Monday, September 10, 2018

Day 3246 - Travel Tips for Port Douglas

Today let's check out Far North Queensland

The view as you fly into Cairns - Jurassic World anyone?

For anyone planning a trip to Far North Queensland I thoroughly recommend you consider Port Douglas.  

Despite the fact that I jumped at every rustle of leaves and ran from every log on the beach, then cursed when the end of week came and I didn't actually see a crocodile,  I can totally recommend this quiet seaside destination.  It has the perfect combination of relaxation, views, good food and adventure. 

We headed to FNQ in July just outside of school holiday period.  It was the perfect time as there were no crowds to contend with and the weather was picture perfect every single day. Goldie Locks would have been in her element - not too hot and not too cold.  At 26 degrees with minimal humidity it was just right.

There's plenty to do in Port Douglas, especially if you have access to a car.  We flew into Cairns and grabbed a car at the airport.  Having the vehicle meant we could explore all the wonderful things the area has to offer.  

With a combination of pool side relaxation, beach walks, a visit to the Daintree, driving through cane fields, finding fun eateries, going croc hunting and snorkeling the reef, I can safely say that six days goes a long way in Port Douglas.

Here are my Top 6 things to do in Port Douglas:

(1)  Enjoy the drive from Cairns

It's a one hour drive from Cairns to Port Douglas along 70km of the Captain Cook seaside highway.  It's an incredibly picturesque drive and I would definitely recommend you stop and take in some of the beaches along the way.

Turn the one hour drive into a three hour adventure via stops at Trinity Beach, Clifton Beach, Palm Cove, Ellis Beach and Rex Lookout.

The Rex Lookout is essential (at a minimum) to take photos of the gorgeous stretch of ocean.  Keep an eye on the sky above you to capture the hang gliders that frequent the area. Book in to fly if you're after some adventure. 

Rex Lookout
Organise a meal on your trip and stop at the Ellis Beach Bar and Grill.  It's a saloon style eatery surrounded by mountainous forest right across the road from the very popular Ellis Beach.  

Ellis Beach Bar and Grill

Note:  Check the stinger alerts at Ellis Beach before you step into the water. 

Ellis Beach

(2) Book into the Pools Resort 

We chose the Pools Resort for our Port Douglas adventure for affordability, space, a self contained kitchen, personal laundry, secure car parking, gorgeous pool (with the choice of full sun), beautiful mountain views and Instagram worthy photos.

The view from our balcony at the Pools Resort
Having multiple bedrooms, a couple of TVs and the ability to cook and store our food is important to us when travelling.  The Pools Resort offered all that with the bonus of having a pool area that screams 5 star resort (without the 5 star price tag).  

It was a ten minute drive to downtown Port Douglas which is fine when you've got a car but could be tricky if you're on foot. There are public buses, plus a little tourist train, as well as taxis and (at the time of writing this post) two Uber drivers in PD.  

(3)  Make sure you visit the Daintree

With the Daintree National Forest just a couple of hours away it's an essential must see tour if you're heading to FNQ for the first time.  As a World Heritage Listed site and the world's oldest living rainforest at an estimated 180 million years of age, it's a sight to be behold and nurture. 

(4)  Take a jet boat out to the reef

Back when we visited Gladstone we checked out the Great Barrier Reef at its southern most tip via the little seaside town of 1770.  It was a bucket list item that was very keenly checked off.  

Being at the northern end meant of course we needed to do it all again.  Rather than meandering to the coral wonderland we chose to take a jet boat tour for a quick 40 minute trip (minus the sea sickness) for a good 90 minutes of targeted snorkeling.  

For around $100 per person we took the Reef Sprinter Tour Option A that had us travelling at 80km/hour to the Outer Reef just off Low Isles where we saw colourful coral, fish of all sizes and sea turtles.  Some of the bigger fish even ate out of our hands.  

It was a personalised experience with only 14 people on board and two instructors meaning. All of our equipment was provided as part of the fee including the snorkels, goggles, flippers and wet suit. When we reached the reef there was an option of a glass bottomed boat for those who weren't comfortable getting in the water.  And for those of you with a bladder like mine, the speed boat even had a toilet.  

(5) Go on a croc tour

When in crocodile infested waters, one must go on a croc tour.  Given I didn't actually see any crocs prowling the beaches, jumping out of the bushes, stalking the golf course or sliding into our resort pool*, I had to pay to get my crocodile adventure.

We chose the Lady Douglas River Cruise which included a paddle style boat tour with drinks and nibbles at sunset.  

Our captain gave us a very entertaining commentary covering Port Douglas history as well as fun info about the rivers, mangroves and crocodiles. He was able to point out the crocs we couldn't see via their beady eyes peaking out of the mud and mangroves along the water's edge. 

