King in the North

Far North Queensland is the most beautiful place in Australia. Writer Sonia Komaravalli takes her merry band of travellers (aka family and new Dell laptop) into the wild and not so wild parts of the Far North. See disclosure and breakout below.

Our recent trip to FNQ (Far North Queensland for the uninitiated) from the cold respite of the south was first met with the removal of many many many layers. Leaving 9 degrees and arriving at 33 degrees does shock the body (sweaty armpits, gluey hair and BO are all readily welcomed as part of the transition to an extremely humid climate). Our first stop is Peppers Palm Cove. A short 20-minute drive from Cairns airport, Palm Cove is idyllic. A stretch of ocean flanked by a mountainous landscape, a handful of low-rise boutique hotels and friendly villagers. This is our go-to Aussie holiday destination. It has everything a young family could want; locally made gelato, a not too wavy beach, a non-swanky fish and chips shop and monthly local artisan Sunday market that close down the main street.

We chose to stay at Peppers because it has three awesome pools. One with a waterfall, one with real sand and one that has been basically transported straight from a rainforest. Our rooms overlook the rainforest pool with direct swim out access. Spoilt. We have often stayed at The Reefhouse which is equally as good. It just depends who has deals on at the time. When we travelled (April school holidays) many places were heavily booked and we were lucky Peppers were offering a three nights for the price of two special.

While in Palm Cove, activities range from lounging at the pool to lounging at the beach to lounging on your lounge. With so much lounging it is easy to build up an appetite and most of the local eateries are geared for demanding tourists – slightly overpriced but tasty. We usually ate in-house or cooked as we had a full kitchen that was much bigger and better than the one at home. Taking the kids to fancy-ish restaurants has never been worth the effort. We did go for after-dinner strolls for Gelato at Scoops which have large servings and interesting flavours, but avoided eating out.

Next stop Port Douglas. Complete with its own microbrewery, Hemmingway, Port Douglas has very much moved on from its elite Santa Barbara-esque days. The hipsters haven’t exactly moved in but their presence is being felt. Hemmingway offers malty caramel house-made brews like Doug’s Courage, which is named after the community getting together after a 1911 cyclone annihilated the place. The community’s spirit is felt if not heard, as locals gather at pubs on the main strip and at the wharf.

Don’t miss a trip to Mossman Gorge to bathe in crystal clear waterholes ($14 for the trip up on the bus). Also a must is the Sunday markets. They have been going since the 80s and some of the stallholders have the haircuts to prove it. The council has designated it to be a “Cotters Market” so the stallholders that sell are makers of the product. Think gorgeous pearl bracelets with designer earrings, fruit pops with real fruit ($5 for a kids favourite), exquisite metal work wind chimes, hand made aprons, paintings on coconuts and more. For accommodation try Sea Temple renowned for its amazing pool that skirts around the whole property, Sheraton Mirage or Peppers for deals.

Last stop is Cairns City and we stay at Cairns Village Resort which is next door to Coconuts. Coconuts is an institution. With plenty of Trip Advisor awards and outstanding reviews, it can often be hard to get into especially around school holidays, so book well in advance. When in Cairns, note the Tourist Information office listed in Google has closed and it is hard to get a handle on where to get information if you aren’t used to having a device glued to your hands. If you need a map print it before you go.

The esplanade is replete with a beautiful clean, safe community pool adorned with palm trees, lifesavers and lots of well-tanned backpackers. With kids, you can’t go past Muddy’s Playground with its mini streams, fountains, giant climbing frog, roly-poly wheels and musical instruments. Also dine at Wharf One cafe for a twist on local fare and spectacular views. Take a day trip out to the reef, or try Fitzroy Island for some snorkelling on isolated beaches. Visit Rusty’s fruit and vegetable market for fresh coconut juice and delicious produce straight from growers in the abundantly fertile Atherton Tablelands, or better still make a trip to the Atherton Tablelands to meet growers themselves. There’s Nerada Teas, Biodynamic yoghurt farms, Malanda Dairy Factory and many more. Don’t bypass the waterfall trails for Instagram’s most magical places and if you have time check out Crater Lakes National Park (Lake Barrine is magnificent).

