Best Things To Do In Port Douglas, Queensland (2024 Guide)

Port Douglas Headland

The ultimate list of all the best things to do in Port Douglas, Australia.

Just an hour north of Cairns lies the seaside town of Port Douglas. Affectionately known as “Port” to the locals, this upmarket haven offers a unique blend of luxury and relaxation. Here, the lush rainforest meets the sparkling reef, creating a breathtaking backdrop for unforgettable adventures thanks to its proximity to UNESCO World Heritage sites like the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.

From stunning landscapes to cultural experiences and gourmet delights, there is something for everyone to cherish in Port Douglas—it’s the full, sunny package! Here’s our pick of the best things to do and see there.

Why Visit Port Douglas?

Palm Trees Four Mile Beach

Port Douglas is a quieter, serene alternative to the bustling tourist hub of Cairns. This coastal town is the perfect gateway to explore the marvels of Far North Queensland. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, a lover of natural beauty, or a culture enthusiast, Port Douglas has something for everyone.

Top 16 Things to Do in Port Douglas

Visit The Great Barrier Reef

Aerial View Great Barrier Reef

It has to be said: You simply can not come to Port Douglas and not visit the iconic Great Barrier Reef. As one of the world’s most revered underwater habitats, the reef is a vibrant wonderland teeming with diverse marine life, from colourful fish species to intricate coral formations. 

Visitors to the area have many options for exploring this underwater marvel. You can dive into the heart of the reef with a scuba diving or snorkelling excursion, providing an intimate encounter with the lively marine ecosystem. For those who prefer to stay dry while observing, numerous alternatives and trips to the Great Barrier Reef depart from both Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation. 

Spend Time At The Daintree Rainforest

Daintree Rainforest
Queensland’s Daintree Rainforest is like nowhere else on the planet

The Daintree Rainforest is the oldest surviving rainforest in the world. For more than 50,000 years, the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people have managed and protected it, making this magnificent forest their home.  

The Daintree Rainforest is a living testament to the earth’s age and natural history. It is a labyrinth of snaking vines and lush green canopies that provide a sanctuary for diverse fauna and flora. The sounds of birds and insects punctuate the silence, while the gentle trickle of waterfalls and rivers adds to the soothing ambience of this forested paradise.

For nature enthusiasts, the Daintree Rainforest provides an unmatched experience. Visitors can witness this ancient rainforest’s biodiversity with various walking tracks that meander through the dense vegetation. The presence of unique wildlife and breathtaking waterfalls further enhances the experience. Indeed, visiting the Daintree Rainforest is like stepping back in time, offering an intimate encounter with nature in its purest form.

Related: 8 Romantic Things to Do at The Daintree Rainforest

Visit Mossman Gorge

Mossman Gorge

Visiting Mossman Gorge, nestled in the Daintree Rainforest, stands as one of the top attractions in Port Douglas. This awe-inspiring area spans an impressive 56,000 hectares. Visitors are offered a unique opportunity to step into the world’s oldest rainforest, an ecosystem that has thrived for an astounding 180 million years. To put that into perspective, this makes it 10 million years older than the Amazon Rainforest. 

An excellent introduction to this incredible marvel is to book a Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk, guided journeys through Mossman Gorge and a perfect introduction to the Daintree Rainforest led by the local Indigenous people.

When exploring Mossman Gorge, there are certain logistics to keep in mind. First, visitors must park their vehicles in the designated car park. Next, an entrance fee is required, which can be paid at the Daintree Visitor Centre. 

See The Low Isles

Low Isles off Port douglas

Positioned just 15km offshore from Port Douglas, the Low Isles are the perfect setting for an inner reef adventure. Comprising two small coral cay islands enveloped by a massive 55-acre reef, these isles are ideal for a full-day or half-day tour. They are a cost-effective alternative to the more expensive outer reef expeditions. 

Visitors to these picturesque islets can indulge in activities such as snorkelling in the clear blue waters, exploring the unique island terrain, or simply relaxing under the sun on the pristine white sandy beaches. 

Although separate, the two small islands, known as Low Isles and Woody Island, share a common reef. Notably, these islands are recognised as important indigenous cultural sites, adding historical and cultural significance to their natural beauty.

Get Close to Nature at Wildlife Habitat

The Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas is a living example of Australia’s dedication to wildlife conservation and environmental education. It is more than just a tourist destination; it offers an interactive experience that fosters appreciation for Australia’s wildlife and their habitats. A visit to this place is a must for anyone who wants to learn more about the country’s unique wildlife and ecosystem.

