Port guide: Port Douglas, Australia

Port Information
  • Country: Australia
  • Region: Australasia
  • Port type: Cruise port
  • Population: 4,772
  • Time zone: UTC+9.5
  • Port website: View
  • Currency: Australian Dollar (AUD)

Introducing Port Douglas

Port Douglas is a small and quaint seaside village located in the Northern tip of Queensland, Australia. This quiet and secluded resort town is just an hour or so away from the hustle and bustle of Cairns. With a long stretch of beautiful beach, spectacular sunsets and verdant rainforests, many visitors are amazed by what Port Douglas has to offer.

Visitors travel from far and wide to Port Douglas to explore two of the most beautiful natural wonders of the planet. The Great Barrier Reef is just a stone’s throw away. Nowhere else can you see the deep blue green water of the ocean sparkle with an iridescent shade. Daintree National Park is also close-by, a place where hiking and biking enthusiasts can hang out under the canopy of ancient trees found at Cape Tribulation.

Port Douglas is ideal for travellers who want the five-star amenities that top-notch resorts offer while still maintaining that relaxed village lifestyle. Friendly locals always have a warm smile and guests can enjoy their holiday in relative privacy and seclusion, making it a popular choice for celebrities, moguls, and honeymooners alike.

If you want to relax and sip a cocktail on your very own slice of paradise, then Port Douglas is the place to be!

Quick facts
  • There are less than a thousand people residing in Port Douglas year-round
  • Port Douglas is a very popular destination wedding venue
  • Cairns is the closest major city to Port Douglas
  • Locals simply refer to it as ‘Port’
  • The town is named after John Douglas, the former Premier of Queensland
Exploring Port Douglas

Port Douglas is one of the best places in Australia to visit if you love the outdoors. This is one of the few places on Earth where rich marine life and coral atolls meet the lush tropical rainforest. Nature lovers would be amazed at how much biodiversity they will encounter.

The Rainforest Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary a wonderful way to experience the verdant hinterlands without heading off to Daintree National Park and Cape Tribulation. Visitors will be able to have a close encounter with the different flora and fauna living in three habitats: the forest floor and canopy of the rainforest, the marshy atmosphere of the wetlands and also see the kangaroos and emus frolic in the grasslands. The sanctuary also has a large number of bird varieties, which are quite friendly with humans.

Get to know life as a stockman in the Outback when you visit Whyanbeel Valley. The Australian Muster Experience takes tourists to an authentic tour of an Australian cattle station. Watch as stockmen ride the horses and herd cattle across pen. Sit down to a sumptuous BBQ lunch and listen to live music.

Four Mile Beach is the most well-known beach in the area. Located just minutes away from the town centre, Four Mile Beach is a long stretch of white sandy beach where you can swim and sunbathe to your heart’s content. Kite surfing is a popular activity on particularly windy days.

Fishing is a popular activity in the area. There are many options for the amateur angler. Some prefer to cast their line out from the wharf and hope to catch a Barramundi or two. Or if you love freshwater fishing, head out to the various creeks and rivers in the area.

Getting around

There are now many car rental offices in Port Douglas. If you want to be truly mobile consider renting your own car when in the town. The public transportation in Port Douglas is the bus service. There are actually two bus lines ferrying passengers across town. It is cheaper to buy a round trip ticket. Don’t forget that the tickets to the two bus lines are interchangeable. You have to make the return trip on the same bus. Buses often travel from 7 in the morning until about midnight. The frequency of the bus range from two to four times every hour. Don’t be surprised if the bus is late since everything moves on island time.

The town centre is quite small. You can easily make your way to the different shops and establishments on foot. In fact it might be faster than waiting in line for the bus.

Beyond the port

Port Douglas is on the northern edge of Queensland. The closest city or town would be Cairns, which is around 70 kilometres south. Cairns is also the closest airport to Port Douglas.

Most tourists come to Port Douglas to visit the Great Barrier Reef, one of the most fascinating and beautiful places on earth. There are many tour companies that offer cruises and sailing trips to the outer reef. It takes about an hour or two to reach the Great Barrier Reef. Some jet boats can make the trip in half the time. Scuba enthusiasts can spend a few days out on the reef living aboard boats.

