After three years living in Port Douglas, it’s time to finally reminisce a little about our experience here. This beautiful beach town has been home for the past two years, and another year back in 2014, which is the longest I’ve stayed anywhere outside of Blighty.
The Sailor and I have moved around a lot this past decade. From London to Prague, back to London, then back to Prague. After to Far North Queensland, then Thailand, Melbourne and Malaysia. It’s been busy!
We’ve seen a lot of beautiful places across Southeast Asia, and had many life-changing experiences. Everywhere we’ve lived has enriched our lives in some way.
However I can honestly say, that I haven’t lived anywhere that’s made me happier than Port Douglas.
This is the first time I’ve been based out of the city, which I think has been a major factor, and the change in lifestyle that comes with it. I’ve also never spent so much time outdoors, or had such incredible nature on my doorstep. It sure is going to be hard to give it all up soon when we leave.
When we caught up with our former migrant agent for a friendly catch up in Melbourne last December, he told me that we’re the first clients he’s had whose moved to Port Douglas or near Cairns! I don’t think it’s everybody’s first choice when moving to Australia. Most people go to Sydney first like we did as its all they really know about.
Our stay in Sydney lasted all of two weeks. I quickly realised that another big city wasn’t what we were after so we followed the sun up the coast and booked a 1-way flight to tropical Cairns.
After a few days, the Sailor told me that he’d hired a car so we could check out a place he’d heard about as a potential place to settle. I remember being a bit pissed that he was still considering other areas, but agreed! Then I thanked him a few hours later once we arrived to Port Douglas, walked out onto palm-lined Four Mile Beach, sunk out toes in the soft sand, gazed up at those hypnotic ranges and instantly fell in love with the place. Not only was it drop-dead gorgeous but it had a small local feel, the vibe was uber chilled and the people were really friendly. It just felt really good and like nowhere I’d been before. I’m sure a lot of people feel this way when they come here for the first time.
Living in Port Douglas – The Simple Life
For those unfamiliar with where I’m based, Port, Port Dougie, Island Point (it’s name back in time) or Jabukanji (it’s name in Kuku Yalanji) is a semi-remote ‘village’ nestled an hour away from Cairns and just 5 minutes from the rainforest.
It’s essentially a peninsula that’s roughly the same size as the City Of Westminster in London so you can cycle anywhere in less than 20-minutes, except the population here is about 5’000 compared to 250’000. There’s also no traffic lights, shoes are optional (even for the kids in the school I work at), and everyone lives within a 10 minute walk to the beach. When the locals greet each other with ‘G’day, hows it going’, it’s often answered with a quip ‘another hard day in paradise eh’. Yes, life here is tough.
For me it’s been a great starting point for life outside the city because it’s still developed and comfy with great restaurants and quite a few things to do, but it’s also surrounded by wilderness.
What I love is that I can literally travel for hundreds of miles, in any direction, and find waterfalls, tropical islands, coral reefs, stunning beaches, unique wildlife savannah woodlands and jungle. Less than an hour away are World Heritage treasures like The Great Barrier Reef and the ancient Daintree Rainforest- honestly, the environment here is truly mind blowing and it’s my favourite thing about living in Port Douglas.
Over these past two years I’ve realised that being surrounded by nature is something that brings me so much joy. Now I’m a little older I can appreciate it so much more, and the abundance of wildlife here fascinates and happily distracts me daily. I look outside of my window and see a sea of green. I love the birds. The green tree frogs. The Ulysses butterflies. The fruit bats can be annoying but they’re interesting too. Never thought I’d move to Australia and become such a nature frother!
A lot of people who come to Port Douglas do so for a holiday, but I think it’s even better to live here. There’s not much in the way of work, unless you’re in hospitality or work on a boat, but the Sailor and I are lucky in that we can pretty much work anywhere.
He still works remotely from home (living the dream) for the company he was employed with in Melbourne, and I have been teaching in a small local state school in the Daintree Rainforest after a short hiatus.
Initially we were only planning on staying in Port Douglas for just 6-months whilst we slowed down for a bit and figured out our next steps. I had a hectic work schedule in KL and there wasn’t really time to make concrete plans. This is also a great kiteboarding spot and after years of stop starts in the sport, we figured it was probably best to live next to a beach to become independent riders!
Then 6 months quickly turned into a year, very easy to do here. Then Covid happened. 🙄
Although the pandemic got in the way of our plans, I’ve been counting my lucky stars that we decided to move here when we did. If I renewed my contract in KL for just another year I’d probably struggle to get back into Australia like some people I know, and would have been exposed to multiple outbreaks and lockdowns in Malaysia.
We’ve been extremely lucky that Far North Queensland has been very sheltered from the pandemic (nock wood) and a part of that is because it has a small population density. Nothing really changed last year apart from fewer tourists passing though, people didn’t even need to wear masks. What a luxury that was.
It definitely made me appreciate where I live more, and also if I’m honest, it gave us clarity and more of a pull to stay in Australia long-term.
So after a decade+ of being “Nomads”, we even decided to buy our first house and settle in FNQ! The is honestly the first time we’ve felt so comfortable and happy, and like we could easily spend the rest of our days here.
I love the rainforest walks. The people are so down to earth and friendly. We love the tropical weather and beaches to play around in. The food is great. The waterfalls and creeks are fun. The lifestyle is low-stress and active. It really feels like a piece of us up here.
We were also kind of pushed out of where we were renting because the landlady was trying to sell (like the place we were at before). Initially she wasn’t going to renew our contract because she wanted to let the place out to holidaymakers and double the rent, which is ridiculous, then she sold it.
There’s a real lack of rentals about now too as so many people have moved up here since Covid. I’ve heard of many local families around Cairns and Port Douglas being displaced or made homeless because they’ve been in a similar situation or the rents have hiked. It should really be better regulated.
We definitely chose the wrong time to buy though as there were very few properties left and prices had risen significantly. It’s predicted that Cairns’ population is expected to reach 500’000 in the next 5 years! It may not sound like much but it’s only at 150’000 currently.
Time To Leave Paradise
As they say though, it wasn’t meant to be.
For years now the Sailor and I had a dream to start a new business together which was put on hold due to ‘Rona. Last year it felt like it had slipped away, more like a pipe dream. We spent a long time looking to see if our idea was possible here in Queensland but didn’t find anywhere suitable.
Then literally a couple of weeks after we stopped looking for a place to buy, the Sailor found an incredible property in Western Australia which will allow us to begin our new venture. We knew straight away that is was the one, so we went to see it back in April, and then we accepted! 😱
I still can’t believe it’s real to be honest. It probably won’t sink in properly until we’re on the plane!
Can’t say much before we get there but we’re heading somewhere more remote than Port Douglas and it’s right on the beach. The area is also regarded as the kitesurfing and windsurfing mecca of Australia as it receives a very decent wind in season. I’m really excited for this next chapter.
Funny, since I told people we were leaving, many have said to me that they know a lot of people that have moved from around here to WA. Personally I can say that living in Port Douglas gave me an immense appreciation for nature and there’s incredible landscapes in WA too. It’s also a lot quieter which I love and there’s more space, things have become pretty busy up here recently.
So, I’ve sold everything once again, we’re all packed up now and it’s time to leave.
It’ll be really hard to say goodbye to Port. Aside from leaving family and friends for the first time 14 years ago, the only other time I’ve cried at the thought of leaving somewhere has been now!
But it also feels good to be leaving on a high.
If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello. I know where we’re going will give us just as much happiness.
For now it’s time to fly, take a risk and finally chase our dreams. See you on the other side. ✣