This award-winning sanctuary provides an unparalleled chance to interact with Australia’s iconic animals within their recreated natural environments, offering an educational and immersive experience like no other. Visitors can explore the diverse ecosystems, from the lush wetlands to the verdant rainforests, all teeming with rich biodiversity. 

A unique highlight of the Wildlife Habitat is the opportunity to dine in the Wetlands amidst the chirping of birds while partaking in the world-famous “Breakfast with the Birds”, a unique dining event that also includes koala feeding. The Woodlands Habitat allows visitors to observe numerous native birds in their natural surroundings. 

Meanwhile, the Rainforest Habitat invites exploration of its dense flora and fauna, bringing visitors face-to-face with nature’s wonders. 

Related: Your Guide to Visiting Port Douglas

Time Your Holiday to Coincide With the Annual Carnivale

Port Douglas Carnivale

The Port Douglas Carnivale was initially created to celebrate the start of the sugar cane harvesting season. However, it has now become the official launch of the tourist season. This festival offers a delightful blend of food, fun, and sun that draws in both tourists and locals. It celebrates the town’s unique community spirit and rich local culture.

Carnivale happens annually in May and is not just a festival; it’s an experience that encapsulates the essence of Port Douglas – its vibrant community, rich local culture, and stunning natural beauty. So why wait? Plan your trip and join in the festivities!

River Drift Snorkelling

River Drift Snorkelling

River Drift Snorkelling with Back Country Bliss is one of the most unique activities Port Douglas offers. This extraordinary guided tour allows you to float down a river, spotting various freshwater species that inhabit the rainforest, including fish and turtles. 

It’s an amalgamation of swimming, snorkelling, and floating and even includes a rainforest walk, making it one of the most comprehensive rainforest experiences available in the region. 

As you step into the cool, crystal-clear water, you will be carried along with the current, allowing you to explore the vibrant life under the water’s surface. You will witness fish darting in and around river stones, and if you’re lucky, you may even spot an occasional turtle. 

Related: 27 Unique Experiences You Can Only Have in Australia

Hike The Flagstaff Hill Trail

The Flagstaff Hill trail, a picturesque 1.5-kilometre coastal track, is undoubtedly one of the must-see things to do in Port Douglas. This captivating trail weaves its way from the remarkable Four Mile Beach to the serene Rex Smeal Park, offering some of the most spectacular coastal views in the region. 

On a day when the sky is clear, you can enjoy an unobstructed view out to the Low Isles, a sight that will undoubtedly leave you spellbound. The star attraction of this brief yet rewarding hike is the Flagstaff Hill lookout. This vantage point presents exceptional coastal vistas stretching out to the Coral Sea and down over Four Mile Beach, making it a photographer’s dream. This hike provides a simple and cost-free way to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Port Douglas and create lasting memories.

Take a Trip to Beautiful Palm Cove

Palm Cove

Palm Cove, a picturesque coastal village, is approximately a 40-minute from Port Douglas, making it an ideal day trip destination for those seeking tranquillity and natural beauty. The journey is lovely, with the road offering stunning panoramic views.

Upon reaching Palm Cove, you will be greeted by iconic palm trees that line the pristine beach, a beautiful sight that compels you to capture the moment through photographs. The beach offers an idyllic setting for relaxation, whether you prefer to laze around on the warm sand or find solace in the comforting sway of a hammock. 

Palm Cove has lots of great restaurants and cafes, so you can relax in one of the cozy cafes scattered in the area, have a leisurely lunch, or enjoy a picnic by the beach. 

Hot Air Balloon Ride

Hot air balloon over Atherton Tablelands

A hot air balloon ride over the beautiful Tablelands region is one of the most exciting activities to enjoy in Port Douglas. This early morning adventure offers breathtaking views of the region. You can be picked up from your hotel in Port Douglas.

Related: Eight amazing balloon adventures waiting for you in Australia!

Cultural Tour with the Kuku Yalanji Tribe

Immerse yourself in the vibrant cultural heritage of the Kuku Yalanji tribe with a traditional cultural tour that Linc and Brandon Walker guide. Just a short 15-minute drive north of Port Douglas, you will discover the breathtaking Cooya Beach (Kuyu Kuyu). This historically significant location serves as the traditional fishing grounds of the Kuku Yalanji people. Here, you can experience the Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours, a guided and Aboriginal-owned venture that offers fascinating insights into the tribe’s rich history and customs. This unique journey promises to be an enriching experience that will leave you with fond memories and a newfound respect for indigenous traditions and ways of life.

Sunset Sailing Cruise

Sailing from Port Douglas

End your day most memorably with a luxurious yet affordable sunset sailing cruise, leaving Port Douglas and sailing aboard a state-of-the-art luxury catamaran.

