A Stay at Thala Beach Nature Reserve
It was almost dusk as we arrived at Thala Beach Nature Reserve, 45 minutes north of Cairns. Sitting atop a headland overlooking the evening blue Coral Sea, and with a distant view to the jagged ranges of the Daintree National Park, the outlook was compelling. Contrary to the name, Thala Beach Nature Reserve is a beautiful, tropical resort offering a really nice stay – the nature reserve is an interesting additional extra.
Accommodation is in a mix of free-standing bungalows and the ultimate Sandpiper Suite. The style is very comfortable without being lavish and the resort sits nicely in the mid-range of the luxury market. We love it for its simplicity and easy pricing, being well under the higher end luxury offerings, of which there are many locally. Partly this is possible because the rates are B&B – accommodation and breakfast – with dinner as an extra cost. This works well as you are then free to sample some of the other great restaurants in the Port Douglas area. But definitely choose to dine in for several nights of your stay as the cuisine at Thala Beach is very good.
The accommodations, excepting the Sandpiper Suite, are remarkably similar, but differentiated by their location and view. The Coral Sea Bungalows look out over the sea, while the Eucalypt Bungalows have a view across the bush canopy. The Jungle Walk Bungalows sit down in the forest and are really popular with bird-watchers – how easy to sit on the verandah and watch the birdlife at close quarters. The bungalows are all very comfortable, with gleaming timber floors and neutral tones, allowing the eye to be drawn outside time and again.
The Sandpiper Suite is larger and further out on the headland, with a wide view over the ocean, a bigger verandah and separate sitting area. It is a delight.
Activities at Thala Beach include spending time at Oak Beach, wandering the bush trails, a guided tour of the nature reserve, bird-watching, Dark Sky watching at night, kayaking in the still of the morning, massage treatments and a Coconut Tour through the reserve's own coconut plantation. Each week an indigenous elder from the local Kuku Yulangi tribe comes to share stories of the local area and its people, with a few tunes on the didgeridoo to finish. We followed this with a twilight swim before dinner. The line-caught yellow-fin tuna with wasabi and avocado sushi wrapped in tempura batter was memorable. And was made all the tastier by the view from the tree-top Osprey's Restaurant, overlooking the moonlit sea and the glimmering lights along the coast.
Next morning vagrant showers danced across the sea as we sat, once more, high in the Osprey Restaurant for breakfast. We were heading out to the Great Barrier Reef for the day so were keen to see them disappear safely over the horizon.
(C) Sue Farley Travel Gallery