Port Douglas is a beachside resort town, only a 1-hour drive north of Cairns. Ideally positioned along Far North Queensland’s picturesque coastline, Port Douglas offers breathtaking coastal views, pristine sandy beaches, lush green rainforests, and convenient access to the iconic Great Barrier Reef. A great selection of fashion boutiques, waterfront bars, and fancy restaurants can also be found along the palm-fringed streets in Port Douglas. Yet, Port Douglas still reserves its unique laid-back coastal vibe.
Compared to Cairns, Port Douglas provides better coastal sceneries & easier access to the UNESCO-listed Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef. However, it remains a lesser-known place, especially for international visitors. This is largely due to its more remote location and a lack of a direct airport.
Although these have made Port Douglas severely underrated as a holiday destination, it has been a great help in keeping Port Douglas a hidden gem.
Since many visitors tend to visit Port Douglas as a day trip from Cairns, I have put together this detailed 1-Day Port Douglas Itinerary to help plan your day trip to Port Douglas.
That said, with the incredible natural scenery and laid-back coastal vibes in Port Douglas, I highly suggest spending at least a night in Port Douglas. So you can chill at its pristine beaches, check out its iconic attractions, and soak in its immense beauty.
Where to Stay in Port Douglas
Being a resort town, Port Douglas is not short of hotels and holiday resorts. That said, I found the accommodations in Port Douglas are more expensive when compared with places such as Cairns. This may also be part of the reason why most people tend to stay in Cairns instead.
Here are a few accommodation options in Port Douglas & you may want to check out:
- Much more affordable when compared to a lot of other accommodations in Port Douglas.
- Trade-off: a few minutes’ drive out of Port Douglas town centre.
- Located in the heart of Port Douglas & at a very reasonable price.
- It is where I stayed in Port Douglas & there was nothing to fault on this stay. I will happily stay at Port Douglas Motel again on my future visits to Port Douglas.
- Convenient access to Four Mile Beach & a range of facilities.
- Offers both one-bedroom suites & two-bedroom suites
- Luxurious Villas, only a short walk from Four Mile Beach.
- A great selection of villa configurations, from one-bedroom villas to up to five-bedroom villas! Perfect for large families and groups.
- 5-star resort hotel.
- The only beachfront resort on Four Mile Beach.
- Offers its own tropical gardens, saltwater lagoon pools, and golf course.
Four Mile Beach
Four Mile Beach is a massive stretch of wide sandy beach that runs along the eastern edge of Port Douglas. As the name suggests, it stretched around 4 miles from one end to the other.
Being a flat sandy beach with beautiful palm-tree fringed beachfront areas, a morning stroll along the pristine Four Mile Beach makes the perfect start to your Port Douglas day trip!
Due to the risks of dangerous marine stingers, especially from November to May, and the deadly saltwater crocodiles, especially near saltwater inlets or rivers, swimming along the beaches in Port Douglas can be unsafe. So make sure you observe the signage along the beaches and waterways in Port Douglas.
When swimming in Four Mile Beach, make sure you swim between the flags where the Surf Life Saving Club is located near the northern end of Four Mile Beach. A swimming enclosure is typically maintained to provide a relatively safe swimming environment for the public & it is, in most cases, patrolled by the local Surf Life Saving Club. Conveniently located near the northern end of Four Mile Beach, this section is also easily accessible on foot from nearby Macrossan Street.
Sun lounge hires are available near the Surf Life Saving Club at Four Mile Beach. So you can easily spend half a day relaxing on the beach here if you are interested.
Right at the northern end of Four Mile Beach, you will find a lush green headland, Flagstaff Hill. It is the starting point of the famous Flagstaff Hill Walking Trail. If desired, you can join it for a morning stroll, but I suggest a sunset walk for better views and photos (it will be covered in depth later in this article).
After a morning stroll and relaxing at Four Mile Beach, why not head to Macrossan Street for a delicious brunch and some retail therapy?
Macrossan Street is the Main Street in Port Douglas town centre. It is also where most of Port Douglas’ unique boutiques and fabulous eateries are located. It is conveniently positioned only a brief stroll away from Four Mile Beach.
