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

 

 

Sunset over Flinders Street Station

Experience : Touristy things to do in Melbourne

Sunset over Southbank

 

It doesn’t matter what you’re into, there are heaps of things to do in and around Melbourne.

 

Explore St Kilda & Melbourne’s Luna Park

Located about 7km south of Melbourne, St Kilda is a vibrant and active coastal suburb. A haven for young travellers and backpackers, it springs to life in summer with festivals, twilight markets and live music. Go for a walk along the beach, enjoy the view on St Kilda Pier or have a BBQ in Catani Gardens.

 

Melbourne’s Luna Park is the most colourful attraction in St Kilda. It opened in 1912 and is now the oldest theme park in the world and home to the Scenic Railway – the oldest continually running rollercoaster. Grab yourself a cloud of fairy floss and a bag of their awesome beer-batter chips and take a look around – entry is free!

 

While you soak in the sun and the sea air, you could even wander as far as Albert Park Lake, a popular location for jogging, dog walking and various boating activities. The road around the lake is the track for the Melbourne Grand Prix.

 

 

Learn stuff at Melbourne’s various museums

The Melbourne Museum is located just north of the city in the Carlton Gardens. They have various exhibitions on throughout the year and IMAX Cinema is also part of the museum complex.

 

Right next door to the Melbourne Museum is the Royal Exhibition Building, a world heritage landmark that was completed in 1880. It is one of the world’s oldest exhibition pavilions and is the site of various shows and expos.

 

The Immigration Museum is located on Flinders Street, just west of the station, and focuses on Australia’s multicultural identity. Learn about how and why people came to Australia, and how their culture helped shape Melbourne’s diverse way of life.

 

If you’re dragging rugrats around, tire them out at Scienceworks. Learn about the environment and how the body works. It’s both fun and educational, and parents might even learn something new.

 

General adult entry fees to the Melbourne Museum, Scienceworks and the Immigration Museum are only $10.

 

http://museumvictoria.com.au 

 

 

Connect with nature in the Dandenong Ranges, attempt the 1000 Steps, go SkyHigh, or take a ride on Puffing Billy

The Dandenong Ranges are located on the eastern border of Melbourne, about 50 minutes drive from the city. This mountainous area is home to quaint villages, craft shops and cute tea houses, and there are some stunning forest walks available through Sherbrook Forest and Olinda Falls Reserve.

 

At the foot of the ranges are the 1000 Steps, a Kokoda Memorial Walk dotted with plaques that describe the experiences of Australian solders as they marched along the real Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea. We don’t recommend this walk if you’re not physically up for it as it can be a bit tough…

 

If you want a total railway experience, catch the train to Belgrave from the city and follow the blue line to get to Puffing Billy – a century-old steam train that travels through the Dandenong Ranges from Belgrave to Gembrook. It’s a unique experience to be carted around in a massive steam train with your feet hanging out the windows and the sound of the WOOO WOOO! Adult ticket prices start at $18.50.

 

SkyHigh provides a fabulous view over the entire city and Port Phillip Bay, and on a clear day, you can see the skyscrapers of the city centre. There is also a café and restaurant that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with surrounding gardens and a maze made from native plants. This is a romantic hotspot – get there just before sunset with a hot pizza and your make-out buddy. Entry is $5 per car.

 

 

Have a picnic in the Royal Botanical Gardens

This enormous park just south of the CBD and can be the perfect place to spend the afternoon, sitting on a blanket in the warm sun. It is also home to several Melbourne landmarks, like the Shrine of Remembrance, the Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden and the Sidney Myer Music Bowl.

 

If the night is balmy enough, check out Moonlight Cinema, an open air cinema that operates during summer and screens all sorts of films, from new releases to cult classics. An adult ticket is $18 but they also have a $33 Gold Grass option that includes a bean bed and premium viewing location.

 

 

Spend the day at the Queen Victoria Markets

Open on Tuesdays and Thursday through to Sunday, the Queen Victoria Markets are 130 years old and is still an active and busy market.

