Port Douglas started life as a fishing village in North Queensland but has grown into an upscale, sophisticated resort town, less than an hour by boat to the Great Barrier Reef. It offers an alternative to the faster-paced Cairns tourist resort and is less than one hour from the Daintree Rainforest.
Port Douglas is a center for all manner of watersports and cruising. The Reef Marina has a huge fleet of luxury yachts bringing well-heeled visitors to the area, while Four Mile Beach provides beautiful white sands and palm trees for some of the best swimming in Queensland.
Macrossan Street is the commercial center of Port Douglas, with a large range of restaurants, bars, cafes, and boutiques.
The sanctuary houses a vast range of animal and plant life. Environments include the Rainforest, with boardwalks on the forest floor and canopy, the Grasslands, with kangaroos and crocodiles, and the Wetlands, with a huge variety of wading birds. There are free guided tours and educational presentations throughout the day.
For a quirky and alternative taste of Queensland culture, head over to Iron Bar for the Cane Toad Races. These take place every night at 8:00 pm on Macrossan Street. Admission is A$5 and you can watch the 'jockeys' kiss the toads for luck before the races.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the top tourist attractions in the world and a huge reason for visitors to come to Port Douglas. There are lots of operators offering day trips or longer cruises with overnight accommodation on board. The closest reefs to Port Douglas include Agincourt Reef, Tongue Reef, and Opal Reef, all of which offer great diving.
Port Douglas Yacht Club has a great offer, where they provide free sailing every Wednesday evening. If you visit in the early evening you will be paired up with a yacht club member to take you out for a sunset sailing experience. The water is such an important feature of Port Douglas that this offer is not to be missed.
Four Mile Beach is the main bathing beach in Port Douglas. This vast stretch of sand is shaded by swaying palms and has a supervised swimming area. You can rent bikes to cycle along the coast or rent a sun lounger to simply relax in the sun. For the best views of Port Douglas and the Coral Sea, head to the north of Four Mile Beach and climb up to Flagstaff Hill via Wharf Street.
High season is the Australian winter of June to September. Temperatures are a little cooler and there is good visibility in the ocean for diving on the Great Barrier Reef. It is also the best season for whale watching. April to May and October to November also have pleasant temperatures with good bathing conditions and lower accommodation prices. December to March is the wet season, with heavy rains and unsafe swimming due to jellyfish.
Port Douglas does not have an airport, so the best alternative is to fly to Cairns, which is approximately one hour away by road. Cairns International Airport (CNS) has good connections across Australia and Southeast Asia. Sun Palm Transport provides a bus shuttle service from the airport to Port Douglas for A$35.
The nearest train station is to be found in Cairns, with regular services to Brisbane. You can then use road transport to get to Port Douglas. A single fare to Cairns from Brisbane is from A$132.
Route 44 connects Port Douglas with Cairns and it will take around an hour to drive the 42 miles. Route 81 runs north all the way to Nanum in the extreme north of Queensland.
Greyhound Australia provides services between major Australian cities and Cairns and you can then take the shuttle to connect with Port Douglas.
Dougies Backpackers Resort is an excellent budget accommodation option on Davidson Street. The hostel offers a free pick up service from Cairns three times a week and has a good swimming pool and bar area, with hammocks and a barbecue. Shantara offers apartment-style accommodation from a central location between Four Mile Beach and Macrossan Street. There are two large saltwater swimming pools and Tibetan-style gardens, and a good spa offering a wide range of treatments. The Pullman Port Douglas Sea Temple Resort and Spa offers upscale accommodation, with a spa and an 18-hole golf course.
Macrossan Street - this is the commercial center of Port Douglas. It is here that you will find most of the bars, shopping, and restaurants. Although it is the busiest spot in town, it is still a pleasant area for a walk and retains a distinctive village feel.
Four Mile Beach - this is the seafront area of town. It is a beautiful stretch of sand with a lovely esplanade running at 90 degrees to Macrossan Street. Low rise accommodation runs behind the beach, sheltered by tall, shading palms.
Two private bus services will take you anywhere in the city center for A$5 for a round trip. Buses run around every 15 minutes during the day.
There are lots of companies offering taxi services in Port Douglas. Although plentiful, there can be delays during peak hours, such as Friday and Saturday evenings. Expect to pay a A$6.20 starting fare and then around A$3.64 per mile traveled.
Local roads in Port Douglas are good and traffic jams are rare. Renting a car can be a good option if you plan to visit some to the outlying natural sites, like the Daintree Rainforest. You can expect to pay around A$50 per day for a small car from one of the main rental companies, like Thrifty and Budget.
Macrossan Street has most of the main retail outlets in town. Port Village Shopping Centre has more than 20 specialty shops with a focus on fashion. Portico Shopping Centre is also on Macrossan Street and majors on local products and crafts. Port Douglas Sunday Markets take place every Sunday from 8:00 am until 1:30 pm at Anzac Park; there are lots of stalls selling local goods and souvenirs.
A Coles supermarket can found in the Port Village Shopping Centre. A quart of milk in Port Douglas costs around A$1.30, while a pound of apples is priced at A$2.30.
2 Fish is one of the best seafood restaurants in Port Douglas. It has a lot of dishes featuring locally caught produce and cooks them in innovative ways. You will pay A$32-44 for a main course. The Yachty offers modern international cuisine, such as lobster and spiced lamb, with mains from A$22-34. The Beach Shack is a local favorite at the south end of Four Mile Beach. It does seafood, tapas and pizza, with a great value pizza special night on Saturdays for A$20.