As your experienced captain skillfully cruises along the picturesque coastline, immerse yourself in the serene beauty of a sunset over the Coral Sea. This breathtaking spectacle is magnified by the backdrop of the Low Isles and neighbouring mountains, painting a scene that truly captivates the essence of natural beauty. 

Witness the uniquely Australian Cane Toad Races!

This extraordinary event perfectly encapsulates the unique Australian spirit. Unquestionably, this event includes racing, but it’s different from your typical race; it involves racing live Cane Toads. Don’t let the unusual combination deter you. The show happens at the popular local eatery Chilly’s Pizza and Trattoria. This event truly represents an essential slice of Australian life that shouldn’t be missed when visiting Port Douglas.

Take a Road Trip to Cape Tribulation

Road Trip to Cape Tribulation
Alexander Lookout at Cape Tribulation

To reach this beautiful location, you’ll need to plan ahead – look at either hiring a car and doing an independent road trip or joining a full-day organised tour from Port Douglas, which is reasonably priced. 

The journey typically takes around 2 hours, but the experience is worth the time and effort. The drive from Cairns to Cape Tribulation offers some of the most stunning views in Australia, so the trip itself is an adventure, and if you are driving independently, we encourage you to take your time.

This route is well-maintained and short, providing a comfortable journey for visitors. When considering the things to do in Port Douglas, embarking on this picturesque journey should definitely be on your itinerary.

Taste Paradise With The Daintree Food Trail

Cape Trib Farm, part of the Daintree Food Trail
Image: Cape Trib Farm, part of the Daintree Food Trail

Embark on a gastronomic journey through Tropical North Queensland, covering a stretch of 87 km with 20 stops, starting from Port Douglas and ending at Cape Tribulation. This food trail offers a unique opportunity to explore the delicious side of the region, bringing you closer to the heart of its local delicacies. It’s one of the must-do things in Port Douglas.

At Cape Trib Farm, you can taste various exotic fruits, including the tantalisingly sweet mangosteen and the versatile jackfruit. The Daintree Food Trail is not just about tasting; it’s also about experiencing the food production process. Along the way, you’ll encounter small-batch farmers who lovingly nurture their barramundi and cultivate delicate micro-greens, as well as gourmets and artisans who craft mouth-watering chocolates and creamy gelatos. 

Swim At A Natural Swimming Hole

Rainforest pool, Mosman Gorge,
Rainforest pool, Mosman Gorge

When considering the many activities to do in Port Douglas, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of adventurous tours and excursions available. However, sometimes the most memorable experiences are the simplest ones. And we’ve got a unique idea for you to pop on your Port Douglas must-do list!

Imagine a hot day with the sun shining bright, and instead of joining the crowds on the sandy beaches, you spend some time in a clear and cool freshwater creek or swimming hole. This is a favourite pastime among locals who prefer these serene spots over the bustling beachfront to escape the heat. 

These hidden gems are mostly free and easily accessible, offering a haven from the hustle and bustle (do your research and ensure they are crocodile-free – you are in the tropics, remember!). 

The region is also home to many picturesque freshwater creeks, each providing a unique experience for those looking for a more tranquil activity among the many things to do in Port Douglas. From Mason’s Swimming Hole to  Spring Creek Falls, also known as Black Rock Waterfalls, and Shannonvale to Mossman Gorge, the region offers plenty of swimming spots that aren’t the beach.

Related: Three natural swimming spots in North Queensland that aren’t the beach

Watch The Sunset at Four Mile Beach

Four Mile Beach

Head down to Four Mile Beach with your loved one and a towel to catch one of the most beautiful sunsets you’ll ever see. Sit on the pristine sand and gaze out at the sun slowly sinking into the Coral Sea. Alternatively, you can go for a romantic sunset walk on the beach for a truly magical experience that neither of you will ever forget.

When to Visit Port Douglas?

While Port Douglas is a year-round destination, the best time to visit is between June and September. The weather during these months is warm and dry, making it perfect for outdoor activities. However, if you enjoy the tropical rainforest during the wet season and don’t mind the occasional downpour, December to March could also be a unique experience.

Tips for a Memorable Trip

Be Aware of Safety: Always watch for safety signs when visiting natural attractions. Be cautious while swimming, as some areas are known for crocodile habitats.

Rent a Car: Having your own transport can make your visit more enjoyable. It offers the flexibility to explore the region at your own pace.

Pack for the Tropics: As the weather is usually warm, pack lightweight clothes and remember your swimwear, sunscreen, and hat.

Heading to TNQ? Check out the amazing things to do in and from Cairns!

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