Luxury Escapes Guide to Port Douglas
The laidback town of Port Douglas is your gateway to Tropical North Queensland, where the sounds of the rainforest meet the wonders of the reef.
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Discover Port Douglas
Things to see and do
Revel in the Great Barrier Reef
A trip to Port Douglas is incomplete without experiencing the glories of the Great Barrier Reef. Sailaway is an industry leader in eco-friendly sailing trips and runs a full-day snorkelling tour, led by its passionate marine biologists. Jump off a catamaran to explore the Outer Reef or Low Isles, snorkelling through unimaginable coral compositions, which enormous clams, green turtles, manta rays and a sensational number of reef fish call home. Enjoy morning tea and a tropical buffet as part of your adventure. Sailaway’s Sunset Cruise is a luxurious experience, on a first-class catamaran, which takes small groups of guests over the stunning Coral Sea and along the coastline of Port Douglas – with a side of drinks and canapés, of course.
Explore the Daintree Rainforest with Walkabout Cultural Adventures
There are countless opportunities to enjoy the wonders of the Daintree Rainforest, but Walkabout Cultural Adventures – 100 percent owned and run by local Indigenous guides – is one of the best ways to learn about its ecosystem and history. The company runs both half and full-day tours through rainforest and coastal habitats, explaining how connected Kuku Yalanji people are to the land. Learn about the cultural significance, array of wildlife, natural medicines and native foods of the area. You can also visit Mossman town’s celebrated markets, cruise down the Mossman River and even try spear and boomerang throwing if you’re up for a challenge.
Explore Mossman Gorge
Ancient Mossman Gorge, nestled in the 180 million-year-old Daintree Rainforest, is a must-see in this part of the world. Start a visit by walking a track that surrounds the gorge, either the easy River Circuit Track (400-metre return) or the Rainforest Circuit Track (2.7 kilometres return). To understand its history more deeply, join a Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk, hosted by local Indigenous guides. Learn about the thriving ecosystem here and listen to Dreamtime stories of the world’s oldest rainforest. Then, take some time to rejuvenate in the refreshing waters of Mossman Gorge itself.
Seaside rejuvenation at Four Mile Beach
Palm-fringed Four Mile Beach is one of the most iconic scenes in Queensland. Warm, crystalline waters gently kiss the golden shores, making this a popular place to swim the day away, get lost in a book or scout rockpool life at the northern headlands. You could start the day here with a morning stroll and wind it down as the sun sets into the ocean, or visit Trinity Bay Lookout for a bird’s eye perspective of its beauty. Four Mile Beach is netted during stinger season, so swim within the designated area to keep safe.
Sunset picnic at Rex Smeal Park
Rex Smeal Park is perched on Port Douglas’ peninsula and is a firm favourite when it comes to picnic spots. As the sun sets and the tropics prepare to rest, pack a picnic full of the town’s sensational produce or pick up some local fish and chips to enjoy as you look out to the Coral Sea, Low Isles and Daintree mountain ranges in the distance. Little ones can enjoy the park’s playground, and there’s plenty of space for a game of footy, soccer or cricket on the lawns.
Pick up local treasures at the markets
Port Douglas proves strong on the shopping front, from luxury designer wear to handmade treasures. Head down to the Port Douglas Markets every Sunday to acquaint yourself with local products. In 1998, the council declared it a ‘cotters market’, meaning everything for sale is made by the stallholder. Punters will find handmade jewellery, a bounty of tropical fruits and artworks for sale. For a culinary shopping spree, visit the Mossman Community Markets on Saturdays, renowned for incredibly fresh produce and delectable baked goods.
Cane toad racing at Iron Bar
From 8pm every night, Iron Bar in the heart of town hosts its famed cane toad races. The legendary, saloon-style venue attracts curious visitors from far and wide to watch the sporting event, unique to the East Coast of Australia. How does it work exactly? Cane toads are placed into a ring, each with a designated jockey, i.e. the bar’s patrons. Jockeys use party blowers to encourage toads to move or jump – the toad that reaches the edge of the run first wins.
Go river drift snorkelling on Mossman River
Back Country Bliss Adventures’ river drift snorkelling tour takes small groups out on a water-based adventure, gliding down the rainforest’s Mossman River on inflatable bodyboards. Look above and you’ll see ferns shading you or dive underwater to play hide and seek with cheeky fish that dart in and out of the river stones. If you’re lucky, a green turtle or a platypus may peacefully pass by. This family-friendly activity for confident swimmers also takes the heat off during the warmer months.
