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Is this paradise? Living in Port Douglas, Australia

After three years of living in Port Douglas, it’s time to finally reminisce a little about our experience here. This beautiful beach town has been home for the past two years, and another year back in 2014, which is the longest I’ve stayed anywhere outside of Blighty.

The Sailor and I have moved around a lot this past decade. From London to Prague, back to London, then back to Prague. After to Far North Queensland, then Thailand, Melbourne and Malaysia. It’s been busy!

We’ve seen a lot of beautiful places across Southeast Asia and had many life-changing experiences. Everywhere we’ve lived has enriched our lives in some way.

However, I can honestly say, that I haven’t lived anywhere that’s made me happier than Port Douglas.

This is the first time I’ve been based out of the city, which I think has been a major factor and the change in lifestyle that comes with it. I’ve also never spent so much time outdoors or had such incredible nature on my doorstep. It sure is going to be hard to give it all up soon when we leave.

Rock Pool at Mossman Gorge near Port Douglas // Travel Mermaid

When we caught up with our former migrant agent for a friendly catch up in Melbourne last December, he told me that we’re the first clients he’s had whose moved to Port Douglas or near Cairns! I don’t think it’s everybody’s first choice when moving to Australia. Most people go to Sydney first like we did as its all they really know about.

Our stay in Sydney lasted all of two weeks. I quickly realised that another big city wasn’t what we were after so we followed the sun up the coast and booked a 1-way flight to tropical Cairns.

After a few days, the Sailor told me that he’d hired a car so we could check out a place he’d heard about as a potential place to settle. I remember being a bit pissed that he was still considering other areas, but agreed! Then I thanked him a few hours later once we arrived to Port Douglas, walked out onto palm-lined Four Mile Beach, sunk out toes in the soft sand, gazed up at those hypnotic ranges and instantly fell in love with the place. Not only was it drop-dead gorgeous but it had a small local feel, the vibe was uber chilled and the people were really friendly. It just felt really good and like nowhere I’d been before. I’m sure a lot of people feel this way when they come here for the first time.

Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas from the top of Flagstaff Hill, Queensland // Travel Mermaid
Above: Four Mile Beach – Below: Our Wedding in Port Douglas

Port-Douglas-wedding-Queensland-Australia ] Travel Mermaid

Living in Port Douglas – The Simple Life

For those unfamiliar with where I’m based, Port, Port Dougie, Island Point (it’s name back in time) or Jabukanji (it’s name in Kuku Yalanji) is a semi-remote ‘village’ nestled an hour away from Cairns and just 5 minutes from the rainforest.

It’s essentially a peninsula that’s roughly the same size as the City Of Westminster in London so you can cycle anywhere in less than 20-minutes, except the population here is about 5’000 compared to 250’000. There’s also no traffic lights, shoes are optional (even for the kids in the school I work at), and everyone lives within a 10 minute walk to the beach. When the locals greet each other with ‘G’day, hows it going’, it’s often answered with a quip ‘another hard day in paradise eh’. Yes, life here is tough.

For me it’s been a great starting point for life outside the city because it’s still developed and comfy with great restaurants and quite a few things to do, but it’s also surrounded by wilderness.

What I love is that I can literally travel for hundreds of miles, in any direction, and find waterfalls, tropical islands, coral reefs, stunning beaches, unique wildlife, savannah woodlands and jungle. Less than an hour away are World Heritage treasures like The Great Barrier Reef and the ancient Daintree Rainforest- honestly, the environment here is truly mind blowing and it’s my favourite thing about living in Port Douglas.

Over these past two years I’ve realised that being surrounded by nature is something that brings me so much joy. Now I’m a little older I can appreciate it so much more, and the abundance of wildlife here fascinates and happily distracts me daily. I look outside of my window and see a sea of green. I love the birds. The green tree frogs. The Ulysses butterflies. The fruit bats can be annoying but they’re interesting too. Never thought I’d move to Australia and become such a nature frother!

Spring Creek hike near Port Douglas // Travel Mermaid

An aerial shot of Thornton Beach and the Daintree Rainforest in Cape Tribulation, Australia // Travel Mermaid

A lot of people who come to Port Douglas do so for a holiday, but I think it’s even better to live here. There’s not much in the way of work, unless you’re in hospitality or work on a boat, but the Sailor and I are lucky in that we can pretty much work anywhere.

He still works remotely from home (living the dream) for the company he was employed with in Melbourne, and I’ve been teaching at a small local state school in the Daintree Rainforest.

Initially we were only planning on staying in Port Douglas for just 6-months whilst we slowed down for a bit and figured out our next steps. I had a hectic work schedule in KL and there wasn’t really time to make concrete plans. This is also a great kiteboarding spot and after years of stop starts in the sport, we figured it was probably best to live next to a beach to become independent riders!

Then 6 months quickly turned into a year, very easy to do here. Then Covid happened. 🙄

Spearfishing for mud crabs at Cooya Beach with Walkabout Cultural Adventures // Travel Mermaid

Although the pandemic got in the way of our plans, I’ve been counting my lucky stars that we decided to move here when we did. If I renewed my contract in KL for just another year I’d probably struggle to get back into Australia like some people I know, and would have been exposed to multiple outbreaks and lockdowns in Malaysia.

We’ve been extremely lucky that Far North Queensland has been very sheltered from the pandemic (nock wood) and a part of that is because it has a small population density. Nothing really changed last year apart from fewer tourists passing though, people didn’t even need to wear masks. What a luxury that was.

It definitely made me appreciate where I live more, and also if I’m honest, it gave us clarity and more of a pull to stay in Australia long-term.

