Welcome to the Tropical North Queensland town of Port Douglas, known for its luxury lifestyle, endless beaches, and nearby rainforest. There are many things to add to a Port Douglas Itinerary, and we will venture into some of those I indulged in, from my visit. This includes Day tours, free things to do, adventure, and relaxation. Therefore, let’s get started with everything Port Douglas has to offer.
To help in today’s Port Douglas Itinerary planning, I have added my “top picks” at the start of the list. This includes two world heritage-listed areas of the Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. However, this depends on what you’re into and what you have already completed in Cairns. Therefore, pick and choose between the days listed below and find what’s best for your situation, budget, and time.
However, the more days you have to explore in the beautiful Port Douglas, the more you’ll see.
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The Best Port Douglas Itinerary – Plan between 2 to 6 days
Day 1 – Exploring the Rainforest
Our Port Douglas Itinerary for Day 1 includes exploring the Wet Tropics of Queensland Rainforest. Know that you can self-drive the entire list below yourself, or it might be easier to join an organised tour. Some tours will include everything in the list below, while others can spend more time at certain locations. If you’re strapped for time, it is possible to get a small taste of each option listed below in the one day.
Mossman Gorge is just 20 minutes from Port Douglas and can be seen in several different ways. A self-drive tour would require your own car and allows some flexibility. Although, an organised tour will more likely include areas of the Daintree National Park.
A significant tourist information centre is available with a café and souvenir store. You’ll catch free bus transfers from here to get in and out of the gorge. These run every 15 minutes and takes 5 minutes, safely driving you through the skinny roads and helping limit traffic.
Once at Mossman Gorge, you have a few activites, including hiking trails around the rainforest, across a suspension bridge, and various other lookout points. Apart from that, you can go swimming in the beautiful crisp waters.
On a hot summer day, you could definitely see Mossman Gorge in a single day. Spend a few hours relaxing in the cool waters and exploring the rainforest. This would be more convenient in a self-drive option and maybe including some other amazing waterholes in the Cairns area.
Daintree National Park
The Daintree National Park is one of the more famous and oldest National Parks in the world to explore from Port Douglas. The area is split by the Daintree river (where the crocodile tours are), and there is a car ferry transfer to get across. This is where you’ll find the main section on the northern side and the Discovery Information Centre.
Essentially, there are many different hiking trails where you can see the various plant species and look out for wildlife (maybe even a cassowary). Alternatively, the Discovery and information centre is your starting point for the popular tree top canopy walk, tours, and your café, information, and souvenir store.
This one can sometimes be less hassle on a day tour, especially if you don’t have your own vehicle.
Please click this link to watch my You Tube HERE on visiting the Daintree National Park
Daintree Fruit Ice-Cream
While you’re in the Daintree National Park, don’t forget to stop at one of the locally made fruit ice cream farms. You can wander through the fruit orchard, see the fruit ripening stage (the smelly part), and then sample the products. A great morning or afternoon tea stop-off for a break and a quick coffee.
NOTE: I tried some of the Mango Ice-cream, which was delish!
The Crocodile Tours are run by several different companies close by the Daintree River. This makes it an easy day trip from Port Douglas on its own or convenient when merged with the other areas. There’s not much difference between the companies that run these tours. However, some are run out of wildlife parks instead of in the wild. I prefer to see these deadly creatures in the wild, but know that you will probably see the Crocs on any tours.
If you have flexibility with your schedule, then my biggest tip would be to book a tour at low tide and on sunny days. Although I still managed to see some giant saltwater crocodiles at high tide and on a cloudy day. I would also suggest bringing a high zoom lens if you want to capture the moment. Some of the animals are small or far away for photographing on a regular phone.
The Daintree River has fresh water and the perfect conditions for the Crocodiles. It’s about 140 kilometres in length and is one of the longest rivers on the east coast of Australia. About 70 adult crocs live in this river alone, which can be anything from 3.5 metres to 5 metres in size. However, they are very territorial, so you won’t find them in packs.
Day 2 – Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef
Our Day 2 Port Douglas Itinerary is kept reasonably straightforward with a day tour to the Great Barrier Reef. Your choice is between the companies, the type of boat, and whether you have a pontoon platform. Know that this is the best time to snorkel, but it’s not the only activity you can do.
