The drive from Cairns to Port Douglas is located in Northern Queensland of Australia, filled with tropical vibes, unique nature and ancient cultures. Some of the best places to visit in tropical North Queensland are Cairns and Port Douglas, and one of the better ways to appreciate the landscape of this region is with a beautiful scenic drive.
We are going to give you some of the best stops to visit on your way to Port Douglas from Cairns via car, to make sure your drive is as gorgeous as it can be.
If you feel like exploring further you can always drive up to the amazing Cape Tribulation and Daintree Rainforest, where the oldest tropical rainforest in the world meets the Great Barrier Reef.
How to get to Port Douglas from Cairns
There are two main ways to get to Port Douglas from Cairns, one is by car and the other is by bus. We did this by car so that we had the freedom to stop where ever and whenever we wanted.
Drive from Cairns to Port Douglas by car
The best, most convenient option we would say is by car. If you do not already have a car then you can hire one for the trip. We hired a car for our whole East Coast trip with Thrifty via VroomVroomVroom. It was our first time hiring a car in Australia and we were quite nervous.
We have heard the horror stories of companies making a quick buck by claiming for scratches that were already there the size of a speck of dust. Thrifty was none of that, their customer service was great and they were the cheapest option possible, we couldn’t have been happier with the car and services provided, we would 100% recommend them.
Drive from Cairns to Port Douglas by bus
If you have just landed in Cairns and for whatever reason, you don’t want to or can’t drive, then have no fear. There is transportation that takes you from Cairns airport to Port Douglas via shuttle bus. There are plenty of companies offering these services and the drive will be just as scenic.
On the other hand, you won’t have as much freedom to stop off at any places if you wish to and there’s always the odd chance you get 1 or 2 annoying tourists on the bus but if car hired isn’t an option it’s a chance you will have to take.
How far is Port Douglas from Cairns?
The distance from Cairns to Port Douglas is around 68 km. The drive time from Cairns to Port Douglas is just over 1 h. However, this would be if you were going straight to Port Douglas without stopping, and trust us, you WILL be stopping. The views are too stunning not to.
We would recommend not giving yourself a time limit and just let the journey time take you as long as it needs. Be as a free as a bird. On our drive from Cairns to Port Douglas, with stops along the way, it took us around 2 – 3 h.
With that being said, let us give you the stops that you don’t want to miss.
Captain Cook Highway – Drive from Cairns to Port Douglas
The Captain Cook Highway is the main road you will be travelling on from Cairns to Port Douglas. This is one of the most scenic highways you will ever drive on, as it winds on the coast of the tropical rainforest beaches.
If you are lucky enough to be driving when the sun is breaking through the clouds, it makes for a jaw-dropping spectacle as the rays of the sun hits the ocean and sparkles. There’s no way you will be bored of the views as each turn of the wheel meets the bright blue waters with a backdrop of greenery.
There are a lot of parking spots on the side of the road on Captain Cook Highway so there’s always the chance to stop off and have a closer look. In addition, don’t forget your swimwear because you might want to soak up some of those rays, however, don’t get too excited and start jumping in the water as there are crocodiles possibly lurking in them. You’ve been warned.
Palm Cove Beach
Palm Cove Beach is situated within the cute little town of Palm Cove. Along this beach, you will find an abundance of cafes and restaurants in case you feel peckish.
Palm Cove Beach offers some great photography opportunities, especially on the pier located at the end of the beach.
Talking of views, there’s even a better way to experience this magnificent landscape. On your way to Port Douglas from Cairns via Captain Cook Highway, you will come across Rex Lookout.
Rex Lookout is also a hotspot for paragliders, so you might see people soaring through the air near here.
Take in the views of the mountains and forest meeting the beach and ocean. It is a quick stop off which should take no longer than 10 min.
A word of caution to be careful as the parking is on the left-hand side for the drive from Cairns to Port Douglas. This means you will need to cross the road. Like a little kid in an ice-cream factory, Kerrie was so excited to cross the road she nearly got hit by a car. So, try not to get too distracted by the landscape.
Thala Beach Nature Reserve
Just a short 10 min drive from Rex Lookout is palm tree paradise.
On this 145 acre property, you can stay at this resort and experience wildlife walks and deluxe eco-accommodation.
However, we at the very least recommend you have a look at the gardens near the entrance.
Densely populated with palm trees, it’s like something out of a beach paradise film. There are also coconuts scattered along the ground as they have fallen from the trees.
It makes for a great photo opportunity. Just don’t go letting one drop on your head.
Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas
You have arrived at Port Douglas! But that’s not where the fun stops. Check out Port Douglas’s famous Four Mile Beach.
It’s exactly what it says on the tin, the beach is four miles, plenty to go around for everyone to enjoy.
It’s kept in great condition by the locals and tourist alike as it’s very clean and well maintained. This makes Four Mile Beach perfect for a stroll or a run in our case.
You might be asking yourself, can you swim at the four-mile beach in Port Douglas? Unfortunately, the answer is no.
There is still the chance of crocodiles being in the sea. Those damn crocs are everywhere.
Things to do in Port Douglas
Port Douglas is a small village and has a very cute, laid back charm to it. A lot of people pass through Port Douglas on their way to Cape Tribulation, but we decided to stay over for 1 night to break up the drive. If you are like us and want to make the most of your time in here then look no further. We’re going to show you where to eat and what to do in Port Douglas.
Best place to eat in Port Douglas
We’re all about budget travel here, so we would like to suggest to you to visit Paddy’s Irish Pub. They cook simple yet tasty dishes which fill the whole plate; just be careful not to over order as you get a lot of food for your money. Just how we like it. Food baby.
In addition, they do a great deal of $5 spirits from 4 – 5 pm every day. Australian Bundaberg rum and ginger ale are one of our favourites, give it a try.
The very noisy Parrots in Port Douglas
If you have a lookup in the trees close to sunset, you’ll find hundreds of parrots flocking from one tree to the next.
If you can’t see them you will definitely be able to hear them!
We stood and watched them for about 30 minutes in ore of the bright colour feathers and the number of parrots we could see. It was really nice watching them feeding and interacting with each other in the wild. It was especially interesting to us, as coming from England, we can only see this type of parrot show in a Zoo or the like.
The charming St. Mary’s church by the Sea
This is possibly one of the cutest little churches we have seen. St. Mary’s by the Sea adds charm and character to the town of Port Douglas.
Sunset in Port Douglas
Following on from St. Mary’s church, you will see the glowing white Sugar Wharf which is a market where you can buy food and drink.
We ended our day here and it was great to sit and appreciate life watching the sun go down.
It seemed to be a place where most people congregated for the sunset, relaxing on the bank with a few beers.
Toad racing at the IronBar
One thing we missed out on but have to tell you about is visiting IronBar. People not only congregate here for the food and alcohol but for toad racing! Place your bets as you watch with a face of bemusement possibly the most interesting race known to any bar.
We didn’t have time but also didn’t feel comfortable betting on this kind of activity, we’re sure they’re treating well and all that but it just wasn’t for us.
If you have more time to visit places in or around Port Douglas we would highly recommend visiting Cape Tribulation and the Daintree Rainforest.
Take a wildlife Daintree river cruise spotting crocodiles and pythons or spot Cassowaries. You can also Cape Tribulation Beach where the rainforests meets the Great Barrier Reef.
Alternatively, check out our other great ideas on what to do in Australia such as places like Sydney in New South Wales.