Port Douglas: Essential Info
Updated: October 2021
Port Douglas is an easy and relaxing place to visit. The weather is mostly great and it's a tourist town, so everything is set up to help you enjoy the trip as much as possible.
Swimming safety is probably the main issue of concern, but risks of crocs and jellyfish are easily avoided (see below).
Take a look through our list below of all the essential information you will likely need before visiting Port Douglas and you will be ready for an incredible holiday.
Port Douglas Essential Info
Getting Around Port Douglas
Port Douglas is small enough that everything is walkable, especially if you are staying near to the town centre, at the northern end.
The town is located on a spit of land with houses and hotels on either side of the one main road that provides the way in and out of town. Macrossan Street is effectively the town centre and it's located at the very end of the main road. Four Mile beach runs parallel, so wherever you are staying, you are sure to be within a quick walk to the beach.
The beach and town are approximately 5km long, so it will take around one hour to walk the full length. When you get to the town centre, it's fairly small and only takes 10 minutes to walk from the beach at one end to the St Mary's By The Sea chapel at the other.
Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas © Travel Unpacked
If you choose a hotel that is a little bit too far to walk to the town centre you should look to use the many shuttle buses that run a loop around town, stopping at many of the larger hotels. There are different companies running these shuttles, so remember which one you go into town on for your return journey, if you buy a return ticket, which are around $5. They run all day, 7 days a week.
Cycles are too expensive to hire to make this your main transportation option. If you are driving to Port Douglas and bring your own, then Port Douglas is a good place to use your bike. The main road has a relatively wide shoulder that doubles as a cycle lane and, when the tide is low, Four Mile beach is cyclable too.
Taxi / Uber
There are Uber drivers in Port Douglas, but only a handful. There are some taxis too if you want door to door transport that cannot be provided by the shuttles.
A car is not needed for getting around town but it is very useful if you want to see some of the attractions outside town and you don't want to take a tour. Mossman Gorge, the Daintree and Cape Tribulation are all top choices in this respect.
Great barrier reef drive, Port Douglas © Travel Unpacked
Car Rental/Share car
There are a few car rental companies in Port Douglas, especially on or near Macrossan street, including Avis, Budget and some local companies. Another option may be to rent a car at Cairns airport and driving yourself to Port Douglas so you can stop at the lookouts on the magnificent Great Barrier Reef Drive.
Food In Port Douglas
Port Douglas has plenty of great food options. Most of the restaurants are either on Macrossan street or at the Marina, where you can take in fantastic views across the water.
For a meal with an atmosphere try the Tin Shed for some great sunset ocean views or Nautilus to get under the rainforest canopy right in the town centre.
Flames of the forest offer an aboriginal diner experience.
Shopping In Port Douglas
All the shops that would be of interest are on Macrossan street or at the Marina. The biggest shopping draw though is the Sunday market that is held on the grass beside the St Mary's By The Sea chapel and sells locally made products and crafts. A similar market is also held on a Wednesday at the marina.
Art galleries are a plenty and often have an aboriginal style.
Macrossan street, Port Douglas © Travel Unpacked
Events In Port Douglas
The Sunday market is the main regular event to look out for. In terms of annual events, there are the following: -
There is a marathon with various shorter distances available. An ultra-marathon is run from Cairns with some of the distance options ending in Port Douglas. The croc trophy is a long running mountain bike stage event. A yacht race week takes place in May and for fishing, the Marlin Challenge is in November.
A week long tropical celebration with live music, cabaret acts, a parade, beach day, parties and much more. Takes place in May. More info here.
The Port Shorts film festival runs over two days in October. More info here.
New Years Eve
Two fireworks displays, one early one for kids and then another at midnight.
Information on smaller events can be found here and here.
Nightlife in Port Douglas
Things are a bit more relaxed and family friendly in Port Douglas, so there isn't a massive nightlife beyond quiet drinks by the water or with a meal. There are a few bars and hotels though to make the night last a bit longer - try The Iron bar and Jimmy's mixing lounge.
Port Douglas has good weather all year round. Summer is hot and humid with temperatures topping 30 degrees whilst winter is not that different, just less humid and expect temperatures to be more like 25 degrees. June to October is the dryer and cooler period whilst November to April is the hotter and wetter season, where monsoon rains can fall.
Best Time To Visit Port Douglas
Any time is suitable due to the year round warm tropical weather. If you can't handle the heat so much and want to avoid the chance of experiencing tropical rain storms, try to stick to the winter months. It's a good idea to check what events are on, if any, in case you want (or don't want) to coincide with Carnivale or the marathon, for example.
St Mary's By The Sea Chapel, Port Douglas © Travel Unpacked
Port Douglas is generally a very safe town with no specific concerns over safety, except for when you think about getting into the water.
Four Mile beach is the only beach you can swim at in Port Douglas - the inlet on the opposite side (around the marina) has a high risk of crocodiles being present. Crocs can be found at Four Mile beach too, but it is rare and lifeguards are watching out for them.
Stinger (jellyfish) season comes with a stinger net that protects an area of the beach near to the town centre, so be sure to use this when advised (usually November to May).
Always follow the advice on the warning signs and only swim between the flags where the lifeguards are present.
Other swimming options include your hotel swimming pool (most have them) or freshwater swimming holes that are too cold for crocs - if you see warning signs at swimming holes, always follow their advice.
Port Douglas was established in 1877 and grew quickly off the back of a nearby gold discovery. A cyclone in 1911 demolished almost the entire town before it was rebuilt. It continued as a fishing village, steadily declining and only having a population of 100 people in 1960. Tourism arrived in the 1980's when the Sheraton Mirage was built and the town has never looked back. Today it's population is well over 3000.
Outback sign, Queensland © Travel Unpacked
Port Douglas is almost at the very top of the stretch of tarmac (actually about 250km north of here) that runs up Australia's east coast, so unless you have an off-road outback trip planned, Port Douglas is usually the last destination.
Cairns - Whilst many would say that Port Douglas is superior to Cairns, the small city does have a lot to offer tourists, so you could consider spending a few days here to extend your barrier reef/tropical Queensland trip.
Outback - North of Port Douglas is Cape York, where you can drive dirt roads on a 'trip to the tip' (the north eastern tip of Australia). Alternatively, you could head through the Atherton tablelands and go West, into the interior outback, towards the Undara lava tubes and beyond to Mt Isa or Normanton and onward to the NT, or south towards Longreach.
Queensland Coast - South of Cairns the coastline continues for a long way before you get to Brisbane. You will pass through Townsville before getting to the highlight - the Whitsunday's.
Need info on 'How to get to Port Douglas?' or 'Where to stay?'
Go to the second page of our travel guide for the full run down.
Or, go to page 1 to discover all the 'Things to do'.