This Tropical North Queensland town is a favourite among Melburnians and Sydneysiders fleeing winter for a tropical beach break. Port Douglas is a small town but its restaurants, accommodation, golf courses and attractions are top class and always Insta-worthy.
The town kicks up its heels each year for the Port Douglas Carnivale, a showcase of food, wine, art and music. Polo shirts and shorts are de rigueur. Cairns is the closest major airport, an hour away by road, with plenty of shuttles available.
The Great Barrier Reef is a short yacht trip from Port Douglas. Relax on the deck as you sail to a coral lagoon on a half-day trip to the Low Isles. There are also big motorised catamarans and fast thrill-a-minute boats accessing the reef daily. Snorkel among the colourful coral that teems with Nemo-type fish, giant clams and turtles. Sunset boat tours, with drinks and nibbles, are another popular option.
If you prefer to keep your toes in the sand, head for the town’s famous Four Mile Beach. Turning inland, Mossman Gorge in the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest provides a journey into lush rainforest with crystal-clear rivers and streams.
Take a gentle self-guided walk, or a Dreamtime walk with a local Indigenous guide who tells stories about bush food and traditional legends. On the edge of town, Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures wildlife park offers close encounters with the feared creatures. Hop on a boat trip in the park’s wetlands and watch the crocs take morsels from the end of a pole.
Eat & Drink
Macrossan Street is lined with cafes and restaurants, serving everything from blue swimmer crab in Singapore chilli sauce at 2Fish Restaurant to more humble kangaroo and barramundi burgers at the Ironbar Steakhouse Restaurant. Inside the gimmicky but endearing corrugated-tin steakhouse, the action hots up at 8pm with cane toad races.
Also on the Port Douglas menu, you’ll find freshly shucked oysters, tiger prawns from the Gulf of Carpentaria, and crocodile. Port Douglas is warm, so many of the restaurants have floor-to-ceiling bi-fold windows that open up to the outside, and al fresco street dining under umbrellas.
The seafood restaurant On The Inlet has great open-air dining down by the water where you can see George the 250-kilogram groper. He usually surfaces at 5pm.
There are motels, hotels and apartments close to Macrossan Street, many with tropical gardens, swimming pools, poolside bars and day spas. Moving out of town a little, you’ll find the bigger resorts, some with their own golf courses.
Easily one of the nicest places to bunk down is QT Port Douglas, along with the Mantra, Peppers Beach Club and the eco-chic Thala Beach Resort.
Macrossan Street is the town’s main drag and among all the restaurants you’ll also find the shops. Fashion, souvenirs, homewares, surfwear and refreshing freshly squeezed juices are all on offer along the strip, along with galleries. The Port Douglas Sunday Market takes place on nearby Wharf Street every Sunday.
For something different, visit Hoglund Art Glass, 40 minutes from Port Douglas. The studio is set in rainforest and has hand-blown glassware, including vases, bowls and platters. Former US president Bill Clinton is reportedly a buyer and admirer of the glass. If you need lunch along the way, try the secluded High Falls Farm where you can dine on a timber deck overlooking a river.
Port Douglas Like a Local
Port Douglas locals are a chilled out bunch and spend much of their time in the great outdoors. Peruse the Mossman Market for fresh local produce straight from farms, tropical fruits and local craft. It’s on every Saturday from 8am until 1.30pm.
If the humidity gets the better of you, venture slightly inland to Mossman and take a dip in the freshwater Mossman River. It's quite the touristy spot these days and you might have to battle the crowds, but it's still a much loved local spot for a summer swim!