Port Douglas is the perfect getaway for kids and parents alike, with everything from adrenaline-filled rainforest adventures and awe-inspiring wildlife tours to top-end eateries and bustling local markets.
Port Douglas, the tropical seaside town one hour’s drive north of Cairns, might be known as a playground of the rich and famous but it’s also the perfect holiday playground for families.
When the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort was built in 1987 – the first true five-star resort to open in Australia – it transformed a fishing village into the getaway spot of choice for celebrities, princes and presidents. But look beyond the glitz and glamour and you’ll discover the town is surrounded by hotels and resorts that offer a great value family holiday with fantastic resort pools, babysitting services and kids’ clubs so even parents can have some quality holiday fun time. The Mantra Portsea, QT Port Douglas and Peppers Beach Club Port Douglas are all family-friendly accommodation options that’ll make you feel at home, away from home.
Port Douglas has plenty of eating choices on the main street (Macrossan Street), but the one kids will remember is the Breakfast with the Birds in an aviary at the Wildlife Habitat on the edge of town – they also do Lunch with the Lorikeets – and meeting the koalas, tree kangaroos and reptiles afterwards, or maybe even becoming a junior keeper for the day. They’ll also love seeing dangerous reptiles in the wild on a crocodile cruise aboard the Lady Douglas or watching them being fed at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, a 25-minute drive south of town. Get back to the village after a big day of exploring and fuel those empty bellies at Chilly’s Pizza & Trattoria. Tucked just a street back from the main hive of activity, this local secret is where the kids can stretch out and mum and dad can kick back with good tunes and great food.
Adventurous teens can fly through the forest on a Jungle Surfing Canopy Tour or saddle up for a canter along the beach with Cape Trib Horse Rides. One tour the whole family will enjoy is the Dreamtime Gorge Walk through the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest at Mossman Gorge with an Indigenous guide, who will tell you stories of Kuku Yalanji culture and take you to sacred ceremony sites.
Port Douglas is the closest town to the Great Barrier Reef and there are more than a dozen reef tours to choose from. Quicksilver Cruises are ideal for families, with their underwater observatory on a pontoon at Agincourt Reef, snorkelling platforms, semi-submersibles and scuba lessons for over-12s. A shorter trip to the Low Isles on the inner reef is perfect for kids who aren’t confident swimming in open water – you can snorkel right off the lagoon beach.
The great thing about Port Douglas is that you don’t need to be rich to have fun. Everyone loves building sandcastles, and Four Mile Beach has plenty of space to build a mansion fit for a millionaire – if you’re here during Carnivale in May you can join in the Sand Sculpting Competition on Family Beach Day. And with no waves thanks to the Great Barrier Reef, it’s a top spot for a toddler-friendly paddle.
There are several good parks and playgrounds in town, most with free barbecues – Rex Smeal Park has water views, the Sports Ground has a skate ramp and there’s a play train at Bruno Riedweg Memorial Park on Solander Boulevard. If the kids aren’t entertained enough at the park, you can jump on the iconic Bally Hooley steam train for a history lesson with a twist. Originally owned by the Mossman Mill the Bally Hooley retired to scenic tours of Port Douglas. For a half day trip with a difference, get the family all aboard the train at its Marina Mirage station for a one-way trip to hip new lunch local, Choo Choos @ St Crispins before taking the return journey back to the marina on the Choo Choo Explorer, a fun boat ride back through the Dickon Inlet.
Sunday is market day beside the bay at Anzac Park where you can pick up a one-of-a-kind souvenir handmade by the people you buy it from – and you never know who you might meet. After all, rock stars and celebrities love a bespoke bargain, too.