A comprehensive and up-to-date travel guide to the best things to do in Port Douglas, Australia. Discover the best Port Douglas attractions, highlights and must-do activities for your next trip!
Port Douglas is a quieter northern neighbour to Cairns and situated at the point where two UNESCO World Heritage Listed wonders collide; the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.
There are a million reasons why you should consider a trip to Far North Queensland. But, if you’re still tossing up whether you want to visit Port Douglas, let me convince you with this comprehensive list of things to do, see and enjoy in this beautiful slice of the Aussie tropics.
In this guide, I’ll begin by listing the best activities and things to do in Port Douglas. However, if you continue reading on, I’ve also written a comprehensive Port Douglas travel guide at the bottom of this post which answers all of your questions and gives you some tips to prepare for your trip.
- 31 Best Things to do in Port Douglas
- 1. Snorkel or Dive on the Great Barrier Reef
- 2. Hike the Flagstaff Hill Trail
- 3. Experience the Daintree Rainforest
- 4. Head out to the Low Isles
- 5. Hook a Barra
- 6. Visit Kuranda
- 7. River Drift Snorkelling
- 8. Spot a Wild Crocodile
- 9. Road trip to Cape Tribulation (Great Barrier Reef Drive)
- 10. St Mary’s By the Sea – World’s most Scenic Tropical Chapel
- 11. Experience the Great Barrier Reef From Above
- 12. Go On A Hot Air Balloon Ride
- 13. Go Hiking
- 14. Walk the Length of Four Mile Beach
- 15. Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas
- 16. Check Out the Port Douglas Markets
- 17. Sling a Hammock Between the Palm Trees at Rex Smeal Park
- 18. Visit the Thala Resort Coconut Palm Field
- 19. Mowbray Footbridge Crocodile Spotting
- 20. Go Waterfall Chasing Around Port Douglas
- 21. Enjoy a Sunset Catamaran Sail
- 22. Go Scuba Diving on the Great Barrier Reef
- 23. Road Trip to the Tablelands
- 24. Grab a Pint at a Classic Australian Pub
- 25. Shaolin Sunset Sail
- 26. Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures
- 27. Cool Down in a Freshwater Swimming Hole
- 28. Hemingway’s Brewery
- 29. 4×4 on the Bloomfield Track
- 30. Trinity Bay Lookout over Port Douglas
- Where to Stay in Port Douglas
- Port Douglas Travel Guide
- Beyond Port Douglas: More Far North Queensland Travel Guides
31 Best Things to do in Port Douglas
1. Snorkel or Dive on the Great Barrier Reef
A visit to Port Douglas and the Far North tropics just isn't complete without witnessing the awe of the Great Barrier Reef. In fact, this world wonder tops most lists of what to do in Port Douglas and Cairns.
Due to the close proximity, visitors can book snorkelling or diving boats to the reef and be in the water within an hour! This means you'll get plenty of time to snorkel amongst abundant sea life, sea turtles, healthy coral reefs.
Above I've linked to the two best Great Barrier Reef trips running from Port Douglas. They both offer the best bang for buck on a full-day dive or snorkel trip with lunch.
2. Hike the Flagstaff Hill Trail
The Flagstaff Hill trail is a scenic 1.5-kilometre coastal track connecting Four Mile Beach to Rex Smeal Park.
This track offers some of the best coastal views you'll find in Port Douglas. On a clear day, you'll be able to see all the way out to the Low Isles. The highlight of this short hike is the Flagstaff Hill lookout, which offers excellent coastal vistas out to the Coral Sea and over Four Mile Beach.
If you're looking for free things to do in Port Douglas with a great view, definitely add this short hike to your sunset itinerary!
3. Experience the Daintree Rainforest
The Daintree Rainforest is the oldest surviving rainforest in the world. It's a true world icon and a Unesco World Heritage Site that is now managed by the traditional owners, the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people.
There are many walking tracks, freshwater swimming holes, mind-blowing waterfalls and abundant, unique wildlife to discover in the Daintree National Park. A popular spot to visit from Port Douglas is the nearby Mossman Gorge. However, this is a little popular and to me doesn't offer the raw serenity of the Daintree.
Instead, consider the full-day trip to the Daintree below to see more of this incredible place with the help of a local guide.
