Best Things To Do in Port Douglas: Attractions & Tours


If you are looking for the best things to do in Port Douglas, you have come to the right place. The beautiful tropical North Queensland region has so much to offer any traveller, and there is heaps to keep you entertained.

If you’ve already visited other parts of Queensland, such as Surfer’s Paradise and Brisbane, be ready to be amazed by the north of the state. This is where the rainforest meets the reef and not one, but two UNESCO World Heritage-listed areas. Expect to be amazed at the natural scenes, get thrilled with the wildlife, and see some of the more unique attractions in Australia.

You’ll be surprised by how many fantastic things to do in Port Douglas. Located in the top end of Queensland and about an hour north of the international gateway city of Cairns, the city has only 3500 permanent residents.

Despite that, it receives thousands of tourists each week and is one of the best places to visit in Australia. Port Douglas is known for its luxury lifestyle, with large resorts lining the beaches and eclectic restaurants to try.

Top Things To Do In Port Douglas

Although it’s small in size, you find the surrounding areas in abundance with things to do in Port Douglas. Thus, please keep reading below to learn more about this exciting town.

Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef

First and foremost, you should start with one of the top Port Douglas attractions: let’s explore the first UNESCO area of the Great Barrier Reef. You’re lucky that Port Douglas and Cairns are among the best snorkelling areas in Queensland, and you have a couple of options.

The most popular choice would be to take a day trip to the outer Reef. This is on the Agincourt Reef and is highly convenient and safe for first-time snorkellers, with a manufactured pontoon for ease and comfort.

You’re provided with all the gear needed, from masks, snorkels, fins, and stinger suits. These Lycra stinger suits are a requirement, especially in the summer season, to protect against jellyfish stings. There are lined-out snorkelling areas for advanced swimmers or controlled and safe environments for beginners. Either way, you be floating on top of the water seeing giant trevally, groupers, rainbow fish, turtles, clown fish, and maybe even reef sharks.

If you don’t want to get in the water, then there are some options for you too! A semi-submarine carries about 20 people just below the surface on a 30-minute tour. This is fully guided, where you can learn about the Great Barrier Reef and ask questions.

Clownfish on the Great Barrier Reef

You also have a 5-metre underwater viewing chamber. This is attached to the pontoon and can be viewed in your own time. If all else, you can sit on the deck and soak up the rays of the scorching Australian sun.

Mossman River Drift Snorkelling Tour

Get your first taste of the rainforest and set out on an exciting River Drift Snorkelling Tour. This comes with hotel pickup and ventures to the outskirts of the Mossman River. You’ll be provided a wetsuit for warmth, shoes, and snorkel gear, and then start trekking through the bush with a raft.

After taking your first plunge into the crisp waters, you’ll start by exploring some of the freshwater creatures. This includes catfish, jungle perch, turtles, and maybe eels. There is also a possibility of seeing a platypus as well, but they are likely hiding as soon as they see you.

Snorkelling in the Mossman River is one of the many attractions in Port Douglas

The next part would be the fun and adrenaline portion of the tour. The river’s flood levels determine your speed and the amount of white water you’ll be floating over. Know that the river is not very deep, so you can stand up anytime to get your balance or stop floating. Additionally, there are calm sections where you’ll be lying peacefully on your raft, listening to the sounds of the forest.

It only requires a half day to complete the tour and is suitable and fun for the whole family.

Click here to see prices and book your Mossman River drift snorkelling tour.

Mossman Gorge Swimming

If you want a fun and dreamy place to go swimming when visiting Port Douglas, then you should go to the Mossman Gorge. This is a different area of the Mossman River and only 20 minutes from Port Douglas.

This area will firstly bring you to an information centre, souvenir shop and café. From here, you’ll purchase a return ticket into Mossman Gorge, which will take about 5 minutes to drive to the drop-off point.

Mossman Gorge, one of the attractions in Port Douglas

There is plenty to do at Mossman Gorge, from hiking through the southern part of the Daintree National Park. Along with the lookout points of the rocky gorge, finding the suspension bridge, and enjoying the swimming hole. You could easier spend half a day to a full day here, so don’t forget to pack a lunch.

If you don’t have your own transport, then public bus services will bring you from Port Douglas. Alternatively, you can book organised tours into the Daintree National Park that will stop here for roughly 1.5 hours before venturing more into the Park.

Read also: The Top Things To Do in Sydney

Day Trip to Kuranda Village

Apart from the Daintree National Park, another excellent option is to explore Kuranda Village in the Barron Falls National Park. This comes with exciting ways to experience the Rainforest through the journey in and out of Kuranda. Making the most of the day entails travelling on the Kuranda Scenic Railway, enjoying a few hours at Kuranda, then returning on the Skyrail Cableway gondola.

The Kuranda Scenic Railway starts off every morning from Cairns and takes two hours to get to Kuranda Station. On the way, you’ll pass through tunnels, view hook turns, and see one of the most impressive waterfalls in North Queensland.

