The ultimate guide to Port Douglas

Four Mile Beach Port Douglas

Zoe MacFarlane

Posted November 14, 2023

Thanks to its stunning white-sand beaches, ample water-based activities and delectable restaurants, Port Douglas is a popular holiday spot for Victorians to escape to, year-round.

As one of the Sunshine State's most famous holiday sports along with Noosa and the Gold Coast, Port Douglas is a Queensland holiday destination synonymous with relaxation and good times. 

An hour’s drive from Cairns, with the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest on its doorstep,  a visit to this northern trpoical Queensland locale can be whatever kind of holiday you make it, from the rejuvenating and relaxing to the cultural and adventurous. 

Whether you want to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, visit white sand beaches, head up rainforest skyrails, visit cultural artefacts or indulge at holiday hotspots, plan the perfect holiday and discover the best things to do in Port Douglas. 


Day trip to see some of the most magnificent marine life along the Great Barrier Reef. Image: Tourism Events Queensland Image:

Day trip to see some of the most magnificent marine life along the Great Barrier Reef. Image: Tourism Events Queensland

The best things to do in Port Douglas

Soak up the rays on the best beaches 

The most famous beach in Port Douglas in Four Mile Beach, thanks to its powdery white sands, crystal-clear waters, shady palms, and the stinger nets that allow you to swim safely year-round.

While on Four Mile Beach, walk the 1.5km Flagstaff Hill trail. With expansive views of the ocean, nearby islands, and rainforest-clad mountains, it’s one of the area’s best vantage points, especially at sunrise.

Another hot spot is the more elusive Oak Beach. While only a 10 minute drive from Port Douglas, the holiday locale feels worlds away in terms of seclusion. The lush vegetation that frames this 1.5km stretch of sand enhances the tranquillity, where you can relax with a book while staring out toward the turquoise waters.

Note: There is no stinger net at Oak Beach, so stay safe and perhaps enjoy this beach for a leisurely stroll instead.

Accessing the Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas

One of the top things to do in Port Douglas, of course, is to spend time around the water - it’s so close to the Great Barrier Reef, after all!

There are countless ways to experience the reef to suit your interests and energy levels, including dedicated Great Barrier Reef trips.

If you’re visiting for a relaxation-focused stay, a leisurely reef boat tour is a must. Many companies offer glass-bottom boat tours, ensuring you don’t even need to get wet to see the best of the vibrant coral, tropical fish, and marine mammals that call the reef home. Alternatively, you can charter a catamaran or sailboat for a more intimate experience.

For a little more adventure, you can book a snorkelling tour to destinations like Fitzroy Island, a 45 minute ferry away, to explore boating, snorkelling, whale watching, and island adventures.

Agincourt Reef is a day trip that is considered one of the most accessible – and significant – sites on the outer reef, with activities for both qualified scuba divers and new snorkellers. To get underwater without a PADI certification, you can book a semi-submersible or helmet dive tour.

For the fit and the curious, consider a small group kayaking tour. The peace on the water, whether it’s out to Fitzroy Island or paddling the Port Douglas shoreline, is an exceptional way to explore the area.


Cape Tribulation is a natural marvel to tick off your bucket list. Image: Tourism Events Queensland
Snorkellers on Fitzroy Island can look for fish, turtles, whales and dolphins. Image: Tourism Events Queensland
Kayak the stunning waters of Green Island. Image: Tourism Events Queensland

Wildlife and nature in and around Port Douglas

With wildlife often spotted on Four Mile Beach and the Daintree Rainforest only a 90 minute drive away, Port Douglas extends a warm invitation to experience the best of its natural wonders.

If you’re keen to stay local and meet native critters, head to the popular Wildlife Habitat, a 2-hectare park filled with immerse experiences and hands-on encounters with animals such as cassowaries, pythons, tree kangaroos and koalas.

Alternatively, hop aboard a crocodile boat tour or park visit to spot the semiaquatic reptiles in their natural environment, as well as a chance to see koalas, birds, and other native flora and fauna. 

For the best chance to see a cassowary in the wild, however, head to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest. It’s home to more wildlife, of course; it’s over 135 million years old! As you explore, be it on the ground on a guided Dreamtime tour or on the fabulous treetop walkways, watch for spotted-tail quolls, the tree-dwelling Benett’s kangaroo, and over 430 bird species.

While you can reach the closest part of the Daintree - Mossman Gorge – in 20 minutes, most visitors choose to head further to explore the area around the Daintree Discovery Centre. If time allows, continue further north to Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest meets the reef; it’s truly spectacular.

