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Things To Do in Port Douglas and Surrounding Area

I get a lot of emails from people asking me for ideas on things to do in Port Douglas and trips to take from there. I know the area well and I own a large global travel blog. It’s what travel bloggers do, help people with travel plans. So, rather than answer each email individually as I normally do, here are a few ideas on things to do in and around Port Douglas plus some real-life experiences of living in a tropical paradise.

Most things to do in Port Douglas were closed during lockdown. What’s open in Port Douglas now in July 2020? Due to the current global crisis, Port Douglas is still not quite its usual self. Businesses are re-opening but the situation here is still changing almost daily. Plenty of restaurants are open with social distancing measures. You’ll most likely need to book a table. Some tours are running again. The supermarkets are open and there are food delivery options. Trips to The Great Barrier Reef are open but in a reduced capacity and frequency. We know Wavelength and Calypso were running this week. Port Douglas Markets resumed last Sunday, in a new format. Mossman Gorge is still closed as far as we know. We’ll do our best to let you know the situation here. The Daintree River ferry was open in early June, and free to use, we have been able to visit The Daintree Rainforest. The beach is open and Port Douglas is as beautiful as ever. Local tourists are starting to return. Yes, we think it’s worth visiting Port Douglas right now.

This post began years ago and we’ve tracked changes in Port Douglas to now, July 2020. Some places and attractions have closed, some have opened. You can see what has changed over the years in Port.

Any post on this site may contain affiliate links. We earn commission on these should you make a purchase. All recommendations are genuine and we are not paid to include products, hotels, and so on.

The Best Things To Do In Port Douglas

Here are some of things to do in Port Douglas that we have done that you can do too, and some stories and real-life experiences. We try to keep this post up to date but please double check all details for yourself. 

Sugar Wharf Port Douglas
The Sugar Wharf jetty and Dickson Inlet. It’s pretty, but don’t swim here, we have crocodiles. Fishing is a possibility though!

Four Mile Beach

Port Douglas Australia kid on Four Mile Beach
My kids grew up on Four Mile Beach. This is the southern end, near Sea Temple, my younger son playing on the sand.

You can enjoy beautiful Four Mile Beach in many ways. I would run or walk at dawn. At low tide the beach is firm and smooth for running, even cycling, but if the tide is high and the creeks full with wet season rain, you may struggle.

You’ll find yoga classes there, fitness classes, kayak hire, SUP, kite surfing and more.

At very low tides the water drops so far you can see the coral. Fishing is pretty good here too.

We would take kayaks out to sea on calm days when the water is clear and occasionally spot turtles.

More people use the town end of the beach, near the lifeguard station and stinger net, the southern end (above) near Sea Temple, is usually pretty deserted. Can you swim in Port Douglas? Yes, you can, just pay attention to the lifeguards and any warning signs.

Port Douglas Markets

Things to do in Port Douglas Port Douglas Markets, Every Sunday
Port Douglas Market happens every Sunday, this stall hands out samples of chocolate, there’s always a crowd. I used to work here.

On Sunday get yourselves along to Port Douglas Market, browse, shop and enjoy our beautiful tropical environment.

The market starts early, I used to set up my stall before dawn and spend my Sundays face painting. You can buy jewellery, produce, local crafts and more. This is a good place to grab a bite to eat and a coffee too, there are a few food stalls.

In the summer it can be ultra hot, so visit early. There is some shade and a beautiful weeping fig tree for the kids to climb. There are a couple of small playgrounds down here too.

Enjoy Fantastic Food

water side dining in Port Douglas St Crispins best breakfast
My favourite breakfast spot in Port Douglas, St Crispin’s. The best smashed avo on toast I’ve ever had. Dining in Port Douglas is a treat. See our first-hand genuine reviews and recommendations below.

Port Douglas dining is pretty good! For formal dining we recommend Sassi, Salsa, and Zinc. For casual meals overlooking The Inlet try The Combined Club also known as The Tin Shed.

