Looking for things to do in Port Douglas in Tropical North Queensland? As a holiday destination loved by so many people, it’s close to The Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation. Expect heaps of restaurants, activities and natural beauty to make special memories in this beautiful beach town near Cairns.
In this guide, you’ll discover what to do in Port Douglas, as well as a few day trips nearby that you really shouldn’t miss!
Where is Port Douglas
Port Douglas is a 1 hour stunningly beautiful scenic drive from Cairns. It’s also a 1h45m drive from Cape Tribulation and just a 20-minute drive from Mossman Gorge in The Daintree Rainforest, making it a fantastic location to base yourself in Far North Queensland.
There isn’t an airport in Port Douglas, so you’ll need to fly to Cairns. If you’re not going to use a hire car (which we strongly recommend), you can book a really cheap shared taxi here.
For car hire we recommend using the following:
Jucy – Get 15% off booking a camper van or hire car
.We stayed in Port Douglas the first time we came to Tropical North Queensland, and while it’s a gorgeous slice of paradise, it’s perfect for families (there are loads of resorts to choose from) and anyone looking to be closer to the Daintree Rainforest.
It takes an hour to drive from Cairns to Port Douglas along the beautiful coastal road, so if you’re not too fussed about doing any tours from Cairns, then Port Douglas could be the best place for you. Bear in mind, there are plenty of Port Douglas tours to choose from too, which we’ll talk more about in this post.
Expect beautiful beaches, loads of restaurants to choose from (they can be pretty expensive) and a laid back vibe in a small beach town. With a few hidden swimming holes to discover, and given its proximity to Cape Tribulation (which is a must-visit!), Port Douglas is a fantastic getaway for those looking for some Winter sun. During the Christmas holidays, we noticed it felt hotter in Port Douglas than it did in Palm Cove.
When to visit Port Douglas
The most popular time to visit Port Douglas is between June – September, which is especially good if you want to go diving with dwarf minke whales (the only place in the world to do so). Obviously the conditions in the water will be best for then to see marine life too.
If you are coming to Port Douglas to go snorkelling or diving, we honestly recommend checking out the Southern Great Barrier Reef. Trust me on this one, it’s incredible. You can check out our guide for visiting 5 Southern Great Barrier Reef Islands here.
But, we have also visited Port Douglas during the Christmas holidays which is in the Wet Season and during a cyclone. Sounds horrid right with sticky heat and wet weather? Turns out we had an amazing time regardless. The rainforests come alive in the rain and the waterfalls are bumping! Trust me! Seeing Barron Falls is a huge highlight in the rain!
Check out our guide for visiting Cairns in the wet season to see what it’s really like. The good news is that accommodation is much cheaper to visit with less tourists around.
Check out our Tropical North Queensland map to find all of our favourite hidden gems in the area! As you can see, there are so many things to do in Port Douglas and nearby!
Best Things To Do In Port Douglas
Here’s our list of the best Port Douglas activities you need to know about.
1. River Drift Snorkelling
River Drift Snorkelling in The Daintree must be one of Port Douglas’s most popular things to do. You’ll be picked up from your accommodation in Port Douglas and taken over to the Daintree to float down the Mossman River! If you’re lucky, you might spot a platypus but don’t worry, there aren’t any crocs in this river!
2. Day trip tour to The Daintree Rainforest
If River Drift Snorkelling isn’t your thing, jump on a day trip to The Daintree and up to Cape Tribulation, which will take you to all of the top places to visit. Expect to swim in Mossman Gorge, jump on a boat cruise through The Daintree and walk along the Marrdja Botanical Boardwalk in Cape Tribulation. You’ll also swing by the famous Daintree Ice Cream Company and try exotic fruit flavoured ice cream you probably have never tried before.
This is the perfect day trip to The Daintree from Port Douglas you should check out without spending time researching and planning it yourself.
3. Off The Beaten Track Tour To Bloomfield Track
If I could choose one Tour to The Daintree, I would choose the 4×4 Tour on the Bloomfield Track, one of Australia’s most scenic roads! I would love the boat cruise where you’ll be looking out for the famous crocodiles in the area.
