Lady Douglas: River Cruise in Port Douglas

lady douglas river cruise
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Slowly cruising down the calm, mangrove-lined inlet with a glass of wine in hand, watching the sun go down and wildlife go about their business, is all part of the experience on Port Douglas’s iconic paddle steamer, the Lady Douglas.

lady douglas cruise port douglasIt’s funny because Port Douglas is usually celebrated for its chic cafes and restaurants, trendy boutiques and five star resorts, but there is actually a lot more to this seaside town than just the tourist hotspots.

And a cruise down Dickson’s Inlet on the Lady Douglas gives you a completely different view of the town and surrounding area.

It is one of our favourite things to do in Port Douglas.

a bit of history on lady douglas

port douglas boat cruiseThis beautiful old paddle steamer has been taking passengers up and down Dickson’s Inlet since 1989 and is a welcome sight among locals and tourists.

It almost looks out of place among the newer and more modern boats and yachts moored up in the Port Douglas marina, as if you have stepped back in time, but it is a wonderful reminder of the town’s historical roots as a gold rush port where coastal trading once took place.

And after almost 27 years cruising the inlet, it has become part of the scenery.

why we love the lady douglas

boat cruise port douglasHow can you not love this iconic, old-fashioned paddle steamer?

In fact, it draws attention wherever it goes and bystanders love to wave as you pass, while boats honk their horns in acknowledgement of this much-loved vessel.

But when you board the hour-and-a-half long cruise on Lady Douglas, the boat takes a back seat and the cruise is all about the scenery and wildlife.

It is incredibly relaxing and a lovely way to spend an hour or so.

cruising and wildlife spotting

lady douglas skipperPassengers are welcomed with a complimentary drink and are invited to take a seat, before the skipper gently guides the paddle steamer down Dickinson’s Inlet with its mangrove-lined waterways and thriving birdlife.

Passengers also get an informative commentary along the way and some funny stories about the history of the region and the various sunken boats and shipwrecks, plus facts about the wildlife spotted while cruising.

lady douglas boat cruiseWe were lucky to spot a baby saltwater crocodile sunning itself late in the afternoon, as we recently enjoyed the sunset cruise.

We also watched with great fascination, as our skipper threw a fish off the side of the boat and a large bird swooped in and grabbed the fish then took it to a nearby tree to eat it. It was a fantastic photo opportunity and great to watch.

There are also plenty of sea eagles, ospreys, kites, herons and kingfishers living in this estuarine habitat, as well as crocodiles, crabs and a range of marine life.

There is no guarantee that you’ll see wildlife on any given day, but on 90 percent of Lady Douglas’s tours they spot crocodiles and we were definitely excited to see one on the day we did the cruise.

port douglas sunset cruiseAs the paddle steamer heads back towards Port Douglas after cruising Dickinson’s Inlet, the boat heads briefly out to sea so passengers can enjoy scenic views of the Port Douglas waterfront restaurants and harbour, as well as the surrounding mountains and distant islands.

Sometimes you can even see turtles and dolphins in the water, but we were too busy admiring the view.

We loved cruising past the pier at sunset as it was all lit up for a party and looked magical from the boat.

why kids will love it

children lady douglasGoing on a boat cruise is always exciting for kids but on the Lady Douglas, they also have the opportunity to pop on the captain’s hat and have a turn at skippering the boat.

For a brief moment, they actually get to be the captain and have a turn on the large steering wheel at the front of the boat.

And there are also activity sheets the kids can do on the tour with lists of wildlife that the kids need to tick off as they see them.

Whether you are a local or a tourist, paddle steaming down Dickinson’s Inlet on the Lady Douglas is a lovely way to enjoy the natural, unspoilt habitat and local wildlife with a complimentary drink and nibbles.

travel nq fast facts:

  • Lady Douglas runs cruises four times a day including morning, midday, afternoon and sunset cruises, and on Fridays they often run an evening cruise with live music.
  • A complimentary drink and nibbles are provided on all tours and any additional drinks and snacks can be bought from the on board licensed bar.
  • There is a toilet on board the boat
  • The boat is wheelchair and pram-friendly
  • Lady Douglas is available for private charter for functions, parties or weddings
  • You board the Lady Douglas from the Reef Marina in Port Douglas

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