Note: Remember to bring the insect spray, as mosquitoes do tend to lurk around the area!

Discover the fascinating culture and history in Port Douglas and beyond

Enrich your stay by connecting with the Kuku Yalanji people, who have lived in the Daintree area for over 50,000 years.

At the Mossman Gorge Centre, you can choose to book an Aboriginal-guided walk or book in to the fascinating Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk. The latter offers a deep dive into the Kuku Yalanji’s connection to this ancient land.

To discover the town’s more recent history, including its origins as a gold rush port, take a guided walking tour to the town’s most significant sites. Don’t miss the heritage-listed Port Douglas Court House Museum, which is chock-full of stories, artefacts, and photos of the town’s rich history.


Mossman Gorge may be cold on first entry, but it's worth having a dip in this rainforest paradise. Image: Tourism Events Queensland
The Kuranda Scenic Railway passes through waterfalls, caves, tunnels and ancient rainforest. Image: Tourism Events Queensland
With 4000 of the flightless birds around the region, you may be lucky enough to spot a cassowary in the wild. Image: Tourism Events Queensland

Where to eat and drink in Port Douglas

Enjoying great food is just as important to your Port Douglas vacation as the sights you see and beaches you laze on. With a vibrant culinary scene, choose from cheap eats to award-winning fine dining restaurants.

Fresh seafood is common on menus, along with tropical and indigenous flavours.

The rainforest setting makes Nautilus a firm favourite, especially their signature mud crab dish. Harrisons is lauded for its innovative dishes made from local ingredients, while Barbados Port Douglas woos with its seafood and views. For a more casual meal, head to Finz Seafood for fish and chips with sunset marine views.

Treat yourself on the tropical coast

Go all-in on relaxation with a spa treatment. The lush gardens of Niramaya Spa, the holistic therapies at Sensaura Day Spa, and the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree-inspired products at Mii Spa all impress. For a pampering package, consider Reef House in Palm Cove.

For a different kind of splurge, book a helicopter or seaplane ride over the vast Great Barrier Reef. It's the kind of experience you’ll be regaling to friends and family for years.


The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway takes you on a journey through the world's oldest tropical rainforest.  Image: Tourism Events Queensland

The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway takes you on a journey through the world's oldest tropical rainforest. Image: Tourism Events Queensland  

Day trips from Port Douglas

Besides the Daintree, there are many areas to explore, from a cruise to Green Island by catamaran, to the mountain town of Kuranda or the gourmet-inspired Atherton Tablelands, there are plenty of fabulous natural wonders to exploreon your Port Douglas day trip itinerary.

The nearby beach city of Cairns is just an hour’s drive away, and is a great gateway to reef tours, restaurants, bars and a swimming lagoon. Spend the day taking in the sights or heading on exciting adventures, from jet boating to hot air ballooning, or even heading on a giant swing atop the rainforests of tropical north Queensland.

Kuranda is a charming rainforest village just an hour and 20 minutes' drive from Port Douglas. For families, a trip aboard the 132-year-old Kuranda Scenic Railway offers a unique open-air ride for taking in the breathtaking greenery. Alternatively, the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Experience glides you on a walk high above the lush canopy.

Time your Kuranda visit with the heritage markets on every Wednesday to Sunday. Stalls sell items including quirky arts and crafts, eco-friendly products, and boutique and vintage clothing.

Nearby, the fertile plateau of Atherton Tablelands is a must for foodie and nature lovers. The vibrant landscape of rainforest and wetlands produces delectable coffee, nuts, vegetables and fruits, resulting in the area being as much about tasty treats as natural attractions.

Cheese lovers - stop by an organic dairy farm in the area for a tour and freshly made samples!

After feasting on Atherton’s best produce, walk the Waterfalls Circuit, where you can trail to Millaa Millaa, Zillie, and Elinjaa Falls for a refreshing swim.

After a stop by the colossal Curtain Fig Tree, if time allows, walk the 1.5-hour Lake Barrine trail for a rejuvenating rainforest walk before heading back.

Transport and accommodation in Port Douglas

At just over three hour’s flight time from Melbourne, you could be enjoying your local flat white in the morning and squishing your toes in Port Douglas’ squeaky sand by the afternoon.

If you're looking to explore, renting a car, campervan or RV gives you the most freedom for travel around the area on your schedule. Alternatively, you can have it planned for you on an organised tour.

If you’re planning to stay local to Port Douglas, you can take a shuttle bus from Cairns Airport to many of the hotels, where Port Douglas has many types of accommodation to suit your budget and style. Book early, as it is a popular holiday destination.