How to Spend the Ultimate 7 Days in Port Douglas

How to Spend the Ultimate 7 Days in Port Douglas

There is so much to see and do in this magnificent part of the world and Port Douglas serves as an ideal base to explore the region’s key natural attractions and its greater surrounds. A seven day stay will give you an opportunity to have a good introduction to the area. If you don’t get a chance to do it all in one stay, you can always leave it for your next time.

With so many options to choose from, deciding on what to do during your stay can be overwhelming. So here is how to make the most out of your 7 days in Port Douglas.

If you’re planning on venturing out on your own, car hire can be organised from Cairns Airport or Port Douglas. Otherwise there are a large number of tours offered by the local operators and most include a pick up and drop off at your accommodation.

 


DAY 1


Arrive at Cairns Airport and collect your hire car. If you’d like to explore a little bit of Cairns before you head to Port Douglas, refer to our earlier post herewhere you will  find recommended pit stops along the magnificent coastal road.

Spend your first day getting to know the town starting at Four Mile Beach. This stretch of the beach is patrolled and you can hire sun lounges, umbrellas and boards. Along the Esplanade you will also find three cafes: Life Saving Club,  Lighthouse Cafe and Hide Tide (open for dinner). All three offer great coffee and food and are ideal for casual dining.

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The surrounding views of the palm-fringed Four Mile Beach and Flagstaff Hill are truely impressive. If you’d like to explore the views a bit more, Island Point Lookout is easily accessible via the staircase located nearby. It provides the ultimate viewpoint of the unquestionably stunning tropical surrounds. Alternatively if you would like to explore the most elevated part of Port Douglas which also home to the most expansive real estate, head to Flagstaff Hill lookout. It really is worth the climb!

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Make your way onto Macrossan Street, all within walking distance. This is the main part of the town and it offers everything from relaxed boutique shopping, upmarket restaurants, pubs, cafes and shops to tour booking desks.

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Aloha Lucy Boutique

If you turn left at the other end of Macrossan Street and follow the path, you will reach The Reef Marina. The Marina is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and it also offers some great dining and bar options as well as a local microbrewery – Hemingway. The brewery serves food all day and there is live music each Saturday from 2pm.

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Barbados Cocktail Bar

Barbados is the most stylish bar and cocktail lounge in town. It’s located right on the edge of the Marina overlooking the Dickson Inlet which you can admire all day long from their iconic daybeds. The space was created with much love and passion which is evident through the gorgeous decor and attention to detail. The bar offers light meals and signature cocktails and is ideal for soaking up the Port Douglas vibe.

If you’re in the mood for eating out and trying great local seafood, try any of the following restaurants (bookings are essential):

2Fish – the restaurant serves seasonal and sustainable produce and a mouth-watering array of succulent seafood prepared fresh each day. 2Fish has a modern feel and the large open kitchen is an attraction in itself for those who like to see where their food is prepared. With a great cocktail list, deciding what to drink to pair with your food isn’t going to be hard.  The restaurant is also a winner of AGFG 2016 Readers Choice Award for Best Seafood Restaurant in Tropical North Queensland. Located within a very short stroll from Four Mile Beach.

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2Fish Restaurant

On the Inlet – as the name suggests, the restaurant is on the waterfront graced with stunning views of the surrounding mountains. In addition to the excellent extensive seafood menu,  from 3.30pm each day the restaurant also offers a snack menu; a bucket of local prawns and a glass of wine or beer for $18. It’s a great way to spend a lazy afternoon. But there is more and if you like a bit of a show prior to your dinner than seeing George the Groper being fed each evening at 5pm is a must.

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On The Inlet Seafood Restaurant

Salsa Bar and Grill – is a local icon and features a breezy open-plan restaurant in a atmospheric whitewash Queenslander home with sea views from the veranda. The restaurant’s menu isn’t limited to just seafood and serves their signature dishes with a strong focus on local produce. Lunch or dinner are highly recommended to complete the essential Port Douglas list.

 


DAY 2


Great Barrier Reef – taking a chartered boat to the Great Barrier Reef should be an essential part of everyone’s itinerary when visiting Far North Queensland. For many people it is an experience of a lifetime!

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Reef Sprinter

There are numerous tour options and all depart from the Reef Marina. You may choose between visiting an island (Low Isles) or the outer reef. The vessel choices vary and cater for diving, snorkelling or just simply relaxing. Many tours differ in size with Quicksilver being the largest boat which can carry up to 450 guests in comfort. It is also important to note that Quicksilver is the only company with their own permanent pontoon on the reef which features undercover sitting, snorkelling platform, underwater observatory, sundeck, showers and change rooms. This ensures that both swimmers and non-swimmers can enjoy their trip to the reef.

