Many of the best things to do in Port Douglas are focused on Queensland’s rich natural habitat and dazzling cerulean coastline. The city is renowned for being where the reef meets the rainforest.
At nearby Cape Tribulation, you can marvel at two famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites simultaneously; the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s most extensive reef system; and the Daintree, the world’s oldest tropical rainforest.
However, the historical culture of the Indigenous inhabitants of the lands also takes center stage, with the stories, art, and culture of the Kuku Yalanji people inseparable from the town and surrounding area.
From fine dining in a treetop canopy restaurant and sipping on tropical fruit wine to spotting the native flightless Cassowary bird, these Port Douglas attractions promise an unforgettable experience in Far North Queensland.
Dive Into the Great Barrier Reef
Home to around 10 percent of the world’s coral reefs and covering an area approximately half the size of Texas, it’s nearly impossible to comprehend The Great Barrier Reef’s sheer scale and significance.
For an excellent introduction to this acclaimed Port Douglas attraction, set sail into the Coral Sea. Most boat tours take you around 90 minutes from the town’s coast before mooring up, allowing you to admire this World Heritage Site at close range.
With the reef’s conservation a critical priority, the majority of trips offer onboard educational talks from a conservationist. These briefings provide valuable insight into the reef’s ecosystem before you dive into the crystal-clear waters of the world’s richest marine habitat.
With turtles, rays, whales, dolphins, and thousands of other species resident on the reef, it’s the perfect setting to spot diverse marine life. You can choose between snorkeling, scuba-diving, or glass-bottomed boat excursions to explore one of Australia’s most beautiful places.
Discover the Daintree Rainforest
Estimated to be at least 135 million years old, the Daintree Rainforest spans 460 square miles of lush tropics and impressive biodiversity. With such an expanse of untouched nature to explore, a great starting point is Mossman Gorge, a 20-minute drive from Port Douglas.
One of the top things to do in Port Douglas, the Mossman Gorge Center acts as a perfect gateway to the Daintree. Join a guided Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk, where you’ll have the chance to witness and comprehend the rainforest’s rich flora and fauna from an Indigenous guide.
Equally fascinating, you’ll hear the stories, legends, heritage, and culture of the Kuku Yalanji people, the land’s original inhabitants.
Following a “smoking” ceremony performed to ward off bad spirits, you’ll meander through the trails of the Australian landmark, learning about traditional herbal plants and bush foods while the sounds of birdsong and trickling streams take over your senses.
Explore Cape Tribulation
Famed as the exact spot where the rainforest meets the reef, Cape Tribulation will leave you in awe. This is especially true at low tide when the fringing reef becomes visible from the sands or nearby lookout point.
The remote and picturesque beach sits on the north side of the headland, providing shelter from the wind. However, while lounging on the tropical sands is an attractive way to spend the day, allow yourself time to explore one of the interpretive walks on the headland.
The Dubuji Boardwalk is a little over a mile long and will take you on a journey through forests and mangroves, while the Madja Botanical Walk leads down to Oliver Creek, where you might even spot crocodiles in the wild.
Observe Native Species at Wildlife Habitat Sanctuary
Conservation is at the forefront of Wildlife Habitat’s mission, and in this eco-certified wildlife sanctuary, you’ll have the chance to observe and appreciate some of the most famed Queensland native creatures.
Families will especially love this Port Douglas attraction, which offers the chance to see koalas, kangaroos, cassowaries, and wallabies across five different spacious environments, which re-create suitable habitats for the animals to call home.
You can attend informative talks and presentations with a particular focus on education and appreciation to learn more about the native species that Australia is known for. The Tropical Animal Rehabilitation Center’s vital work helps care for sick and displaced native wildlife, all of which is supported by visitors to Wildlife Habitat.
Learn About Aboriginal Art at Janbal Gallery
Traditional and contemporary Indigenous art adorns the galleries of Port Douglas, but for an exciting chance to learn more about this style, venture to Janbal Gallery in Mossman.
Aboriginal artist and owner Brian Swindley, better known as “Binna”, will warmly welcome you to his gallery in Kuku Yalanji country. Not only will you have the chance to see his incredibly detailed one-off paintings, but to also get hands-on and learn from the expert himself.
Over a 90-minute workshop, Binna will guide you through painting either a canvas or boomerang, using his signature dot-style and traditional paints, some of which are derived from local stones and plants. Throughout, expect to be captivated by stories and cultural lessons – this is undoubtedly one of the most intimate and memorable things to do in Port Douglas.
Admire the Views on the Flagstaff Hill Walking Trail
Arm yourself with a camera and an appreciation for the sea breeze on this one-mile route of unadulterated vistas. On a clear day, you can admire some of the nearby isles across the Coral Sea along this relatively easy trail linking Port Douglas with Four Mile Beach.
If you’re looking for postcard-perfect views, spend some time at the Flagstaff Hill Lookout, one of the top spots in Port Douglas for photographers. The view, framing the beach against the rainforest backdrop, is a sight to behold.
Sink Into the Sands of Four Mile Beach
Palm-fringed golden sands and gentle lapping waves make Four Mile Beach one of Australia’s best beaches. Sink into the sand of this gently curved beachfront, and appreciate a front-row seat to a tropical paradise.
