Australia’s Port Douglas caters to every whim – from wild adventure to serene romance. It’s the coming together of all things enchanting – where the rainforest meets the reef.
From wild adventure to serene romance, it’s where the rainforest meets the reef.
Nothing beats a good holiday, but when it comes to your honeymoon, expectations are upped, and it’s impossible to know if the postcard- perfect image of a place will deliver all those essentials to take it next level. If the ingredients to your ideal include escaping to the tropics and exploring the great outdoors with ease – while savouring those moments of romantic seclusion – then head to Port Douglas: the beautiful pinnacle of Australia’s Far North.
After an hour’s drive north from Cairns airport, you’ll arrive at Port Douglas’ chilled- out centre. It’s where lush rainforests and exotic birdlife meet white sands and the legendary seventh wonder of the world, Great Barrier Reef – the only living thing visible from outer space. Enthusiastic sun seekers revel in golden rays all year ’round and Port Douglas’ balmy climate won’t disappoint. It’s got that sense of endless summer magic as visitors graze through the streets on everything from sights and sounds to shopping.
The casual vibe of this coastal resort town makes it an easy place to relax. The main strip is friendly to navigate, and casual is where the mood is at. Boutiques and galleries stand alongside herb and health stores: Port Douglas has a holistic side, and hardworking holidaymakers can make the most of natural treatment and massage therapy centres.
Sure, get dolled up for a night out on the town, but by no means is there a dress code. As night thickens, so too does the town’s buzz, with diners and drinkers feasting on local fare. From breakfast at The Little Larder to dinner at Watergate, eating out is part of Port Douglas’ fabric, complete with all the things you expect ( but don’t always get) in a popular tourist spot: quality food and good service. Popular restaurants such as Salsa and Finz are at the top of their game, and you’re bound to spot menus serving local twists on a burger – think crocodile and kangaroo.
An appreciation of community is most apparent at the weekend markets. Operating for more than two decades, it’s chocka with mostly Aussie arts and crafts that fight for your attention. While away the day in a maze of handcrafted jewellery and boho fashion mixed in with colourful puppets and locally made glasswork.
In a scene that’s typically known for family outings and boaties, the updated marina, or ‘Marina Mirage’ as it’s known, welcomes all walks of life. Amongst the tourist shops overflowing with sunhats and souvenirs, Hemingway’s modern craft brewery sets itself out from the crowd; its seasonal brews and wood fire pizzas are a favourite for those wanting to people watch against a serene backdrop. Don’t leave empty handed – request your choice of beer and the bartender will can it onsite. If you’re after cocktails, head to the other end of the marina, where Barbados beckons loved-up couples with plus- size lounge suites and an air of laid-back luxe.
Accommodations abound. When deciding to save or splurge, honeymooners are spoilt for choice – don’t be misled by Port Douglas’ popularity
ENTHUSIASTIC SUN SEEKERS REVEL IN GOLDEN RAYS ALL YEAR ’ROUND AND PORT DOUGLAS’ BALMY CLIMATE WON’T DISAPPOINT.
ACCOMMODATIONS ABOUND. WHETHER YOU ARE SAVING OR SPLURGING, HONEYMOONERS ARE SPOLIT FOR CHOICE.
with overseas tourists – there are still plenty of options for those wanting a secluded romantic escape. If you’re wanting to be central, book a room at Club Tropical (clubtropicalresort.com. au). While self- contained studios are available, being in the heart of Port Douglas makes it a perfect base for those who plan on spending most of their time out and about.
For those who want to be near the town centre but not amongst it, QT Hotel (qthotelsandresorts.com) is where it’s at. With a cool sense of style, this 160-room hotel has retro stamped on everything from the architecture to the furniture. The onsite bar and restaurant can cater to almost every whim. Besides riding the larger-thanlife rubber duckies in the hotel pool or wandering through the water gardens overflowing with lily pads and palms, take a breather from the crowds in your self-sufficient suite.
As part of the Executive Suite Collection (executiveretreats.com. au), each property owner brings their own sense of leisurely style to multi-bedroom luxury villas, located just five minutes outside of the town centre. They feature ample indoor/outdoor living space, local art, and daybeds where you can find shade from the sun- drenched patio before stepping into a plunge pool. The executive chef kitchens will appeal to those wanting to flex their cooking muscles, and if romantic dinners in seclusion sound like you (without the clean-up duty) you can order meals to be delivered.