In addition, many tours will have their own marine biologist on board who will take you on a guided snorkelling tour and gladly explain the diverse life of the reef.

Most reef tours last a full day with morning tea and lunch generally included in the price. Most tours also include a free pick up and drop off at your accommodation as well as all snorkelling/diving equipment (including stinger suits or wet suits depending on the season. Some additional hire charges apply).

If spending an entire day out on the reef isn’t your thing Reef Sprinter offers half day tours. The company runs small tours of maximum 14 people and will take you the Outer Reef in approximately 40min. You will have 1.5hr of snorkelling time.

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Reef Sprinter

Click here for a comprehensive list of reef tours.                                                                          Which reef trip is best for you? 

 


DAY 3


Start your day with breakfast with the birds at the Wildlife Habitat. This is a fun way to get to know different species of the local birds while enjoying a tropical buffet breakfast. All tropical fruit selections are sourced from local producers and you will also find an assortment of freshly baked breads and pastries as well as a selection of freshly cooked hot breakfast.

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Wildlife Habitat

Your ticket also includes admission to the entire habitat where you will meet kangaroos, koalas and a cassowary, just to name a few. The park consists of four different parts: Woodland, Wetland, Rainforest and Savannah with the option of tours and presentations. The Habitat also offers a 2hour Nocturnal Tour.

After your breakfast and tour of the habitat, head down to Four Mile Beach for the rest of the day and enjoy the warm temperatures of the sea. Always remember to swim between the flags.

For an afternoon snack, make your way to Shakes Ice Cream and Gelato Bar and make sure to try Toasted Coconut gelato.

Sunsets in the tropics are spectacular and there is no better place for stunning sunset views than the Rex Smeal Park located at the end of Macrossan Street. The park is as equally popular amongst the locals, visitors and serious photographers. It’s also a great spot for sunset picnics. Grab a blanket and fish&chip take away dinner from Lantern Fish and watch the sun go down behind the mountains as all boats return to the Marina.

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Rex Smeal Park

If you’re up for a little bit more entertainment after the sun goes down, why not catch a movie under the stars at Moonlight Cinema. The gates open from 6.30pm and movies start approximately at 7.30pm. The cinema runs from June 15 until August 20.

 


DAY 4 


Mossman Gorge – a trip to Far North Queensland would not be complete without experiencing this ancient rainforest. Drive to Mossman (approx. 20 km north of Port Douglas) along the picturesque sugar cane roads. Mossman Gorge Centre is 2kms from the town of Mossman, just off of Mossman Gorge Road.

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The Centre offers guided tours which are definitely worth while as they are incredibly informative and give you an understanding of the complexity of the rainforest and the life within. It is also one of few places in Australia where you can gain an insight of the Indigenous People’s culture and their connection to the land.

The tours also take you along private paths of the rainforest which are otherwise closed to the public.

If tours are not your thing, follow the the signs for a self paced walk through the lush rainforest. Be sure to take refreshing dip in the gorge prior or after your walk.

If you’ve worked up a bit of a hunger there are a small number of local cafe options in Mossman. However, if you feel like soaking up the beautiful rainforest sounds for a little bit longer, head to Silky Oak Lodge (about 20 minute drive) for a very special dining experience. The lodge is located within the Daintree Rainforest along the Mossman River. The treehouse style restaurant is elevated, bringing you closer to the rainforest canopy whilst overlooking the Mossman River below.  Bookings are recommended.

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Silky Oaks Restaurant

Alternatively if you’d like to journey deep into the majestic rainforest and experience more, Back Country Bliss Adventures offer a tour which includes a visit to the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation. The tour also includes crossing the river on a ferry, jungle surfing (optional), cooked lunch, wildlife spotting cruise. Sightings of cassowary and jungle dragons are highly possible and a dip in the Mossman River on the way back is also highly recommended.

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Cape Tribulation. Back Bliss Country Adventures

The company also offers other fantastic tours with a difference. River Drift Snorkelling is a very unique way to see the rainforest from a completely different angle; on your back while drifting along the Mossman River. You will be given a wetsuit, snorkelling mask and an inflatable raft. The river current will do all the work for you. All you have to do is to decide whether you will look down underwater or up to observe the tree canopies,  birds and butterflies.

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Back Country Bliss Adventures

 


DAY 5


Atherton Tablelands is a high country region and a natural wonderland set amid spectacular scenery.  There are countless waterfalls to be chased, national parks and lakes to be explored with an array of walking trails and a great mix of wildlife.

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Milla Milla Falls

The Tablelands are also renown for its abundance of tropical produce making it a foodies paradise full of unexpected finds such as nuts and dairy farms, tropical fruit, chocolate and coffee plantations as well as wineries.

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You could easily spend days exploring this area, however you can cover a decent amount of attractions in a day on either a self-drive or an organised tour. Depending on what you would like to explore, your itinerary can either focus on natural attractions or you may choose to follow a food trail.

If you’d like to take part in a guided tour, Northern Experiences Eco Tours run an in-depth, small group, day tours with a focus on the unique natural attractions such as Walsh’s Pyramid, Heales Lookout, Yungaburra, Curtain Fig Tree, Malanda, Crawford’s Lookout, Millaa Millaa Falls, Mena Creek & Theresa Falls and more. The tours run 7 days/week and the pick up point is at Skyrail carpark in Smithfield.

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Paronella Park

For more information on suggested self-drive itineraries and maps click here. 

 


DAY 6


Kuranda Cableway is a spectacular way to experience the rainforest while gliding above its canopy and enjoying stunning coastal views of Cairns. The Skyrail will take you on an unforgettable 7.5 km journey on one of the 114 gondolas (11 of them having a glass floor). Suspended just meters above the tree tops, this magical experience provides with breathtaking views.

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Along the journey you will encounter two deep in the heart rainforest stations where you will have an opportunity to hop off and discover more of the rainforest along the boardwalks. This is also where you will be able to admire the amazing Barron Falls and gorgeous lookouts. Guided ranger walking tours are available at each station where you can learn some incredible facts about the world’s oldest and continuously surviving tropical rainforest.

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Kuranda Train Station

If you would like to extend your journey and experience the rainforest from a different perspective then hop on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. This historic train climbs more than 300 meters above the sea level and winds its way through tunnels and bridges offering unsurpassed scenic views. The journey takes about 1 hour 45 minutes and culminates at Kuranda Station, only a short stroll to the Kuranda Village. The village offers

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If you would like to experience this unforgettable journey, Northern Exposure Tours offer small group tours. Pick up from accommodation and drop off is included.

 


DAY 7


Port Douglas Sunday Market – a visit to the iconic market is definitely a must. Start your day early and visit the cheery stallholders presenting their local produce, art and hand crafted goods.

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Image by https://www.instagram.com/meermara/

The market is held in a very picturesque setting at Anzac Park, 8am-2pm. This is also a great place to eat and try fantastic local produce and stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables. Start your visit at the Coconut Tent and grab a fresh coconut. Once you finish drinking your coconut water, have the coconut opened and the flesh grinded. Add an organic banana or a savoury salad and enjoy! Oh, and one more thing; don’t forget to try handmade Duke’s Doughnuts.

Spend the rest of your day on Four Mile Beach. If you feel like a stretching your legs, walk along the beach from one end to another. It will take you about 1 hour each way.

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Alternatively, if you have a need to cool down and the sea temperature doesn’t do it for you, jump in a car and head to Shannonvale Waterhole north of Port Douglas towards Mossman.

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This is a gorgeous swimming spot and a perfect way to cool down during hot months. The creek is quite shallow making it perfect for kids. Don’t forget a bug repellent so the mosquitos won’t ruin your enjoyment.

Before you reach the waterhole, you will drive past Shannonvale Winery where you can stop for a tasting of a selection of their tropical wines. All fruit is organically grown in the orchard at the property. The wines are surprisingly really good and the winemakers have truely mastered their art as the wines are beautifully balanced and a pleasure to drink. Not surprisingly though, the most popular drop is the chocolate port made from the cocoa beans grown locally in Mossman.

Finish your last day sailing into the sunset with Indigo Sailing. Enjoy a beautiful 2 hours sailing in the waters off Port Douglas as the sun sets behind the mountains of Mossman Gorge, while enjoying a drink and nibbles on the catamaran. Maximum capacity of 12 guests.

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Indigo Sunset Sailing

Additional activities to consider:


Port Douglas is home to award winning restaurants with many of them featuring fantastic local produce. Other restaurants worth a mention are Nautilus, Watergate, Sassi and Bistro H.  

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Nautilus Restaurant

Port Douglas Yacht Club is a great spot for sunset drinks and great local food in a picture-perfect location. Each Wednesday, the club members volunteer their time and their Yachts to take the public out sailing. Click here for more info.