Along Macrossan Street, you can find a great selection of cafes and restaurants specialising in various cuisines. Many lively bars and pubs can also be found along Macrossan Street, especially near the buzzing Port Douglas Sugar Wharf. You can even find some interesting historic pubs here, such as the Buchanan’s Court House Hotel, corner of Macrossan Street and Wharf Street.
A vast selection of locally-owned boutiques and art galleries can also be located along the vibrant Macrossan Street. They are perfect for finding some unique fashion pieces and a few quirky souvenirs to bring home.
Port Douglas Market
If you happen to be visiting Port Douglas on a Sunday, be sure to check out the bustling Port Douglas Market, located at ANZAC Park, right down the northern end of Macrossan Street.
Port Douglas Market is held on Sundays from 8 am to just after mid-day. It offers many local stalls selling hand-made arts, crafts, and jewellery. Fresh fruits and vegetables, refreshing fruit juice and smoothies, and delicious coffee and baked goods can also be found at Port Douglas Market.
With its gorgeous waterfront locations and relaxing vibe, Port Douglas Market is undoubtedly a must-visit when in Port Douglas on a Sunday morning!
Mossman Gorge is a lush rainforest-covered area, only a 20-minute drive from Port Douglas. With an outstanding collection of significant native flora and fauna, Mossman Gorge has been recognised as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Wet Tropics area since 1988.
Within the purposely built boardwalks and walking trails in Mossman Gorge, visitors can easily stroll through its rainforest canopies, check out its diverse flora and fauna, and take a refreshing swim in its picturesque rock pools, all by taking a convenient shuttle bus from Mossman Gorge Visitor Centre.
The shuttle bus operates back and forth between the visitor centre and the heart of Mossman Gorge from 8 am to 5 pm at 15 minutely intervals. It can be accessed from right next to the Mossman Gorge Visitor Centre.
A return ticket for Mossman Gorge Shuttle Bus was AUD 13 per adult when I visited. It took about 5 minutes for a one-way ride between Mossman Gorge Visitor Centre and the heart of Mossman Gorge. No additional entrance fee was required for visiting the Mossman Gorge itself.
When I visited, you could also drive into Mossman Gorge before 6 am or after 6 pm. But those hours will be too dark and non-practical for visiting Mossman Gorge. So the shuttle bus will most likely be your best friend when visiting Mossman Gorge.
Hiking into Mossman Gorge from the visitor centre is doable. I did see a young couple walking along the road between the visitor centre and Mossman Gorge. That said, this is an uphill walk and can be pretty boring too. So I personally will not go there on foot.
Once arrive at the heart of Mossman Gorge, you will find a 300-metre elevated boardwalk. It takes you through a dense rainforest to a lookout platform, where you will be grated with a spectacular view of the Mossman River. Picturesque rock pools can also be found along the walk for a cool swim if desired.
From the lookout, you can either return to the shuttle bus via the same track or start a 2.4-kilometre circular walk to explore more of the rainforest and waterways of Mossman Gorge. Compared to the well-maintain boardwalk, the longer circular walk can get a bit muddy and slippery, so make sure you have the appropriate footwear.
If you intend to take both the boardwalk and the longer circular walk, plan at least 2 hours to visit Mossman Gorge (depending on individual fitness level). This includes the time spent on the shuttle bus and the walking trails. If you also want to swim in one of the stunning rock pools in Mossman Gorge, you will undoubtedly need to add more time for this as well.
Flagstaff Hill Walking Trail
Flagstaff Hill Walking Trail is an approximately 1-kilometre coastal walk along the headland between Four Mile Beach and Rex Smeal Park. It offers an unparalleled panoramic view across the Coral Sea, with the beautiful Low Isles island in the distance, Snapper Island to its north, and the expansive Four Mile Beach to its south.
Various vantage points can be found along Flagstaff Walking Trail with an eye-catching Skydeck near Four Mile Beach. The entire walk should only take about 30 minutes one way at a moderate pace.
A short sidewalk is available just behind the Cruise Ship Viewing Platform. It consists of a set of stairs to bring you to the highest point of this headland, Flagstaff Hill Lookout, for another impressive view of Four Mile Beach and the lush green rainforests in the distance. A detour to Flagstaff Hill Lookout from Flagstaff Hill Walking Trail should take an additional 10 minutes, depending on fitness level.
