Port Douglas, a small town of just 3,500 located on the Coral Sea in the tropical Far North Queensland is not nearly as well known as Cairns, but in our opinion, it’s a great destination to base yourself during your visit to the region.
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Port Douglas is known as a beach resort destination, but the town is also conveniently located in close proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest reef system, and Daintree National Park, a World Heritage Site and an area of exceptional biodiversity.
Plus there are so many other things to do in Port Douglas that fly a bit under the radar. From beautiful nature to bustling Port Douglas markets and active adventures, this town offers lots of activities you could easily spend a week here without getting bored.
Thinking of making a stop in Port Douglas on your visit to Australia? Here is our round-up of the best things to do in Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia.
The Best Time to Visit Port Douglas
Any time of year, Port Douglas is a fantastic destination. Temperature and humidity are fairly constant throughout the year and only fluctuate slightly with the seasons.
The weather is usually hot and sticky, but the temperatures are slightly lower during the rainy season between May and August. If you want to avoid the rains, visit between April and September.
Best Things to Do in Port Douglas
Visit the Four Mile Beach
As the most beautiful beach in town, Four Mile Beach is one of the best things to do in Port Douglas. It’s the perfect place to relax and soak up the hot Australian sun. The beach itself is peaceful, with a perfect surf and crystal clear waters.
Unfortunately, while the beach may look incredibly appealing, it’s not a great spot for a swim as the waters in this part of Australia are teeming with stingers and swimming in them without a stinger suit is not recommended!
There are walking paths up above and behind the beach where people love to take long strolls or go for jogs. These paths can sometimes get busy, but if you visit during the early morning, it’s the perfect place to watch the sun come up over the Coral Sea.
Snorkel or Scuba Dive at the Great Barrier Reef
The incredible Great Barrier Reef is one of the main attractions of Tropical North Queensland region and a reason why many travelers visit the area. Made up of 3,000 smaller reef systems, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest on the planet. Although it stretches for over 3,000 km, some of the most exciting areas are right near Port Douglas. There are a number of ways you can explore this stunning natural phenomenon.
The most popular way to experience the Great Barrier Reef is to jump right in for a snorkelling session or a scuba dive. There are a number of companies in Port Douglas offering snorkelling and scuba diving trips to the Great Barrier Reef.
Here are the most popular ones:
Silversonic Great Barrier Reef Dive & Snorkel Adventure: Sail aboard the stunning Silversonic catamaran and cruise to the Outer Great Barrier Reef. What makes this trip different from the rest is that it allows you to visit not just one, but three separate dive sites and enjoy a total of 5 hours at the reef. Plus, This is one of the few vessels in the region that has a permit that will allow you to swim with the unique dwarf Minke whales in season!
Quicksilver Outer Barrier Reef Full-Day Cruise: Sail aboard the award-winning Quicksilver catamaran and cruise to the Outer Great Barrier Reef. Upon arrival at the Quicksilver Pontoon, you’ll be able to snorkel the ribbon reefs of Agincourt Reef and enjoy a wide range of activities for swimmers and non-swimmers alike. Add on optional extras include introductory dives, marine biologist guided dives and scenic helicopter tours. Quicksilver is proudly recognized in Ecotourism Australia’s Hall of Fame as one of the nation’s first ecotourism innovators, so you can be sure that your trip
Visit the Daintree Rainforest
The Daintree Rainforest is one of Australia’s most stunning nature reserves. As the largest continuous rainforest on the continent, the 1,200 square km (463 sq miles) park has so much to offer, from incredible wildlife encounters to spectacular hiking to wonderful cultural experiences.
There are a few places to visit in the Daintree National Park, including Cape Tribulation, Mossman Gorge, and the Daintree River. If you are short on time, consider taking an organized Daintree, Mossman Gorge & Cape Trib Group Tour that will allow you to experience the best of Daintree National Park in just 1 day!
If you are looking for a more exclusive experience, consider booking a Private Daintree Exclusive Tour with FNQ Nature Tours, a fantastic tour operator that we traveled with during our time in the region!
Keen to explore on your own? Here are the spots worth a visit!
While in the Daintree Rainforest, make sure not to miss out on a Daintree River Crocodile Cruise; the region is well known for having large populations of the intimidating reptiles. You’ll ride down the river with your local guide, who will help point out the crocodiles lurking along the riverbanks, stalking their prey. This is about as close as you can ever get to crocodiles in the wild and is a truly hair-raising experience.
Mossman Gorge is a beautiful stretch of river within the Daintree Rainforest that is well known for its clean water and peaceful swimming spots. The area is home to the indigenous Kuku Yalanji people, who organize historic walks in the area. Plan to spend half a day exploring Mossman Gorge, giving yourself lots of time for the Mossman Gorge Tour & Dreamtime Walk or to enjoy a few of the self-guided walks in the area. You can drive to the gorge or take a public shuttle that departs every 15 minutes, between 8.00am and 5.30pm daily.
Cape Tribulation, a small town located about 140km north of Cairns, is another great spot to visit for a different perspective on the Daintree National Park. The drive to Cape Tribulation, along Cape Tribulation Road, is incredibly picturesque passing through the dense Daintree National Park.