 

Everything is available, from leather belts, clothes and shoes to fresh and organic food and delicious deli meats. In fact, the market is so big, it has precincts, including the meat hall, F Shed Laneway and String Bean Alley.

 

If you’re hungry, you can’t go past the Borek Shop in the Deli Hall. You know you’re in the right place because the crowd out the front at lunchtime is about 4 rows deep. Get one with cheese and spinach, or lamb, or all of them – they’re all $2.50 each.

 

Catch a tram to Fitzroy and go on a pub crawl

A stone’s throw north of the city is Melbourne’s first and smallest suburb – Fitzroy. The culture revolves around street art, live music, good coffee and its plethora of pubs.

 

All pubs are within walking distance of each other so it’s perfect for a pub crawl. Some crawls start from the bottom at the Builders Arms and work their way up towards Palookaville, while other crawls zig zag across Brunswick Street, from the Union Hotel and Little Creatures Dining Hall to the Standard, then back to the Napier and the Rainbow.

 

If the pub scene isn’t your thing, they also have some great cocktail bars like the Alchemist Bar and Polly, and Latin clubs like The Night Cat and Arepa Bar. You will also find some tremendous cafes in the area, such as Atomica Caffé, which roast their own beans, and Sonido! with their exotic South American influence.

 

 

Go for a stroll along Southbank Promenade and try your luck at Crown Casino

Southbank runs along the south side of the Yarra river between St Kilda Road and the Crown Entertainment Complex. Apart from being a great place for a pleasant stroll with a nice view of the city, it also has buskers, pubs, restaurants, and a cool eatery in the middle of the river called Ponyfish Island.

 

The Crown Complex is open 24 hours a day every day of the year except Christmas Day, Good Friday and Anzac Day. They do have a dress code, so if you’re planning to hang out, make sure you dress nice. Inside, there are beauty spas, restaurants, pubs, bars, nightclubs, big brand shopping, cinemas, bowling and a massive arcade area with laser skirmish.

 

The Gas Brigades out the front of Crown expel a huge ball of fire every hour after dark until midnight. Check their website for the fireball schedule.

 

 

Relax at Federation Square and watch the sun set over Flinders Street Station

Federation Square was opened in 2002 as a cultural public square of Melbourne. While it serves as a popular tourist attraction, this could possibly be because of its ambiguous aesthetics. Could it be the ugliest landmark you have ever seen, or is it attractive and artistic in its own way? Who knows?

 

Before the sun goes down, eat a steak at Transport Hotel Bar and soak up the last rays of the day in their sunroom.

 

Before you leave, head towards the river and take the stairs down to Riverland Bar and Café for a relaxing beer. It inhabits the old Federation Wharf vaults, which were built in 1889 and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

 

Flinders Street Railway Station is the epicentre of the Melbourne public transport system and a major icon of the city. It is the oldest railway station in Australia, officially being opened in 1910, even though it was operating as a railway station since 1854! It has 14 platforms and services 16 train lines.

 

The clocks under the main entrance have been dated back to the 1860s and were put into storage after the old station façade was demolished and were installed in the new station building before its opening. The clocks were operated manually until 1983 – now they are computer operated.

 

Go on a mission to find the best coffee and discover the charming and secretive laneways and arcades in the CBD

Melbournians love good coffee and we’re certainly spoilt for choice! There are heaps of tasty brewers around Melbourne who take pride in producing a choice cup.

 

If you need a benchmark to set your standards to, try Seven Seeds in North Melbourne, 65 Degrees in the CBD or Atomica in Fitzroy.  Other popular cafes include St Ali in South Melbourne, Three Bags Full in Richmond, Proud Mary in Collingwood and Patricia Coffee Brewers in the CBD.

 

Have a wander around to see if you can find your own special place and explore Melbourne’s arcades and laneways.

