10 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Port Douglas
Picturesque and peaceful, Port Douglas makes a fantastic base for exploring Far North Queensland's two big-hitter tropical attractions: the rainforest and reef. Once a sleepy fishing village, this convivial town is much smaller and a little more upscale than Cairns about an hour's drive south. Beautiful Four Mile Beach is one of its top tourist attractions, where coconut palms lean languidly towards the luminous Coral Sea. A short drive north of Port Douglas, two of the world's richest ecosystems, the Daintree rainforest and Great Barrier Reef, merge in a magnificent mingling of greens and blues along Cape Tribulation, providing a spectacular setting for some of Australia's top adventures, both on land and in the sea. Port Douglas is the closest mainland town to the Great Barrier Reef, so snorkeling and diving tours top the list of things to do here. Back in town, you can browse the shops, galleries, and cafés along Macrossan Street under the lazy shade of coconut palms and mango trees.
1 Great Barrier Reef Tours
The Great Barrier Reef lies only about 72 kilometers northeast of Port Douglas, making this tropical town a convenient base for reef adventures. The most popular tours are aboard high-speed catamarans, which provide a more stable ride to the outer reef. Quicksilver Cruises is one of the best known and will whisk you out to a huge platform at Agincourt Reef in about 90 minutes. Once you arrive, you can SCUBA dive (introductory courses are available), snorkel over the reefs, or sign up for an Ocean Walker helmet dive. If you prefer to stay dry, you can gaze out at the kaleidoscopic coral from the underwater viewing platform and observatory or take a ride in a semi-submersible. Helicopter flights are also available for a unique bird's-eye view of the reef.
Various other tour operators offer small-group snorkeling and diving adventures to the reef, depending on your interests. Half-day or full-day tours to the Low Isles are also popular. Lying about 15 kilometers off the coast of Port Douglas, the Low Isles are comprised of a small coral island called Woody Island and a sandy cay called Low Island. Here, you can snorkel right off the beach to see colorful coral, tropical fish, and turtles. This is a great option for families with young children or anyone who wants to stay close to land.
2 Four Mile Beach
A five-minute walk from town, Four Mile Beach is a long arc of palm-fringed, creamy sand and turquoise sea. Development has been tightly controlled along the sands here, so the beach still feels wild and natural. Backed by lush tropical foliage, it's a beautiful beach for a stroll. Kitesurfing is also a popular sport here, and children love to play with the crabs scuttling along the shore or explore the rockpools at the northern end of the beach. You can swim in the shallows here, but you need to stick to the netted area of the beach during marine stinger season, from October through May. You won't find big hotels fronting the shore, but the adults-only Peninsula Boutique Hotel is about as close as you can get, with palm-framed views of the beach.
The best place to photograph Four Mile Beach is from Flagstaff Hill Lookout, which provides a sweeping view over the entire coast. The lookout is a hot, steep hike or bike ride up the hill from town, but you can also drive up.
3 Editor's Choice Cape Tribulation & the Daintree Rainforest
Cape Tribulation, about a 45-minute drive north of Port Douglas, is one of the only places on the planet where two World Heritage-listed sites merge: the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest. This spectacular sweep of reef-mottled turquoise sea and green jungle is a popular playground for nature lovers and photographers. Drenched in primeval beauty, the Daintree is the oldest living rainforest on Earth. Tours take you on land and water through this spectacular wilderness area, and you can add-on all kinds of fun adventures such as ziplining ("jungle surfing"), bush walking, snorkeling, diving, horseback riding, bungee jumping, and kayaking. Some tours also include tropical fruit tastings and talks by expert aboriginal guides. Beware of marine stingers along the beaches in season, and avoid swimming near muddy rivers or mangroves, as saltwater crocodiles are sometimes found in these areas. Accommodation in the region consists predominantly of eco-resorts like the luxury Daintree EcoLodge & Spa.
4 Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas
At the Wildlife Habitat of Port Douglas, you can see some of Far North Queensland's charismatic wildlife up close and interact with some of these lovable creatures. This fun, family-friendly attraction is home to koalas; kangaroos; crocodiles; colorful Australian birds; pythons; and even the elusive cassowary, the large flightless birds that live in the rainforests here. Fun experiences on offer include Breakfast with the Birds and Picnic with the Parrots, where you can dine on delicious Aussie food while colorful native parrots fly all around you. On the nocturnal tour, you can mingle with kangaroos and wallabies at dusk and see nighttime creatures such as gliders, possums, quolls, and owls by flashlight. Children love the Junior Keepers program, where they can experience life as a wildlife keeper. If you've ever wanted to cuddle a koala or hand-feed a kangaroo, this is your chance.
