Port Douglas is No. 3 on Australian Traveller magazine’s list of 100 Best Towns in Australia.
On the Queen’s birthday weekend I went to Port Doug with my boyfriend – we booked a package holiday – something I’ve not really done before – the package part, not the holiday 🙂
It seemed to cover what we needed; flights, accommodation, airport transfers, breakfast included and a cocktail on arrival (yay!) – but handing over your travel plans to someone else can be risky, and we won’t be doing it again in a hurry!
We were jammed into tiny seats on a budget airline (my boyfriend is 6’3), ended up wasting precious hours waiting for the transfer shuttle bus, and also got stung $90 for not having booked any checked in luggage (to be fair my bf thinks that might have been his oversight though).
We managed to put all that aside though, and had a super fun, relaxing weekend away….
We stayed at Portsea Mantra which is 2 mins to the beach and a handy 10 mins walk to town, we were happy with the accommodation and the location. (Port Douglas is a total resort town with options to suit every budget – the resorts line the main road into town – you’ll never be short of a place to stay!)
Portsea’s swimming pool lagoon is a kids dream, with a slide, waterfall and a big crocodile to scare them silly. Happily there’s also swim up bar to keep the adults entertained! You can hire bikes from the front desk ($15 for half a day), or book a massage at a time that suits (one hour for $89). We did both, and found the staff were really helpful and cheery, especially Kiwi Sally.
Port Douglas is a small seaside resort town with a resident population of around 3000. What makes this place so special is that the town is nestled between two World Heritage areas – the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest – so there’s HEAPS to do!
We joined Daintree Discovery Tours for an afternoon trip to Mossman Gorge ($95). Garry (with two ‘r’s’) picked us up from our hotel and drove us to the Daintree River to go croc spotting amongst the mangroves. We putted around on a little boat for an hour and saw 3 of the big beasties, and we learned why mangroves are such an ecological treasure – scientists have now discovered they absorb more carbon than a dry forest, and about 50 times faster!
For afternoon tea we tried some local Daintree tea and damper scones, then went for a short walk to see stunning Mossman Gorge. Giant boulders were scattered across the river, which cut its way through 2000 year old rainforest. It was so beautiful, I took a million photos!
Some of us were brave enough to have a swim!
The following day we joined Sailaway for their ‘snorkel island sunset’ tour to Low Isle ($225), a picture perfect tropical island complete with historic lighthouse (in 1928 the world’s first detailed scientific study of a coral reef took place here).
Although the day was a bit overcast (and not at all like the picture above) there was plenty of wind to fill the sails and the 52 foot catamaran really scooted along. So nice being on a sail boat again!
Even though they told us the water would be warm, I put on a wetsuit, and I’m so glad I did as I wouldn’t have lasted long in the water without it! We followed our reef guide, snorkelling amongst the coral bombes and fish (there are 600 types of coral on the Great Barrier Reef and 1600 types of fish!).
For me the highlight was seeing a big ol’ turtle peering up at us from his snug hole in the rock. And the HUGE giant clams were incredible, with bright purple lips big enough to eat you! I was so disappointed I didn’t have an underwater camera with me, we wanted to hire one but unfortunately they had run out.
Back in Port Doug, town was pretty quiet most of the time, but it did get livelier on Saturday night with lots of people out enjoying the bars and restaurants. We had dinner at a Thai restaurant called Siam by the Sea, their grilled king scallops with tamarind sauce and cucumber salsa were delicious.
During our stay we also enjoyed calamari at the popular local boat club The Tin Shed
We hired bikes to visit the lovely old church St Mary’s by the Sea, which has a huge window that overlooks the Coral Sea. We also rode to the Lookout which has a view out over the famous 4 mile beach.
Our trip was four days, but taking out the travel time it really only left us with two days – so I’d love to head back again to do some more exploring – there’s so much to do there! Next time I would stay in Cairns the first night, then hire a car and drive up to Port Douglas the next day.
My Port Douglas travel tips and my list for next time:
- Port Douglas is a one hour drive from Cairns, make sure you do the drive during daylight hours as the road is quite spectacular.
- If you’re in town on a Sunday check out the local markets.
- We got chatting to a local hotel owner over dinner and I asked her if Cooktown was worth a visit, she said yes and recommended this 2 day tour with Adventure North. It’s on the list!
- If you want to dive or snorkel the Great Barrier Reef bring your own underwater camera, or book one in advance through your tour company ($55).
- Snorkelling over the coral at the Low Isles was amazing! Next time I’ll head to the outer reef to see some bigger fish.
- Local restaurant Salsa was recommended as one of the best eating places in town, but it was closed for a private function – it’s on my list for next time.
- With Sweet Farm Tours you get to visit a working cocoa and sugarcane farm. And a visit to the Daintree Tea Company gives you the chance to try the locally grown tea – I will definitely go for a cuppa next time.