Other than a short climb near Four Mile Beach and the detour to Flagstaff Hill Lookout, the rest of Flagstaff Hill Walking Trail is relatively easy, with only a few gentle uphill and downhill sections.
In fact, I was in my sandals when taking this coastal walk because I did this walk straight after spending time on Four Mile Beach. That said, it certainly wasn’t the most comfortable footwear choice & I do suggest wearing appropriate walking shoes for this walk.
With the cool ocean breeze and the entire track beautifully lined with tall trees, walking along Flagstaff Hill Walking Trail should be quite manageable and enjoyable in most cases. That said, I suggest taking this walk in the late afternoon or just before sunset. So you can avoid the scorching sun and have one of the best views of the day.
Rex Smeal Park
Rex Smeal Park is located at the northern end of Flagstaff Hill Walking Trail. It is one of my favourite places in Port Douglas, especially near sunset!
Rex Smeal Park is a peaceful public park with soft bowling green near Port Douglas Marina. With tall palm trees fringing the waterfront and a view of the lush rainforest-covered mountain ranges in the distance, Rex Smeal Park is simply a slice of a coastal paradise.
It is the perfect spot to relax on a hammock, watching boats coming in and out of the marina while hearing the sounds of ocean waves.
With a small playground nearby, Rex Smeal Park also makes an excellent spot for families with kids to relax!
Flagstaff Hill Lighthouse
Flagstaff Hill Lighthouse is a small lighthouse on Flagstaff Hill. it can be seen from various locations along the Flagstaff Hill Walking Trail, especially when walking from Four Mile Beach to Rex Smeal Park.
Tucked within a group of residential buildings, right behind Flagstaff Hill Walking Trail, there is no direct access to Flagstaff Hill Lighthouse from the walking trail itself. You will need to get to Rex Smeal Park first before taking a short uphill walk along Wharf Street. From there, the lighthouse will be only a short walk away on your lefthand side.
From my memory, the lighthouse was fairly small, although it looked very tall from Flagstaff Hill Walking Trail. But it does provide a decent view of the gorgeous coastline and the stunning Coral Sea. Well hidden from most visitors, Flagstaff Hill Lighthouse is also a great place to watch the world go by.
Port Douglas Sugar Wharf
Port Douglas Sugar Wharf is a picturesque wharf, only a short walk from Rex Smeal Park.
As the name suggests, Port Douglas Sugar Wharf was once a buzzing wharf for exporting sugar from this sugar cane-growing region. With the cessation of sugar export, Port Douglas Sugar Wharf has been gradually transformed into an Instagram-able spot, primarily used for private functions and exhibitions.
With its perfect locations, the sugar wharf makes a fantastic fishing spot for locals and visitors alike.
I find Port Douglas Sugar Wharf the best place to finish a day in Port Douglas. The beautiful wharf looks surreal during the sunset. The soft grassy area next to the pier offers an excellent spot for a picnic while admiring the sunset over the beautiful Coral Sea.
Near Port Douglas Sugar Wharf is a cute little chapel, St Mary’s by the Sea. Initially built in 1880 but has been destroyed by cyclones several times, the current chapel we see in the photo here was rebuilt in 1988.
With a dreamy white colour & nestled along this palm tree fringed waterfront area, this heritage-listed chapel also adds character to this idyllic waterfront area. So make sure you check it out too.
Day Trips from Port Douglas
In addition to its incredible nature sceneries, Port Douglas offers convenient access to many Far North Queensland attractions. These places all make fabulous additions to a Port Douglas visit.
If your travel schedule allows, I highly suggest visiting all these places for a better feel of the fascinating Far North Queensland.
Here is a list of my highly recommended places around Port Douglas. They are all conveniently located within driving distance & will make excellent day trip options when staying in Port Douglas.
Daintree Rainforest is home to one of the world’s oldest surviving tropical rainforests & part of the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Wet Tropics, thanks to the diverse flora and fauna it offers. With the iconic Great Barrier Reef fringing the coast of the Daintree Rainforest, Daintree Rainforest also provides an idyllic coastline & is famous for being where the ‘Rainforest Meets the Reef‘.