It cost us $35 each which included one drink each and a range of chips and dips.  Other drinks were available to purchase, plus the tour took us outside the river to the harbor for a look around the marina which is truly beautiful at all times of day.  

(6) Find fun places to eat

We cruised the eateries around Macrossan Street as well as the ones at the Reef Marina.  We also found a couple down by the Pools Resort which are worthy of a mention.  These are the top four family favourites: 

  • Choos Choos Cafe at St Crispins was our favourite for breakfast and coffee. Set on the golf course it was only a 5 minute walk from our apartment. Choos Choos can also be found at the Marina. 
  • Barbados at the Marina was a fun spot for cocktails particularly at sunset as the sun went down in front of us over the palm trees in the harbor. It's not often you get to see a sunset like that on the East Coast of Australia.  
  • The Beach Shack restaurant and bar with its sand covered floors and very beach vibe was a great space for a family pizza and other menu delights
  • Hemingway's Brewery right on the wharf at the Marina gave us great views of all the boats coming and going, plus free live music and many different ales to sample.  It was family friendly with plenty of space for kids to stretch their legs if you have little ones. 

Barbados cocktail lounge Port Douglas at sunset 

Choo Choos at St Crispins 

Choo Choos at St Crispins

Hemingways Brewery at the Port Douglas Marina

We were only in Port Douglas for six nights yet we managed to see so much and still fit in a tonne of relaxation. Honestly, by the time we left we felt like we'd been away for ten.

It's a great part of our world and one I can definitely recommend.

Have you been to FNQ?

What's your Port Douglas travel tip(s)?

Where in the world have you been recently? 

* Apparently this never happens but I have a very vivid imagination and seen far too many disaster movies so was always on high alert. 


  1. We visited Airlie Beach and loved our trip out to snorkel on the Barrier Reef and a river cruise to see crocs . I am keen to get back up there and see more of the area.

    1. I almost booked Airlie Beach, then the timing, cost of travel, hotels and number of FF points needed ended up swinging in PD's favour.

  2. What a beautiful part of Australia, Leanne! Thanks for sharing the insider info!

    SSG xxx

    1. It's a great spot. Little SSG would love the ziplining through the Daintree.

  3. Our last family holiday was to the Gold Coast. It looks gorgeous further up north, I'd love to get up there and see it. I do enjoy seeing more of Australia. Fantastic write up Leanne :)

    1. Thanks Alicia. It's definitely the furthest up the east coast I've ever been. I, like you, hadn't been further than GC and then Noosa. In more recent years we've been inching our way up the coast little by little when on holidays.

  4. Looks like such a gorgeous part of the world! Sounds like the perfect time of year to go as well, before it gets too hot!

    1. Exactly. I can't imagine how hot (and humid) it gets in the summer months. Eek!

  5. I've never been! It looks spectacular!

    1. I had not been either. Other than flying to Darwin for work once, it's the furthest north I've ever been in Australia. Really pretty. Wasn't that keen on Cairns though ...

  6. I was just saying to my husband the other day that it's been way too long since we last went to Port Douglas. It's such a beautiful part of the world and as you show, there is so much to see and do. We are usually without a car so prefer to stay closer to town but that pool looks SO inviting!

    1. AMAZING pool, but definitely too far from town without a car. It's right at the southern end of the little train track. Choo Choos is actually the railway station at the start of the train trip up into town.

  7. The speed boat tour sound really great. I'd totally do that.

    1. We've done the slow trip and the speedy trip. The speedy trip was fantastic. Still see plenty, but you get the exhilaration and fun of the speedboat with the added bonus that you get there quickly which gives you the rest of the day to do other things (or go splat by the pool like we did)

  8. I have had three holidays there and it is a firm favourite. Once we stayed in Port Douglas but we chose a place (unbeknowns) with no lift and to get up to our apartment with bags was awful. Nevertheless it was in town so I walked to things. I stayed in Palm Cove the other times by myself and enjoyed having a car (with a sunroof!) and I recall that drive from Cairns along the water of the Captain Cook Hwy with great affection. I went to Green Island to see the reef even though I went in a submersible. I think your plan to go out by fast boat was a good one. Thanks for linking up for #lifethisweek & next week's optional prompt is: Have You Ever...? Denyse

    1. I think it may have been you that suggested to do the slow drive from Cairns to PD to take in the beauty. I listened!

  9. This is very interesting Leanne as I haven't been that far north yet but I'me very keen to do so. Your tips are very useful s thanks for sharing. #lifethisweek

  10. I have never been but I can safely say you have totally sold me! I want to go right now!

  11. On my bucket list for sure. I've only been as far north as Mackay (where hubster grew up) - we did have a stopover in Cairns on our way back from Bali last year but all we saw was the airport so it doesn't really coutn!


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