Surrounded by World Heritage forest, it’s all about the great outdoors at Thala Beach Nature Reserve ( thalabeach. com. au). Throughout this extraordinary eco-retreat you’ll find great views, serene settings and insight into the environment by way of daily tours throughout the unique rainforest, woodlands, mangroves, and marine coast. Each suite is set either amongst the jungle, in the tropical rainforest or high above the treetops with birdlike views stretching across the Coral Sea. You’re bound to spot locals – animals that is – from the musky rat kangaroo to the red eyed green tree frog, and some of the 400 species of butterflies and birds that live in the area. Because Thala is situated on a private 145-acre headland between Carins and Port Douglas, it’s a playground for those who like to observe the best of nature as well as those who want to get
out amongst it. Embrace the jungle’s earthy beauty with one of the complimentary wildlife walks or coconut tours, where you’ll hear from well-versed specialists on the local region. And while it can be tempting to cocoon in your love nest of a private suite, don’t miss the star gazing nights, where onsite telescopes and binoculars give you a look into the Southern Constellations, and the starlight dial is turned up to the max.
You’ll want to wake in time to enjoy the buffet breakfast. Tropical fruit and fresh pastries go well with local coffee and a view of Cape Tribulation, Double Island, World Heritage forests and Great Barrier Reef. All the while, enjoy the soundtrack of local kookaburras – how Australian can you get?
Port Douglas’ scope for relaxation stretches well beyond where you decide to lie your head at night. Whether you’re more of a land creature or sea lover, golden Four Mile Beach is a must. You can access it from one of the town’s main streets, and at the northern rocky headland, get your heart pumping with a climb to the Flagstaff Hill Lighthouse to survey the surroundings from towering heights: besides the eastern end of Port Douglas and Mowbray River, the beach expands to the foothills towards Black Mountain.
Given its proximity to two World Heritage areas – the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Forest – there’s more than what first meets the eye with Port Douglas’ lively town centre. Explore for a half day or multiple days, casually snorkelling or scuba-ing, there are plenty of tours available catering to all types of travellers. If you’re strapped for time, sail to the lower isles and outer reef in a glass-bottom boat run by Tropical Journeys (tropicaljourneys.com), a tour which is narrated by a local guide. As you immerse yourself into the crystal waters, it’s impossible to prepare for the extraordinary experience of swimming alongside the 1500 species of fish, turtles, dolphins and rays; or how the horizon sparkles in the distance as you glide through the crystal waters. Explore undersea coral gardens that glow fluorescent as a backdrop to the surreal marine life (calypsoreefcruises.com).
Hunter gatherers will find the $200+ investment well worth it during a seven-hour fishing trip across the outer reef. You’re bound to hook a variety of fish, and they’ll be neatly wrapped up to be taken home. The best part is that it doesn’t matter whether you’re staying in a self- sufficient abode or a standard hotel, most restaurants in Port Douglas are happy to cook your fish to your specifications for a small charge (dragonlady.com.au).
When you’re ready to come up for air, kitesurfing is popular at the southern end of Four Mile Beach, and daredevils can soar against the sun- drenched mountains. If you’re good with heights, a helicopter ride will give thrill seekers an entirely different, and somewhat surreal, perspective of the reef emerging beneath sparkling waters.
Just north of Port Douglas, you’ll find the Daintree Rainforest, home to more plants and animals on earth than anywhere else. A World Heritage area estimated to be more than 135 million years old, you can hike some of the 1200 square kilometres or dip into Cape Tribulation or Donovans Beach.
Romance, nature, seclusion, luxury, diversity, and two sets of World Heritage sites to boot. If you’re searching for perfection in one place, it doesn’t get much closer than this.
WHEN TO GO While being in the tropics lends itself to wetter summers, temperatures soar in February and the peak season extends from May through September.
HOW TO GET THERE Air New Zealand (airnz.co.nz) flies direct from Auckland International Airport to Cairns every week, Thursday to Sunday. Flying from elsewhere in New Zealand? Cairns is still within easy reach, with just a quick transit in either Brisbane or Sydney. Upon your arrival in Cairns, rent a car for the scenic one-hour drive up the coast to reach your honeymoon destination: Port Douglas.
Far left Get your fix of sealife with Tropical Journeys.
Below Sample the local craft beer at Hemingway’s.
Bottom Become one with the wild at Thala Beach Nature Reserve.
Right and below QT Hotel gives the last word on luxe with its retro styling and airy, spacious feel. Bottom right Roll from beach lounger to plunge pool at Executive Suites’ villas.