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 lived there for 7 years, I know the area well and I own a 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.
We left Port Douglas over 5 years ago to travel the world and now we’re back. Time to check back in, to add to our Port Douglas story. To see what’s changed and what hasn’t, to do all these things again and to see if this time, tropical life will cure our itchy feet.
Here are some of things we have done in Port Douglas, that you can do too, and some stories and real life experiences.
The Usual Things To Do In and Around Port Douglas
Four Mile Beach
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 see 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.
Port Douglas Markets
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.
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.
The Great Barrier Reef
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 all 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.
Lunch is delicious on the reef boats and you’re quite likely to see whales at the right time of year along with turtles and sharks.
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.
Port Douglas Wildlife and The Wildlife Habitat
Wildlife you will see around Port Douglas includes giant green tree frogs, rainbow lorikeets, fruitbats ( spectacled flying fox), snakes, sulphur 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.
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’ll 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.
Tarantulas…yes there are tarantulas. Several species. But I only ever saw 1. 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. Oh, 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.
Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation
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.
These are the attractions that keep the tourists coming year after year, but there is far, far more to do in this region.
Here are a few ideas for the tourist who wants to get the most out of their trip to Far North Queensland.
Stay at a Paradise Hotel
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.
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. You’ll find a whole heap of hotels if you click the link below.
Port Douglas Tours to Book Online
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.
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 Night Show and Dinner from Port Douglas
Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture and Heritage by Day with Transfers ( Great for Kids!)
Take a Trip to Cairns
We now have a full post on things to do in Cairns. Including the famous Cairns Lagoon, Aquarium and other tourist attractions.
Things to Do Around Port Douglas That You May Not Know About
Take a Hike Up The Bump Track
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 piggy back the kids up here when they were too small to walk and too small to stay home alone.
See Cane Toad Racing For Yourself
The Iron Bar in Port Douglas hosts regular Cane Toad Races. Can you come to the Far North without seeing this local tradition?
Admission is $5 currently (Jan 2019) and kids of all ages are 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
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
Walking tours of Port Douglas with K Star tours have become popular, give it a go! Kevin “KStar” will be able to answer all of your questions about our area and share some valuable local knowledge.
Explore Dickinson Inlet by Boat and Check Out our Crocodiles
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.
Try a New Sport, SUP, Kite Surfing 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
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
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.
Drive Further Afield, Take the Scenic Drive To Kuranda
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.
There is The Venom Museum, Butterfly Sanctuary, Birdworld and Koala Gardens to keep the children happy. 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
There are a few options for safe, crocodile free, stinger free swimming in the hot season. For tourists, Mossman Gorge is 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. Don’t forget your towel.
Visit Port Douglas for Carnivale
Port Douglas has its own annual Carnivale in May each year. We host various dining ( and drinking) events and round off the festivities with a good old-fashioned street parade. The kids will love it, my favourite part is the Seafood Festival held on the Marina. Food, music, drinks and fun in an amazing open-air setting.
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.
Take a Helicopter Ride
I’ll give you a hint. The annual father’s day picnic is 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
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.
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.