As the weather cools down in the southern hemisphere, it’s fair to say that a trip to tropical north Queensland is very enticing. The spectacular reef to rainforest settings here are nothing short of breathtaking. One thing that stands out when visiting the region is how friendly everybody is – the welcoming energy is tangible everywhere you go. Read on to discover the best insider travel tips for the Port Douglas region.
PORT DOUGLAS ACTIVITIES
Don’t miss the Port Douglas Markets if you’re here on a Sunday. These famous artisanal markets serve up a wide variety of hand-crafted goods, locally produced food, and seasonal fresh produce. Save some room in your luggage to pack a few kitsch souvenirs! There’s a few truly beautiful jewellery makers at the Port Douglas markets too – I found myself a pair of stunning earrings which will be treasured forever.
PORT DOUGLAS – GREAT BARRIER REEF DAY TRIP
Sailaway Cruises offer a terrific Great Barrier Reef sailing experience. Their sleek catamarans depart the nearby Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina daily and feature a full buffet lunch, marine biologist tour guides, and several opportunities to snorkel the reef. Note: choose the Low Isles full day cruise or if you’re short on time jump on their sunset cruise with champagne flute.
I prefer the exploring the reef via the luxe Sailaway catamaran fleet as opposed to larger passenger vessels, which tend to get quite crowded. Sailaway Port Douglas offers a much more intimate and personalized experience. Both my kids (yep, even the teen) loved this day trip to the Great Barrier Reef. The marine life (sea turtles, schools of pelagic fish and docile reef sharks) put on a sensational underwater display and the tour guides happily shared their vast knowledge of the waterways and sea creatures here.
A round of golf in Port Douglas is a surefire way to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. Head straight to the Mirage Country Club – home to an iconic Australian golf course that attracts keen golfers from all over the globe. The unique resort-style layout weaves players through the majestic grounds of the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort for much of the front nine (the beach course). Be sure to keep your camera ready as two of these fairways are placed alongside Four Mile Beach and offer delightful views of the Coral Sea.
It’s such a treat to play the well-kept greens here! Over on the back nine, you’ll find a golfing oasis buffered by a mountainous tropical backdrop. The water hazards, bunkering, and mangrove-lined estuaries are bound to keep you on your toes over the clubhouse side of the road.
Port on a Plate is a chef-guided (meet Pete) food tour of the Port Douglas region. Spend time collecting produce from local farms and get set to enjoy a delicious three-course lunch.This fantastic Port Douglas food tour is ideal for couples and groups (up to 8 people) seeking a unique gastronomic tour experience.
A love of fresh Barramundi and a palate prepped for a fruity local wine tasting is not a prerequisite, but it helps. Yes, vegetarians are also catered for.
Walkabout Cultural Adventures owner, Juan Walker has been working as guide in the Port Douglas Daintree region for over 20 years. The ‘We All Going Cape Tribulation’ tour travels north of the Daintree River and explores the World Heritage Listed Daintree Rainforest and the environment around Cape Tribulation. Guests can learn about how these unique environments come together and how the local Kuku Yalanji people utilised and managed the natural resources.
Sample seasonal bush tucker, learn bush medicines, and take a guided rainforest walk with Juan. You’ll be sure to find strong appreciation of the history, culture and traditions of our Australian Aboriginal people on this enlightening tour. Note: hotel pick up from Port Douglas available upon request.
PULLMAN SEA TEMPLE RESORT PORT DOUGLAS
Located adjacent to 4 mile beach and right next to the Palmer Sea Reef tropical links golf course in Port Douglas, the Pullman Sea Temple Resort makes the perfect base for a tropical north Queensland holiday. The rooms here are nothing short of phenomenal. I’d recommend booking the luxe penthouse suite to share with friends or extended family.
The private rooftop is perfect for a sunset BBQ and the secluded spa zone upstairs works miracles to melt muscle tension away at the end of the day. Having a self-contained apartment in Port Douglas makes sense. Preparing meals and/or sharing canapes with your contemporaries on a swish balcony is super easy.
Rather enjoy a gourmet dinner alongside torch-lit lagoon? Great, because the onsite Aluco restaurant is open every night too. Cruise into sundowner mode with a glass of bubbles or a chilled cocktail at Aluco-one of Port Douglas’ most spectacular eateries. Be sure to book ahead to reserve a table here. The same goes for spa bookings! Vie Spa at the Pullman Port Douglas is popular for good reason. It’s a heavenly sanctuary of lush body treatments at the fingertips of expert therapists.
THE BEST CAFES AND RESTAURANTS IN PORT DOUGLAS
Harrison’s delivers an unforgettable gourmet experience. Even the most discerning of diners are bound to be impressed. It’s Port Douglas’ most nationally awarded restaurant so best book way ahead. Spencer Patrick (acclaimed chef and owner) harnesses the talents of his kitchen team and the best quality Australian produce to produce a flawlessly executed Modern British menu. Must try dishes include the painted crayfish (half or whole) and also the flank steak served with spinach, shallots, chard, smoked mash and a superb ox tail sauce.
The Surf Club Bar & Bistro, affectionately known as the Surfy is my favourite place in Port Douglas to enjoy a sunset drink with a lovely view of the beach. The Surfy is low key casual dining done right. Think; classic club meals mixed with tasty daily specials. On the day I visited with the kids I was treated to a feast of fresh Mex style Red Emperor tacos whilst they downed bowls of pasta, chicken schnitzels and their free ice-cream at record speed. An affordable dining option in a priceless seaside Port Douglas setting. Such a good find!
Nautilus has reigned supreme in the Tropical North Queensland restaurant scene for over 65 years. It’s an iconic ‘must go’ destination for visitors seeking a multi sensory dining experience in Port Douglas. Indulge in the degustation menu, which always features a few signature dishes along with a bunch innovative flavours. And, as I have mentioned several times in this guide, be sure to book ahead so you don’t miss out. I mean, this is the place where rock royalty eat when they’re in town. Fact: both Mick Jagger and David Bowie have dined at Nautilus.
The Crystalbrook Collection SuperYacht Marina precinct in Port Douglas offers up a mix of eateries to suit all types of diners. Hemingway’s Brewery is the go to for great pizza, big salads, yummy seafood baskets and craft beer (it is a brewery after all).
It’s open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner and makes a top spot for sunset feed after a day spent on the reef. Note: most day cruises to the Great Barrier Reef depart from the marina.
Barbados is Port Douglas’s most stylish outdoor bar by far. It boasts magical views over the Coral Sea, Mossman Ranges & the Daintree National Park. It’s my preferred venue for a fun yet sophisticated Port Douglas gathering. Recline on a daybed with a Tiki cocktail or commandeer the lounge section with a selection of good mates and delicious share plates.
Overall a holiday in Port Douglas offers up the winning combination of natural beauty, excellent dining options and interactive adventures. I love that the town blends between boho chic and high end luxury with ease. Visit during the off season if you’re able, it’s less busy, just as pretty and much easier to get a table!