For family meals with a playground on hand, try The Surf Club. For fish and chips we like Dave’s on Macrossan Street and for pizza, bar snacks, or tapas try The Beach Shack.

Our new favourite for breakfast is St Crispin’s Cafe. It’s at the turn-around station of the Bally Hooley steam train and has a waterside setting with golf course and mountain views. It’s featured in the photo above.

Most restaurants have outdoor seating and social distancing measures are in place. This means you may need to book a table and some restaurants are not open every day.

The Great Barrier Reef

https://worldtravelfamily.com/stay-port-douglas-hotel-reviews/
That’s me and my elder son. I think he was about 7 and fully able and happy to snorkel around the Great Barrier Reef. It’s magic and probably the best thing to do in Port Douglas.

Put at least one day aside to take a magical trip out to the Great Barrier Reef, it’s an experience you’ll never forget and suitable for most ages. If you’d like to know more about booking your reef trip, you need this post on reef tours from Port Douglas.

We went fairly often. The kids would snorkel from the age of about 4 and once they were in the water and could see the fish any fear of deep water evaporated. My kids joined us scuba diving around their 14th birthdays.

Lunch is usually delicious on the reef boats and you’re quite likely to see whales at the right time of year, along with turtles and sharks.

Visit Low Isles

If you don’t want to head to the reef the Low Isles are a shorter trip. You can enjoy the beach as well as snorkelling by taking a trip out on Wavedancer or Reef Sprinter.

St Mary’s By The Sea

St Mary's by the sea white church chapel port douglas
St Mary’s chaprel, she’s a real beauty.

This popular wedding venue is an absolute picture. A non-denominational church or chapel, St Mary’s has an interesting history. It originally stood elsewhere but after near-destruction in a cyclone it was moved to its current almost waterside position. It’s at the southern end of the market ground, near the sugar wharf.

If you go inside, check out the stunning reef-themed stained glass windows

Port Douglas Wildlife and The Wildlife Habitat

The wildlife Habitat Port Douglas is the best place to see Australian Wildlife
You will see a lot of Australian wildlife around Port Douglas. Read about our real -ife experiences below. If you want guaranteed sighting and up-close experiences, head to The Wildlife Habitat.

Wildlife you will see around Port Douglas includes giant green tree frogs, rainbow lorikeets, fruitbats (spectacled flying fox), snakes, sulfur-crested cockatoos, spiders, and crocodiles. I’ve had white and black cockatoos in my garden, a spoonbill, and a white-bellied sea eagle ate my guinea pig.

You’re unlikely to see wild kangaroos or wallabies around Port Douglas but I’ve seen them near Mossman and just outside Cairns.

Cassowaries are nearby, as are tree kangaroos. We recently saw a cassowary while walking to Hartley’s Creek Falls.

Look out for giant green tree frogs at night, they often climb up our windows.

We did once have a python get into the door frame of our patio doors. In winter you may see them on the roads at night, roads stay warm after sunset. We’ve never seen a venomous snake in Port Douglas, only pythons and tree snakes.

There are tarantulas. Several species. But I only ever saw 2. You’ve very likely to see golden orb spiders where there are plenty of trees.

In the sea, we have turtles, whales, dolphins, dugongs and well, everything except great white sharks (hopefully!).

You will also find ants, mosquitoes and cockroaches. Green ants are pretty interesting but they pack a mean little punch.

Tiny sugar ants invade our home in huge convoys daily. No amount of chemical sprays has ever kept them out.

Cockroaches live in the soil and come indoors from time to time. They’re all just a part of life. There are termites too, I hate termites they wreck my garden. So don’t assume any hotel or dwelling has low standards if you see these creatures, they’re simply a fact of tropical life.

If you want to feed the ‘roos and get up close and personal with most of our Australian and local species, head to the Wildlife Habitat. It’s on the main road into Port Douglas near the IGA and has seen a lot of improvements and new features lately.

Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation

Creek Crossing
Creek crossing, I had to wade through the crocodile-infested river to take this photo for my husband (thanks honey)

Just up the road we have Daintree Rainforest and beautiful Cape Tribulation. You need to take a drive up there, in your own vehicle or with a tour, maybe you’ll spot one of our famous wild cassowaries. If you’d like to keep driving, you could head all the way up to historic Cooktown.

We’ve driven from Port Douglas, up the Cape to Cooktown and back in a day. It’s possible, but it’s a long day.

The coast road through the Daintree Rainforest is beautiful, but you’ll need a 4 wheel drive for dirt tracks and creek crossings. The inland road is more passable, but not very interesting.

Stay at a Paradise Hotel

Stay at the best hotel in port douglas sea temple resort
The kids watching their dad filming a cooking segment for TV at Sea Temple. We called it “dad’s work”. Do yourself a favour, stay here!

We have incredible hotels in Port. The one above is Sea Temple ( Now Pullman Sea Temple Port Douglas). We spent every Christmas here when we lived in Port. Why? My husband, Chef, was executive chef here.

This is part of the reason we left to travel the world for 5+ years. Having to work every Christmas ( with small kids) is no fun. Even with perks like this.

It’s an incredible hotel, you’ll enjoy your own private villa, pay the extra for a swim-out to one of the biggest pools in the southern hemisphere and if you’re heading to Port Douglas take a look at it here.

Things to do in Port Douglas Enjoy a Resort Hotel
The Sheraton Grand. Another magnificent hotel in Port Douglas. This one is closer to town and their pool is actually bigger than the Sea Temple pool.

Our other 2 favourite hotels in Port are The Sheraton Grand and QT- Now renamed Oaks Resort If you’re on a budget try Airbnb ( sign up here to get our special credit), we have a room we can rent out. Or there’s Dougies backpackers resort, that was the first place we stayed when we first came to Port as young backpackers over 20 years ago. It’s still good, if not better. Just click on the links above to take a look.

Port Douglas Tours to Book Online

Seeing huge fish on the Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas. Giant Maori Wrasse

Below is a selection of tours and experiences that you can book for Port Douglas and surrounding areas before you even arrive. If time is short, or you don’t have your own car, these will be the best way for you to fully experience Far North Queensland. Other tours exist ( see here) these are just a few popular favourites.

We use the company below when booking tours anywhere in the world, they have a lowest price or money-back guarantee and the reassurance of a big company supporting your booking. If your tour is available to book on this site, presumably they’re running. The last time we drove past, July 2020, the Skyrail Cable Car was closed. We’re checking and updating constantly, things change fast.

  • 30 Minute Scenic Helicopter Flight from Port Douglas See it here.
  • Daintree Wilderness and Cape Tribulation Full Day Tour (Pick up from Cairns) See it here.
  • Diving and/or Snorkelling on The Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas
  • An 8-hour tour with 4 hours in the water, lunch included.here.
  • Kuranda Scenic Railway, Kuranda Visit, and Palm Cove, from Port Douglas. A full day out and loads of fun, here. 
  • Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture and Heritage by Day with Transfers (Great for Kids!) here.

Take a Trip to Cairns & Scenic Drive

Things to do in Port Douglas Scenic Drive to Cairns
Between Cairns and Port Douglas, the Captain Cook Highway hugs the coast, making this one of the most scenic drives in the world. This is part of the Great Barrier Reef Drive which takes you 140Km to Cape Tribulation from Cairns.

The drive between Port Doyuglas and Cairns is stunningly picturesque but of course, Cairns, being a huge tourist hub, has plenty to do. We now have a full post on things to do in Cairns. Including the famous Cairns Lagoon, Aquarium, Cairns Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, and other tourist attractions. 

Take a Hike Up The Bump Track & Other Walks

Walks in Port Douglas The Bump Track
The Bump Track, a great walk just outside Port Douglas takes you up into the Mowbray National Park.

The Bump Track is a bit of a locals’ secret. It’s a historic track up the mountain at the back of the Mowbray Valley. It’s great exercise and the view from the top on a clear day is spectacular.

