Cairns seems to be the Florida of Australia, with endless beach towns, tropical attractions and delicious seaside restaurants around every bend. But what makes Cairns and the surrounding area so amazingly different is the tropical rain forest that borders the beach. Visitors get best of both worlds when hoping to experience some of the continent’s most incredible marine life at the Great Barrier Reef as well as its creatures in the lush forest above. If you seek something new to try with your older children or teens, reserve some space at the Thala Beach Nature Reserve and be transported in relaxation and discovery.
One with nature
While the frequent wildlife spotting might make adults jump, kids will love staying at a property surrounding by Australian animals. On the first evening we checked in, we were greeted at the front door by a juvenile python! They are harmless, but gave us a reminder that we’re in a nature reserve and there are surprises around every corner.
As you drive into the entrance of Thala there are manicured lawns and coconut tree groves on either side. This is an opportunity to navigate slowly and spot a few wandering kangaroos. They’re most active at sunset and will hop by if everyone stays quiet. The birds are plentiful and there are giant lizards roaming the grounds too. Look for them by the pretty pool area and down on the beach, only a few minutes walk from the main lodge.
Sleeping and savoring
The lodges and bungalows at Thala are all separate and follow a well-lit path through the rainforest. They are meticulously decorated with beachy, breezy and minimalist designs to create a feel of seclusion. Most do only sleep two people, so you will need two lodges when traveling with older kids. Little ones can be with parents in some of the bungalows – call ahead to ask for your options.
There is dining onsite that can be included in your package or enjoyed a la carte. From fruity juices and cocktails to freshly prepared reef prawns, pastas and desserts. All of the meals are served in beautiful open air spaces overlooking the mountains and ocean.
A little something extra
While the accommodations itself is superb, one of Thala’s best assets are its free demonstrations, activities and offerings. Kids will have a blast on the property nature walks through the rainforest and along the beach. They have a coconut walk as well, claiming to be the only one in Australia, which allows guest to sample the fruit and enjoy information about its production.
My favorite experience though was the star gazing. As soon as the sun goes down, a small group of guests is taken into the forest to a little clearing. They have an arsenal of professional telescopes, binoculars and other equipment to help spot constellations and galaxies. The highlight was our superb instructor who was so passionate and excited about astronomy and spent hours explain everything we saw in the nighttime sky.
Do note that Thala is a little drive away from Port Douglas if you plan to eat or sightsee off the property. At night the curvy road can be a little precarious, but the route is easy to follow. Cairns is also about 30 minutes away and easily reachable for the day.
Go off the grid and into the wild with a stay at Thala Beach Nature Reserve for a truly unforgettable Australian adventure.