We love Port Douglas, so after our most recent trip there we thought it only right that we compile our Port Douglas Ultimate Travel Guide which covers off where to eat, where to stay, when to go and of course, the best things to do in Port Douglas, Australia.
We know how expensive travelling can be, so we’ve also included the top free things to do in Port Douglas! Enjoy!
Port Douglas Ultimate Travel Guide Contents
Looking for something specific? Click on one of the headings below to jump straight to it.
- 1 Port Douglas Ultimate Travel Guide Contents
- 2 Why you’ll love Port Douglas
- 3 When to visit Port Douglas
- 4 Box Jellyfish & Crocs
- 5 How to get to Port Douglas
- 6 Where is Port Douglas?
- 7 Where to stay in Port Douglas
- 8 Best things to do in Port Douglas
- 9 Best things to do around Port Douglas
- 10 Free things to do in Port Douglas
- 11 Best places to eat in Port Douglas
Why you’ll love Port Douglas
If you love holidays that are all about sun, sea, adventure, and some relaxation time then Port Douglas has it all. Whether you’re looking to dive on the Great Barrier Reef, take a lazy stroll through the Daintree Rainforest, test your nerves skydiving, or enjoy a sunset cruise on the water, this place has all bases covered.
Situated at the very tip of the East Coast of Australia, Port Douglas (or PD as Elaina’s family calls it!) is know as being the place where the rainforest meets the reef. It’s a tropical paradise perfect for some well deserved RnR! The combo of great weather, plus a bunch of attractions to keep you busy and a chilled out vibe means that we choose to come back here time and time again.
The area is jam packed with a variety of great accommodation options, so whether you’re looking for the perfect romantic escape, a trip with the fam bam, or a trip away with your bestie, Port Douglas is the place to go.
When to visit Port Douglas
Port Douglas has two seasons. Winter (May to October) when it’s warm with not much rain and summer (November to April) when it’s humid with tropical downpours.
We visited in March (technically summer) and whilst it was still pretty humid, it wasn’t unbearable and didn’t rain once. We were there during school holidays which meant it was pretty busy and most hotels were at full occupancy.
- Winter – May to October
- Summer – November to April
If you want to swim in Port Douglas you can all year round however, the ‘best’ time to swim is between April and October. Stinger season (box jellyfish alert!) runs from November to March so it’s not advised to swim in the ocean during that time. No matter what time of year it is, it’s always a good idea to swim at patrolled beaches where there are lifeguards on duty, just incase!
Generally speaking, Port Douglas is great to visit all year round!
Box Jellyfish & Crocs
Yes, there’s some critters that you’ll want to watch out for in Port Douglas… but with a little bit of common sense, there’s no need for them to ruin your holidays.
Box Jellyfish: The most bad ass stingers around. The good news is, most beaches have a netted area making it perfectly safe to swim. Out on the reef, your chosen charter will likely give you complimentary stinger suits. They’ll keep your skin protected (both from the stingers and the sun!) plus they are super sexy too!
Crocs: It’s very unlikely that you’ll run into a croc (unless you take one of the crocodile boat tours!) however when you’re hanging near waterways be sure to observe all signs.
How to get to Port Douglas
If you’re travelling within Australia, there are heaps of options for cheap domestic airfares which will have you flying into Cairns which is the closest airport to Port Douglas. Cairns Airport also has an international terminal for those of you flying in from overseas.
From Cairns, Port Douglas is only an hour’s drive away. We hired a car at the airport, which we’d highly recommend. Having a car makes it easier to get around and do things in the surrounding areas (like drive to the Daintree rainforest, or go to Mossman Gorge).
Don’t fancy the drive? There are multiple companies that offer return bus transfers between Cairns and Port Douglas. They can even pick you up from the airport. We’d recommend booking this in advance.
Where is Port Douglas?
Australia is a pretty big place, so we’ve added a handy map from the Google machine to help you find it.