 

Hardware Lane is great for food with Bao Now, Bentoya Japanese, Hardware Societé and Affogato Café, while Degraves Place transports you into another world with its European ambiance. After a stroll past the resident boutique shops, relax with a latte in one of its many cafes and soak up the sounds of a nearby busker.

 

The Royal Arcade was opened in 1870 and is absolutely stunning with its old time charm and stained glass windows. The drawcard for this arcade is Gaunt’s Clock, which chimes every hour. The arcade has a collection of specialty shops selling the most colourful and wonderful stuff, like Russian babushkas, artisan rock candy and magical oddities.

 

If you’re looking for something a little more rock ‘n’ roll, try AC/DC Lane and visit Cherry Bar for some late night head banging. This street used to be called Corporation lane, but was renamed in 2004 as a tribute to the Australian rock band AC/DC.

 

 

Eat a dumpling in Chinatown or have some gelati on Lygon Street

Chinatown is a colourful strip of red and gold, right in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. During the Victorian Gold Rush in 1851, many Chinese immigrants settled in Little Bourke Street, and thus the first Chinese community in Melbourne began.

 

If you love a good dumpling, there are a few places that will definitely impress, including HuTong Dumpling Bar, Nam Loong, Shark Fin and Shanghai Noodle House. Chinatown is also the stage for the Chinese New Year Festivities in February.

 

If you prefer Italian cuisine, wander up to Lygon Street in Carlton. Many Italian immigrants came to Australia after World War II and established Melbourne as the second largest Italian city outside of Italy. Affectionately named the ‘Little Italy’ of Melbourne, Some may argue that this is where Melbourne’s café culture was born.

 

The two must-visit places on Lygon Street are Brunetti for their authentic Italian cakes, and Il Dolce Freddo, an ice cream shop that lives in the heart of nearly every Melbournian. Their ice cream is creamy, delicious and available in a variety of flavours such as Durian, Ferrero Rocher, Tutti Di Bosco and Tiramisu.

 

Don’t expect to stick to diet while you’re in this part of town.

 

 

Check out a game of Aussie rules football

In Victoria, if someone says “football” they mean AFL – grown men in tight shorts chasing an oval ball on an oval field.

 

Invented in 1857 to keep cricketers fit during the winter off-season, footy now plays a huge part in many Melbournians lives. The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) has the capacity to hold 100,000 cheering supporters and tickets to a match during finals season are in high demand.

 

Matches are played on weekends from March to September, so why not pick a team, get rugged up in their colours, and go join in the excitement! Adult ticket prices to a match at the MCG start at $21.30 and vary across the other game venues.

 

Talk to the animals at the Royal Melbourne Zoo, Healesville Sanctuary, Werribee Zoo or Melbourne Aquarium

Melbourne Zoo is located just north of the city and is home to a variety of animals, from Asian elephants to Sumatran tigers. To get there, you can catch a train to Royal Park Station or jump on the 55 tram from Williams Street.

 

Healesville Sanctuary is about an hour’s drive east of Melbourne and focuses on Australian flora and fauna, as well as protecting endangered species.

 

Werribee Zoo is a 30 minute drive to the west of Melbourne and has a more African feel, as it is home to lions, rhinoceros, zebras, giraffes and African wild dogs. Admission includes a safari tour that buses you around the open range surroundings.

 

All zoological parks are open from 9am – 5pm every day of the year and adult entry is $26.10.

 

http://www.zoo.org.au/

 

If you prefer to keep your head below the water, check out the Melbourne Aquarium. It is located in the Melbourne CBD along the banks of the Yarra River. It is open from 9:30am to 6pm every day and admission for an adult costs $35.

 

 

Give your feet a rest and take a cruise down the Yarra River

You’ve been walking all day, you’re exhausted but you want to see more. Then let Melbourne River Cruises do all the work for you. They have great sightseeing cruises that go for about an hour.

 

Prices for an adult start at $23 and it is a really relaxing way to see Melbourne’s docks and riverside attractions.