Food and Drink in Port Douglas
The Courthouse Hotel: There are local characters considered to be fixtures at the Courthouse Hotel and striking up a conversation with them is highlight of any visit to Port Douglas. The heritage-pub attracts a diverse crowd, which is indicative of Port's demographic. The diverse menu is also representative of that demographic with a vegan nourish bowl going toe to toe with a steak sanga (slang for sandwich). (Corner of Wharf Street and Macrossan Street; 07 4099 5181; open daily, 9 am to midnight.)
Tin Shed Port Douglas: Port Douglas operates at its own pace and you will get a real sense of this when ensconced on the sprawling deck at the Tin Shed, Douglas Community & Sports Club, which looks out over the jewel-like Dickson's Inlet to the rainforest-clad mountain range beyond. Order a bucket of prawns followed by a bevvies at the Bacardi Bar. (7 Ashford Avenue; 07 4099 5553; open daily, 10 am to 10 pm.)
Osprey Restaurant: (Oak Beach; 07 4098 5700) is located on a private forested headland a 15 minute-drive south of Port Douglas. Dine among the treetops at the restaurant named after the osprey, a bird of prey you may well spot spearing into the Coral Sea below. Enjoy Mod Oz options such as popcorn crocodile or lobster and tiger prawn rolls with mayo.
Port on a plate: This foodie tour of Port Douglas and surrounds provides visitors with a great snapshot of the local food scene. The itinerary includes a visit to local farms to gather ingredients for a three-course lunch created by chef Peter Davidson, owner and guide at Port on A Plate: think Daintree chocolate, a refreshing sugarcane and lime drink, barramundi, and tropical wine. (0421 906465; firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mocka's Pies & Bakehouse: The meat pie is considered iconic in Australia and one of the best places to enjoy one is at the award-winning Mocka's Pies, which won seven gold medals at the 2019 Great Aussie Pie Competition. This cheap and cheerful bakery has been going strong for 50 fabulous years. You can keep it simple with steak and mushroom or put yourself out there with a 'Pieger' a cheeseburger wrapped in pastry. (Shop 34/9 Grant St; 07 4099 5295; open daily, 7 am to 4 pm.)
Hemingways: Head to Hemingways if you want to stay tethered to the marina and mingle with locals. The gastro brewpub is where you will find beer-lovers and boaties in equal measure. The most popular amber ales on offer at Hemingway's include the Prospector pilsener, the Hard Yards' dark lager and Pitchfork Betty's pale ale. Thirsty and hungry travellers should order crayfish sliders and sticky chicken wings and a paddle of beers, which are all named after colourful local characters. (44 Wharf St, 07 4099 6663; open daily, 11 am till late).
Salsa Bar & Grill: After playing Frisbee on Four Mile Beach, head to Salsa Bar & Grill to refuel. The restaurant has the relaxed Tropical North Queensland vibe down pat. The open-air restaurant, housed in an old Queenslander-style space, and decked out in blue and white, is a top spot to crack into queenfish numus, tempura whiting, local tiger prawns and Tableland red claw. (26 Wharf St; 07 4099 4922; open daily, noon till 10 pm) * *
Rattle 'N' Hum: Make your way down Macrossan Street to Rattle 'n' Hum, the bustling bar and grill that is a mere gentle saunter from the marina. Join plaid-clad locals in the Outback Bar in the courtyard, set up like a shrine to beer, and wait for your Napoli pizza to arrive. Watch live sports, drink craft beer and enjoy chatting with 'locals' -- all of whom are from elsewhere. The franchise has two sister bars: one at the Cairns Airport and another on the Cairns Esplanade. (07 4099 5641; open Monday to Thursday, 11.30 am till late; Friday to Sunday, 11 am till late.)
Barbados: There's good news for customers found coveting everything from the cushions to the cocktail glasses at Barbados: you can head to the bar's sister store, Martinique, and buy the look to take home with you. First, give your unwavering attention to the list of cocktails, which includes coconut sours and the TI punch, and chow down on salt and Szechuan pepper squid. If you only have a few hours to spare in Port Douglas, we'd recommend test-driving the day beds. (Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina, 44 Wharf Street; 0409 121 213; open 3 pm to 9.30 pm daily.)
Beaches in Port Douglas
Best for Active Types: Download a range of inspired podcasts or audio books and set off along Four Mile Beach starting at the rocky headland in the north. Although billed as being 'four miles', the beach is actually 4 km long so make sure you set off early along the powder-soft sand. Walk as far as the mangroves in the Mowbray River Mouth and then turn around and walk back to where the Port Douglas Surf Lifesaving Club have set up a swimming enclosure during stinger season. The beach is just a 10-minute walk from the town centre and is wheelchair accessible. Hire a kayak from Port Douglas Water Sports (0404 856 821) to look for marine turtles, dolphins and dugongs.