Then you’ll walk along the famous Jindalba boardwalk and learn all about The Daintree before heading over to the majestic Emmagen Creek, which is supposed to be a fantastic swimming spot only accessible by a 4×4.
4. Hot air balloon ride over the amazing Atherton Tablelands
There would be no better way to see the Atherton Tablelands than from a hot air balloon! Luckily you’ll get picked up from your accommodation in Port Douglas and taken over to the absolutely stunning Atherton Tablelands for a memorable sunrise hot air balloon ride.
Our favourite place in the whole of Tropical North Queensland is hands down Atherton Tablelands – it is absolutely stunning! Check out our guide for the Best Things To Do In Atherton Tablelands here! You’ll be able to see the incredible crater lakes from above such as Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham.
5. Outer Reef snorkel and boat cruise
If you’re into snorkelling, the outer reef is where you need to go to see loads of marine life and colourful fish! Expect to go to three Great Barrier Reef sites in the Opal or Agincourt Reefs in this Outer Reef Snorkel And Boat Cruise from Port Douglas.
6. Mossman Gorge
One of the best things to do in Port Douglas is to visit Mossman Gorge in The Daintree Rainforest. This slice of paradise is home to a whopping 56,000 hectares within the World Heritage Listed Daintree National Park. This is one of the best ways to visit the oldest rainforest in the world at 180 million years old! It’s also 10 million years older than The Amazon, just to put it into perspective.
If you’re wondering what to do at Mossman Gorge, here is the lowdown. You’ll need to park up at the car park and pay an entrance fee at the Daintree Visitor Centre to get into the park if you’re driving. It doesn’t cost a lot being $30 for a family pass (2 kids) or $12.30 for adults. Make sure you book a Dreamtime Walk with a local indigenous person to learn about this special place, something I wish we had done looking back on it.
You then need to jump on a five-minute bus journey which will take you up to the starting track for Mossman Gorge. From there, it’s only about a five-minute walk before you’ll see everyone swimming in Mossman Gorge.
As the Daintree Rainforest is a sacred place for Indigenous people, there are some swimming holes you can’t swim in (always check before visiting them).
But, Mossman Gorge is allowed and it’s known to be one of the best swimming holes in Tropical North Queensland. It gets really busy here, but there is something truly beautiful about this incredible place.
7. Find The Fresh Water Swimming Spot In Shannonvale
We overheard someone in Port Douglas talking about a swimming spot in Shannonvale being better than Mossman Gorge, so we made a beeline right to it which is not far from each other (it’s not better). Although there was hardly anyone there when we visited, it was raining so I think we couldn’t see it in all it’s glory. We would go back and check it out, though.
Type in AMG Fresh Water Swimming Spots in Shannonvale to find this spot, which comes complete with rope swings and zero crowds.
8. Trinity Bay Lookout
One of the first things to do in Port Douglas is to make a beeline to Trinity Bay Lookout. This beautiful lookout has views stretching as far as the eye can see over Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas and right back down the coast towards Cairns. It’s a stunning first point of call when you come to Port Douglas! The good news is you can drive right up to it, so no walking is involved!
Or if you prefer, get your walking shoes on and take the Flagstaff Hill Trail up to the top!
9. Go On A Low Isles Snorkel Tour
Do a half-day snorkelling tour around some of the lesser-known islands of the Low Isles off Port Douglas in the Coral Sea, Great Barrier Reef. You can either snorkel in the lagoon, join a glass-bottom boat tour, or enjoy the secluded island. It takes just 30 minutes to get there, but you’ll feel like you’re a world away!
10. Sunset Sailing Cruise
After a fun day experiencing the excellent Great Barrier Reef tours around the Coral Sea, end the day with a Sunset Sailing Cruise with a glass of bubbly and lots of canapés to enjoy as you sail around the Coral Sea. This is a beautiful cruise you’ll be able to get some cracking photos of your loved ones to remember a beautiful trip in a tropical paradise.