Real enthusiasts run or cycle up and down it or you can let a horse take the strain. I used to piggyback the kids up here when they were too small to walk and too small to stay home alone.

You can take a mountain bike tour up here, which you can book locally.

If you’re looking for an easier walk in Port Douglas, take the walking track around Flagstaff Hill. It’s newly repaired and has some great lookouts.

See Cane Toad Racing

 Things to do in Port Douglas See Cane Toad Racing
Cane toad racing at the Iron Bar pub in Port Douglas Australia.

The Iron Bar in Port Douglas hosts regular Cane Toad Races. Can you come to the Far North without seeing this local tradition?

Admission was $5Au last time we visited and kids of all ages were welcome. It starts around 8pm.

Watch George The Groper Being Fed- No Longer Happens Sadly

This is ( was) my favourite thing to do in Port Douglas, I loved George, I love the venue and I love the food and wine. Don’t miss this one.

UPDATE: Sadly this part of Port Douglas has been semi demolished to make way for a new marina development and I guess George and his mates are now starving.

Catch an Aussie Style Cattle Muster or Rodeo – Closed

Update – The Australian Muster Experience has shut.

Just outside town, past Mareeba, Daintree Station and The Australian Muster Experience will give you a slice of country Australiana.

They have regular bull riding events as well as zorbing. The bull riding can get bloody and ambulance crews are always on standby.

Take a Walking Tour of Port

Port Douglas view of the inlet
A beautiful spot for a drink at sunset. Port Douglas, Dickinson Inlet.

Walking tours of Port Douglas with K Star tours have become popular, give it a go.

Kevin “KStar” should be able to answer all of your questions about our area and share some valuable local knowledge.

Explore Dickinson Inlet by Self-Drive Boat and Check Out our Crocodiles

Fishing on Dicksons Inlet Port Douglas. Things to do in Port Douglas
You can hire a little boat and take off up the inlet to try your hand at fishing or simply enjoy the view. If you’re lucky you might see a crocodile. This is my son when he was tiny, catching his first fish. Boats are available for hire at the marina.

We love cruising up The Inlet. You can hire your own little boat from the marina or take a tour on the Lady Douglas, the view and the wildlife are spectacular. You can hire fishing gear too, just don’t lean too far over the edge or the crocodiles might get you. We survived, many times.

We’re currently checking the status of boat and fishing hire or rental in Port Douglas, we’ll beback to you soon.

Take A Cruise on The Lady Douglas

The Lady Douglas River Boat Port Douglas
The Lady Douglas river boat.

The Lady Douglas is a Port Douglas institution. An evening cruise on The Inlet is a wonderful opportunity to see salt water crocidiles along with various birds, including white breasted sea easgles.

I used to take my kids, often, they would always get a chance to steer the boat on the way back. Our good friends, John and Jenny, don’t own this business any more, they now run Wavelength Reef Cruises, but I hear good things about the new owners.

The Lady Douglas crocodile spotting and cruise departs from the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina, normally daily, we’re checking the current situation for you.

Try a New Sport, SUP, Kite Surfing, Segway Tours and Wind Surfing

Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Kite Surfing and Wind Surfing are big news on Four Mile Beach. There are plenty of locals around happy to get you started in their sports. For something more gentle, yoga on the beach is a lovely way to start the day.

Explore Atherton Tablelands From Port Douglas

Things to do in Port Douglas Wild Platypus Local Wildlife
Up on the Tablelands it’s possible to see wild platypus as we did here.

In the relative cool of the Atherton Tablelands you’ll find man-made and natural tourist attractions. Wineries, coffee and chocolate attractions, dairies and of course Lake Tinaroo are just the tip of the iceberg.

The picture above is from a camping trip to spot wild platypus, pretty incredible!

Full post on Atherton Tablelands, Herberton Historic Village and more, coming soon!

