Port Douglas, Australia

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 June, 2007, 12:00am

Port Douglas has long been Australia's favourite gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, cleverly attracting sophisticated international visitors (it was a hit with the Clintons) while maintaining the town's laid-back, tropical-village atmosphere.

Amid the plethora of shops selling cheap T-shirts and Balinese-themed sarongs is a handful of boutiques specialising in the kind of international and Australian beachwear that wouldn't be out of place in Cannes or at an exclusive spa resort.

For maximum glamour head to Ginni (shop 28, Marina Mirage, tel: 61 7 4099 4227). The small boutique is a fantasyland of elegant resort and formal wear. Innovative Australian design label Easton Pearson features strongly, with beautifully hand-embroidered dresses from A$650 (HK$4,200). Melbourne-based designer Lisa Barron's three-quarter-sleeved ruffled tunics cost A$400 to A$700 and are perfect for maintaining an ethereal look in high temperatures. Raiss Knitwear is another Australian design success story, known for its meticulous bead work on cool-to-wear knits. Match a chic simple skirt (A$450) with a top (A$265) available in a range of unusual colours. A chocolate-brown macintosh with a distinctive high collar costs A$450 and is perfect for tropical downpours.

Also in the Marina Mirage shopping mall (below) is the Australian Outback Club (tel: 61 7 4099 4388), the best place for authentic but stylish local products. Traditional Aussie bush hats from Barmah Hats cost A$45 to A$120 and will distract husbands while their partners stock up on Helen Kaminski hand-rubbed, raffia versions (from A$150 to A$220). Photos of Hillary Clinton wearing one are proudly displayed.

On Macrossan Street, you'll find one of the best selections of chic swimsuits at Blue Heaven (tel: 61 7 4099 6211). Not content with kitting you out in brilliantly coloured and intricately beaded swimsuits (from A$349) from international designer Maryan Mehlhorn, the genuinely friendly shop assistants provide expert fitting advice: the right style and fit can be transform-ing. Complete the look with co-ordinated belts, sandals and wraps (A$300 for beaded sarongs). Don't miss the shop's 'travel wear programme', a simple capsule wardrobe of beautifully cut T-shirts (A$45), trousers (A$75) and skirts (A$85). The viscose and Spandex range is crease free, breathable and holds its shape without sacrificing style.

Nearby, Josephine's (shop 8, 42 Macrossan Street, tel: 61 7 4099 6335) carries a range of itsy-bitsy bikinis and designer beachwear for the adventurous. A popular casual-to-formal beach range by Australian sisters Nicky and Simone Zimmermann, known for their original designs and outrageous swimsuits, is featured. Feminine body-hugging silk Zimmermann dresses cost from A$295 to A$800, an eye-popping hot orange bikini is A$190 and high-cut shorts are A$215.

Add to your new beach wardrobe with striking jewellery from Wicked Willie's Jewellery (shop 3, 33 Macrossan Street, tel: 61 7 4099 5778). Chunky bead bracelets (A$500 to A$800) will match any colour you can think of. Amber pendants (from A$360) and one-off sets of necklaces, bracelets and rings are guaranteed to give your new tropical wardrobe the final touch.

Port Douglas is so compact you don't need a car and most hotels provide minibus transfers to key shopping areas. See www.pddt.com.au for practical regional information.