A comprehensive and up-to-date travel guide to the best things to do in Port Douglas, Australia. Discover the best Port Douglas attractions, highlights and must-do activities for your next trip!
Port Douglas is a quieter northern neighbour to Cairns and situated at the point where two UNESCO World Heritage Listed wonders collide; the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.
There’s a million reasons why you should consider a trip to Far North Queensland. But, if you’re still tossing up whether you want to visit Port Douglas, let me convince you with this comprehensive list of things to do, see and enjoy in this beautiful slice of the Aussie tropics.
In this guide, I’ll begin by listing the best activities and things to do in Port Douglas. However, if you continue reading on, I’ve also written a comprehensive Port Douglas travel guide at the bottom of this post which answer all of your questions and give you some tips to prepare for your trip.
More Port Douglas: Where To Stay
21 Best Things to do in Port Douglas
1. Snorkel or Dive on the Great Barrier REef
A visit to Port Douglas and the Far North tropics just isn’t complete without witnessing the awe of the Great Barrier Reef. In fact, this world wonder tops most lists of what to do in Port Douglas and Cairns.
Due to the close proximity, visitors can book snorkelling or diving boats to the reef and be in the water within an hour! Below I’ve linked to the two best Great Barrier Reef tours from Port Douglas. They both offer the best bang-for-buck on a full-day dive or snorkel trip with lunch.
Check price & availability: Outer Great Barrier Reef With Calypso ($275)
Check price & availability: Outer Great Barrier Reef With Silversonic ($255)
2. Hike the Flagstaff Hill Trail
The Flagstaff Hill trail is a scenic 1.5 kilometre coastal track connecting Four Mile Beach to Rex Smeal Park.
This track offers some of the best coastal views you’ll find in Port Douglas. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see all the way out to the Low Isles. The highlight of this short hike is the Flagstaff Hill lookout, which offers excellent coastal vistas out to the Coral Sea and over Four Mile Beach.
If you’re looking for things to do in Port Douglas for free, definitely add this short hike to your sunset itinerary!
3. Experience the Daintree
The Daintree Rainforest is the oldest surviving rainforest in the world. It’s a true world icon that is now managed by the traditional owners, the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people.
There are many walking tracks, freshwater swimming holes, mind-blowing waterfalls and abundant, unique wildlife to discover in the Daintree. A popular spot to visit from Port Douglas is the nearby Mossman Gorge. However, this is a little popular and to me doesn’t offer the raw serenity of the Daintree.
Instead, consider the full-day trip to the Daintree below to see more of this incredible place with the help of a local guide.
Book: Daintree Full Day Tour
4. Head out to the Low Isles
The Low Isles is a small set of islets just off the coast of Port Douglas. Full or half-day snorkelling trips are one of the most popular and best things to do in Port Douglas as it is more affordable than longer trips to the outer reef.
Visitors are free to explore the island, which has a resident lighthouse and white-sand shores. Snorkelling is also great at Low Isles, just admittedly not as mind-blowing as what you’ll find at some of the outer reef sites.
Read More: Complete Guide to The Low Isles
Port Douglas is an epic adventure-travel destination. Make sure you’ve covered with travel insurance that covers adventure activities, I always use World Nomads.
5. Visit Kuranda
Kuranda is a small rainforest market town located just over an hour south of Port Douglas. Although this quaint little town is much smaller than Cairns and Port Douglas, there’s plenty to do here including witnessing the famous Barron Falls and the iconic Skyrail.
The main attraction is the market in the rainforest, as well as several wildlife attractions and of course, the Kuranda Scenic Rail.
Check price from Port Douglas: Kuranda Rainforest Full-Day Trip
Read More: Visitors Guide to Kuranda
6. River Drift Snorkelling
One of the most unusual things to do in Port Douglas is the River Drift Snorkelling activity. This includes a pickup from Port Douglas to a guided river drift tour on a float, where you can spot wild freshwater rainforest species including fish and turtles.
This amazing eco-immersion adventure can be fast and exciting or slow and relaxing, depending of course, on the weather and current. If you’re wondering what to do in Port Douglas to cool off, this is a good pick!
7. Spot a Wild Crocodile
The Far North Tropics is home to the largest and most dangerous crocodile; the saltwater (estuarine) crocodile. It’s important to be aware of crocs when picking places to swim. Luckily, there are always croc-safe signs warning tourists not to swim in known crocodile habitats.
However, if spotting a wild crocodile is on your list of top things to do in Port Douglas and the tropics, then I’ve got you covered.
The most full-proof way to spot a croc is to head to the Daintree River and jump on an electric-motored boat with Solar Whisper. These guys run crocodile tours every few hours, which is perfect if you’re waiting for the ferry over to Cape Trib.
Otherwise, you could also check out the newly constructed Mowbray River Footbridge, just outside of Port Douglas. Here, you’ll often see crocodiles cruising by at low tide.