Visit Janbal Gallery art workshop
Gallery artist-owner Brian "Binna" Swindley runs the Mossman-based Janbal Gallery workshops, teaching students – from beginner level to pro – about Indigenous art history and how to tell stories through dot painting. Simply select your object of choice, either a canvas or boomerang, listen in and let your mind do the rest. Depending on the season, Binna may teach you how to use plants for painting, including Black Palm (Duwar), Soap Tree (Karrandal) and Mat Rash (Jilngan), all of which are grown on site at the gallery.
Cape Trib Horse Rides
The experienced guides at Cape Trib Horse Rides have the pleasure of hosting trail rides that commence in the rainforest and end on the beach. A guide will pair you with a trusty steed suited to your level of horse riding experience and needs. Following a briefing at the start of the tour, sit back in the saddle and take in the wilderness, trailing through the rainforest (be sure to keep your eyes peeled for wildlife) before coming out onto the shores of Myall Beach and riding through the ocean's shallow waters.
Top places to eat and drink
Craft beer aficionados need to look no further than Hemingway’s. The award-winning brewery, situated in Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina, is a heralded drinking hole in Port Douglas. Lounge back with your beer of choice – all of which are brewed using water from Mossman Gorge – and take in the ocean backdrop. If you’re stumped on what to order, consider the 7th Heaven Tropical Ale. If Port Douglas were a drink, it would be this, with hints of pineapple and citrus shining through.
Set atop a timber boardwalk, overlooking Dickson Inlet, Barbados invites you to pull up a chair under an umbrella or in the lively interior and delve into the world of rum. Barbados’ tiki cocktails draw upon an extensive rum list – most of which come from the Caribbean – and feature fun concoctions such as the Coconut Sour with Bacardi Carta Blanca rum and Malibu and the Caribbean Mojito with house-infused Bacardi Oro rum and ginger beer. Enjoy with a selection of small plates, an antipasto platter or some fresh seafood as you sip away and glance out at the Daintree in the distance.
Salsa Bar & Grill
For over 25 years, Salsa Bar & Grill has represented the flavours of the world on its plates. Head Chef Goran Zonai, who holds an international masters in cookery, is at the helm. His multicultural team transforms local produce into elegant dishes, making for a diverse menu featuring unique dishes such as eye fillet carpaccio and sand crab dumplings with a pickled green paw paw salad. Pair your meal with a drop from Australia or New Zealand and you’re set. Located right on the waterfront, Salsa Bar & Grill lets you enjoy your meal as fresh air from the louvred windows floods in.
Sassi La Cucina + Bar
Fried whitebait, salmon carpaccio, mussels in white wine – if your tastebuds call for classic Italian cuisine with a fresh seafood twist, consider Sassi La Cucina + Bar. he menu is also well equipped for families, with pasta, risotto, seafood and meat dishes covering an array of dietary requirements. Diners can even order pasta dishes in smaller sizes to enable easy sharing and cater for smaller appetites. Leave room for dessert – the basil gelato, tiramisu with dark chocolate sorbet and mango crème brûlée are highlights.
A flame-lit path leads the way to Watergate, a sophisticated yet laid-back setting surrounded by tropical greenery. This casual fine diner serves a spread of modern Australian dishes and isn't shy about flaunting regional produce such as fresh fish, meats and locally made cheeses. Think kangaroo loin with beetroot and goats’ cheese arancini, sauteed greens and sesame-crusted yellowfin tuna with pilaf and crab sauce. There's a dedicated vegetarian menu, too and an impressive wine list that focuses heavily on Australia and New Zealand.
Sparrow Coffee Co
Sparrow focuses on one thing and making sure it’s mastered – coffee. Serving delicious, fresh-roasted Allpress coffee, this cute hole-in-the-wall has quickly become a go-to for holidaymakers thanks to its close attention to detail and friendly service. Whether you're up for a latte or Guatemalan cold brew, there’s something to satisfy every craving. There’s also a small range of tea on offer, as well as chai and hot chocolate if you’ve exceeded the day’s caffeine quota. Pick one up before a stroll down Four Mile Beach.