Port Douglas was once a simple fishing village before morphing into a holiday waterfront playground wedged between Dickson Inlet and the Coral Sea. A Port Douglas weekend offers a getaway to a tropical, laid-back tropical town that wears its holiday style with grace and charm.
Port Douglas is located midway along the Great Barrier Reef Drive which runs between Cairns and Cape Tribulation and is one of Australia’s prettiest scenic drives. The asphalt twists and turns northwards from Cairns on with the Great Barrier Reef to the right and Wet Tropics Rainforest to the left. It is a tasty enticer to the many-spangled charms of Port Douglas.
A town whose fortunes rise and fall almost as frequently as the tide that laps Four Mile Beach, Port’s star is shining bright. Christopher Skase started it all back in the 80’s when he developed Sheraton Mirage, attracting a star-studded guest list lured by a balmy climate and incredible natural beauty. That same tropical climate is still a major drawcard as are Port Douglas’ many magical charms.
Where to Stay in Port Douglas
We might be a little bit biased, but we believe the best place to stay on a weekend getaway to Port Douglas is not actually in Port Douglas. Rather, Thala Beach Nature Reserve is a leisurely 15 mins drive south, on a beachfront headland at Oak Beach. Check into an eco-style bungalow amongst native forest and allow the relaxed ambiance of the forest to soothe your soul.
Where to Eat in Port Douglas
Set high amongst the treetops in an open-sided pavilion overlooking the Coral Sea and World Heritage mountains, Osprey’s Restaurant at Thala is one of the region’s ‘must visit’ restaurants, whether you’re staying at Thala or not (bookings highly recommended).
For special occasion dinner and show dining, Flames of the Forest is a magical experience in an extraordinary forest setting. Curling flames from oversized candelabra create flickering lights that dance across the canopy above diners.
In Port itself, the choices for dining are endless. Port Douglas Yacht Club is not just for yachties – everyone is welcome at this social club on the Dickson Inlet. Other good restaurant choices are Salsa, On the Inlet and Watergate.
Where to Drink in Port Douglas
A microbrewery which was the brainchild of charter fishing entrepreneurs Tony Fyfe and Craig Parsell, Hemmingway’s Brewery has a prime waterfront location overlooking the boats at Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina. Brew names take their inspiration from local characters. Like Hemingway’s signature Pitchfork Betty’s Ale named after a former local publican best known for brandishing an iron pitchfork to control unruly patrons. Don’t worry, the publican is far more friendly these days!
Nearby, Barbados is a stylish bar-come-cocktail-lounge with uber cool attitude. Striped umbrellas hover above luxurious daybeds – the perfect hangout to see and be seen. Pumping out cool tunes as trendy young things slake their thirsts on mojitos, Barbados hums from late afternoon onwards when marina action is aplenty.
Where to shop in Port Douglas
Tahitian Lime is a boutique and fashion label by sisters Prue and Brooke Needham, inspired by holidays in tropical hotspots around the globe. Textiles are sourced from Italy while, collections feature collaborations with Australian surf artist Wade Lewis.
Port Douglas Markets are held each Sunday – allow a couple of hours to shop for local artworks, trinkets, clothing and souvenirs. Plus you’ll find vendors selling fresh tropical produce, crushed sugarcane juice, fruit smoothies and coffee produced from locally grown beans.
Explore the Daintree near Port Douglas
North of Port Douglas, as you cross the Daintree River via the cable ferry, take a deep breath and fill your lungs with pure air filtered by the ancient World Heritage Daintree Rainforest. One of the world’s oldest living rainforests join Indigenous guide Juan Walker from Walkabout Adventures as he shares bush tucker and bush medicine knowledge while demonstrating how to hunt for fish and mud crabs, as the Kuku Yalanji people have done for eons.
Don’t miss Daintree Ice Cream Co. for delicious ice-cream created from an onsite orchard dripping with exotic tropical fruits.