Australian Kite Surfari on Elim Beach, Cooktown // Travel Mermaid

So after a decade+ of being “Nomads”, we even decided to buy our first house and settle in FNQ! This is the first time we’ve ever felt so comfortable and happy, and like we could easily spend the rest of our days here.

Like a lot of people, we were also pushed out of our rental because the landlord wanted to sell (just like the place we leased before). Initially she wasn’t going to renew our contract in order to rent the place out to holidaymakers and almost triple the price, which is ridiculous. Then she sold it.

There’s an unfortunate lack of rentals now as heaps of people have moved up since Covid. I’ve read too many stories about families in Cairns and Port Douglas that were displaced or made homeless because they’ve been in a similar situation or had their rent hiked. It really should be better regulated.

We definitely chose the wrong time to buy though as there were few properties left and prices rose significantly. It’s predicted that Cairns’ population is expected to reach 500’000 in the next 5 years! It may not sound like much but it’s only at 150’000 currently.

Mossman Gorge near Port Douglas // Travel Mermaid

Time To Leave Paradise

As they say though, it wasn’t meant to be.

For years now the Sailor and I had a dream to start a new business together which was put on hold due to ‘Rona. Last year it felt like it had slipped away, more like a pipe dream. We spent ages looking to see if our idea was possible here in Queensland but didn’t find anywhere suitable.

Then literally a couple of weeks after we stopped searching for a place to buy, the Sailor found a property in Western Australia to begin our new venture. We knew straight away it was the one, so flew over to view it back in April, and then accepted! 😱

I still can’t believe it’s real to be honest.

Can’t say much before we get there but we’re heading somewhere more remote than Port Douglas and it’s right on the beach. The area is also regarded as the kitesurfing and windsurfing mecca of Australia as it receives some pretty powerful wind in summer. I’m really excited for this next chapter.

Greenough Beach in Western Australia // Travel Mermaid

So, I’ve sold everything once again, we’re all packed up now and it’s time to leave.

It’ll be really hard to say goodbye to Port again. Aside from leaving family and friends for the first time 14 years ago, the only other time I’ve cried at the thought of leaving somewhere has been now!

But it also feels good to be leaving on a high.

If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello. Now it’s time to take a risk and step into the unknown. See you on the other side. ✣

Mossman Gorge walking trail // Travel Mermaid



  • Kylie Foss

    Great post – I preferred port Douglas before covid -now a town full of airBNBs with no respect of supporting the local community xx a horrible greedy town & I am glad to be moving into Cairns where at least there is some feel of a community & not as many very greedy land lords. Good luck with WA – we have also thought of relocating to WA as it appears to still have small costal towns similar to what Port use my to be.

    • A

      Hey Kylie, I’m sorry to hear you got forced out. The rental situation in Port has really sucked since Covid, and we’d probably be in the same situation as you if we stayed in FNQ. I hope you’re enjoying your new neighbourhood in Cairns though, I could certainly think of worse places to be x

  • Hi Shezz – thanks for your excellent blog (including walks and things to do). We were very interesting to learn about your story and Port Douglas experience. We fell in love with Port Douglas last year after a brief 10 day holiday and impulsively bought a house here! Now we are dividing our time between working in Melbourne and Port Douglas so all your advice is very helpful. We love exploring this region and going on hikes, swimming in waterfalls etc. Sadly old to do the kite surfing and some of the other more adventurous activities you recommend. Good luck with your time in WA and let us know if you ever return to PD! Cheers, Alan & Rachael

    • A

      That’s lovely to hear guys, congrats on buying a home up north! Sounds like a great balance you have between Melly and Port. I do miss many things about living there but it’s one of those places that people always come back to… who knows, perhaps there’ll be a round 3 in the future Will let you know if I’m back in town and maybe I can convince you to try kiteboarding (never too old!). Enjoy the wet season hikes.x

  • Lee-Ann

    Prior to the pandemic, my husband and I go to port Douglas each year , we got married there in 2011 , and were going back there last year for our 10th wedding anniversary to renew our vows , but couldn’t go due to the pandemic, but have booked to go next year to do that , and after reading your story it’s definitely going to be our retirement place , we fell in love with it the very first time we went , most people that go say it’s the most exclusive place in Australian but the most laid back , paradise , good luck with your next adventure xx

    • A

      Hi Lee-Ann, so lovely to hear your story! I hope you manage to return this year to renew vows and who knows, perhaps make a spontaneous decision to relocate a little earlier Warmest wishes to you.xx

  • Bernice

    She’s my husband and I purchased land in Pt D in 2009 with a dream to retire there Since the pandemic hit it has made me realise we are not far from commencing construction of my dream home up there and for my husband to do what he loves most fishing on his boat every day we will get there to experience that and leave the hustle of the north west suburbs and the stresses of family politics I can’t wait for tge day to run away to Pt and actually not tell anyone where I am Luv B

    • A

      That’s awesome Bernice! Good luck with the build and move, it sounds like a dream come true. We’ve had 3 very happy years in town and I’m sure you’ll love it too. Lots to look forward to! xx

  • Jules cario

    I agree_Port Douglas is very hard to leave_laid back lifestyle friendly people _lots of adventures to be had_W.A is gorgeous too _wishing you all the best for your new venture!

    • A

      Thanks for the lovely wishes Jules! It’s certainly been a busy first few months, but all going well Westside. Port is one of a kind, it was very hard to say goodbye again. But it’s a place many return to, perhaps there’s a round 3 for us in the future! Have you lived there before too? All the best.

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