Port Douglas

Town Profile : Port Douglas

Port Douglas

 

We’ve visited Port Douglas three times and found all occasions to be quite pleasant.

 

The first time was for our birthdays in 2013, when we flew over from Darwin and met up with our friends and family, who flew up from Melbourne to celebrate with us.  It was a week of eating and drinking, late nights and plenty of injury, and it was during the peak tourism season so there were plenty of holiday makers around.  The second time was with the Troopy, as we began our descent down the east coast of Australia.  Tourism was still bustling in October but it just seemed a lot quieter without our mates around.

 

 

The third time was during our seven-month stint in Cairns.  We’d been playing trivia every week at the Red Beret Hotel and the prizes were vouchers for various places in Port Douglas.  After collecting a booty of vouchers, we put aside a day to drive up and use them.  Despite being warm and sunny, March is right in the middle of cyclone season, and one was expected to hit the coast in a day or two – Port Douglas was deserted.

 

We felt like we had the whole town to ourselves and had an amazing, action packed day that included a delicious breakfast at Cafe Fresq, shopping at various gift stores, a mind-blowing sandwich from the Little Larder, a walking tour around town, and a sunset dinner at the Yacht Club.

 

Port Douglas

 

Port Douglas is essentially a tourism town that can be fully experienced in a day or two.  If you can’t afford to stay at one of the lavish resorts and spend the rest of your time drinking cocktails by the pool, Port Douglas has a few budget accommodation options, including a YHA, and is a great place to base yourself while you visit the various attractions in the region.

 

Fast Facts

  • Port Douglas is #3 on Australian Traveller magazine’s list of Australia’s 100 Best Towns. It’s about 1 hour north of Cairns.
  • It is the gateway to two World Heritage listed areas – the Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef.
  • There have been several films shot in and around Port Douglas – Sniper (1993), Paradise Road (1997), The Thin Red Line (1998), Paradise Found (2003), Fools Gold (2008) and Nim’s Island (2008).
  • Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, died off the coast of Port Douglas after a stingray shot its barb into his heart. He was filming a new documentary called The Ocean’s Deadliest.

 

History

The traditional owners of the area are the Kuku Yalanji people, and their country stretches from the Mowbray River to the south of Port Douglas to the Annan River just south of Cooktown.

 

Port Douglas was established in 1877 after the discovery of gold in a valley near the Mowbray River.  At its peak, it had a population of 12,000, with 26 legal and registered pubs and even a few opium dens!  The schoolhouse built in 1878 and it is the oldest building in the region and was still operating until the 1960s when it was closed due to lack of population.

 

Scandal hit Port Douglas in 1887 when Ellen Thomson was convicted of murdering her husband. She pleaded innocent but she and her lover were both sent to Brisbane where they were sentenced and hung.  She became the only women to ever be hung in QLD.

 

In 1911, a devastating cyclone hit Port Douglas and once it had past, two people were dead and only seven buildings were left standing.  The impact of the cyclone lingered for several decades, and the population dwindled to abound 100 people in the 1960s.

 

christopher_skaseWho would have thought that the town’s saviour would later be known as Australia’s most wanted fugitive and fraudster.  In 1988, Christopher Skase unveiled his new 5-star Sheraton Mirage Resort, which triggered a massive tourism boom.  Because of this, it’s said that Skase is responsible for reviving Port Douglas and thus creating a successful tourism-based economy.  He is also responsible for the relocation the St Mary’s Church from up on the hill to down near the water’s edge in 1988, because its position was on valuable real estate land!  The non-denominational church was originally built in 1880 but was flattened by that cyclone in 1911.  It was rebuilt and remained in its spot on the hill until Skase’s arrival.

 

These days, the St Mary’s By The Sea is a popular place to get married.  Port Douglas is a thriving tourism town with a population is around 3,200, but this figure can double during the tourist season between May and October.

