Clear blue waters, superb rainforest and a friendly village vibe make Port Douglas a popular beach holiday destination.
By Hannah Tattersall
The tropical town of Port Douglas, roughly an hour drive north from Cairns, has it all: the aquamarine waters of the Great Barrier Reef, the breathtaking canopy of the Daintree Rainforest, the crystal creeks of Mossman Gorge, and the palm fringed golden sands of Four Mile Beach. It is the only place on Earth where two World Heritage-listed sites – the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest – meet.
- Immerse yourself in the hip café and bar culture
- See the incredible Daintree rainforest
- Enjoy five-star relaxation in top resorts and spas
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Top things to do in Port Douglas
Explore a coral cay
With the natural surroundings of the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest, Port Douglas lends itself to the best in outdoor experiences. One of the most popular is a day trip to the protected coral cay of the Low Isles, located 15 kilometres (8 miles) off Port Douglas. The Low Isles is actually comprised of two islands – Woody Island, an uninhabited coral and mangrove island and Low Island. It is the latter where you'll spend most of your time; this sandy coral cay is typical of the Great Barrier Reef and offers sheltered swimming and snorkelling opportunities.
Retreat to an incredible rainforest
The Daintree Rainforest is the oldest, and arguably most scenic, living rainforest on Earth. Its beauty provided inspiration for the Hollywood blockbuster Avatar and it is just a 90 minute drive from Port Douglas. A range of tours and experiences are on offer here, including 4WD tours, crocodile-spotting river cruises, zipline tours through the canopy and jungle night nature walks where you'll see sleeping birds, an arboreal lizard known as Boyd's rainforest dragon, bats, possums, spiders, insects and snakes. There are also several free walking trails with endless photo opportunities along the way.
Rock on at Mossman Gorge
Located inside the Daintree Rainforest, Mossman Gorge is a wonder in itself. Mint green waters swish past the huge granite boulders that line the gorge, creating cool, clear, freshwater swimming holes – and lots of Instagram pics. The Kuku Yalanji are the traditional owners of the land and you can learn more about Kuku Yalanji culture on a 90 minute Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk, which departs from Mossman Gorge with a local indigenous person as your guide. You will gain exclusive access to Kuku Yalanji land and visit a sacred ceremony site where you can witness a soap and ochre paint-making demonstration.
Taste the local treats
"Port" – as it's known to locals – is a foodie haven with everything from hip cafés and bars to elegant restaurants. There's Harrison's, Sassi Cucina e Bar – a seafood option – and local favourite, Salsa Bar and Grill which offers views of the waterfront. For the best coffee, try Origin Espresso which roasts its own beans locally and offers filter coffee and pour-overs as well as delicious local sugar cane juice on tap. Set inside a homewares store, hole-in-the-wall Sparrow Coffee pulls a great Allpress brew and offers a small selection of flaky pastries. Don't miss a taste of their macadamia milk cappuccino. For a superb all-day breakfast, try local hotspot Café Fresq in the heart of town on Macrossan Street. It is here (on the corner of Macrossan and Wharf streets overlooking Anzac Park and the harbour) that you'll also find the landmark Court House Hotel. The Courty, as it has become affectionately known, is the oldest pub in Port Douglas and a much-loved drinking spot with three bars and wide open verandahs for enjoying the fresh air.
Have an amazing resort experience
Port Douglas has a number of beautiful accommodation options, from the five-star Pullman Sea Temple located on Four Mile Beach, to the upscale Peppers Beach Club with its enviable lagoon pool and sun deck. For a hip and vibrant experience stay at QT Port Douglas, where just as much emphasis is placed on the interior – note the quirky and colourful artwork – as on the beachfront views. More than AUD$40 million was spent recently revamping the Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas Resort, a beachfront luxury resort on Four Mile Beach surrounded by 147 hectares (363 acres) of lush tropical gardens and an 18-hole golf course.
Luxuriate in a spa treatment
Enhance your Port Douglas experience by indulging in a spa treatment. Niramaya Day Spa is set in a rainforest and offers a range of indulgent beauty, massage and healing treatments for vitality and rejuvenation. Couples treatments with decadent Champagne and chocolates are available for that extra special treat. You know you're in good hands with Port Douglas Day Spa, owned by Kate Oliver a wellbeing specialist who has studied oriental medicine, aromatherapy and reflexology.
How to get there
Port Douglas is just an hour drive north from Cairns via the Great Barrier Reef Drive, a coastal road flanked by forest on one side and beach on the other.