As an ex Port Douglas local, I am familiar with this town’s unique charm and endless attractions. It has been voted as one of the ‘top towns to visit’ by Australian Traveller and will forever remain my happy place, for an unprecedented number of reasons! I can honestly say, after years living in cities, staying a year in this dreamy ‘village’ made me fall in love with life again.
Quite frankly, Port Douglas is the rose of Australia’s northern Queensland.
You could describe it as a tropical, Antipodean version of a tasty coastal town nestled within the Greek Islands. Or as beautiful as Thailand but a cleaner cousin. It’s also a complete and utter nature & wildlife orgy.
What many Australia virgins don’t realise, is how much more Australia has to offer than just the big cities or Gold Coast. Although the big cities are awesome.
If you’re after a real sun and beach holiday in Paradise, then Port Douglas ticks more boxes than you thought you had.
Top 8 Things To Do In Port Douglas
1. Dine at many of Queensland’s award winning restaurants.
There are heaps of gorgeous eateries about town. Here are my Top 5. (Some other cool new hangouts have opened since I lived there too, like Barbados by the Marina. So be sure to check them out!)
Because much of the trade in P. Diddy is based around tourism, the food standards are extremely high. So you’re pretty much safe wherever you dine.
2. Take a boat trip to nearby Fitzroy & Green Island- Great Barrier Reef.
We went with skipper Bretto from Windswell for an unforgettable ride to these gorgeous islands. Our 2-day trip was packed with wake boarding, tubing and snorkelling sessions along the Great Barrier Reef.
It was amazing for the opportunity to get away from the busy reef trip crowds.
Fitzroy Island is definitely the better of the two. It’s more chilled and has stunning views from the mountains at sunset. There are hotel options but we preferred to go al fresco and camp under the stars 🙂
3. Turtle watch on the rocks near 4 Mile Beach.
Porty D’s 4 Mile beach is stunning. On one of my morning runs I even saw a pod of dolphins swimming by.
But as a local, there’s no better way to get away from the crowds, than to chillax on the rocks at the end of 4 Mile (under the Flagstaff Lookout). From here you can grab a few 4X stubbies and sun worship the afternoon away.
There are many crabs to keep you entertained, catamarans that drift past and if you’re in the right spot, you can spot the turtles coming up for air every so often.
4. Wander through the oldest rainforest in the world.
In fact, it’s approximately 160 million years old (it makes the Amazon look like a baby.)
From Port Douglas, Mossman Gorge will be your first stop before the river crossing to the Daintree. This peaceful location will give you bigger zen vibes than a full day of yoga. You can either do a self walk or take an aboriginal guided tour.
Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation
I’ve been here twice, once for a sunny day trip and the second for my honeymoon, where it didn’t stop raining! Even so, it was the perfect dreamy location. A downpour in the tropics is quite nice and refreshing unlike more temperate climates. Plus here, it added to the rainforest feel.
Tip: Don’t forget to take out some dollars out in Mossman as you’ll need them for the car ferry ride over to the Daintree (approx. $26 return.)
On the way through, Alexandra Lookout is well worth stopping for. You get an amazing view of the forest and river mouth. It’s also probably the only time you’ll see two World Heritage sites meet- being The Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef.
If you’re lucky, then you might also spot the jurassic Cassowary bird. We did the second time around, as it slowly and elegantly crossed the road.
Further along, Cape Tribulation will offer you a pristine white beach. It’s perhaps my favourite in Queensland so far.
For our overnight stay, we slept at the Daintree Eco Lodge and Spa. Loads of animals came to greet us, from the Green Tree Frogs outside our door, to a skink or two inside and a beautiful Golden Orb at the window.
It was such a unique and memorable experience. Some highlights were the jacuzzi on the terrace, an amazing massage listening to the sounds of the rainforest and the gorgeous food & hospitality. It was a proper zen vibe explosion.
5. Cycle through a cloud of bats & arnott of lorikeets at dusk.
Definitely the best way to travel through Port is by cycling. My beloved bike of one year and I went everywhere together. Believe me, you see way more this way in Port than you ever will by car.
The best time to cycle around (or walk) is at dusk. When cycling through Macrossan Street, an arnott of rainbow lorikeets would often sweep past me on their way to roost, it is truly magical. Sometimes when dining at Salsa or Seabean, the noise is so loud that you can just about hold a conversation!
And while one bunch go to sleep, the other is waking up…
Okay, so I know you can do this in Cairns (and there’s heaps more there) but everything seems so much better in Port. Witnessing a cloud of flying fox bats leaving their roost at dusk is quite impressive, especially when they all flock together.
6. Dine up high at Thala Beach Lodge.
I absolutely loved dining here. As well as serving delicious grub, the view from Osprey’s restaurant is to die for and is such a piece of paradise.
Once you’ve finished your lazy lunch and cocktails, you can stroll down to their secluded beach and partake in some more turtle spotting. Or grab another Mai Thai and continue lazing in a hammock 🙂
7. Paddle board down the Mossman River.
This SUP experience is a nature trail combined with a fab core workout, and loads of fun with Windswell’s host, Matty.
The serene freshwater river tour gave me a few surprises along the way, like the massive huntsman who climbed on my board, the delicious fruit stop and my best bit on the way back, extreme paddling!
8. Just Get Married!
If you didn’t know already, then Port Douglas is one of the top hotspots in Australia for weddings. So me and the Sailor did! On the beach at Little Cove.
Popular locations are St Mary’s by the Sea, a quaint church that overlooks the wharf. Another highly sought after venue is Crystal Chapel, at the Sheraton Mirage. This one is next to the beach so many have the reception there afterwards.
Other equally stunning destinations are Rex Smeal Park, The Sugar Wharf, Little Cove or at the end of 4 Mile Beach.
So there you have it. Some top things to do in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, brought to you by an ex local. I hope it keeps you busy 🙂
Having an extended vacation and looking for a few extra things to do? Then why not try:
- Kitesurfing with Windswell on 4 mile beach
- Visiting the Wildlife Habitat (the best wildlife enclosure I’ve ever experienced. You can even hold a koala.)
- Fishing off of Rex Smeal Park (or you can take a boat to the reef)
- Wakeboarding at Cairns Wake Park
- Visiting the hippy village of Karunda and shop at its market in the rainforest
- A moonlit cinema screening at QT Resort
- Spending a day exploring Cairns
- A GBR scenic helicopter tour around Port Douglas
- Parasailing and paragliding with Uplift Watersports
- Diving along the Great Barrier Reef. I’d recommend a smaller tour operator like Sailaway, Calypso or Poseidon (large boats like Quicksilver tend to be overcrowded.
- SUP tour to the Low Isles, with Windswell
Visiting in May?
- Then the Port Douglas annual Carnival is in full swing. It features a street parade, as well as many events to entertain at various locations.
Have you been to Port Douglas or surrounding areas? What were your favourite rings to do?