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Port Douglas is a lovely beach town about an hour’s drive north of Cairns. Although it often seems to be in the shadow of Cairns, it really shouldn’t be. It’s a great destination in its own right and there are plenty of things to do around Port Douglas.
Port Douglas is the perfect place to base yourself in Far North Queensland if you are looking for an upmarket beach town to either relax, unwind or for an adventure. Port Douglas offers easy access to two of the most popular things to do in Far North Queensland – visit the Great Barrier Reef and the rainforest.
Below you will find our guide to what to do in Port Douglas Australia, including our list of the top 11 Port Douglas things to do and see and information about Port Douglas family activities.
It is no secret that Australia has some of the best beaches in the world and Four Mile Beach is definitely one of them. This beach is simply beautiful and as one of the most popular and well known beaches, this is one of the best things to do in Port Douglas for free.
The beach is absolutely stunning. The white sand stretches out for miles next to beautiful crystal blue water (on a clear day). The water is pretty shallow and paddling with kids is easy to do, although at times the designated swimming areas can be too crowded to do so.
It is well known that Australia has some pretty insane wildlife, even in our waters. Beaches in Northern Queensland are particularly vulnerable and the main threat at this beach is jelly fish. The beach therefore has a netted area for swimming during the highest risk times. The net is only a few hundred metres long so unfortunately this is not the best beach for swimming, but it does mean the beach is well patrolled.
Regardless even just walking on the beach is enjoyable. Parasols are available to hire and spending the day lounging in one is not hard to do.
Stinger season is generally between November and March. During this time it is advised that you swim only in the netted area.
As you can see from the photo above, views of Four Mile beach are simply amazing. The place to take it all in is the Trinity Bay Lookout and if you are deciding on what to do in Port Douglas, add this to your list.
Trinity Bay Lookout is a short walk or drive from the beach and offers some fantastic photo opportunities of the Coral Sea. It can be hard to get a park at times, so the best time to stop by is morning. The views are especially beautiful in the morning and, but visiting the lookout at anytime is still one of the best free things to do in Port Douglas.
Bustling Macrossan Street is the place to go to eat and shop in Port Dougla, with lots of restaurant and shopping options. The street is not very long but it does have plenty of places to eat, as well as a Coles supermarket.
You will find that most places to stay in Port Douglas are centred around this strip, and going to one of the many restaurants is just one of the things to do in Port Douglas at night.
If you are here staying in Port Douglas on a weekend the Sunday Market is somewhere worth visiting, and is one of the top things to do in Port Douglas. This market has somewhat of a unique feel and offers a good opportunity to see locals selling handcrafts and other goods.
The market is located close to the cafes and shops of Macrossan Street in Anzac Park. The vendors sell a range of Australian made goods and souvenirs and the locals are friendly.
Something fun to do at the market is make your own sugar cane juice, which tastes pretty amazing.
The Port Douglas Sunday Market is open every Sunday from 8am to 1pm.
Scenic railway rides can be a great way to take in the sights and sometimes a bit of history, and the Balley Hooley Steam Railway offers a bit of both.
The trip is cheap and only takes an hour, unlike some other train rides which can take far too long and be boring for kids. The train travels from The Reef Marina Station to St Crispins, and you can choose to do a single trip or return trip. The train passes through some pretty sights and travels on a century old track.
Although the views aren’t the best, this is a great way to see another side of Port Douglas. For train enthusiasts, it may be worth taking a trip on Sunday when an old steam train is used. A diesel train is used every other day. If you do end up taking the steam train, watch out if you are sitting at the back. The fumes and smoke can get a bit much.
The best part about this trip is the price. We were suprised how little it cost and made a short trip even more enjoyable and is one of the fun things to do with kids in Port Douglas.
One of the cheap things to do in Port Douglas, return tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for kids. Kids under 4 are free. You can see the timetable here.
North Queensland overall is a great place to see wildlife and Port Douglas is no exception. The Wildlife Habitat is one of the most popular wildlife parks in the area, and whilst it is not the best of the bunch, its still great.
Something immediately apparent is that the park has a true rainforest feel about it. With natural surroundings there really is a feeling that you are seeing the animals in their natural habitat. As one of the top things to do at Port Douglas, there are a diverse range of animals within the Wildlife Habitat including koalas, snakes, birds and kangaroos.
We found the entry price to be good value considering it included a 5 day entry so that we could keep coming back. However with so many other things to do and see in Port Douglas, 1 day was enough.
It is always exciting to get up close to wild animals, especially with kids. This is a great place to see crocodiles being fed, but I preferred the pelicans – I had seen enough crocodiles in Cairns.
The Zoo is more low key and less full on than many of the other zoos in North Queensland, but I enjoyed that. It is definitely one of the best kids activities Port Douglas offers. You can also find breakfast here and the choice of a buffet lunch.
There are better wildlife parks around, but this was still great and a must do in Port Douglas.
The Wildlife Habitat is open daily from 8am to 5pm. Adults are $35 and kids are $17. The price for a family is $85 with two adults and two children. The ticket price includes 5 days of entries. You can visit their website here.
Although there are many great attractions in Port Douglas there is also a range of things to do around Port Douglas. One of these is visiting the Daintree. As the oldest rainforest in the world, this is a must see if you are even remotely in the area.
The Daintree is truly an experience to be had, and there are several ways to see it. We opted to take a river cruise in the hope of spotting a crocodile. The trip was pretty scary even though we didn’t end up seeing any crocodiles. The trip took about an hour and there were some pretty views on the way.
