This trip was broken down into three areas: Cairns, Bedarra Island and Mission Beach. Having lived in the Caribbean islands previously I was amazed at the similarities in temperature, the transition of walking through rain forests, experiencing white sandy beaches and wandering through the peaceful boarded walks.
To start this journey Cairns was my first hub. As often on my trips there isn’t always as much time as one would like to truly immerse yourself in the area therefore with less than 24 hours the first thing for me was to take a walk along the Esplanade and see what was doable. ‘NQ Watersports’ offer a guided jet ski crocodile spotting tour through the Trinity Inlet mangroves. This was an action packed two-hour jet ski tour (the time included a safety briefing plus posing on the jet ski whilst ‘snaps’ were taken (not by the croc) – these were sold on to us post trip and supplied on a USB – enterprising and great idea should you not have a GoPro to capture your memories. After this scintillating adrenalin filled tour – we walked away with pictures of our jet ski with a huge croc behind us – somewhat troubling, but at least the tour fulfilled our dreams! After a quick change at ‘Harbour Lights Hotel;’ we walked back down the Esplanade for dinner finding a superb restaurant on the water called Salt House at Cairns Yacht Club. Tasmanian grass fed sirloin with chargrilled Tiger Prawns was amazing with melt in your mouth steaks that cut like butter and their prawns were large and juicy. Barron Falls & Barron Gorge are a 30 min drive out of Cairns and if you have time visit Kuranda village is accessible by Skyrail Rainforest Cableway or by the Scenic Railway are fun it is full of Aboriginal paintings and hippie markets and cafés .
Next stop Bedarra Island, accessible by water taxi from South Mission Beach –After a 30-minute sea passage across to the island, friendly staff met us on the beach with laden cocktail trays. We were a party of 22 (two more than the islands usual capacity). Our dear friend had hired Bedarra for a couple of milestone celebrations. During the course of our stay we enjoyed long table dinners a trip across to neighbouring Wheeler Island where we were served champagne in the sea (yes our waiters actually walked in waist high to serve us). The lunch set-up was an elegant BBQ style — like something out of a movie and we all had parts.
Back on Bedarra Island I was able to catch up with Sam Charlton the owner for a chat. When he was 11yrs old his family knew Noel the artist on East Bedarra and his parents bought one of the blocks that Noel was selling, each area Noel sold had a spring on it. Sam’s family converted a fishing cottage into an island style bungalow and took a year off. Sam and his brother continued their education via correspondence and learnt a lot from Noel and enjoyed his library and going on walks with him over the island and the indigenous history of the island. At aged 17 his family sold the bungalow. After Cyclone Yasi Sam bought the damaged resort, the vegetation was badly damaged and he brought the island back to a lush tropical state. The buildings were only cosmetically damaged with a little water damage. He decided to modernise the buildings with fixed louvres and lots of TLC. All the services and utilities were changed on the island and installed energy efficient lights throughout and moved from a diesel to a completely solar operation. The old resort used 300,000 litres of diesel annually this has now reduced to 13,000 per year. He shut down the desalination plant and used tapped into the natural spring water on the island and also uses catchment rainwater through the resort. He collects the spring water which is stored to maintain them through the drier months until the spring starts flowing more. Sam says Bedarra Island is the most sustainably operated resort in Australia (though he doesn’t market it as such). He considers his resort to be primarily barefoot luxury. Bedarra appeals to a large range of guests that want a small and intimate experience. With only 10 villas and a maximum of 20 guests (normally). There were 16 villas but not all have been renovated and Sam wants to maintain a personalised and unique experience with only 10 villas but maintains the old numbering.
Everything is relaxed at Bedarra from mealtimes to what the guests would like to do. Locals use the island for special occasions and non-locals the average stay is 4-5 nights. Bedarra ties in with a local operator that offers two reef experiences for scuba diving or snorkelling. The smaller vessel is 8 meter and that is guided in the water. Bedarra’s point of difference is its size, its physical beauty in a ‘goldilocks zone’ of tropical rainforest. Sam prides himself on his team with all hospitality professionals. Jody has been in F & B for over 30 yrs originally from Melbourne and also is the sommelier on the resort. Lance’s history is working for the Queen and also with Geoffrey is ex airline and ex Hayman Island with over 30yrs in the hospitality industry. Thomas is from Denmark and Reif is a new recruit. Bedarra has 20 staff with two on the mainland in the operations office and 18 staff on the island. The island hosts 10-15 elopements every year of people marrying and also a few memorial services where ashes are scattered into the sea (apparently only the island permission is required). It seems everything is possible at Bedarra.
Our last stay was on Mission Beach at Castaways Hotel, this hotel certainly had a prestigious beach front, however here they only recommend swimming inside the stinger nets or in their hotel swimming pool. The food was good but the housekeeping was something to be desired. We wrongly booked a Tropical garden room (having not read the small print) we found ourselves in a separate building away from our friends which when the rain came down wasn’t always fun walking across. That said the hotel was centrally located with easy access to nearby restaurants such as Pepper Vine (for superb wood-fired pizzas), Bingli Bay Café (great breakfast). Millers Café at South Mission Beach and a great jumping point to drive to the Kennedy Board walk (N.B. keep on the track and beware of snakes, cassowaries and crocs). Murray, Mena, Teresa & Josephine waterfalls, Paronella Park and the beautiful Skywalk (Mamu Rainforest Canopy walk) at Wooroonooran National home of the Ma:Mu aboriginal people. For wine tasting pop into Murdering Point Winery to experience native and tropical fruit wines. Wildside Adventures are an excellent white water kayaking company who are highly skilled tour guides that ensure you go home with another exceptional conquest from your bucket list. Another highlight was seeing a Cassowarry which is a native bird that looks somewhat prehistoric with its electric blue plumage however these birds can get angry so do put a tree between you and them when possible.