Port Douglas in Queensland, Australia is one of the state’s best-kept secrets. Its lush rainforest and glittering coastline are just two of the dozens of features that make this seaside town well worth visiting. Plus, the world-famous Great Barrier Reef is just a stone’s throw away and the year-round pleasant climate means that almost every day is perfect to get exploring it.
If you want to experience the best of tropical Australia, this is the place to go. For the active traveler, there is no shortage of things to do in Port Douglas. You can easily spend days, if not weeks, venturing through the town’s abundant nature. Then, in the evenings, dine al fresco and watch the sun dip behind the horizon.
Cairns tends to be the main destination for people traveling up the East Coast of Australia, but there are plenty of strong arguments as to why you should stop off at Port Douglas on your way.
In addition to everything I’ve mentioned already, Port Douglas is also a great place to learn more about Australia’s aboriginal people and its exciting wildlife. And, when you’re all worn out at the end of the day the accommodation options are top-notch. Think luxury resorts and five-star service.
Are you sold or do you need a bit more inspiration? Here are some of the best things to do in Port Douglas while you’re there.
- 5 days worth of things to do in Port Douglas Queensland
- 1. Watch the sunset at Rex Smeal Park
- 2. Go shopping at Macrossan Street
- 3. Walk the length of 4-mile beach
- 4. Hike the Flagstaff Hill Trail
- 5. Take a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef
- 6. Spend a morning at Mossman Gorge
- 7. Walk around the Marina
- 8. Enjoy the many cafes and restaurants
- 9. Explore the Daintree Rainforest
- 10. Go Snorkeling off Low Island
- 11. Hang Out With the Animals at Wildlife Habitat
- 12. Spend the Day in Kuranda
- 13. Dine Al Fresco with Flames of the Forest
- Port Douglas accommodation
- How to get to Port Douglas
- The best time to go to Port Douglas
5 days worth of things to do in Port Douglas Queensland
1. Watch the sunset at Rex Smeal Park
This cute beachside park has become renowned as a viewing site for Port Douglas’ sensational sunsets. Prepare to witness the most vivid shades of pink and purple as the sun stains the sky with its final rays of light. Throw in the soundtrack of the waves stroking the sand in front of you and you have one of the most magical experiences you’ll ever encounter.
If you can plan it so that your trip to Port Douglas includes a Sunday, you will be able to enjoy the fabulous Sunday Market. This buzzing market is brimming with gorgeous handicrafts, fresh juice, food, clothing and a bunch of other wonderful treasures. It is open from 8 am until 1.30 pm so get there early to make the most of it. Then head back in the evening to enjoy the sunset.
2. Go shopping at Macrossan Street
Macrossan Street is the number one Port Douglas shopping destination and for this very reason, it is always swarming with life. As you might imagine, being a beachside town, there are plenty of flip-flops and swimsuits for sale on this lively street. However, they are far from the only things on offer here.
Boutiques selling high-end clothing and handbags sit snugly between surf shops and quaint cafés ready to re-energize you with top-rate coffee so you can carry on your shopping extravaganza. If you’re looking to kit out your wardrobe or pick up some gifts for people back home, this is as good a place as any to do so.
There are also plenty of restaurants here for when hunger calls. It isn’t hard to get carried away and spend a whole day (and the best part of your budget) here. If you have the willpower not to drain your entire bank account, this is a great place to visit.
3. Walk the length of 4-mile beach
4 Mile Beach got its name, unsurprisingly and slightly unimaginatively, because it is four miles in length. But, don’t let its boring name put you off. 4 Mile Beach is one of the main attractions in Port Douglas and for good reason. It is the kind of beach you see on postcards or promo material for tropical getaways. The kind of thing you find plastered all over Instagram with #nofilter proudly captioning it.
And it’s true. You really don’t need a filter to enhance the beauty of this Port Douglas beach. It does that all by itself. With turquoise water and pearly, powder sand, there’s nothing not to love about this place. If you’ve got the energy, walk the entire length of it and soak up its magnificence as you go. If you get too hot during the walk, simply hop into the sea to cool off, just watch out for the kite surfers.
You can swim at 4 Mile Beach all year round, but there are sometimes saltwater crocodiles around so keep an eye for them. There are lifeguards patrolling the beach who will let you know if there have been any sightings. Even if you don’t want to swim, it’s a great spot for topping up your tan or just lazing around with a book in the sunshine.
