Enjoy a 'beautifully remote' getaway
THE marketing slogan of Bloomfield Lodge in Far North Queensland says it all: beautifully remote.
It has taken us a 40-minute flight in a 12-seater Cessna Caravan north from Cairns, landing on a grass airstrip, then a short drive and a 10-minute boat trip to reach the beachside lodge which is listed among the world's top remote destinations and a member of the Small Luxury Hotels in the World.
An idyllic hideaway, Bloomfield Lodge nestles into the northern edge of the Daintree rainforest between Cedar Bay National Park and Cape Tribulation National Park.
Road access to the village of Bloomfield along the Bloomfield Track is difficult from Port Douglas or Cooktown. Air is really the only way in.
So remote is Bloomfield that there is no access for mobile phones or internet. So, no office.
No worries. It's a welcome escape from an otherwise connected world. This definitely is a place for some serious unwinding.
Captain James Cook came to know these waters too well one night in June, 1770. His ship Endeavour went aground a mere 19km away on what is now known as Endeavour Reef. Seeking a place to beach the ship for repairs, he rowed ashore into the Bloomfield River, only to find it unsuitable. So he went further north to Cooktown.
On the site of an old tin mining camp, the lodge has 17 private and secluded cabins, including one family cabin, tucked into rainforest. Comfortable, colonial-style, and built in natural timber, they are scattered down the hillside, encircling the main building and blending with the vegetation.
Verandas and decks look to the Coral Sea and the Great Barrier Reef. My view of Weary Bay - so-named by Captain Cook and his exhausted crew - is framed by a mass of evergreen trees where birds chorus a welcome.
The lodge staff are what you'd expect of north Queenslanders - warm and informal as well as resourceful and thoughtful of guests' needs. Our guides, Paul, Shane and Jamie have lived here most of their lives and between them, they have 35 years service at Bloomfield Lodge. They'd live nowhere else. Their passion for the region, its people, land and environment is obvious.
Over the next few days, they will help us explore their homeland.
Jamie takes us on a two-hour guided bushwalk through the undisturbed eco-system, pointing out the plants and wildlife: from delicate orchids to strangler figs, lorikeets to white cockatoos that make their home here.
About 100 million years old, this is the largest stretch of rainforest in Australia. It is home to one-fifth of Australia's bird species and some of the world's largest and most beautiful butterflies, including the fabulous blue Ulysses.
We haul ourselves up a dry creek bed, dodging loose rocks and tree roots.
So steep is the climb that at times we have rope, firmly anchored to trees, to help us. We're thankful for a rest at the summit.
After the strenuous walk, I'm grateful to soak in the jacuzzi in my cabin while admiring a sun setting behind the mountains and sipping a welcome glass of cold sparkling wine. This is just about as good as it gets.
Cook, obviously in a more optimistic frame of mind than when he named Weary Bay, named nearby Hope Island, about halfway from Bloomfield to Endeavour Reef, where we head today for some snorkelling over the inner reef's famed coral, a gourmet lunch and some fishing.
We're aboard the lodge's 11-metre powered catamaran, Bloomfield Explorer, with Shane and Paul and eight guests. This day trip is one of the most popular from the lodge. The crew know every inch of these waters and their moods, where the best coral and most fish are. Beginners also welcome snorkelling off the beach.
Shane was once a professional fisherman. He and Paul have fished here countless times.
We bait up and soon have a couple of large fish. They will be on our dining tables this evening.
I was fishless until "last baits" was called and I hooked what Paul assured me was a reef shark. The line burned my hands before it went slack: the shark had taken bait and tackle. Dare I claim to have hooked the largest fish of the day? Why not.
This evening, glass of wine in hand, we'll watch the sun going down from the end of the jetty which extends into Weary Bay.
Over more pre-dinner drinks in Mulligan's bar (the lodge has an honour system for drinks), lodge staff announce the options for the next day's activities.
Meals are included in the tariff and are served at fixed times.
While there is no choice on the menu, the chef tries to meet dietary preferences. The food is excellent and plentiful. As you'd expect, seafood dominates.
While guests usually all dine together, those who want a little privacy can enjoy a candlelit dinner in a gazebo on the pool deck.
We've chosen our next day's activity: a cruise up the mangrove-lined Bloomfield River to the
Wujal Wujal community which has recently opened an art gallery works are painted and sold to passing tourists.
On the way, we'll see crocodiles sunning themselves in the shallows.
Some guests, wanting a bit of pampering, will indulge in the resort's spa treatment.
Other guests are headed for a day trip to Cooktown, 65km away, on the banks of the Endeavour River where Cook spent six weeks repairing his ship. The town's major attraction is the James Cook Museum where visitors can see an anchor jettisoned from the Endeavour to help lighten its load to float off the reef. The town was established in 1873 to service the Palmer River goldfields.
On the way back, a call is planned at the colourful Lions Den Hotel which has changed little in 100 years. Here, tin miners, fossickers, cattlemen and hippies have slaked their thirsts and spun wild pub yarns over the years.
Faults? Hard to find. But the lodge site is not wheelchair-friendly and it's a steep climb to the upper cabins.
However, obliging staff will taxi you up in a golf buggy.
The writer was a guest of Bloomfield Lodge and Whitfield House, Cairns
Good to know
Bloomfield Lodge offers an all-inclusive four-night package from $1520 per person, twin or double share, in a Rainforest room.
Price includes accommodation, all meals, guided rainforest walk, guided river cruise, courtesy car from and to your hotel in Cairns/ Cairns airport, scenic flight, private road and boat transfers to and from Bloomfield Lodge, some lodge-based activities, complimentary tea and coffee (24 hours), guest laundry, fishing tackle and bait.