Our first holiday was to Port Douglas in 2015. It was to celebrate me turning 50 and an excuse to escape from a cold winter in Melbourne. We stayed for 5 nights in the Shantara Resort in a 1st floor apartment overlooking their stunning tropical landscaped pool. It really was our first holiday just by ourselves since having kids, them growing up and moving on.
Shantara Resort is located within walking distance of the marina, the main strip of shops and restaurants (Macrossan street) and four mile beach.
We caught a shuttle bus from Cairns airport ( which we had pre-booked) to Port Douglas which is about a one hour drive scenic windy drive along the coast. You either have to hire a car or plan on using the somewhat expensive shuttle bus service to and fro the airport. I did put together a video of what the road is like. A travel agent I spoke to said it was a straight forward drive from Cairns Airport to Port Douglas but omitted to say how windy the road was. You can see the return shuttle bus trip here.
Depending on your plans on what you want to do will also dictate whether you need to hire a car or just walk everywhere and catch a shuttle bus to things you want to see and do.
We decided not to hire a car and do everything on foot, and if we wanted to go and see something pay for the shuttle bus. Shantara is located not far from the main strip of shops, four mile beach and the marina. If you have legs and they like walking this is perfect! It really is a personal choice situation and depends on how many and what activities you plan on doing in Port Douglas as to whether you need to hire a car or not.
Within Port Douglas there is a cheaper bus service which is around $5 to go around and within Port Douglas. You can get a 3 day pass for travel within Port Douglas and these people will also negotiate to go outside Port Douglas if you wish. ( Seems to be sort of private/like an Uber services but not)
The beauty of the Daintree Rainforest and Mossman Gorge
Mossman Gorge is located 20km north of Port Douglas within the World Heritage Listed Daintree Rainforest. Spanning 120,000 hectares, the Daintree Rainforest contains the oldest, continuously surviving rainforest on earth.
We caught a shuttle bus from Port Douglas to Mossman Gorge which takes you to the Mossman Gorge Centre. There is a cafe, art gallery and shop there as well. We then caught a shuttle bus from the Mossman Gorge Centre to the tracks that lead you into Mossman Gorge. We followed the marked tracks and took in the beauty of the rainforest.
Great Barrier reef trip and snorkelling
We worked out when we arrived in Port Douglas to go a trip out to the great barrier reef on a day that was going to have the best weather.
There were lots of different options available and we chose to go on “Wavedancer” to Low Isles. It ended up being a fantastic day out snorkeling, (not as vibrant as snorkeling on the coral coast of Western Australia) going in the glass bottom boat, buffet lunch and walking around the island.
Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures
We caught a shuttle bus to Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures from Port Douglas. Its about a half our drive to get there.
We spent a few hours at Hartley’s – we went on the boat that takes you around the lagoon and saw plenty of camouflaged crocodiles sun baking on the edges of the water. We sat down and watched the crocodile attack show which was informative and very entertaining.
Dinner at Nautilus
We celebrated my 50th birthday at Nautilus in Port Douglas. We managed to get a booking a few days earlier. It was a lovely night and when we got there already dark. We were led to an outdoor lounge area underneath a tropical forest. After a cocktail each we were led to our table which was set in a corner and very private and again underneath the canopy of the rain forest.
The food was excellent ( 5 course degustation option with matching wine) and we thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. We loved the whole eating in the outdoor rainforest feel. Exactly a year later we went to Nautilus again however the weather wasn’t as good and the canopies of the tropical trees were covered up. This is something out of your control but for the best experience at Nautilus – if you can predict the weather go there on a fine weather day, and when it is already dark!