This beach is just a five-minute walk from the main street and luckily it's big enough that you don't need any other beaches in Port Douglas.
4. Hike the Flagstaff Hill Trail
One of the other things to do in Port Douglas for free is hike the short Flagstaff Hill Trail. Located right by the 4 Mile Beach, this trail offers you a great view of it.
The Flagstaff Hill Trail starts at the North end of 4 Mile Beach and ends at the Rex Smeal Park. Start by climbing the steps and the vista will soon spread out beneath you.
The walk is easy and can be conquered in about 30 minutes – take note, however, that there are a number of steps to climb. When you get to the viewing platform you will be able to enjoy sweeping views of the Coral Sea, sparkling beach, and verdant rainforest that fringes the bay. If you were looking for a way to make your friends back home jealous, a photo from this look-out might just do the trick.
The nice thing about this trail is that at one end you have the beach where you can swim and cool off afterward, and at the other end is Main Street, where you can grab a bite if you’ve worked up an appetite whilst hiking. It’s win-win whichever end you wind up at.
5. Take a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef
One of the most popular activities in Port Douglas is definitely to go on a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef. Most boat trips offer the chance to do an initiation dive but I stuck to snorkeling and managed to see quite a lot like that as well.
Read all about how to do a Great Barrier Reef tour here.
6. Spend a morning at Mossman Gorge
Another fun trip to make from Port Douglas is the one to Mossman Gorge. It's a quick drive or you can take the shuttle that departs twice a day from the center of Port Douglas.
7. Walk around the Marina
The Marina, or the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina to give it its full name, is a great spot in Port Douglas to visit.
The first thing you will notice here is the crazy yachts moored up – yes, people actually own them and no, they don’t come cheap. Even if buying a yacht yourself will never be more than a pipe dream, you can still admire them from the Marina and imagine what it must be like to sail around on one.
Hey, you might not be able to afford a superyacht right now, but you can certainly afford a drink – and lucky for you there are plenty of purveyors of alcohol in the Marina. Head to one of the bars and treat yourself to a cocktail or fill yourself with gourmet food at one of the many restaurants.
Alternatively, if you’ve still got a hankering for shopping after your trip to Macrossan Street, you can scratch that itch right here in the Marina. Follow the timber boardwalk from boutique to boutique and stock up on wavey garments that you can flaunt throughout the rest of your trip.
8. Enjoy the many cafes and restaurants
The city center isn't big at all but there are plenty of eateries to choose from when you visit Port Douglas. Here as some we tried and liked:
- Capannina: a lovely ice cream parlor we made more than one stop at
- On the Inlet: a seafood restaurant that serves a mean crab
- Zinc: the place to go for a more fancy night out
- The Mexican: amazing Mexican food. It's a small popular place to making a reservation is recommended, even in low season.
- Betty's Bohemian Cafe: a great place to go for breakfast
- The Littler Larder: fun for lunch, an afternoon snack, or a delicious drink
- Shakes Gelati bar: for when you want a wide range of ice cream flavors to choose from
- Chilly's Pizza & Trattoria: a fun, casual, and largely outdoor pizza place with a self-service bar
And that's it! I hope this has given you some ideas on where to eat and drink in Port Douglas.
Maybe it's good to know that aside from eating out and going to a bar, there are not that many things to do in Port Douglas at night. It's definitely not a party town.
9. Explore the Daintree Rainforest
Where better to connect with Mother Nature than the awe-inspiring Daintree Rainforest. If you’re up for a challenge, try the six-hour round trip hike to Mount Sorrow Ridge. If that’s too much then there are several shorter walks, such as the Dubiji Boardwalk, which only takes an hour and showcases some of the Rainforest's most beautiful bits.
One of the highlights of the Daintree Rainforest is the Mossman Gorge, which I have mentioned earlier. But, the gorge is far from the only attraction in the Rainforest. This picturesque pocket of nature features cool water, tinged green by its leafy surroundings and tumbling over rocks in its path. The trees on either side of the stream offer some welcome respite from the sun.
Here, you can take a dip in the water, look out for animals and birds, and explore the oldest rainforest on the planet. Plus, you can count it as your exercise for the week – especially if you do the Mount Sorrow Ridge hike – and then enjoy guilt-free beers all night afterward.