Best secluded Beach: Thala Beach Nature Reserve boasts panoramic views of the Far North Queensland coast, from the Great Barrier Reef to World Heritage rainforests and Thala's own beach. Follow the steps from Osprey Restaurant down to the beach and hire a sea kayak to get a different perspective of the jungle-clad reserve, spilling into the sea. For those who want to stay a night pre- or post-cruise, transfers are available from Port Douglas or Cairns. (5078 Captain Cook Highway, Oak Beach; 07 2102 7265)
Best for a Half-Day Visit: Palm Cove sits on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef Drive to Port Douglas. This much-loved resort town, with palm trees that bend into the wind, is the perfect microcosm of the tropics. Arrive early in the morning, where the morning light casts a lilac glow over fleecy clouds and there is a cooling breeze off the water. Throw a Frisbee, read a book, play castaway for a day or simply watch the local fishos feeding the osprey on the jetty. Make a full day of it with lunch at Nu Nu, a national treasure headed by chef and co-owner Nick Holloway. (Beachfront, 1 Veivers Road, Palm Cove; 07 4059, 1880).
Don't Miss in Port Douglas
Four Mile Beach: Walking the length of Four Mile Beach is a must when visiting the seaside village north of Cairns. The beach is at one end of the main street, and the yacht-filled harbour is at the other end. Don a floppy hat, kick off your slides and explore this wide swathe of sand, which comes to life when the locals hit it at dawn and dusk each day.
Macrossan Street: The village of Port Douglas has been spruced up in recent years and locals are embracing the changes, with new bars and restaurants and beautiful restored Queenslanders adding to its charm. Walk the length of the pedestrian-friendly main street to shop for souvenirs and cruise-friendly attire and to admire the motley mix of bikini-clad backpackers and bearded bikers.
Daintree Rainforest: The Daintree is regarded as the oldest living rainforest on Earth and it's somewhat of a requisite to visit the ancient rainforest while in Tropical North Queensland. Do the Dreamtime walk of the Daintree with indigenous tour leaders from the Mossman Gorge Centre where you can swim amid lichen-splotched boulders in a freshwater swimming hole, walk amid giant tree ferns and learn about bush medicine. (212r Mossman Gorge Road, Mossman; 07 4099 7000; open Monday to Saturday, 8 am to 6 pm, Sundays 8 am to 5 pm).
Daintree Village: The village vibe in Daintree is laid-back with a capital L. The quirky little town, originally used as a base for loggers in the 1870s, is now more of a heartland for hippies and a great place from which to explore both reef and rainforest. The mighty Daintree River flows past the village and is home to crocodiles that can be gawped at from the safety of a wildlife watching cruise boat. Get onboard the Crocodile Express (5 Stewart St, Daintree; 07 4098 6120; open daily, 8 am to 5 pm)
Kuku Yalanji Cultural Heritage Tours: Join Juan and Braddon Walker as they walk out into the shallows of Kuyu Kuyu (Cooya) Beach brandishing spears. The Indigenous brothers, founders of Kuku Yalanji Cultural Heritage Tours, invite visitors to join them on their daily jaunt into the mudflats to catch giant crabs and learn about how they care for their country and its precious resources. Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat tours is 100 per cent Aboriginal-owned and operated.
Back Country Bliss Tour: Try rubber-necking for saw-shelled turtles while drifting along with the current in a freshwater swimming hole with Back Country Bliss Tours (07 4099 3677). The tour company provides snorkelling gear and wetsuits for river drift snorkelling experience out of Mossman or Port Douglas. It's a great way to perfect your snorkelling prowess before heading out to the Great Barrier Reef.
Flagstaff Hill Lookout Walk: Pull on your hiking boots and set off early on this 1.3 km walking trail, which connects Four Mile Beach and Rex Smeal Park in Port Douglas. The bush to beach Flagstaff Hill Look out Walk (42 Warner St, Port Douglas) snakes through the bushland before reaching a viewing platform at the top of the Port Douglas peninsula, which looks out to Low Isles and Snapper Island and Port's beloved beachfront. The trail winds up at Rex Smeal Park.
Great Barrier Reef: Black-tip reef sharks, baby stingrays, triggerfish and angelfish are just a few of the marine creatures that you might spot in the deep ocean waters off the coast of Port Douglas, in Tropical North Queensland. The fish life is abundant and snorkelling in the fabulously clear, coral-filled ocean is definitely one to tick off your check list. Brush up on our tips for visiting the Great Barrier Reef and see visitportdouglasdaintree.com for a range of snorkel and dive tours to suit passengers of all ages and abilities.
Port Douglas Markets: The markets in Port Douglas are held every Sunday under a grove of palm trees that stand, like sentinels, with showy green hats, guarding St David's Church. Fossick at the markets for everything from artisanal wares, jams, cheeses, hand-crafted goods and fresh produce from local farms. Meet strawberry farmers, banana and avocado growers and park yourself near Little Amsterdam, which doles out poffertjes (Dutch profiteroles), and Taste of the Tropics for barramundi ceviche. Look out for the stalls selling fresh sugarcane juice and the coconut van, where the stallholders are armed with machetes. (Market Park, Wharf Street; open Sundays, 8 am to 1.30 pm.)