Book: Daintree Crocodile Tour ($30 online)
Read More: Best Crocodile Spotting Tour (Review)
8. Road trip to Cape Tribulation
Cape Tribulation is one of my favourite spots in the Far North. This incredible place is the official meeting point of the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.
There’s plenty of things to do here, but you’ll need to plan a road-trip or a full-day organised tour (quite affordable) from Port Douglas as it’ll take roughly 2 hours to get here.
If you take the road trip option, you’re in for a treat. The road from Cairns to Cape Tribulation is one of Australia’s most scenic roads!
Read More: Visitor’s Guide to Cape Tribulation
Read More: Where to Stay in Cape Trib
9. Photograph the World’s most Scenic Tropical Chapel
Just by the waterfront off Wharf Street you will find what I believe to be one of the most picturesque tropical churches in the world.
The St Mary’s By the Sea Chapel first opened in 1881 but was destroyed by a terrible cyclone in 1911. It has since been restored and relocated nearby the Sugar Wharf in Port Douglas. You’ll find it surrounded by tropical palms and gardens, making it a great spot for photographers to snap some photos for sunrise or sunset.
10. Experience the Great Barrier Reef From Above
One of the best ways to experience the wonder of the Great Barrier Reef is to see its immense size and beauty from the air. If you’ve never taken a helicopter or scenic flight before, then Port Douglas is arguably one of the best places to do it!
The Great Barrier Reef surrounding Port Douglas has several sandy cays, which are essentially small sandbar islands surrounded by coral reefs.
11. Go On A Hot Air Balloon Ride
Easily one of the most epic things to do in Port Douglas and the Tropical North is a Hot Air Balloon Ride in the beautiful Tablelands region! This was one of my favourite activities and the first time that I’d even tried hot air ballooning!
Trips depart from Cairns and Port Douglas with pickup nice and early to ensure a sunrise liftoff! This is a great idea for what to do in Port Douglas if you’re looking to make the most of your morning and tick off an epic bucket-list item in the Far North!
Book Now: Hot Air Balloon From Port Douglas
Read about my trip: Hot Air Balloon FNQ – Everything You Need to Know
12. Go Hiking
Some of the best off-the-beaten path adventures can be found on the trails surrounding Port Douglas and Cairns. There are several epic hikes to check out within a short drive from Port Douglas. Check out my comprehensive hiking guide to the Tropical North to find some hidden gems for yourself.
Otherwise, some of my favourite hikes that I think you should do near Port Douglas are:
13. Walk the Length of Four Mile Beach
Four Mile Beach Port Douglas’ very own, palm-lined white sand beach. In my opinion, this beach is one of the most scenic beach spots in the Far Norrth. There is a flagged area where you can swim safely and a stinger net during the summer months.
14. Check Out the Port Douglas Markets
The famous Port Douglas markets are on every single Sunday and draw crowds from all over. You’ll find it just off Wharf Street.
The Port Douglas markets are a good choice for things to do in Port Douglas for free on a Sunday morning. Here, you can browse hand-crafted art, shop for fresh produce or just grab a healthy smoothie bowl.
15. Sling a Hammock at Rex Smeal Park
Rex Smeal Park is the famous palm-liked foreshore you’ve probably already seen several times on Instagram.
This iconic spot is perfect to relax, watch the sunset or even sling a hammock between the perfectly spaced palms.
16. Visit the Thala Resort Coconut Palm Field
More palms? The Thala Resort coconut palm reserve is located just a short drive south of Port Douglas and a worthy stop on the way to or from Cairns.
This reserve is open to the public and you can walk among the hundreds of palm trees or shoot some unique aerial shots from above if you have. a drone. Of course, the resort is also very famous in Far North Queensland and an excellent choice for where to stay between Cairns and Port Douglas.
Check price per night: Thala Beach Resort‘
17. Go Waterfall Chasing
Did you know that the Tropical North is Australia’s waterfall hotspot? There are dozens of epic rainforest waterfalls to explore in this area, each offering a perfect place to cool off in the heat. You’ll need a car to visit most of the falls from Port Douglas if you want to do so independently. Otherwise, book a waterfall the tour below for a full-day adventure from Port Douglas.
18. Enjoy a Sunset Catamaran Sail
Cheap and luxury aren’t typically two words that go hand in hand. However, on this rare occasion, they do!
One of the best luxury things to do in Port Douglas that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg is a sunset catamaran cruise! These trips are very popular and include a 1.5 hour sail on the Coral Sea with a complementary beer, wine or champagne.
Best of all, they only cost $70 per person!
Book: Sunset Catamaran Sail
19. Go Scuba Diving
If you’ve always wanted to try scuba diving one of the best places on earth to do it is on the Great Barrier Reef! There are several dive shops running courses for beginners as well as group dives for licensed divers. If you can, try to book a dive with a company that dives at the outer reef, as you’ll get a much better experience than shorter trips around the islands.