 

Port Douglas 2015-03-18 053w

 

Places of Interest

There are a few things to do in town, such as browsing shops along the main street, having a drink and a meal at one of the pubs, or lazing on the best beach in town – Four Mile Beach. The sand at Four Mile Beach is so flat and firm, that many years ago planes were often landed on the sand.  There’s also a market on every Sunday in the park opposite the Courthouse Hotel.

 

If you are interested in learning about the town and the area, we recommend going on a K-Star Walking Tour.  Kevin is really knowledgeable about the geography, history and flora in the area and it’s a great introduction to tropical Queensland.  Alternatively, hire some electric bikes; an easy and super fun way to get around town.  Prices start at $20 for 2hrs.

 

Port Douglas

 

As we said earlier, Port Douglas can be explored in a day or two, but it is a great place to station yourself while you explore the surrounding wonders.

 

Cape Tribulation

Located within the Daintree Rainforest, Cape Tribulation is a headland that was named by Captain Cook after his ship was damaged on the Great Barrier Reef.  It was named so because it was where Cook’s troubles began, but despite this, it is a wonderful beach to visit.  On the road to Cape Tribulation are various cafes and ice creameries which certainly don’t hurt to visit.

 

Cape Tribulation

 

Mossman Gorge

Due to efforts to conserve this naturally beautiful place, a regular shuttle bus that runs from the Mossman Gorge Centre is the only way to visit the Gorge.  It has a relatively low fee and does allow multiple trips on the day of purchase if required.  We recommend exploring the walking trail before having a dip in the cool waters.

 

Mossman Gorge

 

Flames of the Forest

This is a very indulgent experience for special occasions only.  Enjoy a gourmet meal in a romantic atmosphere of illuminated trees while being serenaded by a wonderful performer.

 

Flames of the Forest

 

Bloomfield Track & CREB Track

For the off road enthusiasts, check out the two tracks that go through the Daintree.  We only did a small portion of the CREB Track before turning around to follow the Bloomfield Track.  Our brakes weren’t in great shape at the time and we had been told by locals that the Bloomfield Track was the safer option – plus, there were a few bush fires around and we needed to put safety first.

 

CREB Track

 

Food & Drink

There are heaps of places that offer a great feed in Port Douglas.  For a decent coffee, check out Moonshine Bay and while you’re there, browse through all of the colourful things in the shop.  Moonshine Bay uses coffee from Four Mile Roasters, local coffee bean aficionados who have a great little cafe called Origin Espresso.  Located in the backstreets away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist-ridden main street, sip a quality coffee while sitting on hessian sack milk crates and contemplating which baked treat to eat next.  Very Melbourne…

 

 

Many of the good cheap eats in Port Douglas are on Grant Street.  The French toast at Cafe Fresq is delicious, all the food from Menu Thai Restaurant is incredible and for a late night snack after the pub, go to Get Ya Kebabs for a juicy meal.  However, one of our favourite places was an award-winning bakery…

 

Mocka’s Pies

Not only do they have a great selection of pies, including Kangaroo and Crocodile Laksa, but they are absolutely scrumptious.  Mocka’s regularly participate in the Official Great Aussie Pie Competition and their pies win medals every year.

 

Mocka's Pies

 

On The Inlet

This restaurant is a little on the pricey side, so it should probably be put aside for special occasions, but the food is quite good and they have a resident groper called George… and by groper, we mean fish, not pervert.

 

The Little Larder

This place is a popular spot amongst the locals and visitors alike.  They do a wicked breakfast and cup of coffee but the main attraction is the ‘serious sandwiches made by chefs’.  We had lunch here and our lives are ruined because all future sandwiches will never be as good as the sandwiches we had here! Check out our post about this excellent food outlet…

 

Port Douglas

 

Off The Track

There is a wicked food joint on Warner Street, just behind Coles.  They have an awesome selection of gourmet burgers, including beef, pork, chicken and vegetarian, and each burger comes with a little pile of perfectly cooked chips.  They also do breakfast and can brew a very nice Lavazza coffee.

 

Port Douglas

 

Port Douglas Yacht Club

For a more local experience, you must visit the PDYC!  This open air bar and restaurant is a great place to meet friendly locals and watch the sun set over the estuary.  We enjoyed a delicious and well priced dinner that included fresh, crisp chips and a lovely side salad.  Their chicken parma is juicy and thick with all the correct toppings, and they also offer Cargill steak.

 

Port Douglas

 

Information & Accommodation

The Port Douglas Tourist Information Centre is located on the main street at 23 Macrossan Street, or you can visit these websites: http://www.tourismportdouglas.com.au/ or http://www.pddt.com.au/

 

Port O’Call Lodge YHA – 4 green star eco-lodge.  To make a reservation, call 07 4099 5422 or email portdouglas@yha.com.au

 

Cape Tribulation YHA – nestled deep within the Daintree rainforest.  To make a reservation, call 07 4098 0030 or email capetribulation@yha.com.au

 

Port Douglas

 

 

Thursday Night BBQ - Bungled

Party In Port Douglas : Dave & Juz’s Birthday

If we had left Darwin in mid-August with the Troopy, we were expecting to be in Port Douglas in time for our birthdays.  However, we decided to stick around in Darwin and experience the Wet Season, so we flew over to Queensland for a week-long getaway in with family and friends.

 

Day 1 : Wednesday

We woke up at 4:30am to be picked up by a cab at 5am.  Our flight at 6:20am got us to Cairns at 9:30am.  We caught a cab into the city for some coffee before realising that we had 4 hours to waste… so we decide to have a pub crawl.

 

 

Dave’s folks arrived in Cairns at about 3pm, picked us up outside The Union Jack and we headed for Port Douglas.  They dropped us off at our accommodation, where we freshened up and got ready to meet our mates who had arrived a few days earlier.

 

Everyone was at the Rattle and Hum – we drank a little more to prevent a hangover from the pub crawl, had some dinner and caught up with some general chit chat.  Juz was exhausted and went home to sleep while Dave stayed out until midnight (lest he turn into a pumpkin).

 

The CAKE that Dave's mum made - AMAZING!

 

Day 2 : Thursday

We got up nice and early and joined the family group to head to Cape Tribulation and the Daintree Forest.

 

LOOK OUT!!  The Daintree

 

Cape Tribulation was gorgeous.  We had a nice walk on the beach, saw some mangroves and stingrays before having lunch at Mason’s Café and explore the water hole nearby.  We stopped at the Daintree Ice Creamery on the way back and tried some tropical flavours like yellow sapote, wattleseed and coconut.

 

 

We got back in the late afternoon, rested our weary legs before preparing for the evening celebrations.  Everyone met at Anzac Park with BYO booze and meat and we had a feast and cut the amazing cake that Dave’s mum made before the real shenanigans started – climbing things was the theme of the evening.  After making a 10-person human pyramid, the boys climbed the picnic shelter, and the playground, and the playground shade cloth to check out the full moon over the water.

 

 

Once we were done with the park, we packed up and headed to the Iron Bar for some more drinks and dancing.  This is when things start getting a bit blurry.  Dave and I left with Cyn, Matty and Chris and we went back to their hotel.  We did some skinny dipping in the pool, Juz scrapped her hip on the bottom of the pool and Dave ripped his nipple open trying to pole dance on a flag pole.

 

Rip Nip!

 

The night manager told us to scram so we fled and headed home, but not before Matty poured Dave a full glass of Chivas Regal.  It goes without saying that Dave doesn’t remember much from that point on.

 

Thursday Night BBQ

 

Day 3 : Friday

A tough morning – but no rest for the wicked.

 

We peeled Chris off our motel couch, got cleaned up, checked out of our studio room and went to Mossman Gorge with Chris and Dave’s folks and new arrivals, Kieran and Maria. Stupidly, we didn’t bring our swimmers so we couldn’t refresh ourselves in the cool waters, but there was a lovely 2km track through the forest to enjoy.

