TRAVEL: Adventure time in Port Douglas
THE daily grind becomes a distant memory as you glide alongside a turtle above a kaleidoscope of coral.
Snorkelling on the Low Isles of the Great Barrier Reef feels a world away from reality.
It's also a timely recovery from a massive week in this part of the world.
Cairns Adventure Festival has evolved over the past five years into one of the state's most popular event destinations for good reason. Escaping the start of winter and the allure of leaving jumpers behind looms large with temperatures in the high 20s.
The jewel in the festival crown is the Ironman event, a 3.8km swim off Palm Cove, 180km ride from Cairns to Port Douglas and back, and a three-lap marathon on Cairns esplanade.
There is also a half iron-distance event run concurrently, and collectively there is a brilliant buzz around the race precinct leading up to the Sunday event.
It's a great day even for those not racing, with the constant flow of athletes of all calibres providing entertainment until the midnight cut-off.
After some action-packed days, Port Douglas offered the perfect recovery destination.
With a relaxed atmosphere and a natural appeal it's a refreshing break from the state's southern coastal high-rises. Think Noosa, but without the bravado ... but with a similar car park battle in the main street.
Hiring a car is the best way of making the most of your time, and enables quick passage around town, although there are a multitude of shuttles available for those who don't want to steer themselves.
We stayed at the QT following fun and engaging experiences at the brand's hotels in Sydney and the Gold Coast, and, like many of the other major resorts, it's positioned a few kilometres from the Port Douglas heartbeat of McCrossen St.
Quirky with a retro beach feel, the QT offered a family-friendly environment with free access to games, table tennis and tennis part of the deal. There are also two pools, one 25 metres long for those keen to maintain the training regimen.
Well worth throwing into the mix is the resort's Bazaar, the buffet for breakfast and dinner. Similar to the awesome Gold Coast set-up, the Bazaar is designed as a re-creation of the traditional marketplace "with a 21st century twist".
With cured meats hanging from the ceilings, there is an array of dishes at the ready. Throughout Port Douglas there are a range of dining options, many with deals where kids can eat free when ordering before 6pm. Yet the culinary highlight was at Watergate Restaurant and Lounge Bar. We've been fortunate to dine at some of the best locations on the eastern seaboard over recent years, and our experience was equal to upper echelons of dining in capital cities.
There is a host of activities available close to Port Douglas, and our family activities included a trip to the breathtaking Mossman Gorge, the hilariously entertaining Hartley's Crocodile Adventures and the Reef Sprinter snorkelling journey to the Low Isles.
The latter was a true highlight. Taking only 15 minutes courtesy of the jetboat, it was a short journey but a world away.