What was once a sleepy little fishing village is now a luxurious base from which to explore the two World Heritage-listed gems of the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest. So, aside from these two must-see sites what else is there to do in, and around, this idyllic seaside location? You mean besides the boutiques, cafes, fine-dining restaurants, art galleries, scenic lookouts, tours, spas, and beach activities? Yeah, you get the picture. But let’s say you only have 48 hours and you want to snap the most drool-worthy Instagram pics. Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s a suggested run down, with a couple of alternative options thrown in for good measure. Enjoy!
As we only have a limited amount of time, we’ll hop straight to it with a reef trip to the beautiful Low Isles – literally. Made up of two islands, one a woody, mangrove island and the other a sandy, coral cay, the Low Isles are only 15km off the coast of Port Douglas. And with our half day reef trip, you’ll be there in under an hour after pushing off from the Reef Marina. You’ll be moored at the actual reef, away from the crowds, and in no time you’ll meet the friendly turtles that this island is well known for. Make sure you take your underwater camera to capture the marine life and colourful corals.
If you are not keen on getting your hair wet, there’s always the glass-bottom boat, where you can watch all the marine life go about their day from up above. You can even take an island heritage walk and learn all about the history of this island and the part it played in the local Aboriginals lives and those of the lighthouse keepers and their families and the many marine scientists that have both come here to conduct research or have relied on the research that has been gathered on this Great Barrier Reef Island for many years.
After disembarking your luxury catamaran, saunter down the boardwalk to Hemingway’s. Overlooking the docked vessels at the marina, with coastal, rainforest-clad mountains in the distance, it’s the perfect spot to contemplate your reef trip. Grab a share plate and relax with a sloop of chilled, hand-crafted beer (their own measurement that’s just less than a pint). If it’s too early for that, they froth up a very decent coffee.
Wander through the boutiques of downtown Port Douglas, stopping for a coffee along the way. Be sure to pop into Ahoy Trader, where Jai Vasicek’s wall tiles are on display among a carefully selected range of clothes, swimwear, and jewellery. This is also home to Sparrow Coffe if you’re keen on another heart-starter. With Sugar is a cute gift store worth a visit as is Coffee Works for locally roasted coffee and delectable delights of the cocoa variety. If you’d prefer to skip the shopping, relax by the pool, or hike up Flagstaff Hill, stopping by at the old lighthouse and then on to the lookout for the ultimate selfie.
After freshening up at your accommodation, it’s time to stake a spot at Rex Smeal Park. This is the perfect location for a sunset selfie. While it never gets over-crowded by city standards, this is a much-loved spot among tourists and locals and has a lovely, buzzy atmosphere at the end of the day. Come prepared with a picnic blanket and some nibbles and watch the sun descend behind the mountains. The waves gently lapping at the shoreline as the sunset sail cruises come in to dock is pure serenity. Don’t get too comfortable though, it’ll be time to head off to dinner soon!
A meal in this quintessential Queenslander is a must for anyone visiting Port Douglas. The food is great, cocktails a treat, and the ambience is lively. It’s hard to pick a favourite from the menu, but listen out for the specials and if they’re offering a tapas plate for an entrée, do yourself a favour and order it. Hone your food and cocktail snapping skills here.
This is optional, as you are on holidays but, nothing beats a stroll down the beach at sunrise. You won’t be the only one. The locals will be walking their dogs, stand-up-paddle boarding, kayaking, or riding their bikes. Keep an eye on the water as you’re walking, jogging, or sprinting along the shoreline if it’s calm enough you could spot a pod of dolphins.
Located in the heart of town on Macrossan Street, is a popular little café that does a roaring trade. Yet the friendly, efficient staff, always manage to seat their clientele quickly. From healthy options, such as a coconut smoothie bowl, to eggs benedict, and pulled-pork tacos, these guys will make sure you are fed well. And they always check whether you’d like another coffee. Grab a Duke’s Doughnut on the way out if you spot one at the counter. Made locally and incredibly fresh, these are heaven. And you deserve one after that walk. If Day 2 for you is on a Sunday, be sure to stop by the markets where you can peruse a selection of crafts, photos, prints, homemade relishes and jams, and much more.
Drive 20 minutes north, past the cane fields, and you’ll reach the sugar town of Mossman. Driving up the main street you’ll see a sign to turn left towards the Mossman Gorge Centre, an Indigenous eco-tourism development located in the southern-most part of the Daintree Rainforest. Featuring a gallery of local Indigenous artwork and a retail gift store, it’s definitely worth a look. But first, you’ll be joining the 11.00am session of the Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk. Ngadiku means stories and legends from a long time ago, so while you venture on foot, your guide – of the Kuku Yalanji Indigenous people – will share stories that have been passed down from generation to generation. You’ll be welcomed with a cleansing smoking ceremony, learn about the local flora and fauna, discover the medicinal and culinary qualities of plants, and visit a sacred ceremony site. If you feel like a swim after, hop on the bus to access the swimming holes. Set against a backdrop of steep, lush mountains, gigantic granite boulders, and a flowing stream feeding the most popular swimming spot, you won’t regret it. The scenery is breathtaking and the cool waters will certainly freshen you up. Position yourself on one of the boulders for a photo. It might be best if someone takes it off you unless your phone or camera is waterproof.
By now you would’ve worked up an appetite after all that walking. Head into town to Beechwoods Café. Old photographs of the area decorate the walls of this family-run café. A great joint offering fresh food, good coffee, and friendly service, you can’t go wrong with the BLT. If you’re after something lighter the salads are freshly made.
