Port Douglas, close to both Cairns and Palm Cove, is a happening place along the Australian coast where visitors bask in the sunshine, bake to perfect bronze on the beach and enjoy all the amenities of a small, close-knit resort village that’s brimming with vitality and fun. The fancy resorts, luxurious spas and boutique shopping are just one side of the story, however. You should experience Port Douglas as a veritable destination for the native wildlife and natural wonder that makes Australia such an incredibly unique place to visit; the area is known as the place “where the reef meets the rainforest,” and it is home to several significant, thriving ecosystems which are open to the public and provide ample opportunities for unique accommodations juxtaposed with exploratory excursions.
There are myriad tours into the Daintree Rainforest, one of Port Douglas’s most popular tourist attractions. Consider visiting the Rainforest Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary, a section of land set on two hectares (eight acres) where visitors can get incredibly close to the native animals and the abundance of plants and trees. It’s an open and interactive habitat that has been specially built with guests in mind, while maintaining the integrity of the sacred rainforest (the likeness of which is disappearing all over the world). Breakfast with the Birds is a favorite morning ritual at the habitat, as well as the follow-up Lunch with the Lorikeets, which offers a sumptuous spread of fresh meats, cheeses, breads, soups, fruits, salads and even Australian wines, all in a wildlife-friendly environment where vivid birds hop along the table among diners.
Great Barrier Reef
Even schoolchildren all over the world have heard of the Great Barrier Reef, and for good reason. Considered by some to be one of the seven wonders of the natural world, the 2000 km long reef is home to an astonishing array of aquatic wildlife and underwater plants, making it a must when visiting Port Douglas. There is any number of tours with whatever activity you might want to try, from scuba diving and snorkeling to simply enjoying the view on a glass-floor boat. Port Douglas’s stretch of the reef is considered among the cleanest and purest ocean water in the world, giving you unprecedented visibility of the school of fish and other marine life.
If you’re thinking about visiting in June or July, consider that during those months it is possible to swim with Dwarf Minke whales, some of whom make their home in the warm waters off Port Douglas.
Barron or Russell Rivers
If you seek something a little more adrenaline-fueled and physical, try white water rafting on either the Barron or Russell rivers, where different expanses of rushing water give rafters of all skill sets a unique and exciting challenge.
Keep your swimsuit handy for a day trip to Mossman Gorge, about 30 minutes from Port Douglas and located in the southern part of Daintree Rainforest. Self-guided walks take you through towering, ancient trees; hike until you reach the spot where the Mossman River pours over granite boulders, creating swimming holes in the cool, pristine water. Bring a picnic lunch for much-needed sustenance between hours of water playtime.
Where to Stay
Imagine waking every morning to the sounds of exotic bird song, the tranquil rustle of trees and scent of lush greenery. The Daintree Eco Lodge and Spa effortlessly merges comfort and luxury with nature’s splendor; a great example of this is one of the Lodge’s Rainforest Houses, where Spa Villas come equipped with Jacuzzis on a screened balcony which overlooks the forest. The Daintree Spa is the last word in relaxation, where the aim is to heal the spirit and rejuvenate the mind and body with massages, body wraps and facials.
For a more budget-friendly option, the Daintree Crocodylus Village is a cost-minded hideaway perfect for backpackers or low-maintenance folks, with rates starting as low as $25 per night for dorm-style rooms. It’s located in Cow Bay, just north of the Daintree River, giving its guests the perfect starting point for new adventures. Equipped with a pool, internet, board games, the Kingfisher Café (which is conveniently open 24 hours a day), the Gecko Bar, a general store and a self-catering kitchen there’s enough to do onsite during a relaxing evening, after a long day of exploration.