4. Head out to the Low Isles
The Low Isles is a small set of islets just off the coast of Port Douglas. Full or half-day snorkelling trips are one of the most popular things to do in Port Douglas as it is more affordable than longer trips to the outer reef.
Visitors are free to explore the island, which has a resident lighthouse and white-sand shores. Snorkelling is also great at Low Isles, just admittedly not as mind-blowing as what you'll find at some of the outer reef sites.
Car Rentals in Far North Queensland
Cairns is one of the most popular travel destinations in Australia and car rentals quickly book out! I recommend booking well in advance. I always use RentalCars.com as they compare the widest range of rentals across dealerships in the Far North.
5. Hook a Barra
What's Australia's favourite fish? That's right, it's the Barramundi.
Whether you're a keen fisherman, eager beginner, or looking for a fun way to spend a day with the family, make sure to stop by Hook A Barra, just half an hour's drive north of Port Douglas at Wonga Beach.
Here, you'll find a beautiful 49-hectare property wedged between the ancient Daintree and the Coral Sea. This small, locally-run business here organises one of FNQ's best land-based fishing activities. Here, travellers can have a go at hooking big silver beauties including rare Albino, Speckled (Panda), and Gold Barramundi.
The business also offers Farm Tours which showcases its award-winning Daintree Saltwater Barramundi.
Whatever you choose to do the Hook A Barra team will hook you up with all the gear you need and provide their expert advice. Furthermore, there are catch-and-keep options or you can try something from their Barra Menu!
More information here: Hook-A-Barra
Far North Travel Tip: The barramundi fishing experience at Wonga is a good way to break up the drive from Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation (number 8). I recommend booking this activity in the morning, then the croc-tour (number 9) on the Daintree before crossing the river to Cape Trib.
6. Visit Kuranda
Kuranda is a small rainforest market town located just over an hour south of Port Douglas. Although this quaint little town is much smaller than Cairns and Port Douglas, there's plenty to do here including witnessing the famous Barron Falls and the iconic Skyrail.
The main attraction is the market in the rainforest, as well as several wildlife attractions and of course, the Kuranda Scenic Railway.
Tip: Book the Cairns Airport to Port Douglas Shuttle
Uber is limited and taxis are very pricey in Far North Queensland.
So, if you're Looking for the cheapest and easiest way to get to your Port Douglas accommodation from Cairns Airport, book this air-conditioned shared shuttle transfer instead for an easy & comfortable ride.
7. River Drift Snorkelling
One of the most unusual things to do in Port Douglas is the River Drift Snorkelling activity. This includes a pickup from Port Douglas to a guided river drift tour on a float, where you can spot wild freshwater rainforest species including fish and turtles.
This amazing eco-immersion adventure can be fast and exciting or slow and relaxing, depending of course, on the weather and current. If you're wondering what to do in Port Douglas to cool off, this is a good pick!
8. Spot a Wild Crocodile
The Far North Tropics is home to the largest and most dangerous crocodile; the saltwater (estuarine) crocodile. It's important to be aware of crocs when picking places to swim. Luckily, there are always croc-safe signs warning tourists not to swim in known crocodile habitats.
However, if spotting a wild crocodile is on your list of top things to do in Port Douglas and the tropics, then I've got you covered.
The most full-proof way to spot a croc is to head to the Daintree River and jump on an electric-motored boat with Solar Whisper. These guys run crocodile tours every few hours, which is perfect if you're waiting for the ferry over to Cape Trib. This is the best place to spot crocodiles in their natural habitat near Port Douglas.
9. Road trip to Cape Tribulation (Great Barrier Reef Drive)
Cape Tribulation is one of my favourite spots in the Far North. This incredible place is the official meeting point of the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.
There are plenty of things to do here, but you'll need to plan a road trip or a full-day organised tour (quite affordable) from Port Douglas as it'll take roughly 2 hours to get here.
If you take the scenic drive option, you're in for a treat. The road from Cairns to Cape Tribulation is one of Australia's most scenic roads!
Related:Where to Stay in Cape Tribulation
10. St Mary's By the Sea - World's most Scenic Tropical Chapel
Just by the waterfront off Wharf Street, you will find what I believe to be one of the most picturesque tropical churches in the world.