Daintree tours from Port Douglas
If you'd rather not drive from Port Douglas to Daintree yourself or prefer to visit with a guide so you get ample information, consider going on a tour.
The Daintree & Cape Tribulation Small-Group 4WD Tour picks you up at your accommodation in Port Douglas for a full day tour to spot crocodiles and other wildlife on a Daintree river cruise and go for a guided walk in the rainforest. You'll also spend time at Cape Tribulation and have the chance to go swimming at Emmagen Creek during an afternoon tea stop.
Book this tour.
Up for something a bit more special? Then consider a 30-minute helicopter flight over the Daintree Rainforest. You'll be picked up at your Port Douglas accommodation and will get live commentary from an expert guide during the flights.
Book this experience.
10. Go Snorkeling off Low Island
In just 15 minutes you can be at Low Island thanks to the Reef Sprinter that runs from the mainland across to the island. This teeny-tiny island might not look like much, but it is home to some excellent snorkeling that is accessible from the beach. No need to spend ages in a boat and braving the open water!
Ok, admittedly, that’s about it when it comes to things to do on Low Island, but it is still very much worth a visit. There is also a cute lighthouse that you can explore, which will provide you with another hour or so of fun. A trip to Low Island is a neat way to spend an afternoon.
Then consider this half-day Low Isles snorkel tour. All snorkeling equipment as well as snacks and coffee are provided. you'll even get the chance to go on a guided snorkel tour or see the sealife from a glass-bottom boat.
11. Hang Out With the Animals at Wildlife Habitat
If you haven’t had much luck spotting wildlife out in the open, you’re guaranteed to see some at Wildlife Habitat. Here, the animals roam wild and free in recreated natural habitats and you as a visitor can immerse yourself in their surroundings.
Kangaroos, wallabies, crocodiles, and pythons are just some of the creatures you’ll find at Wildlife Habitat. You can even cuddle a koala if you fancy it – and let’s be honest, who wouldn’t?
The park is divided up into different habitats, such as wetlands, rainforest, and savannah. There is also a nocturnal habitat, which is kept artificially dark so you can see the kinds of animals that only come out at night.
If you want a particularly special experience, opt for either Breakfast with the Birds or Lunch with the Lorikeets (a type of bird). You’ll be treated to a buffet breakfast or lunch spread in the bird enclosure, meaning you’ll chow down while tropical birds circle above your heads.
There will also be expert guides milling about who will tell you all about the birds that land on your head while you eat.
12. Spend the Day in Kuranda
One of the best bits about spending a day in Kuranda is getting there and back from Port Douglas. Most people take the cable car, known as the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, to Kuranda and get the train back – both are fantastically scenic and give you the full spectrum of views: both aerial and from ground level.
On the way there and back you’ll witness breath-taking scenery as the lush vegetation spreads out in all directions, peppered with the occasional waterfall cascading over a cliff face. If you take the cable car, there are two stops along the way that are worth exploring. The first is Red Peak Station, which has a short boardwalk you can meander along. The second is Barron Falls Station, where you’ll find an impressive waterfall.
But, that’s just the beginning of the adventure.
Once you’re in Kuranda there is a surprising amount to do, given that it is just a small town. There are plenty of shops and restaurants dotted around the town as well as a koala garden, a butterfly sanctuary, and the fabulous Kuranda Market. If you have the time, this rainforest town will make a great addition to your itinerary.
get the complete Kuranda experience fully organized for you on this full-day tour. You'll be picked up at your Port Douglas accommodation and will enjoy activities such as:
- a ride on the scenic Kuranda railway
- a ride on the Skyrail cableway
- a 6-wheel adventure ride through the rainforest
- a typical Australian BBQ
- a visit to the Koala & Wildlife Park
- an Aboriginal-lead dreamtime walk with spear-throwing and dance demonstrations
13. Dine Al Fresco with Flames of the Forest
For a truly unique experience, book an evening with Flames of the Forest. It won’t be your cheapest excursion, but it will be your most delicious. Flames of the Forest is Australia’s only rainforest dining experience and it offers two different options: Aboriginal Cultural Experience and Rainforest Dining Experience.
