Thala Beach Nature Reserve: About

Located in Port Douglas, Australia

Amid the lush rain forests of Australia’s Far North Queensland region, there lies a secluded stretch of coastline shrouded in greenery and bordered by the bright band of the Coral Sea. Located on 145 beachfront acres just 15 minutes south of bustling Port Douglas, Thala Beach Nature Reserve feels like another world altogether. Sea and forest converge at this spectacular eco-retreat, and the timber bungalows, perched atop stilts, offer commanding views of both. It's a place where wallabies wander against turquoise waves, birds visit your breakfast table, and nature’s soothing soundtrack provides a backdrop to everything you do.

Thala Beach Nature Reserve enjoys a prime position between two UNESCO World Heritage sites: the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. With two of the planet’s greatest natural treasures at its doorstep, there is no shortage of activities on offer—from snorkelling tours to the outer Great Barrier Reef to interpretive rain forest walks with the Kuku Yalanji people. But this quiet retreat also offers many reasons to stick closer to home, with walking trails that wind through native forest, two freeform outdoor pools, and a private beach. The lodge’s resident guides introduce guests to the local wildlife on a variety of excursions, and in between explorations, a rejuvenating spa and a world-class restaurant await.

Why We Love this Lodge

In the early 1970s, when Rob Prettejohn purchased the land that would become Thala Beach Nature Reserve, he had an idea that was ahead of its time. The conservation-minded entrepreneur envisioned an eco-retreat nestled among nature, a place that existed in harmony with its surroundings rather than trying to dominate them. At the time, the land in question included 100 acres of sugarcane—the region’s main industry—and the local government encouraged developers to clear the rain forest in favor of more crops. Resisting the decree to cut down trees, Rob began instead to plant them—a lot of them. Over the next 30 years, he returned the land to its pristine, wooded state, attracting native wildlife back to the fold and restoring the local ecosystem—all while creating an eco-friendly lodge that welcomes guests from around the world.

First opened in 1998, Thala Beach Nature Reserve continues to set an example for sustainable development in Australia, treating visitors to an exceptional experience while impacting the land as little as possible. As was owner Rob Prettejohn’s original vision, nature takes center stage here, and local wildlife—from wallabies to colorful butterflies—are an integral part of daily life and a highlight of any stay. In addition, the lodge pays tribute to Aboriginal heritage by hosting members of the local Kuku Yalanji community, who introduce their culture during lively evenings of storytelling.

Highlights

  • Venture into the forest with a lodge guide to spot a variety of local butterflies and birds.
  • Head off shore to explore the white-sand cays of the Great Barrier Reef, and snorkel amid a profusion of marine life.
  • Take a guided walk in the Daintree Rain Forest to learn about its ancient ecology and human history.
  • Meet a member of the Kuku Yalanji community, delving into Aboriginal legends while listening to the haunting strains of a digeridoo.
  • Savor fine wines and cuisine crafted with local ingredients at the lodge’s renowned restaurant overlooking the Coral Sea.

National Geographic Exclusive

Guests who reserve through National Geographic are treated to a behind-the-scenes walk in the lush landscapes surrounding the lodge. Learn about a wide variety of Australian plants and animals from a private guide as you experience the diverse ecosystems of forest, beach, and coconut plantation. Then leave a lasting reminder of your visit by planting a tree in a dedicated National Geographic forest rehabilitation project. You will be able to monitor the progress of your tree long after your stay.

Lodge Features

  • 83 timber bungalows situated amid 145 acres of wooded headland
  • Two freeform rock swimming pools
  • Private-access beach
  • Walking trails
  • Outdoor restaurant overlooking the Coral Sea
  • Guest lounge and reading room
  • Gift shop and art gallery
  • Spa and massage studio
  • Complimentary valet parking
  • Free Wi-fi in main lodge

Spotlight on Sustainability

Thala Beach’s commitment to conservation permeates the place, from the natural spring water that is drawn from the ground for its operations, to the energy efficient lighting used throughout the property. Clean green waste is composted and recycled into the forest, and all resort buggies and guest transfer vehicles are electric.

The lodge’s biggest contribution to the local ecosystem has been the reforestation of more than 100 acres of land, converting them from open cane fields to healthy rain forest. In keeping with this eco-friendly philosophy, no chemicals are used in the landscaping; rather, the lodge prefers low-impact methods of weed control, such as pulling weeds by hand. Thala Beach also hires from the local community, and many staff members have been with the lodge for more than twenty years—a testament to its dedication to sustaining and supporting the local economy.

Awards and Recognitions

Advanced Ecotourism Certification from Ecotourism Australia

Studiosus Quality Award, 2017

TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, 2017

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