Where to stay in Port Douglas
There are SO many options for accommodation in Port Douglas. From budget to luxury, there’s sure to be something to suit you.
QT Port Douglas
We stayed at the QT Resort which is a 5 minute drive from town. We LOVE QT Hotels so a stay here was a no brainer for us. We stayed in a one-bedroom villa that was fab. The addition of a kitchen (and free wifi) was perfect for us as we had somewhere to make our shakes for brekkie and could prepare our own food if we wanted to. The pool inflatables and wet bar were our favourite features of this place!
If you haven’t stayed at one of the QT Hotels around Australia, there’s two things you need to know:
- Their hotels are designed with an eclectic mix of art, luxury with a touch of quirkiness (which means there’s always a good insta photo opp!)
- They do a mean breakfast buffet, which includes a wide range of fresh juices, fresh pastries and yummy delicious breakfast items. And since breakfast is our fave meal of the day, this is one of the key reasons we keep coming back!
Port Douglas Budget to Luxury Accommodation Options
Budget: Port Douglas Motel
Location, location! If you’re looking for a budget hotel right in town and a stone’s throw from the beach this place is your best bet. Rooms are basic but spacious and clean. When you’re out exploring all day that can be all you really need.
Guests also have access to kitchen facilities and a laundry so you’ll have all bases are covered. There’s a pool here too plus free wifi which is always a bonus!
Mid Range: Central Plaza Port Douglas
If you want value for money, Central Plaza is where it’s at. Only a ten minute stroll from town and the beach, this place is in prime position for a great holiday without breaking the bank.
This apartment style accommodation has everything you could need to make your stay awesome, plus if you’re travelling with kids, Central Plaza is a great family friendly option.
Facilities include a heated resort style pool, free parking and free wifi. Winning.
Luxury: Peppers Beach Club
As the name suggests, you are right on the beach at Peppers Beach Club. If that wasn’t enough, the lagoon pool in the resort means you won’t have to go far for a quick dip!
If you want a relaxing stay in luxury surroundings, Peppers ticks all the boxes. With an exclusive spa and child care service they really have thought of everything to make your stay a relaxing one…especially if you are travelling with kids and need a break from keeping them entertained!
When you’ve had your fill of relaxation you can take advantage of the tennis courts, bike hire and hotel gym to get your fitness quota in!
Just a short stroll from town you can park up the car and walk to pretty much anywhere in Port Douglas.
Unique: Thala Beach Nature Reserve
At Thala Beach Nature Reserve you can stay in a Jungle Walk Bungalow in the tropical Queensland rainforest. So cool! This place has achieved the highest rating for Eco Certification so if you’re looking for a truly one-of-a-kind accommodation experience in Port Douglas, Thala is for you!
If the unique accommodation wasn’t enough, the resort is situated on 2km of pristine private beach! A little way away from Port Douglas, you’ll feel like you’re at one with nature here and there is heaps to do in the resort itself such as star gazing, nature walks, sea kayaking and indigenous presentations, all exclusively for guests.
Other options: Apartments and Houses
If you’re travelling as a big group or with your family, a large apartment or house is a great option in Port Douglas. We like to use Airbnb and Stayz when booking these types of accommodation.
You can get a discount off your first stay with Airbnb by clicking here!
Best things to do in Port Douglas
Take a boat trip out to the reef
If you’re staying in Port Douglas for a few days it’s definitely worth getting out on the water by taking a boat trip out to the Great Barrier Reef.
We did a one-day trip with Tropical Journeys on Calypso Ten. Captain Tony and his crew did an awesome job entertaining us for the day. I did some diving and we both enjoyed the snorkeling at the three stops we did on the reef that day. The lunch on board was pretty good too with heaps of veggie options!
If you want to check out what trips these guys do, you can book here.
Other companies we looked into are Wavelength Reef Cruises and Quicksilver Cruises.
