Soothing rainforest surrounds ease big-city stress.
A vehicle is required to make the most of your stay.
Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa, Daintree, Queensland
Daintree village is 55 kilometres north of buzzing Port Douglas. If your idea of the tropics is more about communing with nature than boutique-hopping, it's worth grabbing a car to leave behind the tourist hordes. Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa is three kilometres east of the village (population 100), near a bend in the croc-infested Daintree River. The landscape ranges from sugarcane fields to ancient rainforest (the World Heritage-listed Daintree National Park is nearby). The lodge changed hands in 2013 – new owner Computershare founder Chris Morris' Colonial Leisure Group also owns Orpheus Island. Plans to turn Mount Mulligan, a cattle property west of Cairns, into an El Questro-style resort will complete plans for a rainforest-reef-outback trifecta.
The lodge comprises 15 "bayans" (rainforest houses) set at different levels, ranging from the rainforest floor to the canopy. Reception and a communal area adjoin the Julaymba Restaurant overlooking a palm-fringed lagoon (if it's a special occasion, ask for that romantic lagoon-side table for two). Don't be surprised to spot a white-lipped green tree frog clinging to the rafters. A secluded waterfall is at the back of the property – join an Indigenous guide to learn why it's an important women's place. Other on-site activities include indigenous art lessons. There's a day spa offering indigenous-themed treatments and a solar-heated pool (although I find its temperature a little too bracing first thing in the morning).
Three treetop bayans received floor-to-ceiling refurbishments last Christmas; another four bayan makeovers were unveiled in mid-2015. I'm in one of these newly kitted-out bayans that feature minimalist blond timber furniture, kitchenette, micro-screened balcony and bathrooms with rain-showers. Super-sized bottles of quandong and camellia shampoo, blue cypress body wash and other toiletries are from Li'tya, which showcases indigenous Australian plants. Tap water comes from the property's waterfall. Daintree Estates dark chocolate is in the mini-bar; tea caddies hold English breakfast, peppermint and lemongrass ginger teas. Television and Wi-Fi are available only in the communal area.
Breakfast, included in the room rate, starts with a tropical fruit platter, yoghurt and croissant before moving on to a la carte choices such as avocado, feta and tomatoes on thick-sliced toast. The ever-changing dinner menu might include local tiger prawn bisque, macadamia-crusted nannygai or a duck breast with wild mushroom risotto. There's a wine list but I can't resist the lemon myrtle mojito.
Many lodge guests take the car ferry over the Daintree River to explore Cape Tribulation's self-guided boardwalks. Take a Daintree River cruise to spot estuarine crocodiles sunbathing on the banks. Interested in Indigenous tourism experiences? Drive half an hour to the Mossman Gorge Centre where you can take a Dreamtime walk to learn more about the local Kuku Yalanji people and their stories. Former resort guide Juan Walker runs Walkabout Cultural Adventures – his tours can include mud-crabbing at Cooya Beach near Mossman. It's possible to bus between the lodge and Cairns airport but sightseeing will be restricted without a vehicle.
A weekend away here is the perfect antidote to busy city life – it will force you to slow down, breathe deeply and appreciate the tropics. If rain's on the way, get ready for a chorus from the resident green-eyed tree frogs. The rainforest soundtrack – and lack of distractions – is conducive to great sleep.
3189 Mossman-Daintree Road, Daintree. Rooms start from $375 a night. Phone (07) 4098 6100, see daintree-ecolodge.com.au
The writer was a guest of Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa.