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.
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 here – where 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more information on suggested self-drive itineraries and maps click here.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Additional activities to consider:
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.
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.
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.
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.