Cairns and Port Douglas are great gateway for other parts of Queensland. I wouldn’t recommend staying in Port Douglas itself (and I didn’t visit Cairns expect for its airport) for more than a night or two as it’s quite touristy. It felt like Australia’s answer to Benidorm. But I would 100% go back there for the incredible days I had either side of it which were two of the best days of my life.
Fly into Cairns and head towards the Daintree National Park. On your way, stop off at the Kuranda National Park either by car or by Sky cable cars if it isn’t too misty. Then drive up the incredible Captain Cook Highway, breaking at a view point or two (don’t go down to the water, there are crocodiles. Seriously, don’t).
Book yourself into the Daintree Ecolodge Hotel & Spa and enjoy a night or two in the rainforest, literally. All their rooms have a netted balcony where you can sit, meditate or even do your yoga practise on high amongst the branches and bugs.
Top tip: when booking, make sure you ask for a room that isn’t overlooking the main hotel/dining room.
Wake up early and catch the 2 minute ferry across the river and drive all the way to Cape Tribulation. That’s the top of the national park and has the most impressive board walk. Start there and then make your way down, stopping off at as many viewpoints and boardwalks that you like the look of. I’d recommend packing your swimmers and a towel and cooling off at Mason’s watering hole before treating yourself to ice-cream at the Daintree Ice-Cream Company. Make sure you stop off at the Alexandra Look Out, at the base of the park, either on your way in or out. It’s where the rainforest meets The Great Barrier Reef. It’s so breath-taking, I cried.
Before having dinner back at the Ecolodge, head into Daintree village for the short tour of the town – it’ll take you about 5 mins it’s so small – and a drink at the only bar. I was there on the off season so it was really quiet and honestly a little creepy, but it’s a worth a visit.
Wake up early the following day and do a yoga class by the waterfall at the Ecolodge, or if they aren’t offering that, ask them for a mat and do your own practise on the balcony in your room. Then head off to Port Douglas, but on your way make sure you stop off at the Daintree Wild Zoo to spot some of Australia’s finest species, including crocs, kangaroos, parrots and cassowary. After the zoo, make sure to turn off at Mossman’s Gorge for another beautiful boardwalk and dip in the gorge.
If you can time it, try to arrive into Port Douglas a couple of hours before sunset. Check into your hotel (it’s full of big resort-y types, so pick one that best suits you – I stayed at Mantra Port Sea which was pretty basic and all that I needed), shower and head out to the Four Mile Beach. Walk along the beach towards town and climb the stairs at the end for some incredible panoramic views of the sea at dusk. Before the sun completely sets, keep walking around through the greenery until you make it into town. Have a wander down the tree-covered, fairy-lit main street, before having dinner at On the Inlet I read somewhere that this was the ‘poshest place in town’. LOL.
The following morning head to Sparrow on the Fly for a cup of Allpress coffee. If you’re there on a Sunday, make sure you visit the market to pick up some bits and bobs, before heading to the port for a full day out to The Great Barrier Reef.
I would highly recommend booking a private catamaran with Indigo Port Douglas. Run by husband and wife, Colin and Ali, this is the best way to see the magic under the sea. Let them feed you, stinger-suit you, and show you the best and most secluded places to see the coral, fish, friendly sharks and turtles. Spend the whole day out with them and then sail back into Port Douglas at sunset. Sounds like magic, doesn’t it? It really was.
Top tip: if you have a Go Pro or other waterproof camera, take it with you!
Once back in the harbour, head to Harrison’s for some craft beer on the port, before heading out for dinner or back to your hotel for a night of well-earned sleep.
I visited Port Douglas and The Great Barrier Reef in March 2020