11. Go scuba diving with dwarf minke whales
Did you know Port Douglas is the only place in the world you can go scuba diving with dwarf minke whales?! The first minke whale was spotted by the now Thala Beach Nature Reserve owner called Rob Prettejohn in 1981! As one of the best Great Barrier Reef Tours, your best bet to see them is between June to July. Find out more about diving with dwarf minke whales here.
12. Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tour
Learn all about the traditional land owners as the Kubirri Warra brothers lead you on an adventure like no other at Cooya Beach on the Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tour. You’ll learn the cultural importance of this country as they show you spear-throwing fishing as well as observing cultural medicine and plants on this 2hr Tour. We would love to do this Tour and learn more about the land that sits amongst the world’s oldest rainforests.
13. St Mary’s By The Sea Chapel
You can’t come to Port Douglas and not take photos of the beautiful St Mary’s By The Sea Chapel. Located at Market Park in the middle of town is the most picturesque chapel I’ve probably ever seen surrounded by tall palm trees. It’s a beautiful sight to be seen, so make sure you come down on Sundays between 8-2pm to the famous Port Douglas Markets to buy some gifts to take back home with you.
14. Ride A Bike On Four Mile Beach
One of the best things to do in Port Douglas is sitting back and relaxing on the famous Four Mile Beach. This is a beach you can swim in (between the flags), but just be wanted: there are stingers from October to May. You could hire a bike, ride down the beautiful Four Mile Beach, and enjoy the sunshine.
15. Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas
The Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas is a fantastic interactive animal experience. Known as one of the best Port Douglas attractions, kids and adults will love it here for being able to get up close to plenty of marine life.
Some of the opportunities include swimming with salt water crocodiles (behind a window), hugging a koala, breakfast with birds, feed wallabies and so much more! Find out more about Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas here.
16. Thala Beach Nature Reserve
Just a 15 minute down the scenic Great Barrier Reef road is the beautiful Thala Beach Nature Reserve. Home to the famous Insta worthy palm tree plantation, it’s definitely worth stopping for if you’ve got a drone. There’s a beautiful restaurant on site called Osprey’s Restaurant that I wish we knew about when we were visiting the area.
17. Hemingways Brewery
Make sure you stop by Hemingways Brewery in Port Douglas on Reef Marina Boardwalk to do some craft beer tasting and grab a bite to eat. Serving up burgers, pizzas and salads, you could spend the whole day here. There’s also a Hemingways Brewery in Cairns as well to check out!
Places to visit nearby
If you’re hiring a car (which we strongly recommend), make sure you check out the amazing places to visit nearby!
18. Cape Tribulation
Cape Tribulation is a stunning part of Far North Queensland that everyone needs to visit. Here’s you’ll find some incredible swimming holes, fantastic walks through The Daintree and excellent local produce selling rare and exotic fruits and ice cream.
Here are some of our top picks for things to do in Cape Tribulation & The Daintree Rainforest.
Swim At The Beautiful Mason’s Store Swimming Hole
Mason’s Store Swimming Hole is often regarded as the best swimming spot in Cape Tribulation. The turquoise water is enough for anyone looking to find a spectacular swimming hole near Cairns.
Drive One Of The Best 4WD Roads In Queensland
If you’re heading up to Cooktown, the 4WD only Bloomfield Track is one of the most scenic drives in Queensland. Also known as the Coast Road or the Cape Tribulation to Bloomfield Road, the Bloomfield Track is 33km of incredible landscapes, swimming holes and much more.
Daintree Rainforest Aerial Walkway
Walk along one of the top 10 skywalks in Australia according to Australian Geographic at the Daintree Rainforest Aerial Walkway. It sits 11m high above the rainforest and is a spectacular way to take in the experience of standing in the world’s oldest rainforest!
19. Palm Cove
Palm Cove has a lovely holiday vibe and is a great spot to stay when looking to venture between Cairns, Port Douglas, and Atherton Tablelands. Read our guide for the Best Things To Do In Palm Cove.