After the 20-minute drive back to Port Douglas, head towards the marina, where you’ll board the charming Lady Douglas for a peaceful sunset cruise along Dickson Inlet. With a glass of wine or beer in hand, you’ll slowly make your way down the mangrove-lined waterway. Accompanied by entertaining commentary, you’ll see local wildlife, shipwrecks, and coastal views. You may even spot a croc or two. It’s a wonderfully relaxing way to end the day as the sunset throws gorgeous colours over the inlet.
This award-winning restaurant offers up a delicious selection of fresh, beautifully crafted seafood dishes. You’ll find oysters, scallops, local coral trout, bug tails, and barramundi on the menu – each with a matching wine suggestion. There are also meat-lover and vegetarian options.
If you’re up to it, wander down Macrossan Street, to the corner of Grant Street where you’ll spot a flame-lit path. At the end of it you’ll be greeted with the leafy, open-air Watergate Restaurant & Lounge Bar. This place shakes up a mean espresso martini, but if you’d prefer something less caffeinated, all the classics are available, plus their own unique concoctions and they also have a solid selection of wines by the glass. Toast to your time in Port Douglas, and while you’re at it, set a date for your next visit.
If you’ve only got a limited time in Mackay, this itinerary will still allow you to seek nature experiences in the rainforest, get up-close-and-personal with wildlife on the coast and soak up the city scene all in a 48-hour period.
Cairns is a city that feels more like a big town. Devoid of the traffic and high rise buildings plaguing other east-coast cities, Cairns exudes a relaxed vibe that keeps people coming back. While there’s no denying it’s best known as a hub to explore the World Heritage-listed double act of the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest – and yes, we’ll let you know the best ways to do so – there’s even more to Cairns than this. Teeming with bars, restaurants, and cafes for all budgets, you’ll need a little guidance on the best haunts to visit in 48 hours. So, swap your briefcase for boardies and your heels for thongs (or flip flops – depending on where you’re from), because you’re in the tropics now and we like get down to business in comfort here.
Perfectly positioned half-way between Cairns and Port Douglas, Palm Cove is a laidback, seaside village that has the best of both worlds. Head south and you have the comforts of the city only 30 minutes away – cinemas, shopping centres, markets, and must-see tourist attractions. Head north along the spectacular coastline of the Great Barrier Reef Drive, and you’ll reach Port Douglas – gateway to the world’s oldest, continuously living rainforest – in just half an hour. But chances are, you’ll never want to leave Palm Cove. With its pristine stretch of sand, Coral Sea views out to Double Island, fabulous eating establishments, spas, and boutiques, it’s the perfect getaway. Here’s how we’d spend 48 hours in Palm Cove.
How long does it take to get to the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns? It very well may seem like a simple and easy question to answer, however, there are so many variables that make the answer not quite as straight forward as you may have initially thought.
No matter whether you are a snorkeller or a certified scuba diver, there are number of amazing Great Barrier Reef experiences that are a once in a lifetime absolutely ‘must do’. And a Minke Whale snorkel and dive Expedition is one of those that should be on your list!
Thinking of becoming a Certified Scuba Diver and looking to do your learn to scuba dive PADI certificate? Do you wish to learn to dive with a high quality professional company that has an outstanding reputation for not only skill but also safety and can match this with some of the best liveaboard dive boat fleets on the Great Barrier Reef?
This tour is special in so many ways, and is unrivalled to all other reef tours in Far North Queensland. First of all, it has the shortest open water crossing to get to the Great Barrier Reef. Fantastic news for anyone prone to motion sickness. Although this tour is a ‘Reef’ tour, it includes a ‘River Cruise’ on the journey there with Island activities on arrival. And a huge PLUS to guests that like to avoid the crowds, it has one of the lowest passenger capacities of all the island tours with a maximum of 100 guests. The destination is to an uninhabited continental island called Normanby in National Park which is part of the archipelago of Frankland Islands. It is located 10km offshore from the mouth of the Russell and Mulgrave Rivers at Russell Heads, which is approximately 45km South-East of Cairns. The Normanby Island has an abundance of wildlife not only in the water, but also on the island itself. The island is pristine, and has its own rainforest and a fringing reef not far out from its sandy shores. There are also coral gardens located further out from the island for the those that want to explore the deeper waters.
This is not a blog, it is a pitch on how good this Great Barrier Reef 2 day 1 night liveaboard dive trip from Cairns is such good value. One of our team members wrote it because she thinks it is such an amazing good value Great Barrier Reef tour, she wanted to write about it and put it on our Barrier Reef Australia blog page. We were not sure it was appropriate to pitch a single tour but we decided on free speech and free opinions so read more if you are inclined, or go to another page now. From our wonderful Great Barrier Reef Tour Specialist Chelsea Are you looking for a good value liveaboard Great Barrier Reef scuba diving adventure from Cairns without the crowds? Do you want the best dive deal money can buy in Cairns? If your answer is yes, then check out what deals we have on offer with our Great Barrier Reef Tour 2 Day 1 Night Sail, Snorkel and Scuba Dive tour!
If you are scared of the water and the creatures that live there or have never been exposed to an aquatic life in your younger years, but still wish to live out that lifelong dream of seeing the iconic wonders of the world the Great Barrier Reef, then that is okay, we have a tour that will enable you to see the coral reef from above the water and also below the water’s surface without you even getting your hair wet!