Cairns is a city, that’s where you’ll fly into when going up to the Great Barrier Reef. And you can use it as a jumping off point to the Reef to be sure. But ever since I was a kid I preferred to stay in the town of Port Douglas about an hour away.
There’s only one place though where you can use points from one of the major hotel loyalty programs there. Oh, there’s a Best Western and a Ramada. But Starwood has a property — the Sheraton Mirage — which was the first big resort in the area (formerly just Mirage).
It’s a large hotel with meandering pools and is nestled just beside the beach, but it’s a drive out from town. Many will rent cars, though there’s convenient van transport as well.
- Introduction: Virgin Australia and Delta Business Class, the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney
- Concourse Hotel LAX, a Hyatt affiliate
- Virgin Australia Check-in and Star Alliance Business Class Lounge
- Virgin Australia Business Class, Los Angeles – Brisbane
- Virgin Australia Brisbane Lounge and Business Class, Brisbane – Cairns
After an hour’s drive from the Cairns airport we arrived at the Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas Resort. Having flown Austin – Los Angeles – Brisbane – Cairns I was pretty exhausted at this point.
I booked the resort on cash and points, 5000 points and $75 per night, for three nights. Paid rates at the time I booked were showing over US$600. That surprised me because it was definitely still shoulder season while I was there.
On arrival I realized that the place was mostly deserted. The whole town of Port Douglas was still as it wasn’t yet ‘the season’ at the end of March. But the hotel was exceptionally so, as it was undergoing (much needed and long overdue) renovations.
I had requested an upgrade using Suite Night Awards. Apparently the rooms out of commission for the renovation meant they didn’t have suites available, but they did put me into one of the prototype refurbished guest rooms.
Ground floor rooms have balconies walking out at pool level. I was up a floor, there’s no balcony on these.
The room features a bed, a sitting area by the window, and a desk.
The bathroom was clearly redone, and quite nicely I thought.
Even though I selected breakfast as my platinum amenity, chocolates were delivered to the room.
Beside the bed is the minibar area with coffee setup.
The problem with the coffee setup was that they offered a French press but no water heater in the room, and there was a machine for pods but there were no pods.
Waking up in the middle of the night, my first night there, I decided I was awake and wanted some coffee. I rang room service, and though they’re 24 hours they explained to me that room service delivers food and I wanted beverages. I asked them, “but you offer beverages with food, right?” They said yes — but only wine and beer. Then they challenged the idea that I’d want coffee so early anyway, “You mean you want to be up the rest of the right?”
I asked if they could deliver pods for the machine that’s in the room, but they didn’t know of any such machine (apparently it’s only in the renovated rooms and I may have even been its first guest).
Finally they figured out that they could get me pods the next day, make sure the water heater was replaced, and would actually just bring me up coffee. All good, though I was still a bit out of sorts from the travel, and I suppose I just had difficulty making sense of it all.
For the room itself, I liked the renovation but found two shortcomings:
- When you open front door of room all of the room’s lights turn on. That’s fine for when you’re entering from the outside, but less desirable when leaving or opening the door for someone from the hotel.
- The room doesn’t have universal outlets, or nearly enough outlets. I bring my adapters of course but it’s something worth rectifying.
The hotel’s grounds are a series of pools surrounding buildings of guest rooms, along with the main building at the center of the hotel with restaurants and conference space.
The main building is where breakfast occurs each morning. I certainly got value for my Platinum amenity, as it was completely without charge for the both of us — except that I learned quickly that espresso drinks weren’t included.
The resort is separated from the beach by a few feet of trees that you can walk through.
There’s a ‘bus’ (a van, really) that runs a scheduled route past the Sheraton. There’s a discount for buying a roundtrip ticket, and of course you’ll need to get back, but I still found it better to buy the one-way fare. That’s because while only one company runs past the Sheraton on a scheduled basis for pickups, either company will drop you back off at the Sheraton from one of the designated pickup points along the main street of Port Douglas. If you buy the roundtrip ticket you’re locked into using the same company going back to the hotel, and that could mean waiting as much as half an hour versus 15 minutes.
The hotel itself is only 5-10 minutes out of town – a bit far of a walk, but not at all of a long drive. So it was convenient to go to town during the day and each evening rather than staying on property.
The Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas is an older property, and off the main drag of town, but is a true resort in the Port Douglas area and so a solid jumping off point for the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest while still remaining accessible to dining and other options in the town of Port Douglas itself.
The renovations will help bring the property up to speed, and make it a bit more modern. It appears to be getting the care that it needs.
Still, some improvements could be made (such as with outlets, and making sure the lighting and coffee situations are straight). And service is a bit Aussie, like questioning why I’d want coffee and not to go back to sleep at 3am. That and one day I was in the room when housekeeping came by. I twice later in the day asked for service but didn’t get it, instead receiving a ‘Make a Green Choice’ card under my door at the end of the evening.
I was more than happy with the stay. I’ve been to Port Douglas since I was a teenager, and will certainly go back, odds on staying again at the Sheraton.