Lagoons, swim-up bars and absolute beachfront: A luxury guide to Port Douglas
How to travel the jewel of Far North Queensland in style.
By Melissa Mason and Hayley Peppin
If you’re looking for tropical heat in the middle of an Australian winter, Far North Queensland is where to head. While the southern states see temperatures dipping to single figures, the tropical north experiences perfect weather, cloudless skies, minimal humidity and yes – sun-drenched days just made for a dip in the pool.
If you’re after a romantic honeymoon or couples getaway, Port Douglas should top your list in the area. A relaxed town just an hour north of Cairns, it’s known for its world-class restaurants and luxury resorts. It’s also a convenient jump-point for adventuring through nearby must-do’s, such as the Daintree rainforest (a forty minute scenic drive where towering mountains loom on one side, and the turquoise ocean hugs the other) and the Great Barrier Reef.
Here, find our guide to the best luxury accommodation in the area — including the Sunshine State’s first-ever floating breakfast experience courtesy of the swish Sheraton Grand Mirage.
Where To Stay In Port Douglas
The first thing you will notice when you walk through the breeze-filled reception of Sheraton Grand Mirage is the salt-water lagoon pool. Weaving through most of the five-star resort, it’s not only a focal point but holiday highlight. You could easily spend your entire stay soaking up the sunshine and taking dips — or even meals — in different sections of the sprawling sparking pool. In a Sunshine State first, guests can now indulge in Queensland’s first-ever floating breakfast — which yes is enjoyed poolside.
Inspired by the relaxing and Instagram-worthy brunch trays found in Bali, The Maldives, Thailand and more; Sheraton is gifting Port Douglas visitors their own delicious and aesthetic pool spread. Flaky French pastries, açai bowls, succulent lobster with free-range scrambled eggs and more can now be enjoyed via floating wicker trays. Beverages are also included such as tea, coffee and/or freshly-squeezed orange juice. The experience is also exclusive to guests during the Sheraton Grand Mirage’s new ‘Float into Paradise’ stay. The package, starting from $690 per night, includes accommodation in the lush Studio Garden View Room and buffet breakfast in Feast for the remainder of their stay.
But aside from warm water dining, the on-site restaurant of Harrisons is another Port Douglas gem. As the most awarded restaurant in the area — it’s received a total of nine chefs hats, and landed a list on coveted lists like the Gourmet Traveller Food Guide and Delicious Magazine’s top 100 restaurants — guests will enjoy a most discerning tasting menu. Expect fine dining items such as foie gras mousse, spanner crab with wild scampi caviar, duck breast with sour cherry and shiitake; among other modern Australian dishes. In short, the Sheraton Grand Mirage is a tropical, and tantalising, experience best stayed to believe.
For more information and booking for the Floating Breakfast click here.
A little out of town, nestled in the quiet rainforest, you’ll find the Pullman Port Douglas Sea Temple Resort and Spa. Don’t be afraid of the distance – the drive to town is one easy road, and only takes around ten minutes. The benefits are peace and quiet, plus a beach just steps away that often, you’ll have to yourself.
The main pool is lovely in the day, with its weaving moats that hug many of the ground floor rooms, allowing you to step straight out into the water. But at night, it’s spectacular. Fire-topped columns add romance, and what better way to enjoy the stars than floating on your back in warm waters?
For maximum luxury, book a Penthouse apartment. These feature a private rooftop where you can enjoy the sunset from your own Jacuzzi. Just add some champagne and you’ve got plans every night of your stay.
One of the most expensive resorts in Port Douglas, Niramaya Villas & Spa is like being immersed in a tropical oasis. The 30m infinity edge pool is surrounded by palms and tropical plants, and the self-contained villas blur the interior to the exterior thanks to a series of pavilions connected with undercover walkways, internal water features and floor-to-ceiling folding doors.
There’s a Mediterranean influence at Peppers Beach Club, with its whitewashed columns and azure blue central pool. Rooms are modern and breezy, with Lagoon Deluxe Suites featuring private sun decks for instant pool access, and several suites with their own personal plunge pools. A great pick if you’re looking for a stylish base in Port Douglas.
Things to do in Port Douglas
Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef
With such close proximity to some of the best snorkelling spots on the Great Barrier Reef, booking a tour should be your first port of call. You can head down to the Port Douglas Superyacht Marina and find all the best tour operators in one place, which makes deciding where and when to cruise the World Heritage Listed reef easy.
We spent a day touring the Low Isles with Sailaway, which saw us swimming with turtles, enjoying the pure white sands of the islands, and snorkelling between coral gardens. Sailaway holds Advanced Eco Tourism accreditation and is one of five marine tourism operators participating in the Coral Nurture Program, which involves boosting live coral cover at reefs that have experienced a fall in cover.
Eat fresh, local seafood
The restaurants in Port Douglas are plentiful, and many focus on local produce and seafood. Two top picks are Zinc, a Modern Australian restaurant with a focus on fresh fare like grilled tiger prawns and barramundi fillet, and Seabean, a tapas spot with an incredible paella selection featuring local seafood.
Walk Four Mile Beach
While swimming is out of the question thanks to a long stinger season (dangerous jellyfish) and the possibility of crocodiles, Four Mile Beach, which stretches the length of Port Douglas, is a must-visit. The ideal time is sunrise, where you’ll see the pink-blue horizon slowly light up as the sun makes it way into the sky, but dusk is still a beautiful time to visit.
Watch the sun set at Rex Smeal Park
With its tall palm trees and uninterrupted views of the Coral Sea, Rex Smeal Park is the best spot for catching those spectacular Far North sunsets. Watch the sky turn from pink to orange, then head over to your dinner spot afterward. Another great place for spectacular views? Flagstaff Hill, which offers sweeping views of Four Mile Beach.
When is the best time to visit Port Douglas?
The high season in Port Douglas runs from Autumn until Spring, with temperatures hovering around 26 degrees celsius and humidity easing off. Basically, the best time to visit is when the weather is the coolest down south. Summer can still be enjoyable, but be prepared for higher temperatures averaging around 29 degrees celsius, and more chance of rain – Far North Queensland experiences monsoonal weather, and can be quite wet during summer.
How to get to Port Douglas
The easiest way to get to Port Douglas is to fly into Cairns, hire a car, and drive the hour north. Flights to Cairns are plentiful from most major cities in Australia. Queensland is a big state, so unless you’re planning on slowly road tripping up the coast, it’s best to avoid driving from the capital city of Brisbane – it’s a 19 hour trip, minimum.