Thala Beach Lodge is located in Far North Queensland, the northernmost part of the state of Queensland, Australia. Bordered by the Coral Sea to the east and the Gulf of Carpentaria to the west, the region is home to ancient rain forests, coral reefs, and the age-old culture of the Kuku Yalanji people. There is much to discover here, and, flanked by two UNESCO World Heritage sites, Thala Beach makes a delightful base for exploring the area’s wonders.
Founded in the 1870s as a gold rush outpost, Port Douglas later evolved into a sleepy fishing village. Today, the town has come of age as a thriving tourist hub, thanks to its proximity to two UNESCO World Heritage sites: the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rain Forest. With these celebrated sites nearby, one might think of Port Douglas as mainly a gateway destination. But this seaside town exudes its own charms, from the historic buildings that dot its leafy streets to the long stretches of powder-white sand that envelop its shores.
The oldest tropical rain forest on Earth, which covers more than 400 square miles, lies to the north of Port Douglas. The Daintree houses some of the most biologically diverse flora and fauna in the world, including 80% of the world’s fern species, 40% of Australia’s bird species, and 35% of Australia’s mammals. From Port Douglas, it is a 30-minute drive to Mossman Gorge, located in the southern portion of Daintree and part of the traditional homeland of the indigenous Kuku Yalanji people.
The Great Barrier Reef spans more than 1,200 miles of islands, submerged reefs, and vast expanses of coral. The world’s largest known coral reef, it is home to an exceptionally rich variety of marine life. From Port Douglas, the most accessible Great Barrier Reef island is Low Isles, an idyllic sandy cay located just eight miles offshore. A variety of local operators offer daily tours to this island paradise, where snorkeling, diving, and swimming opportunities abound amid a kaleidoscope of tropical fish, sea turtles, and other marine life.
At Thala Beach, guests are encouraged to record their wildlife encounters on a whiteboard in the lobby. It’s evidence of the rich array of wildlife that inhabits the reserve—from possums and wallabies to over 180 species of butterflies and 150 species of birds. Wallabies can sometimes be spotted wandering the grounds in the evening, while rainbow lorikeets and honeyeaters can be spied in the trees beside Osprey’s Restaurant. June to September brings the annual migration of southern humpback whales, which travel from the Antarctic to birth their calves in the coast’s warm tropical waters. Minke, dwarf minke, and Bryde’s whales can also be spotted at this time of year, and dolphins routinely frequent these shores as well.
The rain forests of Far North Queensland are the traditional home of the Kuku Yalanji people, whose history dates back 50,000 years. Living in harmony with the environment is the hallmark of their culture, which is passed from one generation to the next through stories, songs, and dances. Their spiritual center, Mossman Gorge in the Daintree Rain Forest, is now home to an eco-tourism center, which includes an indigenous art gallery. It’s also the starting point for guided walks with the Kuku Yalanji, who introduce visitors to their culture through an interpretation of the local ecology and sacred sites.
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