Care factor zero in school of cool

Nicky Park discovers a paradise for Hollywood celebrities where the locals have a care factor of zero.

I learnt a lot from the locals in Port Douglas.

They taught me you have to live in the north Queensland town for six years before you earn the title of "local" and Port Douglas Primary has a "shoes optional rule" to cope with the heat.

And so the town doesn't get carried away with development, they have a three-storey rule; nothing can be built taller than the coconut trees.

The other thing the locals inform me is how down-to-earth Matthew McConaughey is.

The sexy celeb with the Texan drawl was in town a couple of years ago - and when he wasn't filming treasure hunting flick, Fools Gold, he was hanging out with his hunky body double at the local pub on the main drag in Port Douglas.

I learnt Port Douglas is where all the stars go - George Clooney, John Travolta and, just a couple of days before I arrived in the laidback town, pop princess Kylie Minogue was cruising on the very same Galaxy super yacht as I did.

What makes Port Douglas so appealing for stars is the care factor when they visit - pretty much zero.

There are whispers of their arrival and local papers boast their presence, but there is no paparazzi and the publicity is low - no one gets carried away.

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It isn't until they leave that anyone will confirm they were even there.

Some bigwigs have even purchased property in Port Douglas.

The other major drawcard is the stunning scenery where two environmental beauties collide - the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.

The best way to check out the diversity is from the air - so, like my mate Kyles on a previous trip to Port Douglas, I hop on board a Robinson 44 - a bright yellow helicopter.

The $650,000 aircraft is the safest chopper in the world and is the only one designed for non-military purposes, like seeing the landscape from the sky.

Chief pilot at Sky Safari, Bradley King, flies tourists in the four-seater bubble-shaped aircraft over Port Douglas everyday.

We rise from the ground in a flying carpet-type manner.

"The miracle of flying in a helicopter has a different effect on the emotions of every guest," King says, teaching me to keep my palms open and facing upwards to stay calm.

We swoop over the Daintree (which looks like broccoli from the sky) and spot sea turtles cruising in the Pacific Ocean.

We fly through the Mossman Gorge and see the sun peeking out from the low cloud cover.

The locals tell me the water flowing through the gorge is the stuff that comes out of the tap - good enough to drink.

King, who is also the director of the tourism company, says the choppers have 16 local locations they can stop at.

"(We can) land on a coral island for a snorkel and a gourmet meal completely alone," he says.

"(Or) on the helideck of a beautiful catamaran for a scuba dive.

"Our reef, outback and rainforest air tours touch down on mountain escarpments, rainforest waterfalls and glorious beaches."

Not only have Kylie and I taken flight with King, other names to drop by include John Farnham, Chris Noth aka Mr Big from Sex and the City and cringey couple Peter Andre and Jordan.

"It's sort of quite weird ... Matthew McConaughey and John Travolta walking down the street, it's a bit surreal," King says.

The other surreal thing he tells me about is people getting in touch with nature - really in touch.

While I decide to keep my kit on for the flight King says some tourists relish in the serenity.

"Some of our landing locations offer complete exclusivity and clothes are occasionally removed by those hoping to fully appreciate their environment and take advantage of the seclusion," King says.

"The most recent couple to remove their gear was at our secluded beach location with our female pilot, they were both in their seventies."

King points out his team "remains professional", preferring not to do the Fully Monty on tours.

IF YOU GO

Details: www.skysafari.com.au.

The writer was a guest of Port Douglas & Daintree Tourism.

AAP

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