 

 

Once again, we had to pretty ourselves up for the evening, but instead of doing it at our hostel, we cleaned up in comfort and Dave’s parental unit.  It was probably for the best because Dave’s ripped nipple needed some serious attention and Juz was too squirmish to finish the job so Dave’s mum stepped in.  Once we were all bandaged up and smelling sweet, we headed to On The Inlet – the location for Juz’s special 30th birthday dinner.

 

Everyone was there – we took up two tables and were taken care of by an awesome waiter who had a great sense of humour and perfectly pronounced Gewurztraminer (and made us look silly).  Dave ordered the whole baby barramundi while Juz and Cyn shared a bunch of entrees.  Everyone’s meals were incredible and the drinks kept on coming, but because Juz had burnt herself out the night before, it was an early night for her and Dave, but some of the others partied on until the wee hours.

 

Watching the footy at On The Inlet

 

Day 4 : Saturday

Attempted recovery – we woke up just in time to meet Jess and Trav at Mocka’s Pies for breakfast before a total faff day wandering around town and sunbaking on the beach.  When we got back to the parental unit, Dave took the plunge and shaved some of his beard off, leaving a long purple goatee.

 

 

We went downstairs to the Rattle and Hum for happy hour drinks while we watched the Sydney– Fremantle game before heading down the street for a delicious Thai dinner.  The plan after that was to go to the Full Moon Party at the marina but it was full of teenagers dancing to terribly mixed music so we spent the rest of the evening on the beach.  Juz bowed out at midnight while Dave partied on with Glenn.

 

 

When Dave and Glenn got back to the hostel at some ungodly hour, there were some people sitting on chairs in a line on the side of the road.  They assumed that some sort of show was about to start, so they pulled up a couple of chairs.  It turned out there wasn’t a show, but they met a cool Italian backpacker, caught (and released) a bird and found a bunch of glow sticks before eventually crawling into bed somewhere around 5am.

 

Day 5 : Sunday

It was Parksy’s last day in Port Douglas and Juz woke up just in time to meet up with him at Mocka’s for a final breakfast pie.  When she got back to the hostel, Dave was still in a coma on his bunk, but she had to rouse him so that we could get cleaned up at the parental unit before heading to Cyn and Matty’s exotic accommodation, the Sea Temple.

 

 

We spent the afternoon sitting by the pool and drinking cocktails before the girls dolled themselves up for dinner at a secret location.  We were picked up by a shuttle bus and taken into the forest for the most magical experience in Port Douglas – Flames of the Forest.

 

Our dinner was perfect – romantic live music sung by a girl surrounded by guitars and ukuleles, dream-like lighting, candles, red velvet and knives and forks that were lined up for miles.  Each course that came out was a taste sensation, and the wine was free-flowing.   After a quick dance at the end of the night, we were shuttled back to town and passed out when our heads hit the pillow.

 

 

Day 6 : Monday

Breakfast with Juz’s mum before another day of faffing.  Drinks at the Rattle and Hum started after Cyn, Matty, Glenn, Liz and Chris left for Cairns at around 4pm before whoever was left headed over to the packed-out Tin Shed for a pub style meal.

 

 

Day 7 : Tuesday

Our last day in Port Douglas.  We checked out of the hostel and walked down to Origin Espresso for the best coffee in town before cleaning ourselves up at Juz’s parental unit.  We packed the car up and headed to Cairns for a pho lunch with Kieran and Maria.

 

We checked into our motel room and waved goodbye to Juz’s mum, Kieran and Maria before stripping down to our underpants and watching TV all night long.

 

 

Day 8 : Wednesday

We woke up relatively early to have breakfast at Paleo Café before catching the shuttle bus to the airport and coming home to Darwin for some well-deserved rest!

 

 

We want to extend a massive thank you to our friends and family who were able to get to Port Douglas for the festivities.  We had a fantastic time seeing the sights and catching up with you all.  Where should we have our birthday party next year….?