Address: Port Douglas Road, Port Douglas, Queensland
5 Macrossan Street
If you want to do some shopping in Port Douglas, Macrossan Street is the place to go. This is the main street, which runs through the center of town to the waterfront, with boutiques, souvenir shops, art galleries, restaurants, and cafés. Coconut palms and mango trees shade the streets and lend a laid-back air to this tiny downtown strip. Entertainment venues are also concentrated along this strip, and it's the hub of tourist activity. West of Macrossan Street lies Dickson Inlet and The Reef Marina, the gateway for Great Barrier Reef tours, where pleasure boats and superyachts preside over the berths.
6 Mossman Gorge
Part of World Heritage-listed Daintree National Park, Mossman Gorge is a popular half-day trip from Port Douglas. This picturesque area lies where the Mossman River cascades over big granite boulders into several pools of cool, clear water that are perfect for swimming on a hot day. Colorful butterflies flit through the rainforest, and this is a lovely spot for a picnic with dedicated areas to spread out your lunch. After a refreshing dip in the swimming holes, you can explore the two-kilometer rainforest loop trail or the new aerial walkway through the forest. Guided walks from the traditional Aboriginal landowners, the Kuku Yalanji people, are also available. Before you head to the gorge, stop by the Mossman Gorge Centre with its cafe, indigenous art gallery, and gift shop, to learn more about the area and its inhabitants. You can also catch a shuttle bus from here to the gorge.
7 St. Mary's by the Sea and the Sunday Market
Nestled among a grove of palm trees along the waterfront in town, St. Mary's by the Sea is a cute little non-denominational chapel dating from 1880, with beautiful stained glass windows. It's a favorite spot for weddings thanks to its pretty waterfront setting and large picture window behind the altar with colorful views of the Coral Sea.
A short stroll from the chapel, in Market Park on Wharf Street, the popular Port Douglas Sunday Market takes place each week. Vendors must grow, produce, or create the goods they sell, so all the wares here are handmade and local. You can find everything from fresh produce and tropical plants to arts and crafts, souvenirs, clothing, and jewelry.
8 Kuranda Skyrail Rainforest Cableway & Scenic Railway
One of the most popular day trips from Port Douglas is a visit to Kuranda, a little rainforest village on the mist-cloaked plateau of the Atherton Tablelands, and the journey is as fun as the destination. To access Kuranda, you can either soar over World Heritage-listed rainforest on the Kuranda Skyrail, or ride the Scenic Railway up the mountain. Along the way, you can enjoy beautiful scenery as you gaze out at rugged canyons and tumbling cascades. Both options depart from just outside Cairns, about a 50-minute drive south of Port Douglas. If you have your own car, you can enjoy all the rainforest scenery on the self-drive route.
Once you arrive in Kuranda, popular things to do include visiting one of the wildlife parks and nature reserves, shopping at the markets, browsing the local galleries, and photographing beautiful Barron Falls. You can also grab a bite to eat at one of the cute cafés. Many visitors like to take the Skyrail in one direction and the Kuranda Scenic Railway in the other so they can enjoy two different perspectives of the lush, tropical scenery.
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9 White Water Rafting
About 40 minutes' drive from Port Douglas, the beautiful Barron River carves through Barron Gorge National Park before flowing out into the Coral Sea and offers a fun playground for adrenaline addicts. This rainforest river rafting adventure usually includes about two hours on the water, with a scenic float trip over the calmer stretches and sections of white water rapids up to grade 3. The Barron River is perfect for first-timers and children aged six and older. Raging Thunder Adventures, Foaming Fury, and RnR White Water Rafting all offer half-day rafting tours from Port Douglas. If you're seeking a little more white-water action, the Tully River is one of Australia's top rafting adventures, with grade 3 and 4 rapids, but it's about three hours south of Port Douglas.
10 Flames of the Forest Aboriginal Culture and Rainforest Dining Experience
Flames of the Forest is an evocative dining experience set in the candlelit rainforest at night. This is a fantastic choice for a special evening out, where you can sample gourmet food incorporating local produce and native ingredients and watch an aboriginal cultural show at the same time. The menu features a seven-dish banquet served on platters, and the Aboriginal Cultural Experience includes storytelling and traditional didgeridoo music and singing. If you prefer a more romantic evening, you can also opt for the dinner-only package and reserve a candlelit table for two. A giant marquee protects diners from inclement weather, but thrumming tropical rain only adds to the mystical atmosphere.