Take a Lesson in Aboriginal Heritage

Aboriginal Port Douglas Laura Things to do in Port Douglas
Mossman Gorge is a great place to take a Dreamtime tour with a local guide.

Mossman Gorge has recently been handed back to its Aboriginal owners. Dreamtime tours, guided by our local Aboriginal tribe are, I feel, very helpful in understanding Australia’s history.

In the orange box above you’ll also see trips to Tjapuki and Aboriginal guided experiences just north of Port Douglas. This photo was taken elsewhere., I use this one because faces are covered, it’s important.

Take the Scenic Drive To Kuranda

Things to do in Port Douglas Visit Kuranda
Kuranda is about an hour and a half from Port Douglas by road. Self-drive, take a tour or ride the scenic railway and cable car ( departing near Cairns).

The drive up to Kuranda is spectacular, whether you choose the range road near Mossman or the Smithfield option. Kuranda is a pretty, sleepy rain-forest town full of markets, galleries, shops, and cafes.

If you’d rather not drive, you can book a tour or head up there on the Cairns Skyrail Cablecar or Kuranda Scenic Railway. They depart near Cairns, but tours are available from Port Douglas.

There is The Venom Museum, Butterfly Sanctuary,  Birdworld, and Koala Gardens to keep the children happy in Kuranda. You could also take the cable car/train combo up to Kuranda and back. See the tours above for these options.

Swimming at Mossman Gorge in an Icy Rainforest Stream (Maybe)

swimming at Mossman Gorge
Mossman Gorge is a local must-do. Experience our rainforest up close, nothing too strenuous and great for kids. Swimming is optional, our kids always loved it. Swimming is not encouraged these days after a few accidents, but we have been swimming there in 2019.

There are a few options for safe, crocodile free, stinger free swimming in the hot season. For tourists, Mossman Gorge was probably the best bet and certainly the most beautiful site. Park at the visitor’s centre and take the shuttle bus up to the rainforest boardwalk. Last time we went there were new signs up saying no swimming.

Port Douglas Carnivale

Port Douglas has its own annual Carnivale in May each year. It was cancelled during lockdown. We host various dining events and round off the festivities with a good old-fashioned street parade.

The kids will love it, my favourite part was the Seafood Festival usually held on the Marina. Food, music, drinks, and fun in an amazing open-air setting.

May is possibly one of the best times to visit Port Douglas, things should be cooling down nicely, Stinger Season will be in its final throws and the big crowds are yet to arrive.

Try the Open-Air Cinema-Has Now Left Port

Port Douglas had its own open-air cinema during the dry season. You could catch a movie under the stars. Unfortunately, this is not currently happening. I’ll let you know if Moonlight Cinema returns.

Take a Helicopter Ride

A Helicopter Ride in Port Douglas, Things to do in Port Douglas
Helicopter rides come in many variations from Port Douglas and over the Coral Sea. I took the kids when they were small.

I’ll give you a hint. The annual father’s day picnic was for us the cheapest time to take a brief, but spectacular, helicopter ride over Port.

All year round, helicopters are available for rides over the reef and Coral Sea islands, the views are to die for. There are a couple of options in the tours section above, prices start around $300 US but can vary. This is a once in a lifetime thing. If you have the cash, just do it! Book here.

Help Our Environment with a Beach Clean Up

Tangaroa Blue Beach Clean Up Port Douglas Things to Do in Port Douglas
Beach clean up at Snapper Island. Thank you boaties for dumping all your rubbish!

We always enjoyed volunteering with Tangaroa Blue beach clean ups. It’s a fun family day or half day, you’ll meet some interesting local people and discover beaches, or even islands, off the normal tourist track while doing your bit to help our marine environment.

Things to Do in Port Douglas Queensland Australia

So there’s plenty to keep you busy in and around Port Douglas, for singles, couples, kids, families, there’s plenty for everyone. How long are you staying in our old home town? What are you most looking forward to doing? Tell us in the comments below. Want more destinations and tips in and around Australia? You need our Australia Travel Blog.

