If you are planning a visit to Tropical North Queensland in Australia one of the top destinations to consider visiting is the coastal town of Port Douglas.
Located approximately 70 km north of Cairns the palm tree-lined town is the gateway to not one but two Australian UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.
In this post you will find the best activities in Port Douglas, attractions in Port Douglas, places to visit in Port Douglas and everything in-between!
You will find essential travel tips to help plan your visit including the best places to eat and stay in the town.
- Best things to do in Port Douglas
- Take a walk down Four Mile beach
- Walk up Flagstaff Hill
- Enjoy a stunning sunset at Rex Smeal Park
- Take a trip to Mossman Gorge
- Take a train ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway
- Look for crocodiles (from the safety of a boat)
- Take a walk along Macrossan Street
- Take a road trip along the Great Barrier Reef Drive
- Visit the Great Barrier Reef
- Cross the Daintree River
- Plan your visit to Port Douglas
- Enjoy your visit to Far Northern Queensland
Best things to do in Port Douglas
Take a walk down Four Mile beach
The best beach in town is the wonderfully (and incorrectly) named Four Mile beach! The beach is actually 4 kms long but was apparently named after a local family called Fourmile.
The beach is flat and spacious and easily accessible and is one of Australia’s best beaches. There are signs for crocodiles at the beach so personally I wouldn’t swim but there were plenty of people in the water when we visited!
The beach stretches from Island Point and ends at the rocky mangrove reef of the Mowbray River.
There are lifeguards on duty and stinger enclosures keep bathers protected from the deadly Irukandji jellyfish that infest the waters between October and May.
If you aren’t up for a dip then simply enjoy a stroll along the beautiful sand and enjoy the views!
If you love beaches why don’t you plan a visit to Whitehaven Beach when you are in Queensland!
Walk up Flagstaff Hill
Your reward for completing the walk up Flagstaff Hill is the fabulous view over the palm trees to 4-mile beach and the Coral Sea. The walking trail provides plenty of opportunities for visitors to take great snaps with several photographic hot spots along the way.
The 1 km track provides a link between Rex Smeal Park and Four Mile Beach. The gravel-based track leads you to the Flagstaff Hill lookout and views like that above!
Enjoy a stunning sunset at Rex Smeal Park
This photograph says it all! A very popular spot to enjoy the sunset is at the Rex Smeal Park. Get there early, take a seat and enjoy the sight!
Or walk the Flagstaff Hill walking trail from Four Mile Beach to the park to enjoy the golden hour before the sun sets over the Coral Sea.
Apparently, this is also I popular spot for wedding venues and I can see why – this must be the most romantic spot in Port Douglas (if you ignore the crowds at sunset!)
Take a trip to Mossman Gorge
A little out of Port Douglas a short drive takes you to Mossman Gorge. This should definitely be on your Port Douglas itinerary. Situated in the Daintree rainforest, the oldest continuously surviving rainforest in the world,
Mossman Gorge is one of the few places in Australia where you can gain an insight into the culture, beliefs and the lives of Indigenous Australians.
Join a Dreamtime Walk tour and learn about the Kuku Yulanii who have lived in the area for thousands of years.
Take a train ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway
Why not take a trip with the Ballyhooley Steam Railway? The train takes you on a scenic meander through the town and is a great trip to take with (or without) kids! Find more ideas of things to do in Port Douglas with children here.
The train departs from either Marina Station or St. Crispins Station and makes stops at QT Resort Station and Mirage Country Club Station along the way.
You get some great views of the golf course and if you are lucky (we were) you may see a helicopter take-off (or land) on the Sheraton’s helipad.
A second option if you love trains (and beautiful scenery) is to take the Kuranda Scenic railway
This is a more expensive option and will need a day to get the most of the trip as Kuranda is over an hour from PD.
If you have the time during your holiday I would recommend taking the Skyrail to Kuranda and then returning by train. Check out the Skyrail website for more information.
Look for crocodiles (from the safety of a boat)
Take a ride on the Lady Douglas River Cruise along the Dickson Inlet, through the mangrove forests and look for estuarine crocodiles.
We chose probably the worst day during our time in Port Douglas to take this trip but we still had a great time. The owner of the Lady Douglas knows his stuff and we loved his commentary on the trip!
The Lady Douglas River Cruise departs daily from the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina. As well as looking out for those crocs there is plenty of other wildlife to keep an eye out for including sea eagles, kites, ospreys, kingfishers, herons, waders, crabs, mudskippers and more.
There are a number of river cruises available on the Lady Douglas with every river cruise passing through the scenic waterfront and harbour out into the mouth of the inlet. On clear days you can enjoy stunning coastal views of the rainforest-clad mountains and local islands.
Good to know – Find out the tides before you book as you have a greater chance of seeing crocodiles at low tide when they sun themselves on the river bank.
Take a walk along Macrossan Street
If you need a little retail therapy in Port Douglas then head to the main shopping street. Macrossan Street is home to bars, restaurants, coffee shops and some lovely little boutique shops.
And on a Sunday take a stroll through the Port Douglas markets which are held between 8 am – 2 pm-ish.
Take a road trip along the Great Barrier Reef Drive
With views that will take your breath away, stunning beaches and the oldest rainforest on earth along this 140 km drive from Cairns to Cape Tribulation this has got to be one of the most scenic drives in the world.
And on your way from Cairns to Cape Tribulation is Port Douglas so stop off and enjoy some time to do all the other great things on this list!
There are lots of places to pull over along the route to enjoy the stunning views so make sure to take your time and enjoy the wonderful scenery!
