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An insider’s guide to tropical Port Douglas…

Aug 2, 2019 | Australia, Queensland

Port Douglas in Far North Queensland ticks the box of being the real “treat” component of your holiday….it oozes tropical relaxation and adventure! Expect a touch of paradise, Port Douglas is uniquely bordered by two World Heritage sites, the magnificent Great Barrier Reef and the ancient Daintree Rainforest.

guide to tropical Port Douglas
The Great Barrier Reef Drive. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland

The Great Barrier Reef Drive is the top coastal drive that leads you from Cairns to Port Douglas in just over an hour. The huge palm trees that border the drive into Port Douglas set the scene well for this tropical getaway and seaside town. Blessed by the tropical weather, you can expect lovely mild weather in June/July/August that is perfect for all outdoor activities or simply relaxing at Four Mile Beach. Humidity & the wet season kick in over the summer months…but essentially Port Douglas is pretty much perfect to visit year-round.

guide to tropical Port Douglas
Four Mile Beach. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland
guide to tropical Port Douglas
Indigenous Art Gallery. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland/Andrew Watson

Four Mile Beach is picture-perfect with the palm-tree lined beach consistently recognised as one of Australia’s best beaches. Great for long walks, swimming or trying your hand at kayaking or paddle boarding. After some sun and beach time wander up the main street to explore the shops, galleries, cafes and restaurants. Drop by the local markets on Sundays for a vivid array of tropical fruits and local arts & crafts. The Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina has some great bars and restaurants from which you can watch all the boats returning from a day on the Reef. For something unashamedly Australian don’t miss the nightly Cane Toad race at the Iron Bar. For a great Thai cooking class and lunch you can’t miss Oaks Kitchen & Garden or alternatively if you just feel like a decadent long-lunch travel 15 minutes out of town to either Silky Oaks Lodge or Thala Beach Lodge and indulge.

A small village that delivers so much, Port Douglas has so many things to see and do… you can easily spend a week or more in the area. Here are some of the key things to do:

Michaelmas Cay. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland

Explore the Great Barrier Reef: 

The main attraction to this gorgeous town is no doubt the Great Barrier Reef. It is absolutely a must-do! Fortunately, you have easy access from the local marina with plenty of operators to choose from. You can choose boats that take a minimum of 12 or a maximum of 350! The bigger operators have more toys to play with, expect glass bottom boats, helicopter rides etc. The smaller operators offer a completely personal nature experience focused around snorkelling and diving. I strongly recommend the smaller group tours…however the decisions don’t stop there. Duration is another factor, with the most popular choice being the full day tour. But you can also do overnight/live-aboard trips for the keen divers, or the fast half-day trips for those that are happy with a shorter snorkel. Finally, from Port Douglas you have quick access to the Low Isles, a sandy coral cay located on the inner Great Barrier Reef which is a good option for those with younger children, or of course you can visit the outer Great Barrier Reef on a longer boat trip to get to those famous dive/snorkel sites that offer the visual paradise that the Great Barrier Reef is famous for.

Snorkelling on Opal Reef. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland
Moore Reef. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland

Appreciate the Daintree Rainforest:

The other main must-do is to visit the Daintree Rainforest, one of the top three oldest in the world. The first stopping point is Mossman Gorge, located only 20 minutes north of Port Douglas. You can do self-guided walks, or join a Dreamtime Walk Tour and learn about the indigenous culture and their connection to the natural environment. Don’t miss a refreshing dip in the gorge for a beautiful Rainforest experience. Then on to the township of Daintree and catch a 1-hour wildlife cruise where you can expect to see crocodiles enjoying the sun. Cross the Daintree River and explore the Daintree Discovery Centre. The kids will love the Canopy Tower and aerial walkways through the Rainforest. Drive further north to Cape Tribulation, where you can step straight from the rainforest on to the magnificent beach. For a family fun activity do some Ziplining through the rainforest with Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours. Don’t forget to stop and enjoy some tropical fruit ice-cream from the Daintree Ice Cream Company on your return journey.

guide to tropical Port Douglas
Daintree Creek. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland

Meet the wildlife: 

Meet Zac, the 5-metre Saltwater Crocodile at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. He is a big fella, around 500kg and over 50 years old. He still has all his teeth! Don’t miss the Crocodile feeding shows where you see the crocodiles jump for their food. Hartley’s is a great day out. They have plenty of other unique Aussie animals as well. You can book a private tour to cuddle a Koala, feed wallabies (small kangaroos), hold a lizard and meet a Wombat. Hartley’s is 25 minutes south of Port Douglas. The closer alternative is Wildlife Habitat, which offers the Aussie wildlife experience right in Port Douglas.

Tree Kangaroo. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland

Visit Atherton Tablelands:

For a full day trip visit Kuranda & the Atherton Tablelands. Only 1 hour from Port Douglas there is plenty to do up there. Kuranda is a good starting point with the Rainforestation, Markets and the largest Butterfly aviary in Australia. This is a coffee growing region so if you love your coffee & chocolates make sure to visit Coffee Works. For more action there is a professional go kart racetrack at Mareeba that even beginners can have a go on. For something different make sure to visit the Bat Hospital in Atherton or look for the elusive Platypus at Tarzali Lakes. Finally, don’t miss the Curtain Fig Tree, one of the largest trees in Far North Queensland in an endangered forest near Yungaburra.

Origin Espresso1. Photo from Tourism & Events Queensland/Andrew Watson

Make sure to add Port Douglas to your wish list for your next Australia holiday. I know it is tough to decide where to go…. But this is one to tick off your bucket list!

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