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The best of Port Douglas & Daintree

The tropical allure of Far North Queensland goes beyond just the warm weather and sunshine.

It is the uncrowded beaches lines with palm trees, the azures of the ocean scattered with colourful reefs. It is the mountains covered in ancient rainforest and hidden waterfalls and swimming holes. It is that friendly vibe from the locals and relaxed atmosphere that truly offers a sense of escape.

A spectacular 67km scenic coastal drive north from Cairns, Port Douglas and Daintree region is a place to discover the ‘Reef And Rainforest Coast’. It is also the gateway the World Heritage rainforest areas of Daintree and Cape Tribulation.

Founded in 1877, Port Douglas came into being as a port where riches from the goldfields of the Hodgkinson and Palmer Rivers were trafficked by bullock drays to be loaded onto vessels for southern cities.

Today, the locals affectionately call the place Port, a sign of the laid-back lifestyle that has evolved in this once sleepy fishing town.

Where to Stay

Ramada Port Douglas

The Ramada Port Douglas sits within a pocket of Melaleuca rainforest, with Four Mile Beach just a short walk away. For visitors wanting to explore the stylish cafés, restaurants and bars of Macrossan Street in Port Douglas, there are regular taxis to take you the short drive into town. The unique thing about this resort is the rainforest gardens, the serenity of the water features and ponds and the way the tropical lagoon-style pool with waterfall and swim-up bar makes you feel like you are swimming in a natural spring or waterhole. It really offers that sense of getting back to nature.

The rooms are spacious, bright and well-equipped with all the modern features you look for in a room. While the stylish décor oozes sophistication, there is also a sense of Queenslander style living with plantation shutters, designed to complement the natural surrounds of the resort. The layout of the property has you walking between facilities to your room on wooden boardwalks through the lush gardens. There are varying room types to suit all travellers, starting with the Hotel Rooms and ranging up to Two Bedroom Apartments for larger travelling parties.

Thala Beach Nature Reserve

More than just a place to stay, Thala Beach Nature Reserve is a destination in itself. Located on a private headland between Cairns and Port Douglas, the property offers an eco-experience with unique and complimentary onsite tours and experiences for guests.

Thala’s eco accommodation comes in four different accommodation types, which work in harmony with the natural surroundings, stretching from the private headland down to the beach. This gives a sense of privacy and space, like you are the only person staying at the resort.

Highly knowledgeable Rangers and Guides can show you Thala’s many wildlife and nature secrets, including star gazing, nature walks and a very interactive Coconut Odyssey Tour, where not only do you get to drink and eat from the very young green coconut to the little known ‘Coconut Apple’ – you will also learn the truth about the health benefits of coconuts.

Even though with all that there is to do at the resort, should guests want to explore Port Douglas, there is a shuttle service that departs Thala’s reception area for Port Douglas (only 10 minutes away).

Pullman Port Douglas Sea Temple Resort & Spa

Drive an hour north of Cairns International Airport and you find the Pullman Port Douglas Sea Temple Resort & Spa. It is located beachside at the southern end of 4 Mile Beach and is surrounded by world-famous attractions like the Great Barrier Reef, the World Heritage listed Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation.

With the beach just steps away and surrounding lush vegetation, you truly are in a tropical paradise. Soak up the sunshine and ambience of life in the tropics, without compromising on those little creature comforts you left behind at home.

With a shuttle taxi service that will take you into downtown Port Douglas and trips into the Daintree and Cape Tribulation doable in a day, this resort is the perfect base for exploring the region.

What to do

Port Douglas is blessed to be surrounded by not one but two World Heritage listed areas, The Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. The closest place to access the Outer Reef, a visit to Port Douglas would not be complete without a visit to the reef. Sunset cruises to the Low Isles are also a popular way to end a day in Port Douglas. With the Daintree so close, nature lovers can access the region via self-drive, a day tour or spend a little longer with an overnight stay.

From day trips to immersive tours that take a little longer, here is what you can do in the Port Douglas & Daintree region.