Visit the Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was inscribed on the list in 1981. Whether your destination is the inner or the outer reef all of this is possible from Port Douglas.
The Low Isles are particularly popular as they are so close to Port Douglas and require a short boat trip. The Low Isles are described as the nursery of the reef as many young aquatic animals can be seen here.
If snorkelling or diving in Port Douglas and surrounds is high on your agenda there are plenty of companies in town to help you arrange this.
There are plenty of options to snorkel, dive, snorkel and dive, spend the day on a pontoon or simply sail to the low islands.
So whether you are an experienced diver, someone wanting to learn to dive or a family with kids who just want to snorkel there is a tour to suit you!
Just make sure to book well in advance as Port Douglas tours can get very busy especially during school holiday times.
Cross the Daintree River
It is possible to cross the Daintree River and spend a day exploring the ancient Daintree rainforest. I will be going into more detail in a future post but beautiful Cape Tribulation, close encounters with cassowaries, trying some tropical fruits and more is just a short drive and ferry crossing away.
Those are my recommended top 10 things to do in Port Douglas! If you can I would plan to do all of them! Check out this great itinerary if you are planning to drive the East Coast of Australia from Brisbane to Cape Tribulation.
Plan your visit to Port Douglas
Essential FAQ’s and information about Port Douglas
Where is Port Douglas?
Port Douglas is a town in Far North Queensland. The population is approximately 3500. The distance from Cairns is 70 kms and from Brisbane is 1700 kms.
Map of Port Douglas
How can I get to Port Douglas?
Most people either drive or fly (via Cairns)
- The nearest airport is Cairns and all the major airlines fly to Cairns including Virgin Australia and Qantas.
- Flights Melbourne take approximately 3 1/2 hours.
- Flying from Sydney takes approximately 3 hours 20 mins.
- Flights Brisbane take approximately 3 hours.
Once you have arrived at Cairns airport you have a number of options to choose from to travel to Port Douglas.
- Catch a bus from Cairns. There are a number of companies which offer a Cairns to Port Douglas shuttle bus service including Cairns Airport Shuttle , Coral Reef Coaches, Coral Sea Coaches and Krystal Transport amongst others.
- Pay for a taxi – not the cheapest option but if you decide to book a taxi to from Cairns agree a price before you leave. Book ahead of time and arrange your collection point.
- Book a limousine for the transfer from Cairns – Cairns Limousines and Cairns Luxury Limousines offer this service.
- Car rental. There are a number of car hire companies operating out of Cairns airport if decide to drive from Cairns to Port Douglas. The Cairns to Port Douglas drive along the coast is one of the most scenically stunning in Queensland.
- Alternatively if you are happy to arrange an airport transfer but want a car to use for some of the holiday there are a number of car rental firms in town.
What accommodation options are there in Port Douglas?
- Luxury hotels
There are so many great choices of accommodation to suit everyone’s needs whatever their price bracket.
If you are looking for a luxury option then the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort will possibly be your hotel of choice. This 5* hotel boasts of lagoon pools and tropical gardens as well as an 18 hole golf course for those who wish to play golf.
CLICK THIS LINK to book your luxury 5* accommodation in Port Douglas
- Boutique Motel
We booked to stay at the Port Douglas Motel when we were in town and have no complaints at all. A 4* accommodation option the motel is located an easy 3 minute stroll into town.
With great amenities including free WiFi, pool, air conditioning, BBQ facilities and shared outdoor kitchen this would be our choice on our next visit too.
CLICK THIS LINK to book your stay at the Port Douglas Motel.
If hostels are what you are looking for in this popular destination for backpackers from around the world.
There are 3 hostels including Dougies Backpackers, Port Douglas Backpackers and Global Backpackers Port Douglas.
- Caravan Parks
There are a wide range of option for those on a self drive holiday whether with a caravan, camper van, motor home or a tent! My advice is to check out Douglas Shire Council’s website for recommendations!
Where to eat & drink in Port Douglas
- Best restaurants
Seafood, seafood and more seafood! The obvious first choice for lunch and/or dinner has to be a seafood platter or the ‘catch of the day.’
There are Japanese, Mexican, Italian and Spanish restaurants in town as well as some fast food options available on Macrossan Street.
There is the prerequisite Irish Bar which has good food and a great atmosphere! Try Paddy’s Irish Pub and Grill which can be found at 8 Macrossan Street.
The Port Douglas Yacht Club is a popular dining option for families and couples (locals and visitors alike). Enjoy your meal with great views over the Dickson Inlet.
When is the best time of year to visit Port Douglas?
In the summer expect heavy rainfall but beautifully warm seas (hot and palmy). Between May and October sunny days are the norm and the humidity has diminished (calm and balmy).
Tips for your visit
- It gets very busy in town in the school holiday months (particularly July) so book ahead!
- Pack the strongest insect repellant you can find!
- Remember sunglasses, suncream and a hat.
- This is crocodile country – be aware and stay safe.
- If you decide to use the Daintree ferry it now accepts cards as well as cash (the ferry runs daily from 6 am to midnight)
- There are a number of petrol stations on the outskirts of town including a new BP garage which sells food and drink.
- There is a large Coles near Macrossan Street.
Enjoy your visit to Far Northern Queensland
I have lots of posts all about visiting Australia and a number of these are focused on the beautiful state of Queensland.
With an enviable climate, wonderful wildlife, stunning beaches if Queensland is your destination these posts will help you get the best of your visit!
- Guide to visiting Mackay – top 10 things to see and do