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Port Douglas or Palm Cove in August

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Port Douglas or Palm Cove in August

Hi, my 13 year old son and I are visiting Australia from the UK in August and want to spend 3 nights of our whirwind tour in the Cairns area, primarily to see the GBR and also to visit Kurunda. I have a few questions which I hope you can help with.

Would it be better to stay in Port Douglas or Palm Cove, to ensure that we have easy access to restaurants etc that will appeal to a 13 year old? From reading the PD Forum, it looks like most hotels are away from the main strip. Is this the case in Palm Cove?

We don't dive or snorkel - any suggestions for observing the GBR without having to get in the water??

I understand that you can visit the GBR from the jetty in Palm Cove. Are these trips the same calibre as the Quicksilver ones from Port Douglas?

Are the beaches at Port Douglas and Palm Cove surf beaches?

Is it easy to visit Kurunda via the skytrain and scenic railway if you are not part of an organised tour?

Many thanks for any help with these questions.

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1. Re: Port Douglas or Palm Cove in August

It would probably be more convenient staying in Palm Cove for access to the day trips you have suggested. Palm cove is very small- just one main street with lots of resorts, boutique shops and restaurants along it. Benefit is that you are close to Cairns- where there is lots of action- heaps of shops, movie cinemas etc etc.

Altough, Port Douglas may be more interesting....bigger township, more restuarnts etc then Palm Cove, but 1 hour north of Cairns and no movie theatre. Depends what your 13yr old wants.... if he's happy to walk aournd town, relax, swim at the beach or resort pool that sort of thing then PD would be lovely.

It's a tough question.... some folks love PD and others dislike it and visa versa with Palm Cove. There is some other threads on this forum with more deails if you want to look through.

Skyrail/Kuranda is close and you could easily get a bus pick up from the hotel. Quicksilver also offer bus transfers daily from Palm Cove (and Cainrs) for their outer reef trips departing from Port Douglas.

Quicksilver or Great Adventures from Cairns both offer outer reef pontoons for guests to observe the reef in semi submersible boats, underwater observatory without having ot snorkel or swim. Either would be ok- personal pref is Quicksilver from Port DOuglas.

YOu can not see the reef from the Palm Cove jetty.

The baeches are NOT surf beaches at either PD or PC, beacuse the reef is there, is stops big waves. If you want surf beaches you are best to go around Brisbane, GOld Coast, Sunshine Coast.

Yes, Easy to visit skyrail train while not on a tour. If you have a car, you can easily drive to the departure point. The "tour" is really just simply the transfer to/from the departure point, and then the skyrail you can do in your own time, walk around Kuranda - your own free time, then just meet the train at the specified time. So, not really a full structured tour.

Hope that helps!

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2. Re: Port Douglas or Palm Cove in August

Palm Cove is a lovely beach.. a quiet place with some very nice restaurants. We love going to Palm Cove for a jet ski with our teenage sons.

Port Douglas is larger with more options - make sure you take your son to the Iron bar to see the cane toad races :) Most large hotels are located a fair way from the main "drag" but there are apartments right in and close to the main street which could be ideal for a couple of days.

Yes you can see the reef without getting in the water (hard as an aussie to understand why you wouldn't want to get in the water and give snorkelling a try - You don't need to be an excellent swimmer and its a fine skill to learn - the guides are very helpful - but each to their own)

If you can afford it I would suggest a scenic helicopter flight ... (they leave at Port Douglas oppposite the Sheraton) or an underwater observatory/Glass bottom boat .

Other things a teenager could be interested in is a tour up the Daintree River to see the big crocodiles... our kids quite enjoyed it.. and they also loved the Jungle Surfing through the forest.

Takapuna, New...
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3. Re: Port Douglas or Palm Cove in August

Palm Cove will be more convenient to get to Kuranda, but PD is only another 45mins away. Last time went to Kuranda, we drove to Freshwater Station (near Cairns Airport) to get the Scenic Railway to Kuranda, then took the Skytrain down and got a bus back to the car at Freshwater. It was all covered in the one ticket.

I personally think that PD has a lot more going for it than Palm Cove. More restaurants, more good apartments in the town centre, a better beach, a short day trip to Cape Tribulation and the Daintree. Your son could do the Jungle Surfing, and you could do the Rainforest Aerial Walkway & Canopy Tower. The mangrove boardwalk is interesting also. You can either self-drive or take a day tour.

Given a choice, I would stay in PD, do a day drip up to Cape Trib and the Daintree. Kuranda is full of souvenir shops and not much else.

Takapuna, New...
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4. Re: Port Douglas or Palm Cove in August

It is worth clarifying the situation with accommodation in Port Douglas. There are a few large resorts with golf courses about 20-30mins walk from the main centre, Macrossan Street.

