If 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.
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.
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.
Port 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.
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.
This includes limousines, private shuttle buses and Hummers. Click here to book.
The Road to Port Douglas
Captain 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.
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.
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.
Palm Cove Esplanade
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.
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.
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.
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.