Port Douglas is also the jump off point for those heading into Daintree National Park and Cape Tribulation. The park is one of the oldest rainforests on the planet and is particularly note-worthy because of the abundant biodiversity that makes the forest its home. Past the national park, there are two small towns further up north, named Mossman and Daintree. Travellers prefer to base themselves in Port Douglas because there are better facilities on offer.

Popular shore excursions

Cruise lines that visit here offer the following shore excursions. Please check with your cruise line to see if they offer them and remember some excursions may be seasonal only!

Sail into the sunset for free
Each Wednesday, members of the Port Douglas Yacht Club offer sunset cruises on the member’s boats. All you need to do is head on over to the Yacht Club and sign up. You will get paired with a member who owns a boat and off you go chasing the sun as it sinks over the horizon.

Learn to Scuba Dive
Port Douglas is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, which is best explored via a Scuba tank. If you are already amazed by snorkelling, imagine how much more beautiful the reef would be 10-20 meters deeper. If you only have a day to spend a day in Port Douglas many dive companies offer an intro dive. However, if you are staying for a few days, you’ll have the time to get certified.

Shop at the Sunday Market
Every Sunday morning, locals put up a Sunday Market reminiscent of village life. This is the best place to buy fresh produce such as fruits and vegetable. Tourists can soak up the local culture, taste locally produced baked goods. The market also features art work made by artisans living in the area and live music from indie bands. It’s a festive atmosphere, one that should not be missed.

Local cuisine

In the last few years, Port Douglas has transformed itself from a sleepy, almost uninhabited village, to a popular resort town. The various hotels and resorts often have their own restaurants. Amidst booming tourism, may locals have opened up several café and restaurants to take advantage of the tourism trade.

Outdoor dining is very popular in Port Douglas. Drinking a cocktail while taking in the beautiful views across the beach is the epitome of life in Port Douglas. Most of the restaurants to do this are located in Macrossan street and Wharf street. The vibrant Marina Mirage area also has plenty of dining options. This is a favourite choice for tourists getting off a Great Barrier cruise.

Seafood naturally features as the main ingredient in most menus. Port Douglas is one of the best places to enjoy Barramundi, Australia’s favourite fish. One of the culinary highlights in Port Douglas is to dine at Rainforest Habitat. The sanctuary offers a very delicious breakfast or lunch buffet that you can enjoy while the lorikeets and other birds flit and flutter among the tables.

Being a resort town, prices at restaurants are often a little bit higher than bigger cities. It might be pricey but there is also great value since five star chefs often cook your dinner.

Where you are docked

Cruise ships do not head in to dock when dropping anchor in Port Douglas. It is considered to be a tender port, wherein cruise passengers are ferried from the cruise ship to Port Douglas through smaller motorized boats or tenders. If you want to maximize your time in Port Douglas, line up early to be able to leave on the first tender. Waiting in line can take some time if there are many people going ashore. The tenders dock at Marina Mirage, which has five-star facilities. Many great barrier cruises also leave from Marina Mirage. Since Port Douglas is a tender port, it is somewhat sensitive to the weather. Tendering might end up being cancelled if the water is too choppy to come ashore.

Alternatively, Port Douglas is an easy trip from Cairns, where many cruise ships dock at Yorky’s Knob.

Regional weather

Port Douglas experiences a comfortable warm climate all-year-round. There are two distinct seasons imposed upon the region, a Winter or as it is known the ‘dry season’ runs from May to October, during this time humidity is low but the chances of being caught in the rain are also low. The Summer, or ‘wet season’ runs from November to April, during this time humidity can rise and because of this the region experiences some rather wild and erratic electrical storms.

Port map

About Author

Editorial Staff

Enjoy our articles? Our editorial team works hard to keep beyondcruise.com updated with all the latest cruise news, ships and port guides! If you want to contribute or have spotted a mistake - contact us or send us a tweet @beyondcruise!

We've been nominated for an award! Vote for us as Favourite Cruise Blogger at the Wave Awards 2019 and win a FREE holiday for two!  Vote for us now!