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Many international and domestic visitors opt to only visit Cairns in far north Queensland, skipping Port Douglas altogether. But the small seaside town is beautiful in its own right. If you need convincing, here’s why you need to visit Port Douglas today.
Port Douglas is a great place to base yourself for exploring the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef. The Low Isles is a small sandy cay on the Great Barrier Reef, located only 15 minutes by boat from Port Douglas. The reef surrounds the cay, so visitors don’t have to snorkel far to see coral, several fish species, and sea turtles. Agincourt Reef is one of the Great Barrier Reef’s best dive sites, and it’s accessible by day trip from Port Douglas with ecotourism experts, Quicksilver Cruises too.
The rivers, reef, and rainforest surrounding Port Douglas are an adventure lover’s paradise. Firstly, there’s the opportunity to dive on the Great Barrier Reef. Then there’s local company Windswell, who specialise in kite surfing lessons and hire, as well as stand-up paddleboarding tours. Foaming Fury operate half day whitewater rafting tours to Barron Gorge, and full day whitewater rafting adventures to Russell River, which include transfers from Port Douglas. Finally, there’s Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours in the Daintree Rainforest.
Many Australian residents visit Port Douglas annually because it experiences a tropical climate. This means it has two seasons: wet and dry. Wet season is in the summertime, and involves high humidity, heavy rainfalls, and stingers taking over the ocean. Dry season (April to October) equals cooler nights, but temperatures between 19 and 24°C during the day. Peak tourist season is during ‘winter’ in Port Douglas.
Speaking of perfect weather, the water is fortunately warm enough at Port Douglas’ beaches for year-round swimming. The town’s main beach is Four Mile Beach. It stretches and curves as far as the eye can see. In summer, there’s a stinger net installed at Four Mile Beach, which everyone should use. But in the winter, you can safely swim into the gentle waves wherever you want.
One of the best things about the balmy climate in Port Douglas is that you can dine outside year-round. For the most unique outdoor dining experience in the rainforest, visit Flames of the Forest. Nautilus Restaurant is located down a hidden path, and set in a lush tropical garden setting. It serves modern Australian cuisine, with European and Asian influences. 2 Fish Restaurant is an open plan and multi award-winning seafood restaurant, while On the Inlet has been a local’s favourite for over 20 years.
Port Douglas is just an hour’s drive north of Cairns. So if you don’t want to miss out on visiting the fourth most popular tourist destination in Australia, you can easily spend a day in the city. In Cairns, don’t forget to check out the Esplanade Lagoon and the Cairns Art Gallery. You can also easily access two islands on the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns: Green and Fitzroy Islands. Halfway between Cairns and Port Douglas is Palm Cove, a beautiful Cairns suburb with one of the best beaches in Queensland.
Port Douglas is home to some of the most luxurious hotels and resorts in Queensland. There’s Niramaya Villas & Spa, which has luxury self-contained accommodation. Other options include Peppers Beach Club, Pullman Port Douglas and its 3,000 square metre lagoon-style swimming pool, and the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort. The latter is home to two lagoon pools and seven villa pools. Plus it’s adjacent to the Mirage Country Club, with its fitness centre, lap pool, tennis courts, and an 18-hole golf course.
There are several places where you can learn more about Australia’s indigenous history in Port Douglas, Firstly, Flames of the Forest—a dining experience mentioned earlier—has an Aboriginal Dining Experience, with a cultural performance by two brothers. At Mossman Gorge, which is a 20-minute drive from Port Douglas, visitors can go on a Dreamtime walk with a local Indigenous guide to learn more about the area’s Aboriginal history. Finally, Tjapukai Cultural Park is a must-visit attraction in nearby Cairns.
About two hours north of Port Douglas is Cape Tribulation, but between these two locations is Daintree National Park. This is home to the Daintree Rainforest, which is part of the World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics of Queensland. At over 135-million-years-old, Daintree is the world’s oldest rainforest. It can easily be accessed from Port Douglas. Things to do in the Daintree Rainforest include visiting Mossman Gorge, cruising down the Daintree River, going for a walk through the rainforest, and seeing the rainforest meet the reef in Cape Tribulation.
Port Douglas is a fantastic place to visit to get up close to some of the cutest Australian animals. Wildlife Habitat has options for visitors to have breakfast and lunch amongst native birds. You can also get your photo taken with koalas, snakes, and crocodiles; and you might have the opportunity to feed a cassowary at Wildlife Habitat. Located 25 minutes south of Port Douglas, Hartley Crocodile Adventures says it is the best place in north Queensland to see crocodiles and local wildlife.
Kuranda is easily accessible from Port Douglas. Visitors can choose between arriving and departing from Kuranda via the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, or the Scenic Kuranda Railway. Both options include beautiful forested views. Kuranda is a small mountain town that’s home to art galleries, many souvenir stores, the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Kuranda Koala Gardens, Rainforestation Nature Park, Birdworld Kuranda, and Barron Falls. Don’t miss out on exploring this beautiful hideaway near Port Douglas.