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Port Douglas Yacht Club

Yoga on the beach – 8am to 9am every day, seven days a week, 450 metres south of the Macrossan St beach entrance. You don’t have to be fit or flexible to join in beginners and all levels of experience are welcome.

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Bike and Hike Tours If you enjoy mountain biking & hiking and you’re up for a bit of an adventure these guys will not disappoint. You will pedal along the ancient rainforest and hike along a scenic creek to take a refreshing plunge in the gorgeous Hartley’s Falls. There are 4 different tours to choose from, one of them being a night ride.

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bikenhiketours.com.au

This is a glimpse of what Port Douglas and its surrounds have to offer. For tour bookings and in-depth local advise speak to Karen or Jeremy at Sanctuary Stays located in town and next door to Origin Espresso.

Book your accommodation here.



 

About Port Douglas

Untitled Design.pngIf you haven’t heard already, Port Douglas is located in Far North Queensland which is home to the Great Barrier Reef and the world’s oldest rainforest. The town is roughly 1 hour drive from Cairns along one of the world’s most scenic coastal roads.

Port, as simply referred to by locals, has a delightful laid back tropical atmosphere with a picture-perfect landmarks all around. The town itself is very quaint and offers everything  from upmarket shops to award winning restaurants, all within an easy stroll.

The undeniably impressive natural beauty of the surrounding rainforest, mountains and the Coral Sea instil a deep sense of calm. Fearsome wildlife, relaxed lifestyle, super friendly locals and loads to discover are all key draw cards to have a fabulous break or a holiday.

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One of the best things about Port is its tropical climate. It’s warm throughout the entire year and the sea temperature doesn’t drop below 23 degrees Celsius! With two distinct seasons; winter period (May to October) brings temperatures of 23-28 degrees Celsius, low rainfall and humidity.

The wet season (November to April) is an exciting time to be in the tropics. Yes, it rains a lot but not non-stop and often the days are still sunny and usually the main rainfall is at night.

The wet season has also many advantages for experiencing some magical moments and incredible natural scenery; this is a perfect time to see the waterfalls at their prime and the greenery at its best. If you’re planning a trip to the reef, you will also find the sea clarity to be excellent.

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To experience all that is unique to this beautiful part of the world, take time to explore the palm-fringed beaches, the Tablelands, gorges, waterfalls, local markets, festivals, the town itself and its greater surrounds. There are plenty of tours to choose from with very proud and passionate guides happy to show you their slice of heaven. Guided tours greatly enhance understanding and appreciation of places and there is a lot to discover here. Many of those places simply can not be visited independently and guided tours are also a great way to maximise your day particularly if you don’t have much time.

Alternatively, take it easy and spend your days lazing the hours away.



 

 

 

Getting to Port Douglas and Around

 

Untitled Design.pngPort Douglas is located approximately 70 km from Cairns and flights operate from all major Australian cities into Cairns.

When descending into Cairns, if you happen to be sitting in a window seat, make sure to look out and admire the views from above. On a clear day (and there are many of them), you will be greeted by the views of the Great Barrier Reef, it’s sparkling sea and the lush green mountains and the rainforest.

Below are the most common options to get to Port Douglas from Cairns Airport:


Airport Shuttle Bus Transfers


There are a number of local operators and prices vary from $35-$42 pp one way. Return ticket options are also available. The transport desks are located within the Cairns airport at the arrival terminal. You may pre-book your ticket or purchase it form the counter where you will also collect it.

Once on the shuttle bus, it will stop at numerous resorts before reaching your destinations, so allow a minimum of 1hr of travel time. A word of warning; the road is very windy at times and some drivers tend to confuse it with a racetrack. If you suffer from motion sickness, be prepared. Click here to book your shuttle bus transfers.


Car Hire


All service operators are conveniently located at Cairns Airport. During the busy and peak period (June to November) a prior booking is highly recommended. Click here to view all major car hire providers at Cairns Airport.


Private Transfers


This includes limousines, private shuttle buses and Hummers. Click here to book.

The Road to Port Douglas

fullsizerender.jpgCaptain Cook Highway – where the rainforest meets the sea

There is only one road which leads to Port Douglas – Captain Cook Highway/State Route 44. You will find a ‘generous’ number of roundabouts as you leave Cairns and its neighbouring suburbs when heading towards Port Douglas. For the most part, the road is two-lane, however, there is a stretch of about 12 km where the road becomes single-lane and very windy, so pay extra attention and try not to get distracted by the views.

