Hotel Review: Silky Oaks Lodge – The Daintree Australia
On a recent trip to Australia we decided to take a little detour from the beautiful beaches, amazing scuba diving, and bustling cities to spend a little time in the rain forest. And boy are we glad we did. But to start our story off properly I have to disclose that the rain forest was not on our original itinerary. It wasn’t until a friend suggested we check out Silky Oaks Lodge that it made the list. As such, it seemed only fitting that I put together a Silky Oaks Lodge review to share the experience we had.
Silky Oaks Lodge Review
Silky Oaks Lodge is a one-of-a-kind ecolodge that is nestled above the Mossman Gorge River in the Daintree rain forest. To get there we flew into Cairns (pronounced Cans, for some reason) and drove about an hour and a half north towards Port Douglas. The drive was a breath-taking wind among the beaches and cliffs of Northern Australia. Since we flew in from New Zealand this was the first we saw of the country and we we’re in awe.
When we got close to Port Douglas we started making our way inland to the rain forest. One of the most amazing aspects of visiting this part of Australia is the sheer biodiversity that you are able to experience. You can be mesmerized by the ocean, calmed by the waving sugar cain fields, and then mystified by the rain forest all in a span of about 20 minutes.
We found the sugar cain fields to be particularly interesting as the Cain Train was in the process of collecting it’s harvest.
We then drove through the small mountain town of Mossman and turned towards Silky Oaks Lodge. We parked our car and traversed a short boardwalk through our first closeup look of the rain forest to the main lodge to check in.
The main lodge is perched on a hill that is overlooking the river. You walk up a few steps in the front as you normally would, but in the rear (where the dinning room is) you are in the trees. The most impressive part of the main lodge is that there hardly is a single door, window, or outside wall. With the exception of the library, the whole thing opens up to the beautiful rain forest outside. The birds, the wind, the pitter-patter of nature is all there for your entertainment.
As we checked in the the front desk attendant asked if we’d like a cocktail, a tour, and a porter to bring our bags to our room. The obvious answer to that question is yes, on all counts. We gave her our car keys and were escorted over to the library to await our cocktails.
The main lodge is the only area on the property that has wi-fi. We were told this as we sat down in the library and were a bit taken aback. It’s 2015, surly there is wi-fi in the rain forest. As international travelers with limited data plans we took advantage of this opportunity–like thirsty elephants we sucked up every megabyte we could of data after being disconnected for more than 12 hours. In retrospect we came to appreciate the forced disconnection from the world. It was a level of relaxation we haven’t experienced in a long time.
A few minutes later our hosts returned with our cocktails and they chatted with us a bit about the property. The cocktails were a well crafted mix of tropical fruit juices, but they lacked one key ingredient–booze. After traveling for 10 hours a shot or two of vodka would have been appreciated.
Have no fear though, a few minutes later we were lead to our room where we found all of our bags thoughtfully delivered and a bottle of champaign waiting for our enjoyment.
By this point it was late in the afternoon on a long travel day, so we drank some champaign and lounged around the room. We were staying in a “treehouse” room which is really a house among the trees (not like something you’d see on treehouse masters). Each of the rooms is a stand alone unit on risers to keep them off of the forest floor. There are treehouse rooms and river house rooms. The river houses appear to be a bit bigger and overlook the river, but to be honest, any room looked like it would be amazing.
Our room was very well appointed. The bed was very comfortable, and the hammock on the porch was where a good deal of time was spent.
Each room had a small fridge, a wardrobe, and very well stocked coffee and tea selection–electric kettle, ornate teapot and cups, french press, and many beverage options. The bathroom was very large and exceptionally clean. It had a large jacuzzi tub and a walk in shower. The shower leaked like crazy under the glass door, but it’s not my bathroom, so who cares!
After settling in we headed down to the main lodge for dinner. As Americans in Australia we didn’t know all of the social customs here, so we didn’t know that they appreciate reservations for everything.
We came upon a nearly empty dinning room, and when we approached the dinning area we were asked if we made a reservation. We said no, not thinking it would be an issue. The hostess responded with surprise and said “Oh, we weren’t expecting you. Please wait while we set a table for you.” Every single table in the dinning area was set. Not sure why we needed to go through the motions. This was a common trend almost every where we ate down under.
We were seated in about a minute and started reading over the menu. Kangaroo, crocodile, barramundi, and venison–the menu was a traveler’s dream. There was a good mix of authentic dishes and “safe choices.” We always try to skew authentic and jumped right in. We ordered a little of everything. The venison was delicious. The barramundi was perfect. The crocodile was, well…crocodile. And the kangaroo was epic. We ordered seconds on the ‘roo.
Breakfast was just as good a dinner the next morning. And best of all, it was included with our room! We ate well.
After stuffing ourselves full, we headed off to the Mossman Gorge National Park to get the full rain forest experience. We scheduled a guided tour through the front desk with Venture Deeper Tours the night before. We couldn’t make their standard tour so they offered to do a private tour with us a little later in the day.
Our guide was over an hour late.
But he knew his shit. We spent the next 4 hours on a leisurely walk learning about all of the ways the Australian rain forest can kill you. Or at least make you unhappy for a very long time. Like the Gympie Gympie tree, or a tree I knick-named the heart-shaped death tree. Touch it once and small silica will penetrate your skin down to the nerves and cause intense pain for months at the spot of contact.
Or perhaps a Red Bellied Black Snake. Not the most deadly of snakes, but definitely one to respect if it crosses your path.
Hurting and killing humans isn’t all the rain forest is concerned with. It’s a vicious ecosystem where survival of the fittest is still the name of the game. A good example of this is the Strangler Fig. A tree that starts as a seed high above in the canopy (deposited into basket ferns via bird poo) and finds its way down to the forest floor to take root. Once established it strangles its host tree leaving it to rot and provide nutrients for its dominance.
The Daintree rain forest, which is the oldest continuous rain forest in the world, is truly a majestic place. After our walk in the woods we headed back to Silky Oaks for afternoon tea and some relaxation. The tea selection was impressive, and the scones were amazing–and I am not a scone fan.
After exploring the lodge a bit more and enjoying the river it’s perched over it occurred to me that Silky Oaks’ biggest strength is the attention they pay to the little things. If you think about it, they have to. The lodge is a retreat nestled in the jungle. Their competition is people simply not visiting the area. Sure there are some hotels down in Mossman, but nothing at this level.
If you’re traveling to Silky Oaks, plan on unplugging. Plan on taking advantage of the simple pleasures they provide. Order a “hamper” lunch (or a pick-nick) and take the 45 minute hike to Fig Tree Rapids to go for a swim.
Pick up a bottle of wine at the Bottle-o in town and order yourself a little camp fire down by the river.
Or simply hang out in your hammock and wait for the rains to come.
Because at the end of the day, you’re there to relax.