There are few vacation destinations in Australia that are as perfectly suited to a getaway with a baby or small child as Port Douglas. These include miles of stroller friendly beach, waves so gentle as to banish the anxiety that many parents experience at a true surf beach, an excess of family friendly, self contained accommodation and a year long balmy climate.
We are fortunate enough to live a short 45 minute drive away from Port Douglas. As an added bonus the ocean drive between Port Douglas and our home is arguably the most picturesque in Australia. Since we moved to north Queensland when my eldest son was seven months old we have frequently visited Port Douglas for mini-breaks and on day trips. The popularity of Port Douglas with our southern friends and family also means that we have “sticky -beaked” in many of the Port Douglas hotels and apartment complexes. Subsequent to our explorations and sticky-beaking I have formed strong opinions about how those visiting Port Douglas with a baby or small child can get the most out of their visit.
Prices climb during the school holidays so try to avoid these if possible. The resorts clustered closest to town tend to be a bit pokey. You will get more value for money if you hire a car (giving you the option of day trips) and stay in one of the resorts on the outskirts of town. The drive into town from these is only a matter of minutes and there is always parking in town. The exception to this rule is Peppers Beach Club Port Douglas, which is close to town and the beach, up market and exquisite. If you can afford it, it is my top pick due to the amazing lagoon pool that is perfect for families with little people. My pick for value for money, and our regular base is the Oaks Lagoon Port Douglas. Located on the road into town, Oaks Lagoon’s apartments are spacious and modern and the pools are lovely. Both Oaks Lagoon and Pepper’s Beach Club have one-bedroom apartments with a study nook that can be separated off from the main bedroom. These study nooks work well as a children’s bedroom. Pepper’s Beach Club’s study nook has two divans that can each sleep a small child comfortably. Oaks Lagoon’s study nook has a pull out couch. Portable cots will fit in each of these nooks too.
For a town that is immensely popular with families there is a surprising scarcity of dedicated family dining. On the upside, most restaurants in town, even the most up market are used to babies and small children. It would be very unusual to be made unwelcome at any of Port Douglas’ restaurants even if your child is noisier than most.
Our boys love the Hog’s Breath Café at the Port Douglas Marina. The food is casual fare but with the boats, water and rainforest backdrop it is difficult to imagine more picturesque dining. Make sure you save some fries to feed to the fish. There are some whoppers off the wharf that love to be fed.
The Port Douglas Life Saving club has a playground and is on the beach. It is a good spot to enjoy casual outdoor dining with the kids.
My “don’t miss it” goes to the Wildlife Habitat’s breakfast with the birds. A truly unique dining experience, a buffet breakfast is served to guests surrounded by native birds. Bird handlers walk amongst the diners and encourage children to gently pet the birds. Our experience there was truly magical. Along with the cost of your breakfast you also receive admission to the wildlife centre. Wildlife Habitat, offers a kids club in school holidays. You can have breakfast with your family, and then drop you school aged children off to attend the club later in the afternoon.
While it is entirely acceptable, in fact desirable to spend a vacation at Port Douglas enjoying only the beach and pool there is much more on offer. As Port Douglas is a town that sits on the rainforest don’t be surprised if there is some rain during your vacation. Wet days are good opportunity to drive up to the Atherton Tablelands and explore the coffee plantations, dairies and ice-cream factories that proliferate up there.
The Sunday markets are held at Anzac park overlooking the Coral Sea and are a lively weekly occasion for locals and tourists. Plan to attend from 8am to around 1pm. A number of stalls sell really beautiful children’s wear at a reasonable price.
For families with small children, the best option for exploring the Great Barrier Reef is to partake in a day trip to the Low Isles. Take notice of the weather forecast when you book your tour to optimize your snorkelling experience. Check that your tour operator provides beach cabanas offering shade on the island. To maximize your child’s chance of finding Nemo confirm when you book your tour if they have children sized goggles and flippers, or a glass bottom boat inclusion.
© Copyright 2012 Danielle, All rights Reserved. Written For: Bubs on the Move