It was also fun to tick off another “big” thing from our list. With Australia being the home of big things, here you will find the Big Barramundi. The visitor centre was good and overall we found the Daintree easy to visit with kids.
You can find more information about the crocodile cruise we did here. It was $65 for a family ticket. There is 10% off if you book online.
A visit to Mossman Gorge is one of the perfect things to do near Port Douglas. It’s only a quick drive and it’s a great way to explore the rainforest. This is a beautiful part of the Daintree with running streams and many native birds – with this being one of the best places to see them.
You have a few options to explore Mossman Gorge. The full walk is 2.4km. As we were visiting with kids we choose to take a bus. The bus was cheap and took us straight to the Gorge. Here we found several walking tracks and most were pretty easy. The Baral Marrjanga walk only took about 15 minutes and had beautiful views of the mountain ranges and Mossman River.
An interesting way to learn more about indigenous Australian history is the Dreamtime Walk Tour. I always appreciate the chance to learn more about indigenous Australians especially when the story is told by them. You can learn about the significance of the Daintree to the indgenous population. The vistor centre has a cafe and shop too.
As the wettest part of Australia it can get very wet here, so its worth being prepared for the unexpected. We also saw many people swimming but there are signs that advise against this.
The bus trip made this an easy place to visit and there are some beautiful walks to do in this part of the rainforest.
A major part of the appeal of North Queensland is the Great Barrier Reef and many people come here for this alone. A full day can easily be spent here as its located closer to Port Douglas than other places like Cairns. This makes it the perfect base and one of the best things to do near Port Douglas.
Of course the Great Barrier Reef is well known for the amazing colours of fish and kelp – but the best part of the reef is easily the Outer Reef. Without seeing the Outer Reef a trip to the Great Barrier Reef would be incomplete.
This time S and I decided to take a tour from Sunlovers that took us to their own pontoon. This is a great way to see the reef for families as it is not too full on, and there are lifeguards keeping an eye on everyone. Although a great way to see the reef, taking a cruise that stops at several points on the reef is a better way to see it in my opinion.
We were lucky that the weather was good and lots could be seen. The best time to head out to the reef is on a clear day, as the colours reflect and shine and you can get a look at the full beauty. Obviously you aren’t in control of the weather but staying closer does give you more flexibility to visit on a clear day.
You can find details of the tour we did here or you buy discounted tickets for a similar tour here.
Cairns is full of attractions and is the biggest city near to Port Douglas. Whilst it does not have a beach, there are plenty of other ways to spend your time here.
Green Island was definitely a standout for me, and I think it is the perfect place to visit with kids especially, although I did enjoy it just as much when I first went in my twenties. Access is by a 50 minute catamaran from Cairns, and it is a great place to spend a half or full day. We ended up spending a half day here.
Another great experience is the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. Unfortunately there are few great places to learn about indigenous heritage in Australia and this happened to be a highlight for us. Run by the Djabugay people, here you can learn how to throw a boomerang, learn about bush tucker and be told the creation story of the Djabugay people. You can even paint their own boomerang.
There are also great places to eat and some amazing resorts if you choose to stay in Cairns. Cairns does not have a real beach, and the closest you will find to a beach is a lagoon (pictured above).
Click here to read our full guide of things to do in Cairns.
One of the best things to do in Port Douglas is to actually leave for a day – and visit Kuranda!
This small town has some fun ways to get to and from it. One way is by taking the the Kuranda Scenic Railway which travels along the Macalister Ranges. The train departs from Cairns and the trip takes about 2 hours, stopping at some pretty breathtaking lookouts on the way.
The station is located right next to the Kuranda Skyrail – the other way to reach Kuranda. The Skyrail offers some stunning views of Atherton Tablelands and Barron Falls, with two optional stops on the way so that you stop and take in the sights.
Kuranda itself is touristy but this does mean that they have some great attractions. One of these is a popular butterfly farm which is home to over 1500 butterfly’s. The butterfly’s are not shy so be prepared for them to land on you. The breeding laboratory is more intriguing than anything and is home to over 4000 caterpillars.
The town also has a Koala Park where you can get up close to Koalas, wallabies and other wildlife. From Kuranda you can also visit the Rainforestation Nature Park and take a ride on a DUCK boat. This is a great experience and even more so with kids.
You can read more about our experiences on a DUCK boat in our guide to the top things to do in Cairns with kids.
Kuranda is located about an hour away from Port Douglas.
We visited Port Douglas with three kids – aged 6, 4 and 6 months old. We found Port Douglas to be a fabulous destination for families.
There are many Port Douglas things to do with kids and all the activities above are suitable for families. We know because we did them!
The kids favourite things to do with kids in Port Douglas were Mossman Gorge and the Skyrail to Kuranda. Miss 6 also loved the chance to snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef.
Getting around Port Douglas itself is easy, but there are many attractions that will require a car. Use the map of Port Douglas Australia below to see where the things to see in Port Douglas are located.
You can read our full guide to accommodation in Port Douglas here.
We loved our visit to Port Douglas. It was my second visit and it lived up to my fond memories. It’s a pretty little town perfect for resting and taking a break or getting out there and exploring.
A trip to Port Douglas just isn’t complete without visiting the main thing to do in Port Douglas – the Great Barrier Reef. If nothing else, get yourself out there and explore this mammoth and gorgeous reef. Try to do an outer reef cruise which is a far superior option to closer areas of the reef.
Click here to read our full guide to the Cairns area.
Have you visited Port Douglas or Cairns? Any questions?
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