An hour’s drive north of Cairns, Port Douglas has long served as the northern staging post for exploring the Great Barrier Reef. And whilst this vast coral reef system (the world’s largest) remains a major drawcard for visitors to the region, this pocket-sized coastal town punches well above its weight for plenty of other reasons as well.
1. The other World Heritage-listed area
Daintree Rainforest covers an area of 1200 square kilometres, and forms part of a larger expanse which is the world’s oldest continually surviving tropical rainforest. As well as being home to a staggering biodiversity that includes 90 percent of Australia’s bat and butterfly species and more than 12,000 species of insects, there’s plenty of larger residents on show as well: croc-spotting on a Daintree River cruise or hunting for mud crabs with locals from the Kuku Yalanji people are two popular options. For an entirely fresh perspective, walking the aerial Rainforest Skywalk at the Daintree Discovery Centre is a must.
2. Go wild at Cape Tribulation
This remote headland marks the area at which the two World Heritage areas meet – where the dense rainforest of the Daintree encounters stunning white-sand beaches. You can explore the region by car or ride the rainforest trails and beaches on horseback, go fishing for barramundi with an expert guide or just dig your toes into the soft sand of Myall Beach and soak up the solitude.
3. A small town that’s big on charm
The town of Port Douglas has a permanent population of just 3,500 people, but it punches well above its weight in terms of shopping and dining experiences. Explore the boutiques and galleries that line Macrossan Street or pick up something special from the Sunday waterfront markets, then refuel with a choice of dining options ranging from freshly made tacos to a fine-dining twist on local delicacies such as mud crabs and coral trout.
4. Rich in Indigenous culture
The Port Douglas region is rich in Indigenous culture, thanks to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities which each have their own unique stories, histories and languages. An ideal introduction to this heritage can be experienced by joining a Mossman Gorge Dreamtime Walk, during which you will witness a traditional smoking ceremony, learn about traditional medicinal plant uses and bush tucker, and make bush soaps and ochre paint.
5. Fun for the whole family
The Port Douglas region is one big playground just waiting to be explored, with enough activities to keep even the most active kids entertained from dawn until dark. Try spearing crabs and winkles amongst the mudflats and mangroves, breakfasting with the birds at the Port Douglas Wildlife Habitat or explore the reef in a semi-submersible at Agincourt Reef – every day offers a new adventure. The town also offers plenty of great kid-friendly accommodation and dining options.
6. Wellness for all
With two World Heritage listed areas right on the doorstep, it’s not surprising that a variety of eco-retreats have been established in the Port Douglas region. Experience the laid-back simplicity of the rustic Safari Lodge or soak up the stunning views from Cockatoo Hill Retreat, explore the 34 hectares of rainforest that surround Silky Oaks Lodge & Spa. Of course, it’s a sound idea to look after yourself while looking after the environment, and properties like Daintree Eco Lodge and Spa promise to do both with their range of spa treatments that are inspired by traditional, Indigenous wisdom and practices.
House of Travel acknowledge the Yirrganydji and Kuku Yalanji people as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of these lands and sea country, and recognise their continuing connection to the land and waters of this region. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
For these and many more incredible Port Douglas holiday experiences, talk to House of Travel.