Situated between the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, the tropical paradise of Port Douglas has an abundance of boutique accommodation, restaurants and shops.
Image credit: Alison George.
Guests come to Niramaya Villas & Spa for the verdant surroundings, private pools and canny combination of intimacy and space. This boutique resort has 38 Balinese-style villas, plus a restaurant and bar and award-winning day spa. If you want to continue the Daintree theme, ask for a rainforest view – a handful of the villas are set within the tropical bush.
At the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort (pictured top), there are two hectares of saltwater lagoons to cool off in, forming the focus point of the 295 sprawling rooms, suites and villas. Book a swim-out room and you can slip right from your peach-hued deck into the water.
The beach house
When the pioneer developers arrived here in the 1970s, most gravitated not to the beach but to the hills that overlook it. Perched on Flagstaff Hill, just a short walk from the main drag, 13 Wharf Street is the quintessential Port Douglas beach house, with the living areas and master suite taking in 180-degree ocean views.
You need to wander off the high street to find Origin Espresso (Shop 3a, 21-23 Warner Street), where barista/owner Neo roasts, grinds and blends the Fair Trade Peruvian beans on site to make smooth coffees. This is where locals go for their morning Joe.
The lunch restaurant
The Tin Shed juts out over Dickson Inlet to capture uninterrupted water and mountain views. Order a bucket of prawns and a coldie from the excellent club-style menu and watch the boats glide into the marina as the sun dips down.
The cocktail bar
Jimmy Rum’s Mixing Lounge is an intimate bar with a speak-easy vibe and a diverse list of cocktails. Be aware that the entry can be easy to miss – look out for the red lantern hanging outside.
The dinner restaurants
The hardest tables to snag in Port Douglas restaurants are the ones at long-time local favourite Salsa Bar and Grill so book before you arrive in town. It’s relaxed, tropical and has a menu dominated by fresh, creative seafood. Just two doors down, Melaleuca, is where award-winning chef Adam Ion and his wife, Namhee, preside over a menu that’s Mod Oz with a little Korean spice. The courtyard out front is sheltered by huge mango trees – sit here to enjoy people watching along with the pan-seared Daintree barramundi served with sautéed veggies and toasted almonds.
Image credit: Andrew Watson. Top image credit: Rian Cope.
The Port Douglas markets (Market Park, Wharf Street) are held every Sunday morning on the waterfront, selling clothing, jewellery, crafts and exotic fruits. It’s a cotter’s market, meaning all goods for sale are made by the stallholder or their family.
Port Douglas is home to the best reef fishing in the country. East Coast Angling will transport you to some of the most remote locations and offers the chance to chase down that trophy fish before releasing it back into the Coral Sea.
The family daytrip
You can’t come to Port Douglas and not visit the reef. Calypso Reef Cruises sails from the marina to the Low Isles (great for kids) and the outer reef to snorkel or dive. Look out for the marine turtles, manta rays, multi-hued parrotfish, reef sharks and countless more.