Home to white-sand beaches, Port Douglas is the gateway to Far North Queensland, Australia, including the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation. Just a one-hour drive from Cairns, this backpacker-friendly fishing town has discreet hotels – bookable on Culture Trip – in tropical palm-lined surroundings. And with plenty of restaurants and nightlife dotting the shoreline, it’s no wonder that visitors come for breakfast and stay all day.
Things to do in Port Douglas
Port Douglas isn’t the largest town in Queensland, but it’s probably the most adventurous. As the jumping-off point for the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and Daintree Rainforest, it’s a nature lover’s paradise. You can’t come all this way without strapping on a scuba kit and exploring the most famous coral reef, electric with marine life, in the world. Whether you go out on one of the many group day trips that leave from Port Douglas or book a private tour, the GBR is a must-see.
So, too, is the Daintree Rainforest. A drive up the coast from Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation is like taking a road back in time; you’ll be driving through the oldest indigenous rainforest in the world, an area of damp, mossy green almost oppressive in its scale and density. You can stop for downhill mountain biking, zip-lining or horse riding along the white stretches of sand that fringe it. However you tackle it, you won’t forget it.
Back at base, Port Douglas’s Four Mile Beach is the ideal spot for a honeymoon stroll. Slip off your shoes to tread along the silky-white shoreline before stopping for crispy fish tacos from a beachside shack. Alternatively, when you fancy more of a night out, head into the town centre to go pub-hopping along Macrossan Street.
The Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort offers first-class, five-star accommodation surrounded by botanical gardens. Pick a room with a private terrace overlooking the lush greenery or a balcony with views of the seemingly endless saltwater lagoon pools. With 24-hour room service, a choice of five restaurants and bars, private white-sand beaches and an 18-hole golf course, you won’t want to leave this slice of paradise.
The Beach Terraces offers modern, fully equipped self-catering apartments just steps from the famous Four Mile Beach and a short stroll to restaurants and shops. For chill-out time, there are sunbeds on the terrace, and you’re free to throw a sausage or two on the communal gas-powered grills.
Over at the Ramada Resort by Wyndham Port Douglas, you’ll find plantation-style accommodation set among the lush greenery of rainforest gardens. Every morning you’ll be woken by the gentle sounds of birds and swaying palms whispering outside your shuttered windows.
Ask anyone who has been to Port Douglas where they go “out-out”, and the IronBar will definitely be in the mix. Popular with everyone from bearded bikers to backpackers, this is a friendly, local place good for beer, prime steaks from Cape Grim in Tasmania, pizzas and bar snacks. For something a little swankier, head to the candlelit Watergate Restaurant & Lounge Bar in the centre of town. Book a terrace table and enjoy whispering sweet nothings and eating contemporary Australian grub.
April to June marks the beginning of the dry season in Port Douglas, with temperatures averaging a balmy 25C (77F). May also draws the close of stinger season. July through September brings cooler temperatures, lots of sunshine and minimal rainfall. If you’re planning on some serious hiking, September to November would be the best time to visit, as daytime temperatures hover around 23C (73F). November to April is the wet season, with hot and humid days.
Cairns Airport is the gateway to this part of Queensland, and you’ll find daily direct flights from major cities across Australia, including Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. It’s then an easy drive up the coast to Port Douglas.