Take a fully guided tour

Intrepid Travel takes travellers into the Daintree Rainforest on the 5-day Daintree Retreat tour. The Daintree trip visits the world’s oldest rainforest and includes a meeting with a local family who hosted David Attenborough’s documentary crew when they were filming. The trip also includes a hike in Mossman Gorge, as well as learning how to throw a spear, identify edible plants and see how Kuku Yalanji people live in harmony with their changeable landscape. Reconciliation is a big focus for Intrepid and on this trip, travellers enjoyed First Nations experiences where they could will learn from the local Kuku Yalanji family. Find out more about the tour HERE.

Spend the day on the reef

Spend 5 hours on the Great Barrier Reef with SilverSonic Ultimate Dive and Snorkel Adventure and visit three different Agincourt ribbon reef sites. Departing from Port Douglas, the ultramodern Silversonic offers a smooth ride to the outer reef for an exhilarating day of fun, discovery and adventure in the natural wonderland of the Great Barrier Reef. You’ll have access to explore three stunning and exclusive reef sites at the renowned Agincourt ribbon reefs, each chosen for visual and ecological diversity for your dive and snorkel adventures. The boat offers snorkelling and diving from beginners to experienced and certified divers. As an added bonus during the whale season, Silversonic has one of the few permits available from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority that allows our guests to swim with dwarf minke whales if encountered – a truly unforgettable experience.

River drift snorkel

There is no better way to stay cool in the hot tropics than to get in the water. However, while most people think of swimming and snorkelling on the reef, there is another option – river snorkelling with Back Country Bliss. Within an ancient rainforest, step into the cool, crystal-clear water and drift with the current as you explore life under the water’s surface. Watch fish dart in and around the river stones and keep your eyes out for the occasional turtle or even an eel. This family friendly tour is the perfect introduction to snorkelling before heading out to the reefs. Small children (and adults) can journey down the river on large river sleds. Then, just lay back on your mat and enjoy the serenity of the beautiful surroundings. This is an amazing eco-immersion adventure that’s different every time!

Flames of the Forest

Probably the most unique dining experience you will have and certainly the only rainforest dining experience in Australia, Flames of the Forest is a must do when in Port Douglas. The evening transports you into a world beyond your imagination, uplifting your soul while learning about the Australian indigenous Aboriginal culture. Not just a tantalising dining experience but a feast for your senses. Without giving too much away as the best part of this tour is the surprise and awe on arrival, this tour proves that not all activities are for the daytime. Choose from two nique dining experiences in the pristine natural environment – the Aboriginal Cultural Experience from $219.00 per person or the Rainforest Dining Experience from $189.00 per person whilst enjoying an award winning menu and inspirational entertainment.

Shaolin Sunset Cruise

While there are many sailing boats, catamarans and luxury boats to take you out to the reef, there is no option as unique and exciting as Shaolin Tours. The Shaolin Junk is one of only a few authentic Junks in the world. The sunset sail over the coral sea is the perfect way to admire the spectacular views of the Daintree Mountains and local islands while relaxing on the teak deck or cushioned lounge area. The cruise includes a complimentary beverage and canapes. With only 23 guests maximum on board, it is an intimate relaxing cruise. Boarding starts at 4:45pm and returns at 6:30pm. Cost is just $50 per person.

Daintree Walkabout Tour

Get a taste of culture and nature on the Daintree Walkabout Tour. Offering a wonderful insight into ancient indigenous culture, the Daintree Walkabout Tour includes the Kuku Yalanji Dreamtime Walk at the picturesque Mossman Gorge. Prices start from $195 for an adult and $124 for a child.

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Kate Webster

Kate Webster is the founder and owner of Captured Travel Media. She is a world traveller, ocean lover and conservation warrior who is determined to make every moment count for not only herself, but the world around her. An editor and travel journalist, Kate travels the globe in search of vivid imagery and compelling stories that capture the essence of the people and places she visits. She is a passionate conservation advocate, sustainable traveller and always travels with reason and cause.