The tropical allure of Far North Queensland normally draws the masses of backpackers and tourists to Cairns, but venture a little further North to Port Douglas and find a destination without such crowds.
Yes, it is the uncrowded beaches lines with palm trees, the ocean scattered with colourful reefs, the mountains covered in ancient rainforest and hidden waterfalls and swimming holes and the friendly vibe from the locals and relaxed atmosphere that truly makes Port Douglas the new Cairns.
Affectionately known to the locals as Port, a sign of the laid-back lifestyle that has evolved in this once sleepy fishing town, this city is fast becoming the place for solo travellers to visit.
Port Douglas is blessed to be surrounded by not one but two World Heritage listed areas, The Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. The closest place to access the Outer Reef, a visit to Port Douglas would not be complete without a visit to the reef. Sunset cruises to the Low Isles are also a popular way to end a day in Port Douglas. With the Daintree so close, nature lovers can access the region via self-drive, a day tour or spend a little longer with an overnight stay.
So here are five reasons to ditch the backpacker bars, hostels and human traffic of Cairns and head to Port Douglas instead.
Ramada Port Douglas
The Ramada Port Douglas is a great option for solo travellers looking for a bit of comfort and a place to relax after a day exploring the region. A short walk from Four Mile Beach and with regular taxis to the stylish cafés, restaurants and bars of Macrossan Street in Port Douglas, the location is just perfect. The unique thing about this resort is the rainforest gardens, the serenity of the water features and ponds and the way the tropical lagoon-style pool with waterfall and swim-up bar makes you feel like you are swimming in a natural spring or waterhole. It really offers that sense of getting back to nature.
Thala Beach Nature Reserve
Solo travellers who have a bit more of a budget should really consider Thala Beach Nature Reserve. More than just a place to stay, Thala Beach Nature Reserve is a destination in itself. Located on a private headland between Cairns and Port Douglas, the property offers an eco-experience with unique and complimentary onsite tours and experiences for guests. Even though with all that there is to do at the resort, should guests want to explore Port Douglas, there is a shuttle service that departs Thala’s reception area for Port Douglas (only 10 minutes away).
Shaolin Sunset Cruise
While there are many sailing boats, catamarans and luxury boats to take you out to the reef, there is no option as unique and exciting as Shaolin Tours. The Shaolin Junk is one of only a few authentic Junks in the world. The sunset sail over the coral sea is the perfect way to admire the spectacular views of the Daintree Mountains and local islands while relaxing on the teak deck or cushioned lounge area. The cruise includes a complimentary beverage and canapes. With only 23 guests maximum on board, it is an intimate relaxing cruise. Boarding starts at 4:45pm and returns at 6:30pm. Cost is just $50 per person.
Bally Hooley Train and Lunch
A trip on board the Bally Hooley is a great way to experience some of the history of Port Douglas. Mowbray is the diesel locomotive travelling on most days, with special appearances by Speedy or Bundy, the coal-fired steam locomotives. The trains are both over 55 years old and were the very last steam locomotives used by the Mossman Sugar Mill to haul the sugar cane from the fields to the region’s Mill before switching over to diesel locomotives. The journey departs from the Bally Hooley Station at The Reef Marina and travels through to St. Crispins Station and return, is a leisurely one hour trip. Book in for a lunch also and enjoy this at Choo Choos while taking in the grand lake view and the panoramic Mirage golf course.
Daintree Walkabout Tour
Get a taste of culture and nature on the Daintree Walkabout Tour. Offering a wonderful insight into ancient indigenous culture, the Daintree Walkabout Tour includes the Kuku Yalanji Dreamtime Walk at the picturesque Mossman Gorge. Prices start from $195 for an adult and $124 for a child.
Flames of the Forest
Probably the most unique dining experience you will have and certainly the only rainforest dining experience in Australia, Flames of the Forest is a must do when in Port Douglas. The evening transports you into a world beyond your imagination, uplifting your soul while learning about the Australian indigenous Aboriginal culture. Not just a tantalising dining experience but a feast for your senses. Without giving too much away as the best part of this tour is the surprise and awe on arrival, this tour proves that not all activities are for the daytime. Choose from two unique dining experiences in the pristine natural environment – the Aboriginal Cultural Experience from $219.00 per person or the Rainforest Dining Experience from $189.00 per person whilst enjoying an award winning menu and inspirational entertainment.