In the main centre, there are many apartment blocks with pools, jacuzzis, tour desks, etc, similar to large hotels but very laid back. The apartments are mostly of a high standard with full or basic kitchens and 1-3 bedrooms. Many have washer/dryer and are a very popular form of accommodation in Queensland.

Sydney, Australia
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5. Re: Port Douglas or Palm Cove in August

Both places are lovely ..as mentioned Palm Cove is closer to Kuranda but IMO Port Douglas would be more interesting for your 13year old. There are plenty of apartments in PD close to the main street cafes and restaurants.

Your son would like The Daintree National Park and doing the river crossing on the ferry - plus the Daintree River Cruise - spotting Crocs.

http://www.daintreerivercruise.com/

Edited: 09 February 2010, 06:43
UK
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6. Re: Port Douglas or Palm Cove in August

Thank you all for this incredibly helpful information. Could I just ask one more thing. We are on a really tight timeschedule - would you say that Daintree is better to visit than Kurunda? To be honest, the skyrail does look appealing, but if there is more to see at Daintree, and to keep a 13 year old amused, we would probably choose to do that instead. I like the sound of the croc boat ride! I really want my son to experience the rain forest in the best way possible.

We might end up having to give Uluru a miss at this rate :(

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7. Re: Port Douglas or Palm Cove in August

I have a 13 year old son... the things he LOVED were jet skiing at Palm Cove, swimming in the waterfalls at Mosman Gorge, Jungle Surfing in the Daintree forest, spotting the crocs and snorkelling on the reef. He wasn't fussed about the skyrail trip as we just drove up to Kuranda in our car and, if you stop half way up you more or less see the same view as from the Gondolas. Kuranda is a little village with shops and our teenagers were rather bored up there once they wandered the street so we moved on to find more waterfalls in the hinterland to swim in.

I am not sure how adventurous your own son is but mine leaps at the chance to do anything exciting and he has memories which will last forever. As I said, a helicopter ride out over the reef would be fantastic if you can afford it.

Arlington, Virginia
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8. Re: Port Douglas or Palm Cove in August

Just because you "don't dive or snorkel" doesn't mean that you can't give it a try. Like Yachtgirl, I can't imagine going to Palm Cove/Port Douglas and not going snorkeling at the Reef. I think both your and your teenage son would absolutely love it.

Here's a couple of suggestions from our personal experience:

1) Go out to the Low Isles from Port Douglas where you can snorkel from a beach rather than open water. A lot of first-time snorkelers feel more confident when they can see land. We did this with our children (primary school aged at the time) for their first snorkeling trip and it worked quite well. We went with Sailaway which only carried 30 or so passengers. They also have a glass-bottom boat tour so you can see the sealife that way in addition to snorkeling.

2) Go to the Outer Reef with Wavelength. This snorkel-only boat carries a maximum of 30 passengers and they are GREAT with first-time snorkelers. We made this trip with our kids just a couple days after the Low Isles trip because they had enjoyed snorkeling so much. I also took an adult friend of mine on a Wavelength trip. She had never snorkeled before (or even been to any ocean before) and she said it was the experience of a lifetime for her. I've been out with Wavelength 5 times (as well as other times with different boats) and I think that Wavelength is the best at what they do.

All of the snorkel/dive boats carry various types of floatation devices in case you are not completely confident in the water. (Even though I'm a decent swimmer, I really like wearing a wetsuit for the extra buoyancy and warmth, especially in the winter months like August.) So, even if you aren't the best swimmer, I would urge you to try snorkeling at the Reef.

UK
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9. Re: Port Douglas or Palm Cove in August

Thank you, everyone, for all this helpful information. For some reason I didn't get postings from Trip Advisor to inform me that there had been new replies, so apologies for the delay! We have booked to stay in Palm Cove, now, and are seriously thinking of trying the snorkelling based on all your suggestions! One final question - we will definitely be travelling up to the Daintree to do the jungle surfing and riverboat tour. How long will it take to drive from Palm Cove to the Jungle Surf pick up point and do you think we can fit in the surf and riverboat tour in the same day?

Many thanks again.

Hamilton & Waikato...
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10. Re: Port Douglas or Palm Cove in August

We stayed in Palm Cove in October 2008 & loved it .We are going back again this year & also spending a few nights in Port Douglas to have a better look there.

The snorkeling is well worth trying,my wife rarely swims but was not going to miss this opportunity.There are many choices of operators of day trips,we finally settled on Reef Magic who run out of Cairns which is not far from Palm Cove.They have a pontoon on the reef which provides easy access to the water.I can highly recommend Reef Magic,with the help of a wetsuit a flotation noodle & an excellent crew member the rare swimmer had a superb time.You do not want to miss this thrill of a lifetime.Reef Magic also run a semi submersible type boat from the pontoon if getting in the water really is not for you,but I reckon give it a go, its fantastic!

All the best for a great holiday