While the name of the beach is deceptive (it’s named after a family named Fourmile, not due to its length), there is still plenty of space to unwind and feel at one with untouched nature.
A popular haunt for kite-surfers and swimmers, this is a dreamy setting in which to sunbathe and splash in the shallows. The presence of lifeguards and protective nets means you can relax without worries and make the most of the warm, tropical waters.
Enjoy Fine Dining at Thala Beach Nature Reserve
Situated inside a divine forested private headland, this exclusive eco-resort has become something of a destination in its own right.
Spend a day here and you’ll be able to swim in the freeform Rock Pool, set in the rainforest and fed by a cascading waterfall. A guided walk with a naturalist will introduce you to the birds and butterflies of the forest, while a visit to the resort’s coconut plantation will teach you about the secret properties of this impressive fruit.
The highlight of your day is dining among the treetops at Ospreys Restaurant, which offers a seasonal, high-quality, and locally sourced menu including dishes such as Pacific Oysters, Daintree barramundi, and Hervey bay scallops.
Wine and dine while birds sing and dance in the surrounding treetops, with the shimmering blues of the Coral Sea beyond, and you’ll certainly leave lunch with your senses rejuvenated.
Shop for Artisanal Products at the Port Douglas Markets
If supporting resident artists and farmers sounds like your perfect shopping spree, then be sure to visit one of the excellent local markets.
Over the week, traders convene with the freshest of regional produce, boutique gifts, nature-inspired jewelry, and an array of artisanal products.
The Marina Market focuses on clothes, crafts, and organic beauty products on Wednesdays, while Mossman’s Saturday Market additionally offers tropical fresh fruits, homemade pastries, and essential oils alongside handcrafted goods.
On Sunday mornings, Port Douglas’s main market takes place under the shade of the trees in Anzac Park. With all the aforementioned wares, alongside food stalls, hand-made wooden crafts, and various arts, you’ll be sure to come away with a treasured Australian souvenir.
Once you’ve exhausted the stalls, slip into nearby Saint Mary’s by the Sea, a gothic timber church and one of the town’s oldest buildings, constructed in 1914 and relocated to its current location in 1988.
Take a Cultural Tour of Cooya Beach
Fringed with overgrown foliage, mangroves, and dazzling azure waters, Cooya Beach is a serene escape just 20 minutes north of Port Douglas.
A cherished site and fishing locale for the Indigenous inhabitants of the land, Kuyu Kuyu, as it’s traditionally called, is best visited on a Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tour.
Accompanied by an Aboriginal guide, one of the Kubirri Warra brothers will share the stories and traditions of their ancestors, alongside time-honored hunting methods, at this significant location.
You’ll learn how to spear mud crabs in the flats, understand which local plants (and insects) can be used for food and medicine, and have the chance to enjoy a cook-up, often with members of the brothers’ family. The day is, without doubt, one of the most informative things to do in Port Douglas.
Spend an Afternoon on Macrossan Street
Macrossan Street, the main thoroughfare of Port Douglas, is a delightful mix of canopied buildings, laid-back cafés, artisanal boutiques, and Indigenous art galleries.
Spend an enjoyable afternoon strolling the lively street while soaking in the town’s relaxed atmosphere and escaping the midday heat, as the locals do. Whether you prefer people-watching with a flat white on the shaded terrace of Café Fresq or devouring the catch of the day on the plant-shrouded patio of Watergate Restaurant, you’ll be spoiled with excellent dining options.
Be sure to visit the acclaimed Ngarru Gallery, home to one of Australia’s best collections of contemporary Indigenous art. Displaying sculptures, weavings, and paintings from the Kuku Yalanji people and other notable Indigenous artists, the space is one of the town’s most prominent cultural hubs.
Ngarru Gallery is also the perfect place to buy authentic art and souvenirs, such as termite-hollowed didgeridoos, knowing you are supporting Indigenous artists rather than purchasing imitation reproductions.
Sip Tropical Fruit Wine at Shannonvale Winery
While Australia is renowned for its bold Shiraz and elegant Chardonnay, it’s unsurprising that the climate and produce of Far North Tropical Queensland lend themselves to a more distinctive type of tipple.
Prepare your tastebuds for a tropical explosion, and take the short journey out of town for a tasting at Shannonvale Winery. With a variety of award-winning fortified and table wines, all crafted from organic fruits, the eclectic menu promises an intriguing sampling.
Lychee, lime, mango, passionfruit, and more feature on the wine list, and one of the most surprising aspects of the tasting is discovering that many of Shannonvale’s fruit wines aren’t sweet on the palate. The family-run tour will also explain the production process and take you through the attractive orchard just south of Mossman.
Catch a Barra
Fishing is a beloved pastime of Port Douglas locals, so what better way to relax and appreciate the tropical backdrop than spending an afternoon casting a line?
Under the expert tutorship of a resident guide, you’ll be geared up to catch a Barramundi (commonly called “barra”) in one of the many man-made ponds nearby. This white, firm, and flakey fish can grow up to four feet in length here.
You’ll have the choice between a “catch and release” experience, where the barra is returned to the pond, or to combine fishing with a gourmet tasting session. Whether it’s battered, grilled, smoked, or sashimi style, Barramundi is regarded as a delicious fish.
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