Located only 50 kilometres north of Port Douglas, a drive between Port Douglas and Daintree Rainforest only takes about 45 minutes one way. Making it a convenient day trip destination from Port Douglas.
Although not an isolated island, Daintree Rainforest is only accessible via ferries from Daintree River Crossing. Public transport is very limited in this region too. So the only two options for visiting the impressive Daintree Rainforest are by car or guided tours.
Various car hire companies are available in Port Douglas. From my experience, East Coast Car Rentals usually offers a more competitive pricing point; Budget and Hertz tend to have a lot more pick-up locations & more vehicles to select from.
If you are not interested in driving along the winding roads in Daintree Rainforest, guided tours, such as this Full-Day Daintree Rainforest Tour, are available from Port Douglas. It can be a great alternative to a self-driving day trip.
Great Barrier Reef
With the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef fringing the coast of Far North Queensland, a visit to Port Douglas is incomplete without a visit to the iconic Great Barrier Reef.
To most of us, visiting the Great Barrier Reef requires a guided snorkelling or diving tour. Various companies in and around Port Douglas offer guided tours of the Great Barrier Reef. Here are a few options you may wish to check out:
- A full-day cruise tour to Agincourt Reef.
- A choice of snorkel, scuba-dive, or both.
- Buffet lunch included.
- A small group tour with a maximum of 12 people, so you can have a more personalised experience when exploring the Great Barrier Reef.
- Flotation devices & life jackets provided.
- Admire the impressive aerial views of the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest.
- Explore the incredible Great Barrier Reef from above and below the water.
- Snorkelling equipment provided.
Only a short 40 minutes scenic drive along the breathtaking Pacific Coast, south of Port Douglas, you can find another coastal paradise, Palm Cove.
Similar to Port Douglas, Palm Cove offers a massive stretch of wide sandy beach. What makes Palm Cove unique is that it has a buzzing esplanade parallel to the peaceful Palm Cove Beach. With tall palm trees densely fringing the beach and its pedestrian walkway, the beachfront area at Palm Cove is just perfect for a laidback holiday getaway.
A picturesque jetty, Palm Cove Jetty, is located at the northern end of Palm Cove Beach. It offers an excellent fishing spot for locals and visitors. It also provides a closer view of the beautiful offshore islands and reefs nearby.
Many beachfront restaurants and resort hotels are available along Palm Cove’s vibrant esplanade. Picnic facilities, public toilets, and caravan parks can be found along the beachfront. Kids’ playgrounds are available along the foreshore walkway as well.
In addition to Palm Cove itself, the coastal drive between Port Douglas and Palm Cove is an attraction in its own right.
This heritage-listed coastal drive hugs the spectacular Pacific Coast and the iconic Great Barrier Reef. It offers views of the alluring turquoise ocean with contrasting lush green mountain ranges. Various stopping bays and lookouts, such as the famous Rex Lookout, can be found along this winding drive, allowing visitors to admire its breathtaking coastal views at their own pace.
Kuranda is a beautiful mountainous village nestled along the impressive Barron River. It is only just over 1 hour’s drive south of Port Douglas.
Nestled within an ancient rainforest, Kuranda offers a variety of walking trails for exploring the surrounding rainforests and waterfalls. Being a well-developed tourist destination, you can also find a range of wildlife sanctuaries, explore local Aboriginal culture and history, and check out some unique local markets here at Kuranda.
Scenic Skyrail Cableway and Railway services are available at Kuranda, giving visitors a memorable Kuranda experience and some of the best views of the impressive Barron Gorge.
Guided Kuranda tours are available from Port Douglas, so you can relax and enjoy the trip without the hassles of organising the trip yourself. Here are a few guided Kuranda tours which you may be interested in.
- Full-day Kuranda tour from Port Douglas.
- Enjoy a thrilling ride on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and Scenic Railway.
- Adrenaline-pumped half-day water rafting tour along the Barron River.
- Small group tour to explore both Kuranda and Palm Cove in one day.