Great Barrier Reef Tours
Your second best thing to do in Port Douglas is day tripping to the Great Barrier Reef and maybe a snorkelling tour. This is one of the best places to snorkel in Queensland, and this tour ventures to the outer reef. The ocean waters are deep, but you’re provided all the gear and can snorkel on your own or on a group tour.
If snorkelling is not your thing, then the semi-submarine will give you a brief look without getting wet, along with walking through the underwater viewing chamber. There is a long 2-hour ride out to the reef, so make sure you bring things to keep you entertained. However, the kids will love this one and come home exhausted.
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Day 3 – Four Mile Beach, Wildlife & Hiking
The Wildlife Habitat is located on the highway as you enter the town of Port Douglas. They have some local Australian wildlife like Kangaroos, wallabies, Koalas, and saltwater crocodiles. If you can’t get out of town for some wild experiences, this could be a good option for a more controlled environment.
Four Mile Beach
Four Mile Beach has been listed as one of the best beaches in Queensland and obviously runs 4 miles down the edge of Port Douglas. While it’s not a popular spot for swimming cause of potential crocs, plenty of people use it to splash around in the shallows.
This is also great for walking along at sunrise or sunset, relaxing on the beach, riding a bike, catching some rays, walking the dog, or hanging out for the day. It’s lined mostly with beautiful palm trees and some of the rainforest bushland. However, as this is a luxury destination, some beachfront properties can be expensive and sometimes hard to get, so make sure you book your accommodation early. (see more about that below).
Want an excellent way to tour Four Mile Beach, then maybe check out the Segway tours. It’s always an exciting ride, a different and fantastic way to get around.
If you’re looking for art, crafts, food, or locally made products, check out the Sunday Markets. These are open from 830am to 1pm every week, and you’re sure to pick up a deal to your liking.
Flagstaff Hill Walking Trail
The Flagstaff Hill Walking Trail is about 1.5 kilometres one way, stretching from Four Mile Beach to Rex Smeal Park. This means you can enter at each side, return the walk on the same track or try entering at each end. Additionally, there is also a third entrance at the Flagstaff Hill lookout around the middle.
Choose your option and walk the coastline; the Four Mile Beach end has a few stairs to climb, but they’re over pretty quickly. However, also some brilliant overall lookouts of the beach. Funny that it also has a phone holder for the perfect positioned photo point. Not sure if this is a good or a bad thing when everyone has all the same pictures. Overall, it’s a great view and brilliant addition to your Port Douglas Itinerary.
Day 4 – Mossman River Drift, Marina & Rex Smeal Park
Mossman River Drift
They say this is a half-day tour, but it only takes 2.5 hours and comes with hotel pickup. Therefore, it’s easy to organise the Mossman River Drift Snorkelling tour and continue seeing the rest of Port Douglas on the same day. The Mask, Snorkel, raft, and boots are supplied, but ensure you’re already wearing your swimsuit before you get out there (there are no change rooms).
Your first time in the water will be fresh and crisp, so prepare for the cool temperatures. It’s an all-year-round activity, but some tours might be cancelled during the summer and high rainfall. Otherwise, most of the time is pretty tame and suitable for all ages. There are snorkelling sections on tour, but I went for the river rafting and white water section. This was a lot of fun but also calming, peaceful, and relaxing just drifting through the rainforest.
➡ Book tickets for the Mossman River Drift Snorkel Tour HERE
Please click this link to watch my You Tube HERE on River drifting down the Mossman
Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina
The Port Douglas Marina will be your starting point for several of the tours for the Great Barrier Reef. But not only that, you have some specialty shops, restaurants, beer factories, or even an ice creamery. Indulge in some local delicacies, all with a brilliant sea view. The sunset sailing expeditions will also leave from here, and you have plenty to choose from to have a romantic or adventurous night on the water.
Rex Smeal Park
Next up, we have the Rex Smeal Park, located on the northern side of Port Douglas and consists of a grassed area lined with palm trees. Consequently, it’s one of the favourite Instagram photo spots, especially at sunset. Apart from that, you’ll find groups and family’s coming for a lunchtime picnic or to use the playground.
Find others catching up with friends, watching the fishing boat come in with their latest catch, or even hosting your next wedding ceremony under the trees.
You can see the Rainforest Mountains in the distance or watch the waves crashing over the rocks. Either way, it’s some free entertainment for you to enjoy and an entrance to the flagstaff walking Trail mentioned before.
St Marys by the Sea Chapel
While you’re close to Rex Smeal Park, then check out The St Marys by the Sea Chapel. It was first built in 1811, destroyed by a cyclone 30 years later, and rebuilt a few years after that. It was moved to her current located in 1988 and is currently used for wedding ceremonies by the beach, funerals, and christenings 7 days a week.
It’s a Queensland heritage-listed building and can be hired under several different packages. Other than that, the tourists can admire the architecture and have a look around.
Day 5 – Self Drive tour along the Great Barrier Reef Drive
If you can manage 5 days on your Port Douglas Itinerary, then hiring a car for the day and touring some of the coastline could be a great option. Below, I’ve mentioned some of the things you can see along this road.
Great Barrier Reef Drive
The Great Barrier Reef Drive stretches from Cairns to Cape Tribulation (with Port Douglas in the middle), so you can choose to go north or south to explore the scenes. Either way, this highway hugs the coastline of two world heritage areas with waterfront views of the Great Barrier Reef and with the Wet Tropics of Queensland Rainforest on the other side.
Thala Coconut Palm Field
Travelling south of Port Douglas, you’ll see The Thala Beach Nature Reserve, which is 20 minutes away. It contains thousands of coconut palm trees growing in a field and the entrance to an Eco-Friendly Accommodation. These are all perfectly lined up and the ultimate spot for a photo on a tropical north Queensland holiday.
You can check out some other nearby beaches and smaller towns like Palm Cove. This is another beachside town lined with Palm trees and the famous cobblestone pathway. This small town is also listed as having one of the best beaches in Queensland.
The southern area would also include checking out Rex Lookout. If you can manage to see it without anyone else there, then you’re doing well. Otherwise, you’ll find cars and people walking across the road all day to catch the views.
Day trip to Cape Tribulation
Cape Tribulation is only 2 hours away from Port Douglas to the north. It’s smaller than Port Douglas but quiet and secluded, with rainforest resorts bordering the beach. This means you can use it as a day trip, seeing everything along the way (like the Daintree National Park) or stopping off for the night. As for the Cape itself, one of their more popular tours would be horse riding on the beach.
Day 6 – Visiting Kuranda Village
While Kuranda Village is best explored on a Cairns Itinerary, You will see many tourists driving south on their own or taking an organised tour from Port Douglas. The small village of Kuranda contains locally made products from Clothes, food, arts and crafts, and souvenirs. You’ll also find some cafes and restaurant options for your day trip lunch.
On your way to Kuranda, there will be an option to see the fantastic Barron Falls from the platform and lookout points. This would have to be one of the biggest waterfalls in Queensland and best viewed in the summertime after rainfall. The rest of the year is a little slow, but still a fantastic site to see.
If you take a self-drive option, I would suggest stopping at Smithfield and catching a return ride on the Skyrail Gondola to Kuranda. The Skyrail rainforest cableway is a fantastic experience to enter a gondola and soar above the trees while admiring the views.
➡ Compare prices for the Skyrail Gondola tickets to Kuranda HERE with Get Your Guide
➡ Please click this link to watch my You Tube on Port Douglas
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Where is Port Douglas
Port Douglas is located in Tropical North Queensland, about 60 kilometres and 1 hour north of the international Gateway city of Cairns. It has about 3.5 thousand permanent residents, and the highest tourist season is around May to September. Note: this is outside the hottest months in the summer, from December to March.
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Where to stay?
This is where you’ll come for a luxury lifestyle, and the accommodation prices correlate to that. Therefore, if you want beachside properties, lots of facilities, and convenience, then expect to pay a higher fee for them. However, you can find some great deals, especially if you book early.
Other options will include staying in a less high profile area and compensating with car hire to get everywhere.