The St Mary's By the Sea Chapel first opened in 1881 but was destroyed by a terrible cyclone in 1911. It has since been restored and relocated nearby the Sugar Wharf in Port Douglas. You'll find it surrounded by tropical palms and gardens, making it a great spot for photographers to snap some photos for sunrise or sunset.
11. Experience the Great Barrier Reef From Above
One of the best ways to experience the wonder of the Great Barrier Reef is to see its immense size and beauty from the air. If you've never taken a helicopter or scenic flight before, then Port Douglas is arguably one of the best places to do it!
The Great Barrier Reef surrounding Port Douglas has several sandy cays, which are essentially small sandbar islands surrounded by coral reefs.
Stay in Port Douglas!
Port Douglas, for many is a much better place to stay in FNQ than Cairns, offering many amazing tropical resorts at a cheaper price. The top accommodation options include:
- Top Resort: Sheraton Grand Mirage
- Mid Range: Oaks Resort
- Budget: Global Backpackers
- ...+10 more in this Port Douglas Accommodation Guide
12. Go On A Hot Air Balloon Ride
Easily one of the most epic things to do in Port Douglas and the Tropical North is a Hot Air Balloon Ride in the beautiful Tablelands region! This was one of my favourite Port Douglas activities and the first time that I'd even tried hot air ballooning!
Trips depart from Cairns and Port Douglas with pickup nice and early to ensure a sunrise liftoff! This is a great idea for what to do in Port Douglas if you're looking to make the most of your morning and tick off an epic bucket-list item in the Far North!
Book Now: Hot Air Balloon From Port Douglas
13. Go Hiking
Some of the best off-the-beaten-path adventures can be found on the trails surrounding Port Douglas and Cairns. There are several epic hikes to check out within a short drive from Port Douglas. Check out my comprehensive hiking guide to Tropical North Queensland to find some hidden gems for yourself.
Otherwise, some of my favourite hikes that I think you should do near Port Douglas are:
14. Walk the Length of Four Mile Beach
Four Mile Beach Port Douglas' very own, palm-lined white sand beach. In my opinion, this beach is one of the most scenic beach spots in the Far North.
There is a flagged area where you can swim safely and a stinger net during the summer months.
15. Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas
The Wildlife Habitat is an award-winning and eco-certified wildlife sanctuary that is often rated as the top Port Douglas attraction. Here, visitors can interact with Australian animals in the recreated natural environments.
There are five areas to explore, including:
Skip the line: Buy your Wildlife Habitat Tickets online in advance
Tickets are quite affordable but I'd recommend booking them online in advance to skip the line.
16. Check Out the Port Douglas Markets
The famous Port Douglas markets are on every single Sunday and draw crowds from all over. You'll find it just off Wharf Street.
The Port Douglas markets are a good choice for things to do at Port Douglas for free on a Sunday morning. Here, you can browse hand-crafted art, shop for produce and fresh seafood, or just grab a healthy smoothie bowl.
17. Sling a Hammock Between the Palm Trees at Rex Smeal Park
Rex Smeal Park is the famous palm-liked foreshore you've probably already seen several times on Instagram.
This iconic spot is perfect to relax, watch the sunset or even sling a hammock between the perfectly spaced palms.
18. Visit the Thala Resort Coconut Palm Field
More palms? The Thala Resort coconut palm reserve is located just a short drive south of Port Douglas and a worthy stop on the way to or from Cairns.
This reserve is open to the public and you can walk among the hundreds of palm trees or shoot some unique aerial shots from above if you have. a drone. Of course, the resort is also very famous in Far North Queensland and an excellent choice for where to stay between Cairns and Port Douglas.
19. Mowbray Footbridge Crocodile Spotting
Looking for a reliable spot to see wild crocodiles close to Port Douglas? The newly constructed Mowbray Footbridge is located just outside of the shire on the main highway and is one of the best places to catch a glimpse of these impressive reptiles.
Crocs usually bask on the river banks during low tide. Out of the maybe dozen times I've stopped by here, I've seen crocodiles 7 times, which is a pretty good ratio. However forget it if you're planning to come here during high tide as they'll be beneath the surface.
