It was always my intent during my time backpacking across Australia to visit the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Forest. Like many other travellers with these attractions in mind it was the city of Cairns that I found coming up again and again as the place to be. So, off I went. My experiences in Cairns, however, were defined by a sense of overwhelming congestion and in your face tour agencies. Although the lagoon was nice and the bars were plentiful the place felt way too packaged for my tastes. Seemed more suited for tourists than backpackers; there is a difference between the two and any experienced back-packer knows what I’m talking about. Cairns is where a person goes to party and drink all their savings. So when I heard that Port Douglas operated at a slower pace, was more relaxed, and also provided a better launching pad for tours to the reef and forest, I decided to look into accommodations. That’s when I came across Port O’ Call Lodge.
The initial reason that sold me on the lodge was quite simply the complimentary shuttle bus both to Port Douglas and, after my stay, back to Cairns for my flight out to Japan. This seems like a basic concept but any budget traveller will appreciate the chance to save cash on potential transit costs. From what I noticed no other hostels in the area are offering this service and it’s great to see that Ryan and Janine, the current operators at Port O’ Call, are aware of the importance that frugality has in the plans of any traveller through far north Queensland. This helps them generate additional business, sure, but more importantly it helps people travel to Port Douglas way more affordably than they would otherwise be able to. Smart and well received.
As organized the shuttle bus arrived in the morning to the Esplanade in Cairns. During the forty five minute commute I was impressed to see Ryan provide an interesting narration about the ecological and economic character of the region between Cairns and Port Douglas, along with a description of the many attractions available to the traveller. On arrival we were greeted kindly by Janine and she quickly found us to our rooms. I stayed in a four-bed share and was pleasantly surprised by the facilities. The rooms were a nice size, the bathrooms were clean, each room had private safety lock boxes, and the beds were quiet and comfortable. If you’re a tall person you’ll appreciate that the beds don’t have end-boards which restrict a persons’ ability to stretch out and enjoy a proper night sleep. Also, each room has its own mini-fridge to use at their leisure.
The environment at Port O’ Call can be described as quiet, laid back and friendly. Perhaps this sounds cliché but in this case it holds very much true: certainly a welcome change from the rushed atmosphere one finds in Cairns. Having said that there is always a healthy buzz of socialising each evening in the common area, making it easy to make new friends and gather testimony on potential travel plans. Nothing too loud or too late, though. The kitchen facilities are modern, clean, and well-equipped. Only an oven is missing, but this is relatively standard for hostels throughout Australia so it’s hard to upset about this. The pool is inviting and the flat screen television with satellite is a nice touch. Internet facilities are satisfactory but a better connection for more demanding users can be found in-town. Laundry facilities are standard.
For expert advice on tours in the area Ryan and Janine represent a wealth of information and will never recommend anything but the best. I booked three tours during my stay in Port Douglas, all through Port O’ Call, and in each case they found a way to save me money, either through recommendations or special discounts. I never paid the listed price for the tours I was interested in.
There were a few occasions when I asked Ryan and Janine for a bit of extra consideration and they were always more than willing to help. From making last minute extensions to my stay, trusting us their own soccer ball for the beach, to actually giving us free taxi around Cairns during drop off – not just a ride into the city as part of the complimentary shuttle - the staff at Port O’ Call did everything within their control to make the experience in Port Douglas seamless and enjoyable.
While Port O’ Call might be 5 to 10 bucks more than a few of the other hostels in town it’s certainly worth every dime. And remember that the free shuttle to and from Port Douglas pay’s for itself with a stay at a premium spot. You get what you pay for in life and accommodations are no exception.
Port O’ Call was essentially a microcosm of everything good about Port Douglas. Both are clean, quiet, relaxing, and friendly. Living is affordable yet a cut above what you might find in Cairns. The tours are fantastic and the people are honest. Instead of the large crowds and hyper transient populations of Cairns one finds intimacy and authenticity. Not only do I recommend Port O’ Call to travellers keen on north Queensland, but for all the same reasons I recommend Port Douglas itself. Do yourself a favour and make Port O’ Call in Port Douglas your home for the holidays. You’ll be glad you did.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Quality accommodation with an emphasis on the things that matter - air conditioning, quality beds with the best quality cotton sheets and deep feathered pillows, your own refrigerator and free WiFi. ... more less
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