Budget Friendly (2 Stars) Accommodation:
- PD Backpackers – 37 Warner Street, 4877 Port Douglas, Australia
Mid-Range (3 Star) Accommodation:
- Nimrod Resort Apartments – 31 Nautilus Street, 4877 Port Douglas, Australia
- Reef Resort Villas – 121 Port Douglas Road, 4877 Port Douglas, Australia
- Lychee Tree Holiday Apartments – 95 Davidson Street, 4877 Port Douglas, Australia
High Class (4 Star) Accommodation
- Oaks Hotel – 87-107 Port Douglas Road, 4877 Port Douglas, Australia
- The Pavilions – 35 Macrossan Street, 4877 Port Douglas, Australia
- Paradise Links Resort – 70 Nautilus St, 4877 Port Douglas, Australia
- Dreamcatcher Apartments – 26-28 Reef St, Port Douglas QLD 4877 (Pictured Below)
- Ramada Resort By Wyndham – 316 Port Douglas Road, 4877 Port Douglas, Australia
- Peninsula Boutique Hotel (Adults Only) – 9 Esplanade, 4877 Port Douglas, Australia
Luxury (5 Star) Accommodation
- Peppers Beach Club – 20-22 Davidson Street, 4877 Port Douglas, Australia
- Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort – Port Douglas Road, 4877 Port Douglas, Australia
How to get there?
You have a few choices when it comes to getting to Port Douglas and I will list a few of these below in more detail.
Get there by Air
Flights will enter the Cairns international Terminal from most major cities in Australia and overseas carriers. This includes Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia, Alliance, and Singapore Airlines. From there, you’ll need a shuttle service, hire your own car, or catch a Bus to get to Port Douglas.
➡ Check and compare prices for your Flights on Expedia HERE
Get there by Car
As mentioned above, you can fly into Cairns and hire a car from there to drive the 1 hour north to Port Douglas. This will give you a little flexibility with seeing everything and the accommodation location. Most accommodation places will provide a car space or on-street parking, but please check with the hotel before booking.
➡ Find your favourite brand & compare prices for your Rental Car HERE
Get there by Shuttle Service
Both group and private shuttles are available from the Cairns airport, ready to take you to Port Douglas. These will vary in price depending on how many people and stops the Shuttle Service has to make.
➡ Check and compare prices for Shuttle Services HERE
Get there by Train
The Closest Queensland Rail train station would also be at Cairns (Spirt of Queensland); from there, you can decide between Shuttle services, Bus, or hiring your own vehicle.
Best way to get around?
The easiest way to get around Port Douglas would be by hiring your own car and driving everywhere. However, Uber and Taxis could be an option for anything local and using organised tours for all the popular sites.
➡ Find your favourite brand & compare prices for your Rental Car HERE
Where to eat?
With a luxury lifestyle, you will have plenty to choose from on where to eat in Port Douglas. Most of the popular ones will be around Esplanade or Macrossan Street or common to be attached to your hotel.
If you want some to choose from, then here are my top choices below:
- Barbados – 44 Wharf St
- Little Larder – Shop 17/53/61 Macrossan St
- Nautilus Restaurant & Fine Dining – 17 Murphy St
- Hemingway’s Brewery Restaurant – Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina, 44 Wharf St
- Aluco Restaurant & Bar – 11 Mitre St
- Salsa Bar & Grill – 26 Wharf St
- Melaleuca – 22 Wharf St
- Sabean Tapas Bar Restaurant – 3/28 Wharf St
- Choo Choos at the Marina – 46 Wharf St
- Port Douglas Surf Club Bar & Bistro – Mowbray St
Best time to visit?
The best time to visit Port Douglas is very similar to Cairns, with a warm tropical climate. The high season ranges between May and September each year through winter, obviously avoiding the unbearable heat.
If you are planning on swimming in any waterfalls, then getting closer to summertime (December to March) would make them more refreshing. However, the rest of the time the weather would be sweltering, humid, and prone to high rainfall. Winter time would be freezing in the waterfalls but still acceptable in the ocean and the snorkelling tours.
Summer temperatures average a high of 32 degrees Celsius (87F) and up to 95% humidity. During this time, The Great Barrier Reef waters are more prone to stingers, and you will need a Lycra Stinger suit to swim. This is also monsoonal season and can sometimes rain for days at a time. Which isn’t always ideal on a planned holiday.
My best picks would be March, April, October & November. These are shoulder seasons, with less rain than during the summer and not too cold in the freshwater lagoons.
Port Douglas Itinerary – Frequently Asked Questions?
How many days do you need to spend in Port Douglas?
Due to the higher prices, most people will tend to stay 2 or three nights in Port Douglas. Therefore, I would suggest Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef and visiting the Daintree National Park. However, if you’ve passed by Cairns, chances are you have already seen the Great Barrier Reef and can enjoy one of the other days I have planned above.
