Visitor with history keeps coming back

Monday 4 February 2013

Visitors with history keep coming back

Frank Chamberlin lives in the inner Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy and this year he and his wife Danielle will celebrate their 20th visit to Port Douglas. This is his view of us and our town.

Driving into Port Douglas for the first time absolutely took our breath away. Everything seemed brand new. We were like earnest school children arriving at a chocolate factory.

The extravagant driveway that the coconut trees created as they majestically stood to attention to mark our arrival, made us feel like we’d taken a quick trip to Hollywood rather than FNQ.

We were taken-in by the crisp freshness of everything. And the shiny green tropical growth. New leaves seemed to be sprouting as we gazed.

Very quickly we fell in love with the place. We were a party of three: husband, wife and five year-old daughter and we all shared that same strong liking for our new holiday destination.

That was 1990. Little did we know then, that we would be drawn back so often.

In 2013 for the month of June we are lucky enough to take up residence at Mowbray by the Sea on Mowbray Street. It was our twentieth visit to a welcoming town that has become our second home.

My wife Danielle took part in Neighbourhood House activities and caught up with various locals who have become friends over the years.

Yes, there have been huge changes in 23 years. Some have been disappointing to live through. The greenness of Coconut Grove has given way to concrete in a critical location where you don’t need concrete, but overall, the town continues to come up trumps.

We were fearful when Coles was coming and even more fearful when the renovation at the Court House was begun, but both of these now add so much to the town. But when Salsa Bar opened in the main street around the same time, we welcomed it immediately. Suddenly Port Douglas street level cuisine had taken a giant step forward.

The ‘look and feel’ of Villa San Michele really made an impact with us and we were lucky enough to become owners there soon after it was built. That has made us feel so much more part of the town.

Today it is a far cry from the days when my wife would rock up each morning for aerobics in the community hall on the main street, or we’d see fishermen drying their nets in front of their simple cottages scattered around the town. But there’s no turning the clock back and so long as we hold on to the height restriction, Port will always win hearts.

At home or at work, wherever we happen to be, we are always happy to talk about the beauty of Port Douglas with its friendly people. Many of our Melbourne friends have now visited. Probably they got sick of hearing us rave on. They had to see it for themselves.

Over the years there have been countless highlights. The arrival of the Olympic Torch in 2000 when it came in from the Reef is a standout. The town had such a buzz. We were all so optimistic back then, in that pre 9/11 twin towers time.

On the following evening after the torch was carried down Macrossan Street, we met one of the torch bearers having a drink at ‘On the Inlet’ as the sun set. He very graciously went home and picked up the torch for us. We all took turns to hold it and imagine for a moment that we were running into the Stadium in Sydney. Now that was memorable.

In December 2004, when the horrendous tsunami from the Indian Ocean struck and killed more than 225,000 people, we were staying at Balboa. We were in unit 9, on the ground floor at the front corner nearest the main street. When we looked at how close we were to Four Mile Beach we could have easily begun to worry. But in fact there was no danger.

The five year-old from 1990 has grown up and she now lives in New York. But before moving there she found time to get married. And even though the groom comes from the beautiful town of Renmark on the Murray River, there was no argument about where the wedding would be. That sunny June day in 2010 was just perfect and St. Mary’s by the Sea (pictured above) was sparkling. The dinner that followed, across the road at Salsa Bar, was acclaimed by everyone.

One result of the wedding was that we introduced a whole new group of southerners to Port. Already, many of them have returned.

All three of us who made up that original small family party in 1990 have travelled widely but we all hope there will be many more visits back to beautiful, sunny Port Douglas.

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