Here’s some of our top picks for what to do in Palm Cove.
Visit The Meditation Rocks At Wangetti Beach
Just north of Palm Cove lies the beautiful Wangetti Beach which you’ll find on the coastal drive from Cairns to Port Douglas. You’ll find The Gatz Balancing Rocks at the southern end of the beach. While the art of balancing stones can have many meanings, each stone tends to represent a prayer or thought of gratitude. You might like to stop by and add to this ever-evolving work of art.
Vivo For Dinner
Make sure you go to Vivo in Palm Cove for dinner. It’s a fantastic restaurant and totally has a good holiday vibe. We loved it and had a great night!
Cairns is biggest town in Tropical North Queensland which has some excellent restaurants and overall cheaper accommodation (especially good for backpackers!). Check out our full guide on the 25 Best Things To Do In Cairns!
Here’s some of our top picks!
Helicopter Ride Over Great Barrier Reef
Easily one of the best things we have done in Cairns is a helicopter flight over the Great Barrier Reef. It tops any snorkelling or scuba diving tour we’ve done there too. There are quite a few different options to choose from to book, but here’s the most popular options:
If I had to pick my favourite place in Tropical North Queensland, it would be Atherton Tablelands. Read our guide for the 28 best things to do in Atherton Tablelands to read more about this spectacular part of Tropical North Queensland.
Home to so many swimming holes and waterfalls to visit, here’s our top picks, including a Spanish castle!
There are so many amazing waterfalls in Atherton Tablelands to visit, but make sure you tick off the famous ones along the Waterfall Circuit because they really are all worth visiting!
Swim in Lake Eacham
We just fell in love with Lake Eacham and it’s a must-visit from us when coming to Cairns. The crater lake is huge and there’s something quite magical about it that you need to go in person to see it!
The Spanish castle hidden in the beautiful rainforest in Tropical North Queensland is a sight you won’t see anywhere else in the world. We were blown away by it and spent a few hours here so excited to walk around and take photos of this special place. You can check out our guide for visiting Paronella Park to find out more. Tip – buy the combo package and visit Mamu Tropical Skywalk around the corner as well – it’s brilliant!
Prefer to do an Atherton Tablelands tour from Port Douglas? Let someone else organise your trip for you as you are guided through a Foodie Tour through the heart of the Atherton Tablelands while enjoying the rolling hills and beautiful scenery.
22. Mission Beach
When heading South of Cairns you’ll come to the Cassowary Coast which takes you down through Innisfail, Mission Beach and onto Cardwell and Hinchinbrook Island. This is a spectacular part of the coast, home to some excellent swimming holes, hikes, waterfalls and much more. You can check out our full guide for the 28 Best Things To Do In Mission Beach here.
Here’s some of our top picks to see in the stunning Mission Beach. I’m sure you know about the famous cassowaries to find in Mission Beach already!
Our Favourite Swimming Hole At Alligators Nest
Alligators Nest is by far our favourite one out of all of the Tropical North Queensland swimming holes we went to. It really is absolutely magical and there’s something that makes you feel like you’ve truly found a hidden gem (there are no alligators in the water either!). Seriously, you’ll drive down the road to there and wonder if you’re going the right way. It’s a spectacular spot!
Go White Water Rafting In The Tully River
Go white water rafting in Tully River, home to Australia’s best white water rafting. You can bring the whole family (kids from 6+ years) on the grade 2 and grade 3 rapids as you meander through the famous river. It’s one of those experiences you need to do when looking for the best things to do in Cairns.
Sky Diving In Mission Beach
Sky Diving in Mission beach is one of the most popular Cairns activities. To be honest, it wouldn’t get much better than jumping out of a plane over the Great Barrier Reef. You’ll have views overlooking the beautiful Dunk Island and neighbouring islands from Mission Beach and the Great Barrier Reef. Plus! You’ll actually land right on Mission Beach – what an experience!! Find out more about sky diving in Mission Beach here.