THALA BEACH NATURE RESERVE
There was a moment at Thala Beach Nature Reserve when I knew I had fallen in love with the place.
After a short drive to Palm Cove for a few hours during our stay, we turned back into the beautiful driveway leading off the main road and into Thala Beach Nature Reserve.
I breathed a sigh of relief. Why had we gone anywhere? This was the place to be and for our few precious days, we decided this nature reserve is a very special to stay and we wanted to stay put.
Located on a private beach and nestled in 58 hectares of native forest, family-owned Thala is a deluxe eco and nature retreat located a convenient 45 minutes drive from Cairns and only 10-15 minutes from Port Douglas. Enjoy the best of the tropics from this secluded paradise.
Sitting atop a headland with breathtaking vistas, it provides an island-feel holiday and is the perfect base to explore the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest as all regional day tours pick up direct from Reception.
83 boutique timber bungalows are built high on stilts and nestle in the forest canopy providing a private and unobtrusive relationship with the natural world. All bungalows have views either to the ocean or the forested mountains.
The Thala Nature Reserve Story
Thala Beach Nature Reserve has been around for almost 25 years and its history tells a story of a journey from a degraded sugar plantation to the stunning nature reserve we see today.
In the early 1970’s, the present owner of Thala, Rob Prettejohn, was growing sugar cane on the property, which had a 1700 tonne assignment. One day he received a ‘Show Cause’ notice from the government to clear some 15 acres of rain forest behind the fore dunes. Rob refused to do so and as a consequence his cane assignment was reduced as a penalty.
Brett Kelly and David Anderson led the team to rehabilitate the Thala headland and turn it into a nature reserve wher eguests from all over the world could enjoy the beauty of this special area. The sugar cane was ploughed into the ground, the exotic weeds removed and local natives replanted extensively.
It is a testament to their understanding of biodiversity and foresight, that Thala’s native forest now provides a thriving habitat for wallabies, birds and butterfly species.
During our stay, we were fortunate enough to meet the wonderful Brett Kelly and enjoy one of his complimentary guided nature walks – a highlight of our stay. We are now amateur experts at all things about coconuts, as well as learning to “get our eye in” to see creatures and habitats we would have missed without Brett’s expert knowledge.
Other guided onsite tours include stargazing, nature walks, wildlife, butterfly and bird watching tours.
The Eco Villas
We originally planned to stay in a Eucalypt Villa, with views of the surrounding forest. But then we made the “mistake” of checking out one of the villas with views of the Coral Sea and were hooked on that panoramic view down the coastline! it was truly breathtaking. Thankfully it was possible to justify the extra expense by cutting back on another part of our holiday and it was decision we did not regret. I strongly recommend one of these villas with the amazing views if your budget will possibly stretch that extra distance.
Internally the villas are simply styled with beautiful timber floors, lovely wicker chairs and timber shutters.
Osprey’s Restaurant is fabulous.
I am not normally one to eat in a hotel or resort restaurant, but the food and setting here changed my mind completely. Friendly staff and professional service, matched with exemplary food in an absolutekly stunning tropical setting where guests could watch the local birds and other wildlife from our treehouse setting. No wonder it has such an excellent reputation amongst the locals as well as reviews around the world.
The scenery from your table is similarly wonderful, with views up the coastline to Cape Tribulation.
Once my partner and I realized just how good the food was, we did not venture anywhere else for meals during our four day stay. Plus an excellent wine list – and tropical cocktails of course!
Sustainable Tourism at Thala
Thala has achieved the highest accreditation of eco certification through its sustainable practice and environmental sensitivity.
Hand in hand with Thala’s ongoing revegetation works is also an effort to reduce landfill by removing plastic bottles, straws and re-usable coffee cups from the property. Guests are now provided with a complimentary stainless steel water bottle upon check in and encouraged to re-fill it not only during their stay at Thala but also on their onward journey to other destinations. This change in behaviour not only saves 1000s of bottles and cups from entering landfill each year but also educates Thala’s guests, hopefully building a more eco-conscious traveller to take these ideas and inspiration with them when they leave.
A luxurious and relaxing stay in a great location. If you are celebrating a special occasion or honeymoon, we recommend that you try to stretch the budget for the rooms with views of the coastline.
I think the lovely fellow who drove us to the carpark at the end of our stay summed up our feelings exactly when he told us of a Victorian couple who normally would head to Bali and Thailand every year, but because of Covid, had discovered Thala Lodge in their own country: “Why didn’t we know about this?”
Written by Travelling Girl, September 2022