The highlight of this area is Cape Tribulation Beach, a unique spot where the rainforest meets the reef. As with most beaches in Northern Queensland, Cape Tribulation Beach does not offer good swimming conditions due to the presence of stingrays in the water, but there are a couple of trails along the beach where you can enjoy the views and appreciate this unique area.
It’s easy to visit Cape Tribulation on your own, but if you are looking for a unique guided experience, consider organizing this Private Daintree Afternoon Tour with FNQ Nature Tours. The highlight of this tour is definitely the guided night walk that will allow you to experience the Daintree National Park in a very unique way.
Explore the Nearby Atherton Tablelands
Located about 1.5 hours outside of Port Douglas, the Atherton Tablelands offer some unique experiences in the area. The region is known for some great wildlife spotting, some beautiful National Parks, lakes, waterfalls, and some fantastic local produce.
For the best experience in the Atherton Tablelands, join James, from FNQ Nature Tours, on an Exclusive Tablelands Tour that can combine the best the region has to offer and be customized to suit your interests.
Consider yourself a foodie? Consider joining this awesome Full-Day Food & Wine Tasting Tour that will take you to the heart of Atherton Tablelands to eat and drink all day enjoying exotic tropical fruits, homemade chocolates, cheese and spirits, beer, liqueurs and more!
Visit Kuranda Rainforest
Kuranda Region offers some great experience ranging from stunning waterfalls and gorgeous hiking trails to lush jungles. Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway offer fantastic views of the area. The region makes for a popular day trip from Port Douglas that includes a mix of culture and nature.
You can explore Kuranda on your own, or reduce the hassle of planning your visit by joining a Kuranda Highlights Group Tour which includes a ride in the Kuranda Scenic Railway, visit to the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, journey through the rainforest by 6WD amphibious vehicle, dance demonstration by Aboriginal performers and more!
Shop at the Port Douglas Markets
The Port Douglas markets are a popular attraction for locals and visitors, particularly those with an eco-conscious mindset. The markets take place on Wednesdays at the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina and on Sundays in Rex Smeal Park (at the end of Macrossan Street) and feature local producers and artisans. Expect to see colourful stalls filled with everything from locally produced food, fruit and veggies as well as handcrafted goods of every description. Most of the items sold at the markets are local and almost everything is hand made.
Sunday Markets take place from 8am to 2pm and Wednesday Markets are on from 11am to 5pm
Hike in the Nearby National Parks
The two national parks right nearby are Mount Windsor National Park and Mount Lewis National Park. Hiking in these parks is one of the best things to do in Port Douglas and can be done in a day trip. You’ll have some hilly terrain and encounter lush jungles and plenty of critters as you hike through these beautiful parks.
Where to Eat: Our Favourite Port Douglas Restaurants
- Hi Tide: This is one of the best Port Douglas restaurants with a variety of options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You’ll find all kinds of fresh seafood as well as locally farmed meat options. There’s a restaurant, café, and bar to choose from.
- Yachty: For one of the best dinner views in town, head to Yachty, another great restaurant in Port Douglas located at the Port Douglas Yacht Club. You’ll enjoy some craft drinks and excellent seafood with a view of the stunning harbour here.
- Betty’s Bohemian Beach Cafe: Cute clean eating concept cafe with great vegan options. Perfect spot for breakfast or lunch with veggie choices, including a chia and quinoa bircher muesli, sauteed mushrooms, ciabatta with vegemite, lentil wrap with satay sauce, beetroot falafel, tabouli wrap, and more!
- Hemingway’s Brewery: Enjoy a wide variety of craft beer along with fresh dishes, harbour views, and live music on select nights.
Where to Stay: Port Douglas Accommodation Options
- Thala Beach Nature Reserve: This amazing eco-hotel is the best accommodation option in Port Douglas. Set in a beautiful tropical setting in the jungles of Queensland, Thala offers a quiet escape and an opportunity to immerse yourself in nature. As a leader in green practices and ecotourism, the lodge is the perfect place for eco-conscious travelers to rest their heads at night. Thala Beach Nature Reserve was voted as one of National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World.
- Daintree Ecolodge: This sustainable hotel is set right in the middle of the Daintree Rainforest, just outside of Port Douglas. With beautiful designs that fit right into the natural surroundings, you’ll have the lush green nature park surrounding you on all sides. Best of all, this lodge aligns its philosophy with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and is a Climate Action Business member.
- Coral Beach Lodge: This is one of the best Port Douglas accommodation options for travelers on a budget. This award-winning hostel has all the comforts of a hotel, such as a pool, private rooms, and other modern luxuries, but costs just a fraction of the price.
- Shantara Port Douglas Resort: Shantara is an ideals accommodation option in Port Douglas for those looking for a peaceful kid-free environment. This beautiful adult-only property is located right in the center of town and offers a number of self-contained apartments, ideal for a self-catered stay. The resort is stunning, with a pristine pool, a glittering lobby, and rooms with private balconies, each with their own lovely view.
How Much Time Do You Need in Port Douglas?
We would recommend spending between three and five days in Port Douglas. There are lots of things to do in Port Douglas’s surrounding areas, but the town itself is quite small, and most days you’ll find yourself leaving Port Douglas explore the region and the activities nearby.
So give yourself at least one day in town and two or three to explore the national parks and the Great Barrier Reef.
Port Douglas is an exciting destination with lots of things to do. In Port Douglas, you can find exciting activities for nature lovers, foodies, and sun worshipers alike.