Port Douglas, Australia

At the end of a spectacularly scenic coastal drive in Far North Queensland sits a wave-lapped resort town that has a perfect blend of surfie cool and city style. This once sleepy port is now an international travel destination boasting a vibrant tropical atmosphere with all the charm of a small village. Fabulous restaurants offer year-round alfresco dining, art galleries and boutiques line the main street, and there are two World Heritage-listed attractions on the doorstep: the 135 million-year-old Daintree rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. Spend your days snorkelling, surfing, strolling the long stretch of sand on Four Mile Beach and heading up into Cape Tribulation. At night, enticing restaurants and bars – from informal and mellow to chic and romantic – offer a taste of the tropics.

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When to go

From April to November, Port Douglas is at its blissful best, with clear skies, great visibility on the reef, and the mercury hitting the mid- to high-20s. September to November is particularly spectacular. From December to April, there's an increased chance of rain and temperatures hover in the 30s. This is also stinger season, so swim in the netted area of the beach.

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Getting there

  • Planes

    Regular flights are available to Cairns Airport (www.cairnsairport.com) from all major cities in Australia, as well as several Asian countries. Sunlover Helicopters (www.sunloverheli.com.au) offers transfers on to Port Douglas.
  • Automobiles

    Port Douglas is only an hour’s drive from Cairns along one of the most spectacular stretches of coastline in Australia. Most major car hire companies have desks at Cairns Airport or in the city, including Avis (www.avis.com.au). If you'd prefer to get by without a car in Port Douglas, book a transfer from Cairns with Rainforest Limousine Service (www.rainforestlimo.com.au) or a minibus shuttle service (www.sunpalmtransport.com).
  • Taxis

    Book ahead with Port Douglas Taxi (+61 (0)7 4099 5345) or, if you’re in town, try the taxi rank on Macrossan Street.

Great Barrier Reef, Queensland: five days

Great Barrier Reef, Queensland: five days

For marine marvels, get thee to the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef. Take advantage of the Emirates and Qantas partnership and fly from Sydney to Cairns on the Far North Queensland coast (three hours 10 minutes), then catch a 60-minute flight to Lizard Island. This luxe resort boasts 24 white-sand beaches, mind-blowing snorkelling and diving to startling sites, including Nick’s top tip Cod Hole where you can hand-feed colossal potato cod. Take out a motorised dingy, picnic à deux on the sand, enjoy a massage at Azure Spa or sip cocktails at Osprey’s restaurant. Team three nights here with two back at quirky mainland hotel QT Port Douglas, in tropical Port Douglas, where the reef meets the Daintree rainforest.

Stay at QT Port Douglas
What are your top three Australian wildlife destinations?

What are your top three Australian wildlife destinations?

Cape York Peninsula in Far North Queensland beyond Port Douglas – it’s wild up there. The lush forests and spectacular creatures, from palm cockatoos to green tree pythons and tree kangaroos, make it feel like a completely different country. Geographically, it kind of is, as it’s composed of fragments off the end of the land bridge that once linked Australia to Papua New Guinea.

Narawntapu National Park, near Devonport, in Tasmania – I sat in wonder looking out over what seemed like a well manicured park, perfect lawns stretching for miles between neatly trimmed shrubs. It was only as the sun set that the gardeners became apparent, and none brandished shears or secateurs. They simply bounced and shuffled from cover. The darker it got, the more kangaroos, wallabies, potoroos and wombats appeared, almost magically, and started their night’s work, nibbling and chewing the landscape into shape. I’ve never seen so many large wild mammals outside of the African plains, so it’s no surprise they call this place Tasmania’s Serengeti.

The Red Centre is hot, dusty and iconic. I love the harshness of the landscape and the contrasting areas with water, rivers or springs. If you like birds and reptiles as much as me then it doesn’t get much better or more Australian than this. My best memories of the Outback were my first meeting with a thorny devil (an Australian lizard), the huge flocks of wild parrots and cockatoos, and night drives looking for the more secretive creatures as they came out to play.

Find out more about wildlife in Australia
Any must-dos or hidden secrets?

Any must-dos or hidden secrets?

An obvious box to tick is the lively metropolis of Sydney, with its fantastic food, nightlife and exciting mix of people. For an insider’s tip, Cape Tribulation, in Far North Queensland, was wonderful, with beautiful jungle and beaches. Thanks to its offshore reefs poor old British explorer James Cook ran aground near here in the 18th century and gave it its negative name… unlike him, my family and I had an amazing time on holiday in a private farm in the rainforest. Just fly into Cairns and drive north, calling in at Port Douglas, or check out the Great Barrier Reef.

Find out more about Queensland