by Jocelyn Voo
Often overshadowed by Cairns, a neighboring—somewhat hectic—tourist town, Port Douglas is a reprieve for those desiring the big outdoor adventure of Tropical North Queensland with the kick-back roots of a sleepy fisherman’s town. Not only is it adjacent to two World Heritage Sites, but there’s also plenty of adventure within city limits—no stinger suit required. While there are plenty of bars, restaurants and galleries to check out, Port Douglas’ main drawcard is its natural beauty and these are just a few jumping off points to begin exploring the incredible sights.
Port Douglas Yacht Club
Port Douglas is a true sailing town, and friendly locals at the Port Douglas Yacht Club make it their mission to extend the hospitality to seaworthy landlubbers. Every Wednesday, club members volunteer their vessels and invite travelers to a leisurely sunset sail, cruising past lush mangrove trees into open water. Afterwards, stay at the club and kick back with a plate of freshly caught seafood and a beer (perhaps an XXXX, which is a brew from nearby Brisbane) and share a laugh with newfound friends.
Spearfishing with Indigenous Australians
When hunger hits, opt to DIY by scavenging your next meal from the coastline. Tour operator Brandon Walker of Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours will show you how to throw slim bamboo spears in the clear shallows, hunt for mussels anchored in thick mud, and teach you about Kuku Yalanji culture. But don’t worry if you don’t end up contributing to the bucket of treats; Walker will inevitably collect enough for everyone, whipping up a tasty stingray curry or two at his mother’s place, just a few minutes from shore.
The Great Barrier Reef
Housing over 600 types of coral and an encyclopedic variety of fish, mollusks, sharks, rays and dolphins numbering in the thousands, the Great Barrier Reef is an obvious tip for any open water enthusiast, but one that can’t be emphasized enough. Snorkelers and scuba divers (and those who want to get PADI certified) can find a number of guided reef tour operators dotting the shore. Day trips and multi-day liveaboard excursions are available, where you’ll spend your days diving parts of the Outer Reef, considered to be some of the most pristine coral ecosystems in the world.
Mossman Gorge and the Daintree Rainforest
A mere 20 kilometers north of Port Douglas is the world-famous Daintree Rainforest, a uniquely diverse habitat for myriad plants and animals. Walk along the well-worn path and you’re equally likely to encounter brush turkeys as you are butterflies, but keep an eye out for a rare glimpse of the endangered cassowary, an ostrich-like animal with a brilliant blue throat and aquamarine headdress. Finish up your trek at Mossman Gorge, a beautiful natural swimming hole where upstream rapids dump into a calm pool. Join the kids doing blackflips into the deep end—or watch from a choice nook while you cool down.
Four Mile Beach
Though named by a different measure, the four-kilometer stretch of white sand that is Four Mile Beach starts at a lookout point, then flows into a long expanse of low, flat shoreline shared by swimmers and kite-surfers. During the summer stinger season, a net enclosure near the north end ensures that swimmers can still enjoy the bath-warm water without the threat of tangling with jellyfish. Those who prefer dry land can hang out under the shade of palm trees, or bike along the nearby path.
Lead image courtesy of CSIRO, Daintree image courtesy by Maxime Coquard; all other images by Jocelyn Voo