Once at Kuranda, you can browse the local arts and crafts store, eat at one of the many cafes or visit the wildlife parks. This could be a great option to see guaranteed Australian wildlife in a controlled environment.

When you’re ready to leave Kuranda, you can step into one of Skyrail’s Gondolas and spend about 1.5 hours soaring above the trees and listening to the peaceful sounds. You have two opportunities to get off and on at Barron Falls and Red Peak station.

Consequently, seeing the other side of Barron Falls and meandering through a boardwalk rainforest walk. This whole day is full of exciting and unique things to do, but it will entail you making your way to Cairns in the first place.

This Kuranda tour packs it all nicely, with a late-morning hotel pick-up, use of the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, a visit to Kuranda Village and return by Kuranda Scenic Train.

Visit The Daintree National Park

Among the best things to do in Port Douglas, visiting the Daintree National Park a must. It’s one of the oldest rainforests in the world. Said to be 180 million years old, which is even older than the Amazon! It’s the most famous National Park in Australia and is included in the Wet Tropics of Queensland UNESCO World Heritage Listed area. So, apart from the Great Barrier Reef, this is your first look at where the Reef meets the Rainforest.

The Daintree National Park is full of Hiking opportunities, tree-top walks, informative tours, and wildlife. In fact, you have the chance to see the unusual and exotic cassowary, which is common in the area. It’s a large flightless bird (much like an Emu), covered in black feathers, a Greyish helmet (casque), and a red wattle on its neck. You might also find thousands of birds, lizards, and snakes.

Getting to the Daintree National Park is relatively simple, and you can easily hire a car yourself to drive around. However, there are plenty of daily organised tours to commute and allow you to see other brilliant things to do in Port Douglas.

Click here to see the different Daintree day tours.

Join a Saltwater Crocodile Cruise

The saltwater crocodiles are deadly and cunning creatures and can be found all over tropical North Queensland. This is more common in warmer, murky rivers and streams, enabling them to hide. You have several cruise companies on the Daintree River that will take you out in a comfortable vessel and search for these wild creatures. This is one of the most exciting Port Douglas attractions.

Although they are wild animals and you are never guaranteed to see them, your local guide knows their common spots and does very well to point them out. This can be done at any time of day, but the biggest tip would be to during low tide and on a sunny day. This will be your optimal time for seeing them. Note it’s also handy to bring a camera with some higher zoom capabilities to capture them adequately.

A giant saltwater crocodile

The saltwater crocodiles (crocs) will hang out on the edges of the banks, in long grass, and love basking in the sun. This helps them to regulate their body heat and allows them to hide from their prey. They range in size from small babies (10 to 20 centimetres) up to 5 meters long.

This tour includes the opportunity to get up close with the saltwater crocs, while this river cruise is a more traditional crocodile and other wildlife-watching opportunities.

Taste test at one of the Daintree Ice-cream Farms

You’ll find plenty of locally made products and food within the Daintree National Park area. This includes fruit orchids, where they’ll make some of the best fruit-based ice creams. You can spend an hour wandering around the orchid and seeing where the fruit is grown, ripened, and farmed. From there, visit the store and pick up a small tub of seasonal fruit Ice-cream for your morning or afternoon tea break.

Read also: 2-Day Perth Itinerary

Four Mile Beach

Four Mile Beach is another of the best Port Douglas attractions. It is listed as one of the best beaches in Queensland and lines the coastal area of Port Douglas. As the name says, it’s four miles long and uniquely covered in Palm Trees. It showcases many beachfront resorts, restaurants, and holiday homes.

Visiting Four Mile Beach is one of the great things you can do in Port Douglas

This is where you find most of the locals and tourists every morning for sunrise and late afternoon for sunset. They will either be walking along the shore, getting some exercise, taking the dog for a run, or lazing in the sun.

You can even hire beach chairs and umbrellas to make it more comfortable. Additionally, there are Segway tours for a very different way to experience the beach while learning about the area from the tour operator.

While it is a fantastic beach to be around, you’ll find limited people using it for swimming due to the jellyfish and crocodiles.

Flagstaff Hill Walking Trail

Want the best views and one of the highlighted things to do in Port Douglas, then check out the Flagstaff Hill Walking Trail. This is only a short walking trail of 1.5 kilometres one way, but it lines the coast and allows you to see Four Mile Beach and the surrounding coastline.

You can start the trail from either the northern end of Four Mile Beach or the eastern side of Rex Smeal Park. From there, the path roams through rocky stairs, and lookout points, on a maintained dirt pathway. There is minimal elevation, but it will require a reasonable amount of fitness to complete. Look out for dolphins and turtles along the coastline, or you might even see migrating whales in season.

Rex Smeal Park

Still wondering what to do in Port Douglas? Then you should head to Rex Smeal Park, located in the northern area of the city. It’s a large grassy area lined with palm trees, which makes it the perfect Instagram photo spot at sunset. You can also laze in the sun, take the kids to the playground, or come for a lunchtime picnic.

