Things to Do in Port Douglas
Marking the southern border of Daintree National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Mossman Gorge is one of the most popular places to experience the world’s oldest rain forest. Dating back more than 130 million years, the dense forest and scenic river gorge harbor a rich biodiversity and provide a stunning backdrop for hikers and swimmers.
The Great Barrier Reef is the Earth’s largest structure built entirely by living organisms. It runs for over 1,200 miles from its northern to southern tip, and is almost the size of the state of Montana when its various reefs are combined. One of the reefs—the Agincourt Reef—is a distant section along the reef’s northern tip where stunning biodiversity creates one of the most pristine ecosystems found anywhere along the reef.
Known as a type of “Ribbon Reef,” the Agincourt Reef runs parallel to the line with the Continental Shelf. Exotic species such as the Maori wrasse are commonly found along the reef, and sharks, rays—and even whales—can be seen when scuba diving the reef. Even for travelers who are just snorkeling, however, there are sections of the reef only a few feet below the clear, turquoise waters. Here, in the shallow lagoons, thousands of fish inhabit a reef that bursts with vibrancy and color—and there is even the chance of encountering species like the giant purple clam. Like a galactic portal to an entirely new world, the sights, colors, and marine diversity create an aquatic wonderland off of Port Douglas unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
From the dramatic jungle-clad gorges, wild rivers, and tumbling waterfalls of Daintree National Park to the deserted coast of Cape Tribulation along the Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree Rainforest is Australia’s largest stretch of rain forest, covering 460 square miles (1,200 square kilometers). A protected UNESCO World Heritage Site and a hiker’s paradise, the rainforest is renowned for its extraordinary biodiversity.
A series of small coral cays, the Low Isles lie just off the coast of Port Douglas on the edge of the UNESCO-listed Great Barrier Reef. The hard and soft corals in the waters are a habitat for tropical fish, reef sharks, and sea turtles, creating excellent conditions for snorkeling and diving.
Queensland's Port Douglas features a true rain forest atmosphere, and at the Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas (sometimes called the Rainforest Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary), visitors can experience the kaleidoscope of color that wildlife brings to the forest. This eight-acre sanctuary is broken up into four different wilderness habitats–woodland, wetlands, rain forest, and savanna—and showcases the critters who call them home.
Gaze at a blue-and-orange-hued cassowary or the colorful lorikeets and parrots before scouring the savanna for Lumholtz's tree-kangaroos, which are only found in the tropics. Watch the eyes of a freshwater croc as it casually cruises the waters, or search for koalas high in the trees.
Wildlife Habitat staff members lead guided, supervised feeding tours throughout the day and also host educational talks and presentations on the animals' fascinating characteristics. Wildlife Habitat is very active in conservation, breeding, and rehabilitation. Upgrades for visitors include the after-dark Wildnight nocturnal tour (from $30), a Breakfast with the Birds experience (from $26.50), Lunch with the Lorikeets (from $28), and Picnic With the Parrots ($40).
The relaxed coastal town of Cooktown is a popular excursion from Port Douglas.
Captain Cook beached his ship the Endeavour here, hence the name. These days daytrippers come here to visit the intriguing James Cook Historical Museum, to pay their respects to his statue overlooking Bicentennial Park, and order up a seafood platter at a local restaurant.
Cooktown has some impressive buildings for an outback coastal town, thanks to the 1870s to 1890s gold rush at the nearby Palmer goldfields. The town’s impressive botanic gardens date from this period.
Four Mile Beach is exactly that – four glorious miles of unimpeded golden sands stretching into the distance.
Lined with palms, with resorts tucked away behind the trees, this is the beach to head to in Port Douglas for safe swimming with the family or long romantic walks hand in hand.
For the best views of Four Mile Beach, make your way to the top of Flagstaff Hill Lookout, on the point at Port Douglas, and take in stunning vistas of the beach stretching off in a gentle curve to the mountains on the horizon.
Couples book months in advance to tie the knot at the quaint non-denominational chapel of St. Mary’s by the Sea in Port Douglas, and it’s easy to see why.
The cute-as-a-button white timber chapel was built in 1911, and it’s hard to imagine a more romantic spot to say ‘I do’.
Surrounded by palm trees and manicured lawns, the chapel has picturesque stained-glass windows with views of the sea.
Australia’s only rain forest dining experience invites travelers for an evening of food and entertainment under the stars in one of the world’s oldest rain forests. The multi-course meal, highlighting ingredients from the rain forest, is served by candlelight to the sounds of live acoustic guitar or Aboriginal music and storytelling.