucker up! As the race caller says to women jockeys....."This will be the best thing you've kissed in a while, darlin'!" And he's right, kissing a cane toad is one of those things to tick off your 'bucket list' and a memory which will remain a highlight of your trip to Port Douglas.
Below we take a quick look at cane toad racing at the Iron Bar - it's hilarious!
Make sure your speakers are on, not on mute, and your volume is up. Our video runs 2 minutes 30 approx.
Images of Port Douglas
To view our images below, click on the first photo below left - it will enlarge...then click on the right of each picture or on arrows at the bottom of the each image to advance to the next picture - look at the captions too!.