Ideally, I think 4 or 5 days in Port Douglas would be an optimal amount of time to see some sites and have some chill time. However, you’re on holiday and don’t want to rush around either! Depending on what you have previously done in Cairns, you can choose the daily Port Douglas itinerary above that suits your needs and situation.
Is it better to go to the reef from Cairns or Port Douglas?
I have snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef from both Cairns and Port Douglas. I don’t see a considerable difference between them. However, I see a difference between the outer reef and snorkelling straight from an Island Beach. Differences like time on the boat to get there and cost.
If you are looking for a more budget & kid-friendly way to get to the Great Barrier Reef, then it’s worth checking out Cairns. This way, you can catch the 1-hour boat to Green Island and snorkel straight from the beachside shores.
The Outer Reef you can see from both Port Douglas and Cairns. From here, you can see larger underwater creatures like Turtles, groupers, trevally, and reef sharks. However, they will be further away from you.
Is Port Douglas worth visiting?
The Beach of Port Douglas is just divine and listed as one of the best beaches in Queensland. This makes Port Douglas worth it for a lovely, quiet, relaxing holiday by the beach (unlike the mangroves beside Cairns).
On the other hand, I feel that the prices are a little excessive and to make it worth it, you need to compensate for other luxuries. This includes where your accommodation location, car hire, and cooking your own meals.
Is Port Douglas or Whitsundays better?
This is tough and depends on what you’re after in a holiday location. Port Douglas is better with it still on the mainland and a beautiful beach to explore every night. The Whitsundays are Islands (like Hamilton Island) located off the Mainland to Airlie Beach, giving you many more options to choose from.
When does Port Douglas have Stingers?
Summertime, from December to April, is more prone to Stingers each year and will require you to wear a Lycra Stinger Suit. However, for safety, most tours in the outer reef will require you to wear a stinger suit all year round.
Can you swim in the sea at Port Douglas?
Yes, you can swim in the ocean at Port Douglas, but it does come with some warnings. This generally deters most swimmers, and you won’t find too many people in the waters. Firstly, you have Stinger Season during the summertime from December to March and will require a stinger suit to swim.
Secondly, while Crocodiles are not common in clear salt water, they will use the ocean to move from one freshwater stream to another. They can be spotted intermittently in the waters throughout the year, so always be cautious. The waters are protected and flat, making them easier to spot.
Can you snorkel off the beach in Port Douglas?
Yes, I guess you can snorkel off the Beach in Port Douglas, but you’re not going to see much more than sand and a few random fish. The Great Barrier Reef is far off the coast, and you will need a boat tour to get there.
What is the difference between Palm Cove and Port Douglas?
Port Douglas has a population of 3500 permanent residents, while Palm Cove has about 2000. Both are located on a beautiful beach, but Port Douglas goes for 4 miles, while Palm Cove is almost a quarter the size. Both are comparable in price, but you’ll probably find Palm Cove slightly cheaper with less tourism than Port Douglas.
Is Port Douglas cheap?
If you’re on a strict budget, then Port Douglas is not one of the cheapest places to go. However, you can find ways to compensate, make it more affordable, and enjoy the best of both worlds. Choose accommodation with fewer facilities and out of town, less eating out and cooking your own food, hire a car and drive yourself to see the sites without paying for tours.
How long do you need to spend in the Daintree National Park?
You only really need 1 day to spend in the Daintree National Park to get a taste of this ancient rainforest and complete a couple of hikes. However, with different tours available, the tree top walk, hikes, and the discovery centre and overnight would be better. There are various accommodations to choose from in the National Park, making for a quiet, romantic retreat in the forest.
How long does it take to get to the outer reef from Port Douglas?
It takes about 2 hours or more to get to the Outer reef from Port Douglas. This varies depending on which company you’re going with, the weather, and the location of your reef site.
What is the best reef to visit from Port Douglas?
Agincourt Reef is undoubtedly the more popular reef site to visit The Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas and has daily tours available to see. The Low Isles might be a good option if you’re strapped for time.
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Wrap up to the best Port Douglas Itinerary – Plan between 2 to 6 days
Thanks for reading this blog post today on the best Port Douglas Itinerary planning between 2 to 6 days. I hope you found the information you were looking for. However, If your still researching, you can uncover some more Port Douglas stories HERE for inspiration and planning.
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