Picture: Ermagen Lookout in the Daintree. Credit to my mother for the photo.
Travel an hour to the north of Cairns along winding coastal roads, and you’ll come to a tiny town nestled in the rainforest – Port Douglas. It’s a stunning, tropical place on a pit of land that sticks out into the ocean, so is surrounded by water on three sides. It is one of my favourite places in Australia. I want to tell you all about it, and how to navigate the place with endometriosis.
I’ve been there twice now with my family, once before my endo was in full swing, and once during an extended flare-up. Both times we stayed in the gorgeous Peppers Beach Club. The pictures on the website are pretty gorgeous, but the reality is even better. The beaches around Port Douglas aren’t the safest, what with sharks, crocodiles, box jellyfish and irukandji, so Peppers has created a white-sand beach inside the hotel. The water is always warm, the pool is huge, and sand is soft, and there’s a bar. It even looks good in the rain (you get some amazing tropical storms up there.
There’s no shortage of things to do in the area, either. If you tire of the pool but don’t want to risk the coastal wildlife, catch one of the many boats going out to the Great Barrier Reef and snorkel or scuba amongst incredible corals and brilliant fish. For those who have never dived but want to try it, PADI offers “Discovery” courses where you dive under close supervision, and which you can count towards certification. I did it and loved it the first time, but unfortunately was still suffering from my surgery two months prior on my second trip and was not given medical clearance.
For those who prefer dry land, there are many tours through the beautiful highlands to see coffee plantations, ice-cream factories and the stunning Daintree Forest. Did you know that it’s the only place in the world where you can stand in two world heritage areas at once? Straddle the waterline to have one foot in the Barrier Reef and one in the Daintree. We didn’t do that because there was a bullshark in the water.
The Daintree itself has not only stunningly ancient plants, but a huge variety of wildlife, including cassowaries, lizards, and a type of ant that tastes like lemon when you lick their abdomens. Also, lots of mosquitoes. There are also amazingly clear swimming holes with curious silver fish.
If you catch the historic Kuranda railway out of Cairns you will travel through more forest, green fields of sugar cane, past waterfalls and huge rocks, and up into the mountain town of Kuranda. There you can visit a butterfly emporium and find your own insect BFF.
This little orange stunner wouldn’t leave me and my mum alone.
Rather than catching the train back down, you can take a Skycar high above the forest to get a bird’s eye view of the incredible Queensland bush.
For those not wanting to travel far afield to see wildlife, Hartley’s Crocodile farm has heaps of native birds, mammals, and, unsurprisingly, crocodiles. Whilst I commend the variety, I do not like the fact that it does operate as a commercial crocodile farm and urge people to try and see the famous reptiles on a cruise down Cooper Creek instead.
In the town of Port Douglas itself there is a huge variety of shops for tourists, many selling opals, chocolate and coffee, for which the area is renowned. There are also a surprising number of vegan options, even at the local Sunday markets.
All in all, Port Douglas is a gorgeous place to stay and is such a short distance from so many other beautiful and interesting places. If you get the chance to head to northern Queensland, put this little town on your bucket list.
What should travellers with endo be aware of?
Well, wheelchair hire is available, so if you are struggling to walk there are still options for getting around. However, it’s a fairly hilly area, so expect a serious arm-workout if you are travelling alone. Mid-flare-up, even wheelchair travel is unlikely to be easy if you are alone. I could not have made it without my family, particularly my mother, who has amazingly strong arms for such a slender woman. Credit also goes to my dad, but he got overexcited one night in the rain and tried to break the land speed record with the chair, which was a bit nerve-wracking.
The heat and humidity can make pain even more of a serious inconvenience, so dress sensibly, drink lots and bring a hand-held fan. Portable cool packs or ice gel may be your best friend.
The humidity and the amount of time you’ll probably spend swimming (one of the easier exercises for people with endo) also make these holidays a great opportunity for thrush to come visiting. Know the location of the local chemist or bring cream and anti-fungals with you. Don’t stay in a wet swimsuit after getting out of the water, and shower immediately and thoroughly. Avoid excessively sugary foods or drinks.
If you go diving, make sure that the dive team knows your condition and medication. If you do not feel well enough, do not dive. Yes, it is an amazing experience but it is inherently dangerous and not worth risking your life. You can still see plenty by snorkelling, and that may be far less strain on your body.
Do bring anti-nausea meds or at least ginger pills. I don’t get seasick by myself, but on my last trip I was heavily medicated and the drugs combined with the rocking boat made me nearly as sick as my poor sister (who starts vomiting from seasickness after about five minutes on a moving boat). It made for a really miserable boat ride!
Other than that, take your usual precautions. Bring your painkillers and your heat packs, choose somewhere to stay with air-conditioning, and make sure not to overdo it. Yes, there is heaps to see, but it’s been there are very long time and will wait for you to get better.
Go forth, adventurers!