20. Go Waterfall Chasing Around Port Douglas
Did you know that the Tropical North is Australia's waterfall hotspot? There are dozens of epic rainforest waterfalls to explore in this area, each offering a perfect place to cool off in the heat.
You'll need a car to visit most of the falls from Port Douglas if you want to do so independently. Otherwise, book a waterfall the tour below for a full-day adventure from Port Douglas.
21. Enjoy a Sunset Catamaran Sail
Cheap and luxury aren't typically two words that go hand in hand. However, on this rare occasion, they do!
One of the best luxury things to do in Port Douglas that doesn't cost an arm and a leg is a sunset catamaran cruise! These trips are very popular and include a 1.5-hour sail on the Coral Sea with a complimentary beer, wine or champagne.
Best of all, they only cost $70 per person!
22. Go Scuba Diving on the Great Barrier Reef
If you've always wanted to try scuba diving one of the best places on earth to do it is on the Great Barrier Reef! There are several dive shops running courses for beginners as well as group dives for licensed divers.
If you can, try to book a dive with a company that dives at the outer reef, as you'll get a much better experience than shorter trips around the islands.
23. Road Trip to the Tablelands
The Atherton Tablelands Region is an often overlooked section of the Wet Tropics but I believe that a trip here should be on everyone's Port Douglas must do list! In fact, many of the highlights, attractions and wild rainforest photos you've probably seen online already were taken in the Tablelands.
Some of my favourite adventures in this region include:
24. Grab a Pint at a Classic Australian Pub
Walking down Macrossan Street in the heart of Port Douglas, you'll pass some classic Australian bars and bistros. My favorite is Iron Bar, a real outback style pub with an awesome upstairs view.
If you're up for it, there is also the famous Cane Toad Racing show at Chilly's Pizza and Trattoria at around 6 pm from Tuesday to Saturday.
25. Shaolin Sunset Sail
Wrapping up this list of things to do in Port Douglas is a fitting sunset activity that you probably wouldn't expect to see in Queensland!
This Junk-style sailing vessel operates "Shaolin Sunset Sail" trips in Port Douglas almost every night. It's perhaps one of the most unique attractions in Port Douglas but one that is very popular!
Book: Shaolin Sunset Sail
26. Hartley's Crocodile Adventures
Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures is a tourism attraction located approximately half an hour's drive south of Port Douglas.
This is an award-winning park that is often considered to be the best place to see crocodiles. However, there's so much more than just crocs to see here. Hartley's is a wildlife habitat with over 2000 metres of wetland boardwalks and pathways to explore.
There are several zones in the park, as well as educational demonstrations by excellent and informative guides.
27. Cool Down in a Freshwater Swimming Hole
One of the greatest things about Far North Queensland are its amazing freshwater swimming holes. These are a safe and awesome way to cool off during the hotter times of the year.
My favorites close to Port Douglas is the Shannonvale Swimming Hole, Spring Creek, & Mossman Gorge.
28. Hemingway's Brewery
Hemingway's is Far North Queensland's own craft brew company, and they have an awesome brewpub right in the heart of Port Douglas' Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina.
Situated right next to the river overlooking beautiful mangrove forests, this brewery offers a relaxed vibe where you can enjoy hand crafted beers in the tropical climate of the Far North.
29. 4x4 on the Bloomfield Track
If you're up for a 4x4 rainforest adventure, they don't come as epic as the Bloomfield Track.
This is a coastal 4x4 drive to Wujal Wujal starting at the end of Cape Tribulation. Of course, you're going to need an off-road rig for this one, especially if you're planning to tackle it during the Wet Season.
Otherwise, there is an awesome 4x4 Bloomfield Track tour you can book with Billy Tea Safaris, one of the best activities in the Tropical North!
30. Trinity Bay Lookout over Port Douglas
Trinity Bay Lookout is another great viewpoint near the Flagstaff Hill trail and Four Mile Beach. You can either walk here by taking the short walking track from Rex Smeal Park or drive to the small car .park at the end of Island Point Road.
31. Kuku Yalanji Cultural Tour
The Kuku Yalanji are the traditional custodians of the region surrounding Port Douglas and Far North Queensland.
