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5 must-see, must-do experiences in Port Douglas

It’s the gateway to two of Australia’s most iconic natural wonders – and the town itself is pretty darn wonderful in its own right.

Here are five must-see and must-do experiences to add to your itinerary on a trip to Port Douglas.

1. Swim in Mossman Gorge

Just a 20-minute drive from Port Douglas, Mossman Gorge is the gateway to the Daintree and a lovely way to get a taste of the rainforest without having to stray too far from your base.

The Mossman Gorge Centre is the place to begin. You can browse the Art Gallery and learn about the people and places that make this place so special before taking the shuttle – followed by a short 5-minute walk along the boardwalk – to Mossman Gorge itself. Bring your swimmers and take a swim in the gorge, enjoy the Mossman Gorge Lookout, or meander along the River and Rainforest Circuit Tracks.

For a more immersive experience, you can book a Dreamtime Walk at the Mossman Gorge Centre for exclusive access the country of the Kuku Yulanji people, who have inhabited the Daintree Rainforest for 50,000 years.

Finally, note that, while you’ll likely find hundreds of fellow travellers swimming in the Gorge during the daytime, keep in mind that Mossman Gorge is unmonitored and subject to flash flooding. Check the daily water conditions upon arrival and exercise caution at all times.

2. Head north of the Daintree River to Cape Tribulation

The Daintree Rainforest is cut in half by the Daintree River. Port Douglas sits on the south side, about a 40-minute drive from the Daintree Ferry, where you can cross the river and unlock the wonders that lie beyond to the north.

Foremost among these is Cape Tribulation, a remote headland known famously as the point where the “Rainforest meets the Reef”. The drive from the Ferry to Cape Trib takes about 45 minutes; once you’re there, soak in the views from ground level at Cape Tribulation Beach, or take the Kulki Boardwalk to the lookout that allows you to capture beach, reef and rainforest in one incredible vista. 

There’s also plenty to take in between the ferry and Cape Tribulation. The Daintree Discovery Centre is one of the first stops after the ferry, and allows you to wander through different levels of the rainforest. Walk the rainforest floor and, if you’re lucky, you might spy cassowaries in their natural habitat. Or climb all the way to the top of the 23-metre Canopy Tower and look down on the rainforest below. It’s an angle very few people in the world get to see, and a very humbling experience.

You can also go on crocodile hunting tours, visit watering holes like Mason’s Hole and Emmagen Creek, and walk many boardwalks that allow you to get up close and personal with the rainforest and its wildlife.

Note that Emmagen Creek is as far north as you can go in the rainforest without a 4WD, so if you wish to follow the track all the way to Cooktown, you’ll need the right vehicle.

3. Take a boat out to the Great Barrier Reef

From one natural wonder to another, no trip to Far North Queensland would be complete without heading out onto the Great Barrier Reef. One of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, the reef is an underwater wonderland with endless varieties of corals and marine life at which to marvel.

Whether you’re an experienced or first-time diver, prefer to only snorkel or simply want to head out in a glass-bottomed boat and keep your hair dry, there are tours in Port Douglas that cater to every preference.

Head to the Visit Port Douglas website for a list of great reef tours that you can choose from.

4. Soak up the vibes in town 

They say Port Douglas is the home of the three Rs: rainforest, reef and relaxation, so once you’ve done the first two, don’t miss the opportunity to unwind and take in all that the town has to offer.

For starters, Port Douglas is an absolute gem for dining. Take a streetside seat and soak in the atmosphere of the town centre on Macrossan and Wharf Street – there are plenty of options to choose from. If you’re looking for buzz, Salsa Bar and Grill is an excellent spot with some of the best high-end food and cocktails in town; or try the Courthouse Hotel for delicious pub fare, live music and a seat right in the middle of the action. 

If you prefer to be waterside, wander over to Hemingway’s Brewery and grab a seat by the marina, or try Port Douglas Surf Club (aka The Surfy) for a spot right next to famous Four Mile Beach.

Or, for a quieter fine-dining experience with impeccable service, we highly recommend Watergate and Nautilus – both feel like hidden away oases close to the Port Douglas town centre.

And remember: wherever you wish to go, make sure you book well in advance. While most of these restaurants do their best to accommodate walk-ins, it’s certainly not guaranteed, and some are booked out weeks ahead of time. Plan ahead to avoid disappointment.

5. Watch the sun set over the northern tip of the Great Dividing Range

Before you leave Port Douglas, don’t miss the opportunity to catch one of Australia’s most spectacular sunsets. The best place to do so is Rex Smeal Park, a gorgeous grassy area in Port Douglas with palm trees lining the shoreline and a beautiful old fig tree standing majestically the centre.

As the day draws to an end, bring a blanket, sit yourself down on the edge of the park and enjoy the remarkable sunset over the Daintree mountain ranges and Coral Sea. 

Or, if you’d prefer a meal and a beverage in a licensed location, book yourself a table on the deck at the Tin Shed for sundowners. It boasts arguably the best view of any venue in town, particularly at sunset.