Port Douglas: Things To Do
A favourite amongst the rich and famous, Port Douglas is known for its 5 star resorts, award winning restaurants and chic boutiques. So, pack your bathers, kaftan, sunglasses and straw hat and get ready to relax in style.
The once sleepy fishing village of Port Douglas sits on a peninsula. On one side is the golden sands and palm trees of Four Mile Beach. On the other is Dickson Inlet, home to the marina and the occasional crocodile.
These were planted in the 1980’s by beleaguered Australian tycoon Christopher Skase.
He was largely responsible for putting Port Douglas on the map and was renowned for his lavish jetsetter parties at his Mirage resort. The town still retains a little of that reputation.
Port Douglas has also capitalised on its unique location and developed a number of top-end resorts along the beach.
Many people who travel to Far North Queensland prefer to stay in Port Douglas rather than Cairns. It is definitely a tourist destination but it is much smaller than Cairns and it has a very relaxed holiday vibe.
This is our list of favourite Port Douglas things to do:
1. wildlife habitat:
The Wildlife Habitat zoo at the entrance to Port Douglas is definitely worth a visit, especially if you’ve got children with you.
2. low isles
There are a few different operators but if your budget allows we’d recommend going on a small group sailing vessel like Aquarius.
Their catamaran is very comfortable and with only 20 or so people on board it makes for a very pleasant day out on the reef.
3. reef trips
Quicksilver is one of the biggest operators.
They have a pontoon near Agincourt Reef, which has diving and snorkeling facilities as well as semi-sub tours.
3. enjoy the freshwater swimholes
There are many freshwater swimholes that are safe to swim in around Far North Queensland and Port Douglas has its fair share.
These beautiful natural creeks are a wonderful way to refresh yourself in the heat of the summer months.
If you’re driving around Port Douglas and head off down on of the side roads around the cane fields you’ll probably come across one on your travels.
4. mossman gorge
Mossman Gorge is about 20 minutes from Port Douglas. It is one of Far North Queensland’s most beautiful creeks and freshwater swimming holes but it also has cultural significance to the Traditional Owners – the Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people.
They have built a visitor centre so you can also learn about their culture as well as enjoy the beautiful natural environment of the gorge.
They charge a fee for taking the shuttle up to the Gorge itself which is probably a little expensive. Alternatively you can avoid paying the fee by walking but it is a long-ish walk so take water with you.
5. Aboriginal culture
Talking of Aboriginal Culture, if this is something that particularly interests you there are a couple of other good opportunities close to Port Douglas.
Binna is a local Aboriginal artist who offers art classes at his gallery in Mossman and the Walker Brothers also offer authentic spearfishing tours from Cooya Beach.
6. daintree rainforest
You can join a tour but the driving is easy so you could also hire a car and self-drive. It’s pretty much just one road north although you need to cross over the Daintree River on a ferry (and, you can also take a crocodile spotting cruise, which we’d recommend as a good way to soak in the Daintree).
The Daintree Discovery Centre is worth a visit if you want to learn more about the rainforest. It has elevated walkways through the forest so you can view this fascinating ecosystem from the ground level all the way up to the canopy.
Keep an eye out for Cassowaries as you’re driving along the way and make sure you stop off and explore the beaches and rainforest walks otherwise you’ll miss a lot of what the area has to offer.
If you’re a bird watcher, you might want to consider staying overnight and hire a guide.
The bitumen road ends just after Cape Tribulation, after which it becomes a dirt road to the Bloomfield Track and Cooktown.
7. Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures
About 30 minutes from Port Douglas, Hartley’s is a well run and popular attraction. You should definitely add this to your list of things to do in Port Douglas if you’re fascinated by our wonderful crocodiles and if you’ve got children with you.
You can watch the big crocs being fed, take a boat ride across the lake and see them jump and get a tour of the crocodile farm.
This is also a commercial croc farm so you can learn about the crocodile skin industry and the lengths they go to make luxury handbags!
7. river cruises
The Lady Douglas is old paddle steamer that takes visitors on trips down the inlet from the Marina.
It is a great way to enjoy the beautiful scenery around the town, particularly at sunset, and if you’re lucky you even spot a croc amongst the mangroves along the way.
Another alternative is to take a trip on a small eco-boat cruise with Waterbird Tours. They only take a maximum of 10 people and since the boat is run on batteries it makes virtually no noise so it’s great for wildlife spotting.
The best time for bird spotting along the inlet is during the dry/winter season (May-September).
Port Douglas is renowned for its luxury resorts so it goes without saying that there are also a number of luxury spa centres where you can buy some luxury me-time being pampered and preened.
You won’t need to look very far to find one. The one at Niramaya is gorgeous and there’s also one at Shantara, which is a bit closer to Macrossan Street. Shantara is also handy if you want a massage after attending a yoga class at Deep Yoga.
9. Flagstaff Hill Walking Trail
So grab your walking shoes and camera and get ready to take some stunning scenery photos.
This 1.5km trail between runs across the bluff at the end of the peninsula between Four Mile Beach and Rex Smeal Park.
You can access the walk from either end.
The Port Douglas markets are held every Sunday down on the foreshore at the end of Macrossan Street.
They are such an established part of the calendar in Port Douglas that you should definitely have a stroll around the stalls checking out all the tropical creations.
11. Ballyhooley steam train
If you’re there on a Sunday for the markets you should also check out this steam train as it takes visitors on a 1-hour trip around the town from the marina.
12. stand up paddle boarding
There is a paddle boarding and kite surfing business called Windswell in Mossman that offers tours as well as lessons, so they’re perfect if you want to do something a little more active.
Stand up paddle boarding is relatively easy to do so anyone can give it a go. Windswell do a great paddle boarding tour down the Mossman River, which is great fun. For more experienced boarders they also go to the Low Isles and other places.
Taste Port Douglas is an annual event that used to be a part of Port Douglas Carnivale but it is now held as a separate event in August.
It includes a weekend of workshops and demonstrations from local and national chefs who fly in to enjoy the tropical sunshine.
Travel nq fast facts:
- The nearest airport to Port Douglas is in Cairns, approximately 50 minutes away
- There are numerous accommodation options and excellent restaurants to suit all budget levels
- For more ideas about things to do in the region see this post about 117 Things to Do in Cairns