If you're up for a fun and informative tour about the traditional practices of this unique tribe, head down to Cooya beach with one of the Kubirri Warra brothers for a traditional cultural tour.
Where to Stay in Port Douglas
Travellers who still haven't chosen a place to stay, make sure to read this comprehensive accommodation guide to Port Douglas. This covers the best areas and is a useful planning tool for grabbing a deal on a great place to stay.
Otherwise, here are the top 3 picks for various budgets.
- Top Resort: Sheraton Grand Mirage - an amazing tropical resort you'll often see advertised on Port Douglas billboards. The Sheraton features an amazing lagoon pool and the top suites even have swim out balconies!
- Mid Range: Oaks Resort - The Oaks is a great luxury accommodation pick that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Here, you'll find beautiful suites with palm garden views and a lagoon pool with a swim-up bar.
- Budget: Global Backpackers - The best backpacker hostel in Port Douglas. This is the best place to base yourself if you're looking to meet link-minded travellers in a central location.
Port Douglas Travel Guide
I hope that list of attractions and must-do highlights has helped you plan some things to see in Port Douglas for your next visit!
Before you head off on your own adventures, check out this quick travel guide outlining a few useful things to know for your trip.
What is the Best Month to Visit Port Douglas?
The great thing about the hot tropics is that you can visit any time of the year and enjoy a great time! In saying that, it's best to have a bit of an understanding of the seasons up here.
Dry Season: April to November
During this time, the weather is usually dry and warm, averaging around 26-28 degrees Celcius. This is a great time to visit Port Douglas as there is less rain and there aren’t usually any dangerous stingers.
Wet Season: December to March
During these hot and wet summer months, Cairns can see tropical rainfall almost daily. The weather is noticeably hotter, averaging around 32 degrees. This is a great time to visit if you'd like to see the waterfalls in full flow and you enjoy warm, tropical weather with a cool daily shower!
In my opinion, the best month to visit Port Douglas is October. During this month, the weather is usually very calm and warm, resulting in the best visibility out on the reef and the most days of sunshine!
Getting Around in Port Douglas & the Tropical North
Like most places in Australia, the best way to make the most out of the many epic things to do and see in Port Douglas is to have your own set of wheels. Of course, there are several tours and organised day trips you can book if you're using Port Douglas as a base. However, if you're more into independent travel like myself, then renting a car is a good idea.
Below are some resources that'll prove helpful in saving a few bucks on your rental in the Tropics.
- RentalCars.com – a rental car comparison site. Great way to compare rates and availability across companies.
- Spaceships Vans – this one’s for the backpackers and budget travellers. One of the most affordable camper van options in Australia. I’ve had great experiences with them in New Zealand and Australia and always recommend them.
Should I stay in Port Douglas or Cairns?
This is an age-old question for visitors to the Far North and undoubtedly a valid one. Both towns are the two most popular bases up here, with loads of things to do within a short drive of both Port Douglas and Cairns.
Generally speaking, Cairns offers more variety in terms of activities and organised boat trips to the islands and the outer reef. However, Port Douglas is a quieter option that is popular with families booking luxury resorts, as well as backpackers who want to spend a bit more time exploring the region.
More Things to know ABout Port Douglas
Wrapping up this Port Douglas Travel Guide, here are some last few hints and tips you should know before getting up here!
- Stinger season - The highest risk of dangerous marine stingers falls within the months of November to May.
- Be Croc-wise - Saltwater crocodiles inhabit the estuarine waters surrounding Port Douglas. Keep an eye out for signs.
- Renting a car is a good idea - I've mentioned this above but the Hot Tropics region is huge and there is so much to explore! Having your own transport will make your visit just that much more epic!
- Make sure to pack for the tropics - You're probably not going to need a jacket or jeans! I've written a useful packing list for Cairns which should prove useful for Port Douglas as well.
Beyond Port Douglas: More Far North Queensland Travel Guides
And that's a wrap for this epic travel guide to the best things to do in Port Douglas! I really hope that you got something out of it! If you think of something that you think deserves a spot on the list, please let me and other travellers know in the comments.
Also, while you're here on my blog, why not check out some of my other guides and articles to adventures in the region? I've spent several months exploring this beautiful part of Australia and I guarantee you'll find something you didn't know existed!