Rooms worth a few

This is how the rich and famous do holidays in Port Douglas, writes Jane E. Fraser.

It's taken some time, but I've opened every set of louvres in the house, bringing in the sounds of the tropics with the breeze. It was late afternoon by the time I drove up the winding coast road from Cairns to Port Douglas, the last of the light leaving the day.

I arrived to find the Bali House with lamps lit, fans turning quietly overhead, huge vases of fresh tropical flowers on tables and wine and chocolate in the fridge.

Now, chirping insects are competing with the sound of running water from a stone-lined "creek" that runs under the house, helping separate it into private pavilions placed around a central living area and pool.

It's a striking property, blending modern architecture with elements of Bali, luxurious touches such as Aesop toiletries in every bathroom, and enough decorating originality to make it more than just another holiday house.

There are two large living areas, one adjoining the pool terrace and the other flowing out to a garden and tennis court, with the five bedrooms accessed via covered outdoor walkways.

The house is certainly something special, but when it belongs to a portfolio of properties branded "Ultra Port Douglas", that's what you would expect. The new luxury accommodation provider, which launched last month, has just five properties in its portfolio, with a commitment to capping it at a dozen; only the best of the best.

Taking it beyond the standard holiday house offering is the concierge-style service that ensures you don't have to organise a thing during your stay. Far from being handed a key and left to your own devices, you have access to a team of organisers at the end of the phone.

You can have the pantry stocked to your liking, get a hire car or bicycles delivered to the house, take a private reef tour, have a chef come in to cook you a seafood feast, or even have a full-time butler.


Ultra Port Douglas director Angela Vinnicombe says while other holiday accommodation companies can direct guests to such services, Ultra makes all the arrangements.

The houses are cleaned and serviced daily, bringing the benefits of a resort stay to a private residence.

Those wanting to slip into town quietly can be helicoptered into the Sheraton Mirage resort and transferred to the seclusion of a gated holiday house community, with private access to Forty Mile Beach.

For those who choose to eat out, it's a 10-minute walk or two minutes by car to the main street of Port Douglas and its restaurants. It's hard to go past the veteran Zinc, where the food and service are first class, but there are more than 80 eateries on offer.

Before leaving Port Douglas, I get a chance to look through some of the other properties in the Ultra portfolio; it's an experience akin to flicking through the pages of an upmarket interior design magazine.

Each house has its own style of architecture and decoration, but they have in common a pavilion-style design that is ideal for couples or extended families holidaying together, with separate bedroom pavilions, multiple living areas and plenty of places to hide away.

If you want the best, this is surely it.

With the benefit of more time and daylight, I stretch the one-hour drive back to Cairns over several, stopping at various viewpoints along the coastline and meandering into Palm Cove for lunch with a view across the water.

The Cairns-Port Douglas coastal road is one of my favourite drives in the world and I never tire of its sights, which today include abundantly flowering sugar cane.

I love the drive at low tide, when huge expanses of sand eventually meet the sea, and at high tide, when it feels like the water is almost lapping at your tyres.

The writer was a guest of Ultra Port Douglas and Tourism Tropical North Queensland.



Qantas operates a two-class service to Cairns from Sydney and Melbourne. 131313, Ultra Port Douglas packages include limousine transfers, or you can hire a car from Cairns Airport, with the drive taking about an hour.


Packages with Ultra Port Douglas are tailored to demand but start at $12,500 a house for seven nights, including transfers and a gourmet pantry pack. Each house has five or six bedrooms and can be shared by several couples or families. (07) 5501 5071,