Whichever of the two you pick, you are bound to have an unforgettable evening. The Aboriginal Cultural Experience features two Aboriginal brothers who perform traditional music with didgeridoos and story-telling. It also includes a seven-course banquet complete with wine, that will leave you thoroughly satisfied by the end.
The Rainforest Dining Experience is more or less the same except you have acoustic guitar music instead of the Aboriginal brothers and you only get six courses instead of seven (but it is a bit cheaper). Both experiences are illuminated by candlelight and are utterly delightful.
Port Douglas accommodation
The best area to stay in Port Douglas I'd say is anywhere north of Mahogany Street. There, you'll always be within walking distance of the center.
Our accommodation in Port Douglas: Pandanus Tourist Park
As we were traveling in a camper van, we chose the Port Douglas camping Pandanus Tourist Park as our place to settle for a few nights. Pandanus lies a 20-minute walk from the main shopping street and a quick 5 minutes from the beach.
It's not a massive camping – which we appreciated – but does have a swimming pool. There was one other camping we looked at before we arrived that was located a bit closer to the center, but that was fully booked already.
Hotels in Port Douglas
Budget: Coral Beach Lodge
A glorious outdoor pool and hammock area makes this cheap but cheerful hostel a bit of a bargain. Choose between beds in mixed or single-sex dorms, wallow on Four Mile Beach which is only a few hundred yards from the door, and hang out in the communal areas and shared kitchen. The continental breakfast each day is free, rooms are air-conditioned and free WiFi is available.
Boutique: Port Douglas Motel
Port Douglas Motel is swimming in character, with a quirky and colorful interior, outdoor pool with flamboyant mural and barbecue area. The rooms are huge, with bright tones, sofas, and private bathrooms. Guests benefit from kitchenettes and free WiFi, and Four Mile Beach is only a 3-minute walk away.
Chain: Ramada Resort by Wyndham Port Douglas
Located in a rainforest garden near the beach, with a beautiful winding lagoon pool, sun-lounger area and pool-side bar that guests can swim up to. The rooms are large and airy with a TV, fridge and coffee and tea-making facilities. There’s also a treehouse spa and bar and bistro.
Luxury: Port Douglas Peninsula Boutique Hotel – Adults Only Haven
Peninsula Boutique Hotel is situated right on the beach, and all suites have their own balcony with fantastic views. The pool-side buffet breakfast is worth getting up for, but all suites also have self-catering facilities. The hotel’s restaurant and bar overlooks the beach, the outdoor pool is part of a stunning network of water features, and the rooms are beautifully furnished.
Port Douglas apartments
Apartment: Retro Port Douglas Apartments
These apartments look like they’re straight out of an interior design magazine! The furniture and decor is attractive and light with a retro feel. There’s a heated outdoor pool that snakes past the buildings and palm trees for shade. The apartments are decked out with a full kitchen with SMEG appliances and free WiFi making you feel really at home. All suites also have a terrace or patio area with a fun hanging seat to relax in.
Other Port Douglas apartments
I tend to use Booking to find hotels, but I always check Airbnb for apartments as they have a really large selection, so it’s worth heading over there for more ideas.
If you want to try Airbnb but don't have an account yet, a discount is available on your first booking if you book through my link. This doesn't cost you a penny.
If you already have an account and found this post helpful, I’d be grateful if you could consider booking your next Airbnb through my link. I'll earn a small commission while the price for you stays exactly the same. Income like this helps me travel independently and create new content.
How to get to Port Douglas
There are no direct flights to Port Douglas. The closest international airport to Port Douglas is that of Cairns. The drive from Cairns to Port Douglas takes about one hour and if you'll be road tripping in Queensland like we did, it's best to rent a car at the airport.
Getting to Port Douglas from Cairns by car is pretty easy, driving along a nice highway.
If you plan in staying put, you can also book a ride on a shuttle bus to Port Douglas from the airport.
Check Kayak for a good overview of flight prices and routes.
The best time to go to Port Douglas
Because of its quite northern position in Australia, Port Douglas has nice weather all-year-round. We actually found it perfect to visit Port Douglas in June, which is considered winter in Queensland. We had temperatures around 25°C/77°F during the day and I only needed a light cardigan in the evenings.
And that's it! I hope this post gave you a good idea of what to do in Port Douglas as well as where to stay in Port Douglas. We definitely loved spending a few days there.
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