The Road to Paradise: Port Douglas to the Daintree

Basking in its close relationships with the marvels of the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree’s ancient rainforest, upmarket Port Douglas offers something special.

Just getting to A-list destination Port Douglas is an adventure. One of the world’s great road trips, the 90-minute journey along Great Barrier Reef Drive from Cairns reveals incredible vistas, the sparkling Coral Sea at your fingertips on one side, the ancient rainforest on the other.

Chilled and charming Port Douglas

Suddenly you’re in Port Douglas, Tropical North Queensland’s postcard-perfect northern port and gateway to UNESCO World Heritage reef-and-rainforest wonders. Small, relaxed, and with an alluring blend of high-end polish and barefoot charm, it’s no wonder film stars, families, backpackers and laidback locals alike are comfortable here.

There’s no mistaking the luxury trappings, from superyachts in the marina to five-star resorts, but Port Douglas is more about chilling than projecting cool. Swim at glorious Four Mile Beach then stroll beneath the tall palms and deep balconies of Macrossan Street, the main hub for a spot of café cuisine and people watching. Shop for international labels, original local art and tasteful souvenirs, then enjoy an icy beer at one of the classic pubs, including Iron Bar which hosts nightly cane toad racing.

Reef Marina has also emerged as an entertainment hotspot where you’ll find craft brews and cocktails, five-star plates and pizzas, tasty tapas and, of course, fresh seafood.

The Sunday markets on the water at the northern end of town are famed for quality produce and craft from throughout TNQ, including jewellery, clothes, pottery, exotic fruits, coffee and chocolate.

Launch into North Queensland adventure

Port Douglas built its reputation justifiably as the perfect launch pad for trips to the reef and islands, Cape Tribulation, the Daintree, Atherton Tablelands and further west into the outback Gulf Country.

Reef trips range from luxury live-aboard expeditions to sites like Lizard Island and Agincourt for experienced divers, to swimming with gentle dwarf minke whales, or serenely snorkelling from a sailboat amid the rainbow colours of reef and fish at the Low Isles.

Mossman Gorge, deep in the rainforest 20 minutes from Port Douglas, is steeped in Indigenous culture. Walk forest trails looking for tree kangaroos, cassowaries and butterflies in ferny glades above cool, slow-flowing pools. Drift snorkel down the Mossman River then join the award-winning Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk, which delves into 50,000 years of the Kuku Yalanji people, including a traditional smoking ceremony and guided rainforest walk to find bush foods and hear Dreamtime stories.

Across the Daintree, into the wild

From Mossman, the road north plunges deeper into the magical Daintree jungle. Note the crocodile warnings as you catch the ferry across the Daintree River towards Cape Tribulation. This is true wilderness, where phone service drops out and your senses are overwhelmed by the riotous jungle colours and bird song.

At ‘Cape Trib’, the rainforest literally touches the beach and snorkel trips depart here for spectacular reefs just 25 minutes offshore. To fully experience the rainforest try a swim at freshwater Mason’s Hole, where the only crocodiles are in the burgers. Walks include short and easy strolls in lowland forest, to longer low-tide-only beach treks to Emmagen Creek Beach and more serious hikes deep into the rugged ranges.

Whether you’re after wild adventure or next-level luxury, you’ll find it among the sparkling reefs and lush jungle of TNQ’s Daintree region.

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