The success of Port Douglas is all about Location. Just one hour’s spectacular drive north of Cairns Airport in Far North Queensland, with the waters of the Great Barrier Reef lapping the shoreline and the prehistoric rainforest of the Daintree calling, the tiny town of Port as the locals label it, delivers big time as a holiday destination. This posts delves into the best things to do in Port Douglas and why you should visit Port Douglas in Far North Queensland.
Great Barrier Reef
The world’s largest Unesco listed area, the Great Barrier Reef is made up of 2900 reefs stretching from Cape York on the northern tip of Australia to Lady Elliott Island 2,300 km to the south.
At Port the Reef is always calling, however it’s not something most of us can afford willy nilly – it’s one of the best things to do in Port Douglas, with a price to match. As such it pays to consider all the options before plunging in.
Quicksilver whisks you to their pontoon at Agincourt Reef, 72 km from Port on the outer barrier reef, in their 45 metre wave-piercing catamaran. Agincourt Reef is the quintessential reef experience, with the best coral viewing and water visibility.
Low Isles Port Douglas
Wavedancer, Quicksilver’s luxury 30m sailing catamaran goes to Low Isles, only 15 km/1 hour from Port, where it is possible to snorkel from the island beach. These are two we’re familiar with but there are many more companies and trips offering half and full day trips on sailing and/or power catamarans.
Photo and post by Adventure Mumma.
Familiarise yourself with the Marina to see where your boat will be leaving from.
Agincourt: Adults $246 Child $124 Family $616 (2 + 2) Low Isles: Adults $200.50 Child $102.50 Family $510 (2 + 2)
Relaxing Tropical Lifestyle
Work on your tan while you destress and dream of that after sun cocktail. Beach walk for hours, picnic or practice being a beach bum – it’s an honoured profession up here. You’ll be snoozing beneath a She Oak before you know it.
Four Mile Beach – easy access from the main street – Macrossan Street.
Four Mile from the walkway up to Flagstaff Hill.
Fishing Port Douglas.
Only a fisher-person understands how relaxing wetting a line can be. Pack your fishing gear and try your luck from the town’s Sugar Wharf.
Horseriding Port Douglas
Ports Horse Farm.
Owner Prue’s friendly down to earth style and love for her horses shows. She has developed an undercover riding Arena to complement their rainforest rides. The Arena, elevated at the back of the property where grassy fields meet rain-forested hills also offers protection from real and liquid sunshine.
Why not mix things up a little – an one hour’s ride is easily slotted in to the day’s activities and the farm is only 5 minutes from the Port Douglas Roundabout.
5 Heritage Lane CRAIGLIE
Far North Queensland
Best Viewpoints in Port Douglas
From the main street you can drive or walk to the lookout at the top of Flagstaff Hill. It overlooks Four Mile Beach and is a great Sunrise viewing Spot. It can also be accessed by a walking track from Four Mile Beach.
The below photo of Four Mile Beach, taken from Flagstaff Hill, shows the Marine Stinger (Swimming) Enclosure.
The decommissioned Lighthouse
When ascending the Flagstaff Hill road there is walking track access toward the bottom left of the road, which leads between houses to the lighthouse. There are great ocean views from up here.
Visit the Daintree Rainforest
Take a step back in time and visit Cape Tribulation in the prehistoric Daintree rainforest. It’s stepping back in time in more ways than one. Head 40 minutes north to where the Bruce Highway meets the Daintree River and board the barge.
Driving off into the Daintree rainforest gives me a Jurassic Park shiver of anticipation.
Cost: $25 Return trip.
What is The Daintree?
You will hear the term Daintree mentioned often in the North, but what is it exactly?
It’s a River, a Township and a Region and each are easily accessible from Port Douglas. The Daintree Rainforest begins at Mossman Gorge in the 1988 World Heritage Listed Daintree National Park and extends to Daintree Township and River and north to Cape Tribulation and beyond.
You can see a sketch map of the area with estimated drive times here or download the free map.
Cape Tribulation where the rainforest meets the sea.
Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation Map
Explore Dickson’s Inlet
Find out where the big boats hide during cyclones, bird watch in the mangroves and listen to boat wreck stories. Don your Safari Suit and join the Croc hunt at the Inlet Port Douglas.
Land-based wild Turtle Viewing.
Rex Smeal Park.
Rex Smeal is a good land base for turtle watching. At high tide they pop their heads up around the rocks. After 4.30 pm settle in to watch the big boats come home. They pass close to the point on their way into Dickson Inlet.
Port Douglas Sunday Markets
Market Park adjoins Anzac Park and is bordered by the Dickson Inlet and Wharf Street. The market has been going for nearly 25 years and wild horses can’t keep me away whenever we are in the area. Think tropical fruits, flowers, plants and locally made art and crafts galore. Plan to be in town on Sunday – I do.
Open 8 am to 1.30 pm every Sunday.
Behind the market is the 1880’s St. Mary’s Church by the Sea famous for destination weddings. A glass picture window overlooks the Coral Sea.
Court House Hotel Port Douglas
The Court House Hotel on the corner of Macrossan and Wharf Streets downtown, is one of the best hotels in Port Douglas. Every visit finds us at the Court House with a Coldie and a Countery (beer and bar meal). It overlooks Market Park, St. Mary’s By the Sea and Dickson’s Inlet and with a footpath leading right through the outdoor seating area, it’s a fun people watching spot too.
Fish and Chips in North Queensland are the best in Australia and possibly the world. I’m sorry everyone else but it’s true! Try Fish and Chips Port Douglas style at the Court House Hotel or head to a local fish and chippery for a beaut budget option.
Court House Hotel Wild Caught Barra, Chips and Salad Counter Meal $24. Kids Menu $10.
Delve into the History of Port Douglas
The Port was developed in 1877 to service the inland goldfields. Download the Douglas Shire Historical Society’s Stroll Back in Time in the Port Douglas Village (pdf) to take a self guided tour through the past or guided tours can be arranged for six or more.
Port Douglas Accommodation
Cheap Accommodation in Port Douglas is difficult to find, especially in Peak Season.
Tropic Breeze Caravan Park is only a couple of minutes from both the Four Mile Beach Swimming Enclosure and Macrossan Street – the main street of town. They have On-Site Cabins with private kitchens and shared amenities, as well as camp and caravan sites and a shaded swimming pool.
We found a house-sit using Trusted Housesitters on our last visit.
Airbnb offers a range of holiday accommodation from Spa Studios, to Beach Villas to whole homes and double rooms. Look for insect screening and air-conditioning. Get in early for the best deals and if you haven’t used Airbnb previously you can claim a first time user discount by using the link in our sidebar.
Luxury Accommodation Port Douglas is plentiful, but one notable choice is the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort, which has an amazing 2 hectares of saltwater palm fringed lagoon pools. It’s 43 Million Dollar refurbishment was completed in August 2016.Swimming Pools are a valuable asset in the hot humid tropics.
Best Time to Visit Port Douglas
Basically there are two seasons in the north. The Dry Season April to October and the Wet between November and March.
April to October is the best time to visit Port Douglas.
Temperatures are less hot and humid at this time, it doesn’t rain much either, hence the name The Dry. Needless to say it is peak tourist season.
The Wet from November to March is hot and humid and it rains often. It is Low Tourist Season with the benefit of fewer people and cheaper prices.
The Wet is Marine Stinger season in North Queensland. There will be a stinger net for swimmers at the top end of Four Mile Beach during the Marine Stinger season. You may also like to wear a stinger suit even when swimming within the stinger enclosure. Stinger suits also protect from the sun.
We visited during the wet season. Our photos were taken in November.
How to Get to Port Douglas
You can’t fly to Port Douglas, but all the major airlines fly into Cairns and Port Douglas is a short 50 minute drive north of Cairns. Yes, you can come by bus from Cairns to Port Douglas. Portdouglasbus.com offers transfers between Port Douglas, Cairns City, Cairns Airport and Mossman Gorge. We suggest renting a vehicle is the best way of exploring the area.
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