There is so much to do, see, hear and taste in Far North Queensland. I am glad it is mostly off the Tourist radar, leaving much for we Interstate travelers to enjoy (is that selfish?). With millions of dollars being invested into Cairns airport over the next three years and companies like Credit Suisse eyeing stakes, it is certain to be heading into boom territory in the medium term. The airport is undergoing extensive renovations preparing for the expected six million plus visitors per year. Get onto it before everyone else does and bends the knee to Cairns, King in the North (the Far North).

Review of Dell XPS 13 9380 Frost White as a travel laptop

Travelling with a Dell XPS 13 9380 is like travelling with a mini-high definition movie screen that lets you work on complex spreadsheets at the same time. The Dell XPS 13 has been described as the perfect machine. Even CNET, expert Intel reviewers have said they have finally run out of complaints. It is single handedly the best travel laptop currently on the market. Complete with an extraordinary battery life lasting between 12 and 24 hours, it is perfect for long haul trips and short and everything in-between.

Yelling, quarrelling, confused glances and strange noises from my family are met with hushed tones from me and endless embarrassment – particularly in intimate public places like planes and hotel lobbies where everyone looks like they are from glamourised tourism ad. Thankfully I had a top of the line Dell laptop on hand to muzzle outbursts.

We used the laptop for both flights MEL – CNS return, a journey of about 3 and half hours. I placated my children with an old time classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the more recent but equally vibrant Trolls. The vivid colours of both movies were extraordinary. Each child shared an earphone and our flight was magic. I was happy to catch up on Game of Thrones season 7 seamlessly at our hotel. I must admit this was a re-watch in preparation for season 8 release, which I was also able to watch on this phenomenal screen.

The screen is like being in an IMAX cinema, well almost. It has an immersive “State of the Art” viewing experience. Unique features of the Dell unit are concentrated on this cinematic experience and include:

  • 4mm side borders that are 23% thinner than the original XPS 13. With an 80.7% screen-to-body ratio, the view is all beautiful screen.
  • Optional 4K Ultra HD display boasts 100% RGB color gamut and 1500:1 contrast ratio for stunning clarity and vivid, accurate colour.
  • 65% anti-reflective coating on glossy screen cuts glare for working outside or in bright indoor light.
  • 400-nit brightness and wide 178-degree viewing means your view is spectacular from any angle.
  • Advanced hardware and software work together to power content with a superior dynamic range – delivering the deepest blacks, the most dazzling brights, and more vivid detail and colour.
  • Waves MaxxAudio® Pro boosts volume and clarifies every tone.
  • Killer Wireless channels maximum bandwidth to your videos or music for a seamless, stutter-free experience.

The Dell XPS 13 comes preloaded with Microsoft Office and I was diligently able to write this story, work on some Excel spreadsheets doing some business modeling for a startup, use Bing (for the first time ever) in Microsoft’s Edge Explorer and was wonderfully surprised. I mostly hung out in the hotel lobby as the wifi in my room was slow (no reflection on the machine, but just the NBN hasn’t made it this far north yet).

As an Apple tragic (mostly because of my high use of the Adobe Suite early in my computer life), I would never have thought I could appreciate a PC so much.

The unit is so streamlined, aesthetically pleasing, lightweight and durable. It is inspired by the latest runway fashions and features arctic white woven glass fiber palm rests developed specifically for Dell. No-one should ever buy a computer because of the way it looks. However given that the unit uses a new style of material which deftly weaves together materials silk, glass and titanium oxide – you could be forgiven. The fact that the machine is packed with punch – an 8th generation Intel® chip means 4 cores are working seamlessly to have you working on lots of intense apps at the same time.

I thinking of dumping my MacBook Air today.

The Dell XPS 13 9830 Frost White retails for $2999. More information can be found here

Dell XPS 13 9000 Series (Model 9380) touch notebook computer, codename Italia WHL.

Writer Sonia Komaravalli paid for her and her family’s travel, accommodation and meals. Dell supplied a laptop for the journey. Many thanks to Dell for making the journey a pleasant one.