The drive along Captain Cook Highway is incredibly picturesque and a great introduction to the region. Along the drive where the ancient rainforest meets the sea, you will find alluring beaches, breathtaking views and of course some tourist attractions. You will also have plenty of opportunities to stop to take some great scenic shots. Please observe all traffic signs and take care when stopping on a side of a road.

Hiring a car is a great option as it obviously provides freedom to stop and discover many of the gems along the way to Port Douglas and beyond. Below are some key spots and highlights:

Pick up your hire car from Cairns Airport and make your way to Cairns City (10 minutes). Stop at one of the great cafes for a coffee fix and breakfast or lunch. One of our favourite places is also a Cairns’ institution – Perrotta’s located next door to the Regional Gallery.

Once refreshed, take a stroll along the Esplanade Foreshore and the Lagoon. This is the epicentre of Cairns where you will see live entertainment, markets, free fitness activities and local art all in a very relaxed atmosphere.

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If you happen to arrive on either Friday, Saturday or Sunday and would like to stock up on fresh fruit and veg, head to Rusty’s Market. Here, you will find an abundance of great local produce including breads, coffee, meat and seafood at a fraction of the price. The market has a great vibe and all stallholders are incredibly friendly. You will also find a few street-food vendors serving asian-style dishes as well as fresh coconuts and freshly squeezed sugar cane juice.

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Rusty’s Market

If you wish to spend a bit more time in Cairns, a visit to Cairns Botanic Gardens is highly recommended. The grounds are incredibly well maintained and the gardens boast an excellent collection of exotic plants.

Once you have explored a bit of Cairns, it’s time to head towards Port Douglas. There are many more beautiful pit stops along the way, but don’t worry, you can always see them another time.

Palm Cove is a small resort village. If you decide to skip Cairns, Palm Cove is a great little spot for breakfast, lunch or dinner and a short stroll along the Esplanade.

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Ellis Beach is a gorgeous and undeveloped beach with the rainforest mountains in the backdrop. You will find two cafes here, a patrolled beach and mostly locals. Ellis Beach Bar and Grill offers $1 oysters on Sundays. It’s a great place to come to if you have a free afternoon.

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Ellis Beach

    Rex Lookout – as you climb through the winding road towards Port Douglas, about 40 km north of Cairns is Rex Lookout, and it is impossible to miss. This is a perfect stop to take in breathtaking views of the coastal line and see the hang gliders take off from the grassy verge. Have your camera ready.

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      As you get closer to Port Douglas, the road becomes less windy and will take you more inland amongst the iconic sugar cane fields surrounded by mountains and more palm trees.

      Mowbray River is approx. 10 km from Port Douglas. You will cross a small bridge and from here you may be lucky enough to spot a crocodile in its natural habitat. Shortly after this, you will arrive in Port Douglas once you reach another big roundabout.


       Getting around Port Douglas


      Once in Port Douglas, there are a number of options to get around town. If you’re planning on using the local tour operators to get you to places of your interest, perhaps hiring a push bike maybe just the thing for you.

      Ride your push bike along Four Mile Beach

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      Port Douglas is a small town and offers plenty of space for commuters on bush bikes.  Apart from Port Douglas Road, which leads to the heart of town, Four Mile Beach is one place we would definitely suggest taking a ride on. The only time when riding a bike becomes tricky is at hight tide. Otherwise the beach is wide and the sand is hard an compact, making it perfect for two-wheels.


      Local Shuttle Bus


      There are a number of shuttle bus operators within Port Douglas. You can opt for one- way ticket or a weekly/monthly pass. All tickets are bought on board of your chosen bus company and can only be used with that same company. One way ticket to town is approx. $5 (Prices are subject to change). Click here for more info on shuttle bus services

      There are two bus-stops near the villa all within a short walking distance:

      Sea Temple Resort – just outside the main entry. To get there from the villa, walk through the beach access door and turn right. Walk to the end of the passage and turn left, follow the signs to the resort.

      The alternative bus-stop is on Barrier Street outside of the pub.

      Once on board, your driver will ask where you’re heading to. The villa is located in Limpet Avenue and Templemoon (the name of the complex) is another known landmark name. Often the driver will be happy to drop you off right at the door step of the complex. In the worst case scenario, at the start of Limpet Avenue.

      If you catch the Port Douglas bug, you will soon find your own unique route to getting in and around town, however until then these tips will help you discover our hidden gem.

      Please contact us if you ave any questions and we will gladly answer them.