HOT TIP: Make sure you take sunscreen, a hat and a towel on board. We took our Klean Kanteen water bottles with us too…hydration is key! 😉
Four Mile Beach
If you’re heading to Port Douglas, a stroll along Four Mile Beach is a must.
We headed down to the beach for sunrise one morning, which was just stunning. This long stretch of tropical sandy beach is the perfect place to relax, swim and hang out. There is a stinger net in place at Four Mile Beach too so you can swim in the netted area during stinger season.
Looking for something low key to do for dinner? We took a picnic and a blanket down to the beach and watched the sun go down. Bliss.
St. Mary’s By The Sea
We’re not usually fans of churches but this one is truly unique and super cute! With a huge window over looking the Coral Sea, this church is like no other.
Dating back to 1880, this chapel with its stained glass windows and traditional wooden pews is worth a look. It is sometimes open to the public so check it out when you’re in Port Douglas.
Port Douglas Sunday Markets
What better way to spend a lazy Sunday than perusing Port Douglas Markets. Set against a beautiful water side back drop and not far from the cute little church, St. Mary’s By The Sea, these markets are definitely a must do.
With food stalls, fortune tellers, massages, home wares, clothes and jewelry, these markets have everything you could possibly desire!
Take a sunset cruise
This has to be one of the most enjoyable things to do in Port Douglas. Hop on one of the many catamarans or sailboats for a sunset cruise where you’ll watch the sun go down over the mountains. Here are our top picks for who to go with.
Best things to do around Port Douglas
Only 20km drive from Port Douglas, a trip to Mossman Gorge is a must. We took the scenic drive (one of the prettiest in Australia) to the Mossman Gorge Centre where we hopped on a shuttle bus ($9.10 for adults, kids from 5 yrs old $4.55 return). There is no pedestrian access to the gorge so the bus is the only safe way to get there.
A few minutes on the bus will have you heading into the rainforest where you can hike through the trees, across bridges and finally take a dip in the gorge for a refreshing swim. A welcome relief from the humidity!
There’s heaps to do here including Dreamtime walks conducted by the local indigenous people.
Daintree Rainforest Walk
A trip to the Daintree Rainforest is a must. Best part is, it’s free too! There’s multiple walks you can tackle depending on how far you want to walk and where you want to start from. We found this handy guide online that explains all the different options. Guide to your Daintree Rainforest Walk.
Daintree River Cruise
We took a drive up towards the Daintree Rainforest and took a river cruise to see if we could spot some of the locals…yep, crocodiles!
We hopped on Solar Whisper for $25 each and took a leisurely cruise down the Daintree River. Our guide helped us spot heaps of crocs including some tiny babies that had just hatched the week before. We also saw kingfishers and I even got spat in the face by an archerfish. Funniest travel moment ever!
If you want to take a river cruise, here are three companies we’d recommend checking out.
White Water Rafting
For the adrenaline junkies out there, a day of white water rafting is one of the best ways to experience this part of Queensland.
Foaming Fury picks up from Port Douglas daily for full day and half-day rafting experiences on the Russell River. These trips do book out, so we recommend booking this before you go, or when you first arrive. Trust us, white water rafting is so much fun, you don’t want to miss out!
A couple of hours drive north from Port Douglas will take you to Cape Tribulation where the rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef making it one of the most unique ecosystems in the world! There are heaps of eco lodges and backpackers up here so if you can take a couple of days out of your trip and spend one or two nights here, it’s well worth it.
The best time to visit is between July and November when it’s dry. There are heaps of walks you can do as well as horse riding treks, kayaking and jungle surfing!
Food and wine. Waterfalls. Mountain biking. Wildlife galore! The Atherton Tablelands has a heap of activities you can get stuck into. Hop in the car from Port Douglas and in just under two hours you’ll be kicking back with a glass of wine taking in the surroundings!
Free things to do in Port Douglas
Travelling can get pricey, so we always like to look for cool things to do that don’t cost much or better yet, are completely FREE. Here are our top free things to do in Port Douglas.
