Port Douglas is only an hour's drive from Cairns along one of the most spectacular stretches of coastline in Australia. Most major car hire companies have desks at Cairns Airport or in the city, including Hertz (www.hertz.com.au), Avis (www.avis.com.au) and Europcar (www.europcar.com.au). If you'd prefer to get by without a car in Port Douglas, book a transfer from Cairns with Rainforest Limousine Service (www.rainforestlimo.com.au) or a minibus shuttle service (www.sunpalmtransport.com).
Regular flights are available to Cairns Airport (www.cairnsairport.com) from all major cities in Australia, as well as several Asian countries. Sunlover Helicopters (www.sunloverheli.com.au) offers transfers on to Port Douglas.
Country code: 61; Queensland: 07 (drop the zero when calling from overseas).
Set just up the road in Cooktown is Thea Astley's It's Raining in Mango, a novel tracing several generations of an Irish family who move to the town from Sydney in the 1860s and have to confront the horrific treatment of the indigenous people. Local author and historian Glenville Pike has been writing about the northern reaches of Australia for more than five decades. His publications include Port of Promise, an illustrated history of the town, and Unsung Heroes of the Queensland Wilderness: Pioneering Our Remote Far North 1870-1914.
Do go / Don't Go
The wet season runs December-April. This is the hottest time of year - temperatures regularly reach the 30s - but it's the incredibly high humidity that saps energy reserves. If you need another reason not to visit then, it's also stinger season when potentially lethal box jellyfish come close to shore - at the beach you have to swim in the permanently netted area. The rest of the year it is reasonably dry and mild with temperatures in the mid- to high-20s, clear skies and great visibility on the reef. September-November is particularly spectacular.
Talk about blessed. If your idea of heaven is fresh reef fish, exotic tropical fruits, enormous shellfish and bountiful fresh herbs and vegetables then you may never want to leave Far North Queensland. Most ingredients are treated delicately - even in winter it's far too warm to be eating heavy sauces - and the proximity to Asia means these new residents from overseas have had a huge effect on the food culture. The mud crab - a big beastie with powerful claws which grows to 3.5kg - is a local delicacy and you'll often find it served with a biting chilli sauce. Desserts feature tropical fruit flavours uncommon in Europe, such as custard apple, lychee, rambutan and mangosteen.
Book ahead with Port Douglas Taxi (+61 (0)7 4099 5345) or, if you're in town, try the taxi rank on Macrossan Street.
Tips aren't expected in Australia, but a 10 per cent gratuity is appreciated if you've had a particularly good night out.
Australian dollar (AU$).
With three international-standard golf courses in town, you might want to pack clubs or at least your J Lindeberg kit. Definitely the Missoni beach towel and Tigerlily bikini. Huge sunnies to blend in with the rich 'n' famous.
Before the white fellas arrived, this was the traditional home of the Kuku Yalangi people. To discover more about their culture - the Dreamtime legends, sacred places, bush foods and medicines - join one of the 90-minute guided walks (www.yalanji.com.au) around Mossman Gorge.
If you fancy a romantic dinner out without the littlies, Busy Bees Babysitting (www.busybeesbabysitting.com.au) is run by former primary-school teacher Fay Georgakopoulos and comes highly recommended. Specialising in newborns to 12-year-olds, the team can simply watch over sleeping babes in the evening or keep a brood entertained during the day.
If you're after hot new swimmers or casual Australian designer clobber - you know, Sass & Bide, Alice McCall, Wheels & Doll Baby - then you'll be able to give the credit card a workout on Macrossan Street at stores such as Mermaids and Blue Dog, and at No. Five on Wharf Street. For a real taste of the town, however, go to the Port Douglas Markets on Sunday (in Anzac Park at the end of Macrossan Street; 8am-2pm), where you can slurp down fresh mangoes, buy craft from local artisans or sit back and watch the passing parade. It's a bit of a ritual, with everyone who happens to be in town, both visitors and locals, spending at least some of the day here.
The look-out at the top of Flagstaff Hill has a fantastic sweeping view of Four Mile Beach and the coastline between Port Douglas and Cairns. It is signposted, but to reach it you simply walk to the end of Wharf Street, then follow Island Point Road to the end.
Those reef voyages sound a little pricey for multiple trips? Haul on the deck shoes and go to the Port Douglas Yacht Club (www.portdouglasyachtclub.com.au) at 4pm on Wednesday afternoon when visitors are invited to go sailing with the club's members absolutely free of charge (although shouting your skipper a cold one back at the bar afterwards would be considered good form).
May The Port Douglas Carnivale (www.carnivale.com.au) is a week-long festival including a street parade of floats, theatre, live music, sailing and fishing competitions, a golf tournament, market day and seafood extravaganza. June If you fancy a drive north, the Cooktown Endeavour Festival celebrates its status as Australia's first - if brief - white settlement with a colourful re-enactment of Cook's landing in 1770. October The Footprints Music Festival (www.tourismportdouglas.com.au) combines eco-awareness with good tunes, showcasing the region's talent with a guest performance by an interstate artist. The Go Troppo Arts Festival (www.go-troppo-arts-festival.com) is a community event highlighting FNQ's creative spirit. So, whether painting or poetry is your passion, there's something to enjoy.