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Alyson is the creator of World Travel Family travel blog and is a full-time traveller, blogger and travel writer. A lifetime of wanderlust and now over 7 years on the road, 50+ countries allowed the creation of this website, for you. She has a BSc and worked in pathology before entering the travel arena and creating this website. World Travel Family Travel Blog has been helping you travel more, better and further since 2012, when Alyson and James first had this life changing idea. On this site you can find endless travel information, tips and guides plus how to travel, how to fund travel and how to start your own travel blog.

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Michael

Saturday 18th of May 2019

Hi, great stuff from everyone, I will be in PD/Cairns area for 10 days next month (June). It’s me and my 12 year old daughter. We are stating in PD for 3 days, visiting the Reef and then up to Cape Trib for a day. Can anyone recommend an unusual side trip, I don’t mind driving and have a 2wheel drive rental. We are coming from Fiji then to PD so we’ll have done the beach a lot. Are there any great outback destinations? Thanks

Alyson Long

Saturday 18th of May 2019

Hmmm....unusual. I can't think of anything I haven't put in the post already. How about the platypus? Or there are things like SUP - paddleboarding trips on some of the small rivers here. We live here and I'm scratching my head! The zip lines up at Daintree ? Kite Surfing. Heading inland you just really get to the Tablelands and then the road runs parallel with the coast, there's nothing going deeper into the grasslands up there that I can think of, other than the Wheelbarrow Way, and I don't think there's much to see. You've got the caves, old lava tubes at Chillagoe maybe. Or there's Granite Gorge, we've camped there. Mount Uncle Distillery. I don't know, I'm stumped. Come to our house and help me with the garden ? Let me know what you decide!

Teri

Friday 10th of May 2019

Hello, We are coming to visit Port Douglas in June. Thank you for your great blog post! We were planning to drive to Cape Tribulation one day to try some jungle surfing but I did not realize that might not be possible with a rental car. Would we need 4 wheel drive on the coast road at that time of the year?

James Long

Friday 10th of May 2019

Hi Teri, Thanks for reading. No you won't need a 4wd drive unless you go north of Emmagen creek which is where the 4wd road starts. You can't miss it as the road leads straight into Emmagen Creek and out the otherside. Rental cars will cover you up until this point I believe and while some of the road is unsealed the majority is a sealed all be it winding road. As for the time of year that is the best time with the chance of rain at a minimum and the temperature not too hot. Enjoy your trip. Cheers Chef

Dee

Thursday 7th of March 2019

Hello, Great blog. Is May a good month to visit port Douglas? Are the hotel pools and beaches warm enough to swim?

Alyson Long

Friday 8th of March 2019

May is a great time. It's always warm here, even at night in winter it never gets cold. But the massive hotel pools can get a bit chilly. Depends what you consider warm enough really. The sea temperature is generally between 23 and 29 C so never cold. We were out there yesterday and it's a very comfortable 27 C at the moment ( March). The shoulders of the wet season are always my favourite times. During the wet all the dead plant matter gets washed into the sea and the beach can look a bit grotty, but it's all natural, part of our environment, so we're not allowed to sweep beaches and such like.

Daine

Tuesday 5th of February 2019

Love your blog, we're heading up for our honeymoon late September for 10 nights. Not sure if we should stay in Port Douglas for 6 nights and Daintree for 4. Any help or suggestions would be great. Thank you

Alyson Long

Wednesday 6th of February 2019

If you stay in Daintree just be very aware of how little there is up there. If you're seeking isolation and being in a great big rainforest surrounded by green and bugs and birds and critters...perfect! But there's not a whole bunch up there to keep you busy for 4 days...but you're on honeymoon....

Vanessa // Wanders Miles

Monday 31st of December 2018

The markets at Port Douglas look very cool but my big pull factor would be the Great Barrier Reef as well as exploring the rainforest. I think I'd like it there a LOT!

Alyson Long

Monday 31st of December 2018

Come and visit! But not right now, the weather is bad

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