Daintree Rainforest Walk
Grab your walking shoes and get amongst the largest tropical rainforest in Australia. There’s designated walks you can do with varying distances and degrees of difficulty. Guide to your Daintree Rainforest Walk.
Four Mile Beach
Free doesn’t get much better than a day at the beach. Grab a good book, be sure to slip, slop, slap and enjoy a relaxing few hours on the sand. Better yet, get a sweat on and take a walk or jog to the end of the beach and back!
Rex Smeal Park
This is the best spot to watch the sun go down and see the boats coming in from the reef. Grab a blanket (and a picnic like we did!), grab a spot under the palms and relax. Perfect. Don’t forget your camera, as this is a cool place to get some instagram pics!
On The Inlet
This place is famous for its resident Groper that comes to feed there daily. Best part is, it’s free to go and watch George the Groper pop up and say hello! They feed George every day at 5pm sharp. This is a fan favourite, so make sure you get there early to get a good seat, as it does get busy. There’s a bar and food, so while you wait for the Groper action you can grab and drink and enjoy the water views!
Best places to eat in Port Douglas
Whenever we head to a new destination we have to give a little more thought these days to where we’re going to eat. After making the decision to go vegetarian around 7 months ago, we’ve begun to realise how few vegetarian options are on most menus when eating out…and travelling the world!
In Port Douglas, we did manage to find a couple of spots to get a good meal so as good travel bloggers (and vegetarians!) we wanted to share what we found to be the best vegetarian eats in Port Douglas.
Whatever meal you’re looking for, most restaurants and bars are located on Macrossan Street, the main street in town, which is an easy walk if you want to stroll along until you find the perfect option to tantalise your tastebuds.
You can’t go wrong with Mexican food in our book and this little place on the main street of Port Douglas certainly didn’t disappoint. Chips and dip are always my go to whenever we hit up a Mexican restaurant, the chips here are so good too! Elaina claims that this place serves the ‘best veggie burrito’ she’s ever had. A big call as we eat a lot of burritos! I went for the haloumi taco and mushroom taco which were both excellent! They also have a crocodile taco on the menu for you adventurous meat eaters out there. We highly recommend this little place.
The Little Larder
If you read our blog or follow us on social media, you’ll know that we LOVE breakfast food. The great thing about being vegetarian is that most of the time, a good cafe will always have a few options to cater to us non-meat eaters. They will also happily take off the meat items too most of the time. This place is tipped as one of the best cafes in Port Douglas and we can see why! If you’re there in peak season, this place does get busy, but the food is worth the wait.
The Court House Pub
Pub food isn’t usually up there on our list of go tos when eating out as they rarely have anything expect hot chips or cheese pizza on the menu for vegos. After a day trip up to the Daintree River, we called in here for a quick bite and grabbed the beetroot and haloumi salad and the vegetarian chilli nachos. Yes. We ate mexican food twice on this trip #noshame.
This pub also has a great vibe, so definitely worth coming here with your friends and enjoying a cold drink!
This little cafe on the corner was our first stop for something to eat when we arrived in Port Douglas. Mid morning brunch was a winner here, the corn and zucchini fritters were pretty damn good although the portion size was a little small for my liking. Coffee was good and tbh that’s all that matters sometimes!
Not a restaurant or cafe but we decided to hit up the local Coles and stock up on a vegetarian picnic on two occasions during our trip. We headed down to Four Mile Beach one evening and watched the sunset over the water, another great spot to hit up is the previously mentioned Rex Smeal Park surrounded by palm trees down by the marina. Such a beautiful spot to pitch up at the end of the day.
So that’s a wrap on our Port Douglas Ultimate Travel Guide. We hope you love the area as much as we do!
Keen for some more travel inspo on Port Douglas? Check out our post 17 Photos to Inspire you to Visit Port Douglas.
If you’ve been before and we’ve missed one of your top recommendations please comment below and let us know what it is!
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