Port Douglas, AUSTRALIA
Visiting Australia, even with a month’s time, can be overwhelming because what looks like a short distance on the map is probably a 3 hour plane ride away. So, choose your destinations wisely.
- Sydney To Cairns = 23 hour car ride.
- Brisbane To Cairns = 15 hour car ride.
We flew north to Cairns (on a fantastic recommendation from a friend) from where we rented a car and drove along a beautiful scenic coastal road to Port Douglas, a small seaside community off of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR).
General Info & Getting Around
Uncomfortable driving on the left side of the road? No worries, mate!
Multiple shuttles run from Cairns International Airport to Port Douglas for a small fee. Within Port Douglas tours and trips to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), local attractions and trips to Cape Tribulation are available with pick-up from your hotel or campsite, but this comes with a price tag and limited flexibility. We found that some of the most popular sites frequented around the Great Barrier Reef were easily accessible by car.
We spent a week in Port Douglas—possibly 1 or 2 days too long—the beaches are not easily utilized this time of year due to BOX JELLYFISH saturating the water and the weather is hot and tropical with daily rains, thus, limiting your time outdoors. That said, the extra days were ideal in obtaining at least one good day for snorkeling while having other days to relax, draw, write, and explore the surrounding towns and local attractions.
Where We Stayed
Hibiscus Spa & Resort
We utilized AirBnb to find this quiet apartment just off of Macrossan, the main street running through Port Douglas. Everything was within walking distance and equipped with WiFi, cable TV, AC, kitchenette, king-size bed and a great outdoor pool rarely used by the other guests.
The limited spa staff is friendly and will help book any trips or tours, but they do not hang around and are in and out of the office sharp: 8am-5pm. No exceptions.
Cost: $130 / night
What We Did
The Great Barrier Reef x 2 days
Wavelength Ecotours is run by marine biologists with a passion of bringing awareness to global warming and protecting the GBR. Full of knowledge and friendly, this was a well-organized and educational experience while exploring 3 separate reefs for an hour of snorkeling at each site.
This operation provides everything you need, including wetsuits, professional masks and snorkels and fins. Snacks, coffee, tea, and lunch are all provided after each snorkel—nothing to rave about, but decent. The staff is in the water with you and even provides a tour at one of the reefs making sure you get to see sea turtles, Nemo, giant clams with brilliant and fluorescent interiors, coral, sharks, and anything unusual while they are diving to record photos of your day.
Prepare to be on the boat for at least 1-1.5 hrs just getting to the Reef--approximately 55km from the marina in Port Douglas. If you tend to get sea sick easily you may want to take the bigger boat Wavelength 4. Our second day was rainy, choppy and rough, and unfortunately, on the smaller boat, Wavelength 3, which made for a much more strenuous ride—although, surprisingly, the reefs were still fantastic, even without the sun.
J uses the English Sailor Seabands and Zofran for tolerating the waves without losing it or falling asleep from Scopolamine’s side effects.
Cost: $249 / adult all-day
Mossman Gorge & Dreamwalking Tour with Aboriginal Guide
Fantastic area to explore the Daintree Rainforest and Mossman Gorge. This World Heritage Site and Park partners with the indigenous community thru job training and employment to increase public awareness of Aboriginal history, culture and traditions.
Beautiful grounds, well-organized, and the 1 1/2 hour dream-walking tour is fascinating in learning about the complexity of this oldest population on earth. Bring bug spray and repellant for all hiking.
We drove up to Daintree City, but were a little disappointed and decided to head further up the coast to Cape Tribulation. Unfortunately, the Daintree River Bridge was out of commission for cars, thus, limiting our adventure.
All was not loss, however...on our way to the Daintree River Bridge we stumbled upon thousands of 2 feet bats hanging in the eucalyptus groves.
Tours are available for these side excursions and often in combination to utilize a full-day tour, ie Mossman Gorge, Daintree Forest and Cape Tribulation, but it comes with a fee of approximately $200 / adult. We chose to do it independently.
Baron Falls and Tree-Top Canopy Walk
This requires some driving into the rainforest outside of Cairns and into the mountain town of Kuranda. The falls are accessible via different routes and trails, but on a rainy day, the tree-top canopy walk way was great with fantastic views of this area.
Wildlife was limited, but we made up for that heading up to Mareeba.
Mareeba & The Golf Course Kangaroos
Heading higher up past Kuranda to Mareeba, there is a little known golf course, The Mareeba Golf Club, that J happen to read about, which is home to hundreds of kangaroos roaming the greens. Kangaroos apparently have taken a liking towards open spaces, ie golf courses. This is not really advertised and no one else was there with us other than the golfers who had just finished their 'competition'.
To get up close you must obtain permission from the little golf club house. Walk into the community clubhouse to find a super friendly bartender who will hand you the keys to a golf cart to ‘explore the kangaroos’ for an hour. But, no touchy no matter how close you get!
Cost: $30 / 1 hr
Wallabies Everywhere by Trinity Beach
While you drive up to Port Douglas from Cairns, be sure to notice the fields of hundreds of wallabies hanging out. For access to a bike path off the road, exit towards Trinity Beach and take an immediate left that will lead to an outdoor bowling club.
Explore The City & Enjoy The Resort
Port Douglas has a cute little downtown area with shops, restaurants, bakeries and cafes.
Additionally, there is a great little hike around the tip of Port Douglas x 1.5 miles along the mountainside. We did have 2 days of poor weather and utilized them to read, catch up on emails, write, relax, swim, but 5 days in Port Douglas would have probably been sufficient.
Great Food Finds
There are multiple food venues in Port Douglas, but those that stood out to us were the following:
- The Mexican
Some of the best food in town, especially the Barramundi Taco and Nachos. Holy Smoke!
We ate here 3 times during our stay and were happy to buy the kitchen a “round” each night!
Attention to detail. Friendly. Clean. Delicious.
- Hemingway’s Brewery
Located down by the marina, perfect before heading home after a long day of snorkeling.
Loved ‘Mrs Watson’s’ brew batch with their version of a cheese burger.
Stay and watch the boats go by for a little while.
- The Little Larder
Breakfast and lunch place with delicious options and combinations never thought of before.
Only made it here once, but I would have loved to sample some of their other menu items.
My ‘Coconut Smoothie Bowl’ was chocked full of dragon fruit, kiwi, shredded coconut and various healthy chia seeds.
The ‘Flat White’ coffee fantastic.
- 2 Fish—won a major restaurant award, but we found the mocktails memorable. Way overpriced.
- Rattle & Hum—is open late and a haven for backpackers with large servings. Decent pub grub.