A heavenly party in Port Douglas
As a child, my dad told me that visiting Port Douglas was a trip to "God's Country".
High praise from a devout Catholic and lover of the finer things in life - seafood, wine and music.
So when the lucky devils who live in the north Queensland seaside haven throw a party, the pull is irresistible.
Now in its 18th year, the Port Douglas Carnivale is a highlight of the far north Queensland calendar, celebrating the best the region has to offer in a "celebration of the tropics".
Carnivale runs from May 18-27, ahead of the traditional peak in the southern winter, and most local hotels are on board with festival packages and special rates.
The first highlight of the busy program is the Longest Lunch, which, despite growing every year, is amply accommodated on the lush grounds of the Sheraton Mirage.
Chef Vinkas Chandra has incorporated a great deal of local produce - including Mareeba coffee, Tablelands beef and Daintree chocolate - into the menu.
"Having done a European and Asian theme in previous years, this year we're trying to really emphasise the local ingredients," he says.
"Even the vanilla we're using comes locally."
Later that evening, the Palates of Port event will showcase the region's finest in a breathtaking rainforest setting, when eight top restaurants provide one course of a degustation dinner at the Flames of the Forest restaurant.
On the social scene, thousands are expected at the Food, Wine & A Taste of Port night on the town's foreshore, where 70s rockers Dragon and Aussie legends the Black Sorrows will play as guests wine and dine under the stars.
A cooking masterclass at the Sea Temple Resort is perfectly suited to foodlovers inspired by MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules.
Carnivale isn't just about food, however, and those less gastronomically inclined can enjoy several arts events in and around Port Douglas.
The Airing of the Quilts will display more than 200 locally designed quilts, as well as craft stores and workshops.
Sports fans can check out the Clipper Cup Regatta - an open class, six-race event which will conclude on the last day of the Carnivale.
And of course, no Carnivale would be complete without a parade.
This year's Macrossan Street Parade has a theme of "Heavenly Bodies", a nod to the solar eclipse set to occur in the skies above Port Douglas in November.
It's not surprising that the heavenly bodies of the sun and the moon have to compete for attention around here though. After all, it is God's country.
IF YOU GO:
Several hotels and resorts have special Carnivale rates and packages.
www.starwoodhotels.com - The Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas ph 1800 073 535 1800 073 535
www.seatempleportdouglas.com.au - Sea Temple Resort and Spa 1800 833 762 1800 833 762
www.macrossanhouse-port-douglas.com.au - Macrossan House Boutique Holiday Apartments ph 07 4099 4366 07 4099 4366
www.hibiscusportdouglas.com.au - Hibiscus Resort and Spa ph 07 4099 5315 07 4099 5315
MORE: Port Douglas Carnivale program is available at www.carnivale.com.au; Tourism Port Douglas & Daintree www.tpdd.com.au
- The writer was a guest of Tourism Port Douglas & Daintree and Port Douglas Chamber of Commerce
- Total Travel