20. Road Trip to the Tablelands
The Tablelands Region is an often overlooked section of the Wet Tropics but I believe that a trip here should be on everyone’s list of things to do in Port Douglas and Cairns! In fact, many of the highlights, attractions and wild rainforest photos you’ve probably seen online already were taken in the Tablelands.
Some of my favourite adventures in this region include:
Book a day-trip instead: Atherton Tablelands Day Tour
21. Shaolin Sunset Sail
Wrapping up this list of things to do in Port Douglas is a fitting sunset activity that you probably wouldn’t expect to see in Queensland!
This Junk-style sailing vessel operates “Shaolin Sunset Sail” trips in Port Douglas almost every night. It’s perhaps one of the most unique attractions in Port Douglas but one that is very popular!
Book: Shaolin Sunset Sail
Port Douglas Travel Guide
I hope that list of attractions and must-do highlights has helped you plan some things to do in Port Douglas for your next visit!
Before you head off on your own adventures, check out this quick travel guide outlining a few useful things to know for your trip.
Where to Stay in Port Douglas
For travellers who still haven’t chosen a place to stay, you’ll do well to read my comprehensive accommodation guide. This covers the best areas and is a useful planning tool for grabbing a deal on a great place to stay.
Otherwise, here is a quick summary from that article with some suggestions.
Best 5-star Luxury Resort: Sheraton Grande Mirage
Highest value-for-money hotel: Oaks Resort
Great Hotel on Macrossan Street: Peninsula Boutique
Best Hotel on Four Mile Beach: Sheraton Grande Mirage
Best Backpacker Hostel: Dougies Backpackers
What is the Best Month to Visit Port Douglas?
The great thing about the hot tropics is that you can visit any time of the year and enjoy a great time! In saying that, it’s best to have a bit of an understanding about the seasons up here.
Dry Season: April to November
During this time, weather is usually dry and warm, averaging around 26-28 degrees Celcius. This is a great time to visit Port Douglas as there is less rain and there aren’t usually any dangerous stingers.
Wet Season: December to March
During these hot and wet summer months, Cairns can see tropical rainfall almost daily. The weather is noticeably hotter, averaging around 32 degrees. This is a great time to visit if you’d like to see the waterfalls in full-flow and you enjoy warm, tropical weather with a cool daily shower!
In my opinion, the best month to visit Port Douglas is October. During this month, the weather is usually very calm and warm, resulting in the best visibility out on the reef and the most days of sunshine!
Getting Around in Port Douglas & the Tropical North
Like most places in Australia, the best way to make the most out of the many epic things to do and see in Port Douglas is to have your own set of wheels. Of course, there are several tours and organised day-trips you can book if you’re using Port Douglas as a base. However, if you’re more into independent travel like myself, then renting a car is a good idea.
Below are some resources that’ll prove helpful in saving a few bucks on your rental in the Tropics.
- RentalCars.com – a rental car comparison site. Great way to compare rates and availability across companies.
- Car Next Door – sharing economy car rental app. I usually use this if I need to rent a car anywhere as it always ends up cheaper. Use my link for $15 off your first booking.
- Spaceships Vans – this one’s for the backpackers and budget travellers. One of the most affordable camper van options in Australia. I’ve had great experiences with them in New Zealand and Australia and always recommend them.
Should I stay in port Douglas or Cairns?
This is an age-old question for visitors to the Far North and undoubtedly a valid one. Both towns are the two most popular bases up here, with loads of things to do within a short drive of both Port Douglas and Cairns.
Generally speaking, Cairns offers more variety in terms of activities and organised boat trips to the islands and the outer reef. However, Port Douglas is a quieter option that is popular with families booking luxury resorts, as well as backpackers who want to spend a bit more time exploring the region.
Compare: Where to Stay in Cairns: Best Areas
Alternative: Stay in Cape Tribulation
More Things to know
Wrapping up this Port Douglas Travel Guide, here are some last few hints and tips you should know before getting up here!
- Stinger season – Highest risk of dangerous marine stingers fall within the months of November to May.
- Be Croc-wise – Saltwater crocodiles inhabit the estuarine waters surrounding Port Douglas. Keep an eye out for signs.
- Renting a car is a good idea – I’ve mentioned this above but the Hot Tropics region is huge and there is so much to explore! Having your own transport will make your visit just that much more epic!
- Make sure to pack for the tropics – You’re probably not going to need a jacket or jeans! I’ve written a useful packing list for Cairns which should prove useful for Port Douglas as well.
More Far North Queensland Travel Guides and Adventure Inspiration
And that’s a wrap for this epic travel guide to the best things to do in Port Douglas! I really hope that you got something out of it! If you think of something that you think deserves a spot on the list, please let. meand other travellers know in the comments.
Also, while you’re here on my blog, why not check out some of my other guides and articles to adventures in the region. I’ve spent several months exploring this beautiful part of Australia and I guarantee you’ll find something you didn’t know existed!