Have you ever chosen a place to eat based on the number of people at the tables?
It’s Saturday morning. I’ve arranged for us to catch up with my old colleague, Nigel and his wife Danny. They’re local, we’re not, so Nigel suggests meeting at The Pier – easy walking distance from our hotel. There was that uncertain moment when one of us was a little concerned that she didn’t bring any “going out to lunch” outfits, but I swear and declare that the dress code in Cairns is really relaxed, and besides, “you can always duck into one of those fancy shops and grab something new if they don’t let us in.” (To my surprise, this very reasonable suggestion didn’t get the delighted response I expected.)
Lunchtime. We’re wandering along the boardwalk trying to pick a spot to eat. Nanette and Danny are engrossed in conversation about their shared interest in teaching English as a second language. Nigel and I are trying unsuccessfully to get their ruling on dining options. “Let’s just go here. There’s lots of people so it must be good. And besides, you don’t need to wear shoes.”
As lunch draws to a close, we mention our plan to drive to Port Douglas for the afternoon, weather permitting. Nigel makes a strange comment – “if it’s too wet, you can always stop off at Palm Cove. It’s a nice spot.”
Half an hour later, Nanette and I are back in the little Seasick Yellow Corolla, rolling up Highway 1 towards Port Douglas. The drive is Ok until we reach Ellis Beach, then it’s just amazing. We wind our way along so close to the beach that you can need to keep your windows closed to stop crabs jumping into the car. Ahh – Port Douglas. Ramada, Mirage, Sanctuary Resort, Peppers, golf course (sorry, Country Club), another golf course, then we finally reach the main street.
After a couple of unsuccessful laps, we find a parking spot and launch out on foot. Where did all these people come from? They’re everywhere! Ah – look, the big screen in that open air bar is showing AFL. Victorians! (This is confirmed by the lady trying to sell me a new golf shirt at a discount price way above my budget. “Yeah, they migrate here every year as soon as the weather turns bad in Melbourne.” (Isn’t that all year round?) Ok, so every table in every eatery is packed. Maybe we can just head back down the road a bit, oh yeah, what about that Palm Cove place?
It’s dusk when we pull up beside the beach at Palm Cove. What a spot! One side of the road is just beach and, you guessed it, palm trees. The other is one long strip of great looking eating spots. We pick one with a great view. “Sorry sir, do you have a reservation?” We turn away. Look, that little shop sells burgers, and it’s right beside the beach. The rest is history. Great service. Great atmosphere. Great burgers. We’re so glad that we couldn’t get a table at the flash places where everyone eats.