Rex Smeal Park is one of the cool places to visit in Port Douglas

Many people will use it for a large family or friend gathering. It’s also possible to hire the area for a wedding. From there, you can view the rainforest in the distance or watch the fishing boats pass sailing by. This is an excellent relaxing activity among all the things to do in Port Douglas.

Visit St Mary’s by The Sea Chapel

While you’re near Rex Smeal Park, stop by St Marys by the Sea Chapel. It’s an old Chapel built in 1811, and after being destroyed by a cyclone, it was rebuilt where it stands today. This will be an excellent addition if you love old, detailed architecture, design, and history.

The Chapel is still used today for weddings, funerals, and christenings; therefore, you can’t see inside the building at all times. However, there are fewer bookings during the week, so you will likely get a quick view of the stalls and alter inside around then. Apart from that, it’s a small church, and you can wander around the outside in about 1 minute.

Read Also: 2 Days in Melbourne Itinerary

Visit the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina

The Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina is one place where you’ll get to see the luxury lifestyle and see what the people of Port Douglas do for fun. You can wander around the Marina and check out all the different ships, boats, and catamarans that are privately owned or rented out. Some of these will depart on sunset cruises or daily tours with snacks and drinks.

Apart from that, the entire centre has its own entertainment. This includes a brewery, ice creamery, specialty stores, and restaurants. Any time of day, you can enjoy a drink or sit down for a meal, with the delightful views of boats in the Marina.

Thala Beach Nature Reserve

About 20 minutes south of Port Douglas will be a place called the Thala Beach Nature Reserve. Ultimately, this is just an entrance to an eco-friendly resort accommodation. Still, to most tourists, it’s an Instagram-worthy photo stop and a Port Douglas must-see.

The resort grounds are full of giant Palm trees, perfectly lined up in rows. There must be hundreds of trees here, and you can see plenty of tourists stop by throughout the day.

Grab a photo and send it to your family and friends; it’s a brilliant way of displaying your tropical Queensland holiday!

Hire a car and venture out on the Great Barrier Reef Drive

This is your perfect moment to experience the rainforest meeting the Reef, all from the comfort of your car. The Great Barrier Reef Drive is ultimately the highway stretching from Cairns to Cape Tribulation, with Port Douglas in the middle. You can choose to venture north or south and take in the World Heritage-listed areas.

Given a choice, driving south between Port Douglas and Cairns is a better option. You can stop at spots like the Rex Lookout and visit smaller towns such as Palm Cove or Ellis Beach. Palm Cove has a cobblestone pathway with beachside palm trees, another perfect photo scene.

Spend a relaxing day meandering up or down the highway and take in the views.

Click here to see car hire options and prices.

Read Also: Luxury Cruises Lines Visiting Australia

When Is The Best Time To Visit Port Douglas?

Port Douglas has a tropical climate and is very humid in the summertime. Therefore, the highest tourist season runs from May to September, which is over the winter months. That’s considered the best time to visit Port Douglas.

This time of the year the Great Barrier Reef waters are still warm enough for swimming, and the jellyfish are less likely to be around.

The average temperatures and days of rain in Port Douglas from May to September are as follows:

May: Temperatures between 23°-27° – 7 days of rainJune: Temperatures between 21°/26° – 4 days of rainJuly: Temperatures between 21°/25° – 3 days of rainAugust: Temperatures between 21°/27° – 3 days of rain

September: Temperatures between 22°/29° – 4 days of rain

On the other hand, plenty of tourists will still visit in the summertime from December to March each year. Because of high rainfall, this is usually the best time for waterfall swimming in the secluded creeks and gorges. That’s a great way to escape that summer heat with crisp freshwater dips.

That said, December to March are the hottest months in Port Douglas. It will also rain a lot and you can sometimes go for days without venturing outside.

The average days of rain and temperatures in Port Douglas from December to March are follows:

December: Temperatures between 25°-32° – 9 days of rainJanuary: Temperatures between 26°-32° – 13 days of rainFebruary: Temperatures between 26°-32° – 14 days of rain

March: Temperatures between 25°-31° – 14 days of rain

How Many Days Do You Need To Spend in Port Douglas?

You can definitely experience the highlights and the best things to do at Port Douglas within 3 to 4 days. This includes the Great Barrier Reef, the National Park Rainforests, Crocodile tours, and some freshwater swimming. There are a few ways to see specific highlights on the same day, along with organised tours providing a small taste of each.

Having said that, there are plenty of other activities and places to visit in Port Douglas and the surrounding area if you’re staying for a week. Alternatively, you could split your time between Port Douglas and Cairns and get to experience some of the best parts in this region of tropical North Queensland. The distance from Cairns to Port Douglas is 66.5 kilometres, so it’s very doable.

I hope you enjoyed our list of the best things to do in Port Douglas and you managed to find something that intrigued you to go and visit. Port Douglas is a trendy tourist zone. When planning your holiday, you should try and book in advance to avoid disappointment.

About the Author: Chris Fry is the writer and photographer behind Aquarius Traveller, where she shares her journeys and provides valuable information and inspiration for your land and underwater travels. She lives in Australia and has travelled to 36 countries and across Australia.


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