Port Douglas

Looking at Port Douglas now it is hard to imagine that it was once a wild frontier town filled with itinerant seamen and gold prospectors. Today it is a luxury holiday resort. The Sheraton Mirage Hotel complex, with its golf course, neat rows of palm trees, huge apartments and gate security staff who scrutinise those who enter the sanctum (no wide-eyed members of the proletariat here, thank you), has spawned a wider industry in the town. The once sleepy little village which remembered its roaring days is now a major tourist resort centre with fashionable arcades, well-heeled shoppers, and a certain aloofness which despises those who cannot afford the luxury which the exclusive resorts offer.

There is a hint of unreality about Port Douglas these days. The town is awash with holiday apartments and motels with manicured lawns, blocks of units which are now called 'condominiums', private golf courses, lavish tennis courts, fashionably expensive restaurants and every conceivable tour of the Great Barrier Reef.

Located 67 km north of Cairns, Port Douglas was first established in 1877 when Christie Palmerston cut a road through the rainforest and down the mountain range. Palmerston was one of those fascinating characters who inhabit the early history of Queensland. Born Cristofero Palmerston Carandini in Melbourne, it is claimed that he headed for Queensland in 1873 to join the Palmer River goldrush. It's more likely that he came with his mother's theatre group. Certainly his fame came with the Hodgkinson River goldrush. The track he cut from those goldfields to Port Douglas was his first but in the next decade he blazed at least four trails to the coast.

Palmerston's track was known affectionately as 'The Bump'. In the early days the settlement at Port Douglas was known as Island Point, Terrigal, Port Owen and Salisbury. The latter title derived from Lord Salisbury, the British Prime Minister at the time. However this name too went by the way after a visit by government officials. The present name was bestowed in honour of John Douglas, then Queensland Premier.

Within weeks of its establishment the town was booming. There were an estimated 50 tent pubs, a bakery, a general store and rough accommodation. People poured in on their way to the diggings. By mid-1878 there were 21 permanent hotels and a local newspaper, the town had been surveyed, lots of land were for sale, and the mail was being delivered from Port Douglas to Thornborough on the goldfields. Early the following decade the town had a population of 8000 and had overtaken Cairns as the most important port on the north Queensland coast.

Just like its rise the town's decline was rapid. The gold started to run out by about 1886 and the miners moved on to Papua and New Guinea. Cairns became the major railhead for the whole region with lines running south along the coast and inland to the mining fields. Port Douglas, however, remained the port for the sugar mill at Mossman until 1958.

Things to see:

Information Centre
The Tourist Information Centre in Macrossan Street is a good place to start your exploration of the area. It has pamphlets and maps which will direct you to a series of brass plaques which explain the past history of the area. They can also help you coordinate your activities if you are interested in pursuing diving, paragliding, white-water rafting or horseriding, all of which are catered for locally.

The Shipwreck Museum
One of the town's highlights is Ben Cropp's Shipwreck Museum on the wharf at Port Douglas. This collection of material from shipwrecks includes everything from ballast to coins. A section of the decking has been opened up so that visitors can view pieces of wreckage in the sea below the wharf, and, of course, there is a continuous video featuring Cropp's remarkable underwater photography. It is well set out and presented.

Lookouts
There are two locations which capture the essence of Port Douglas. Flagstaff Hill (known simply as 'The Lookout') can be reached by turning right at the end of the main street and following the signs. It offers an excellent view over Four Mile Beach and superb views over the Coral Sea.

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Four Mile Beach
Four Mile Beach, with its hard, white sands, has a reputation as one of the most attractive beaches in the area. A net cast about the beach from November to May attempts to keep the box jellyfish away.

The Markets
Held every Sunday in Anzac Park, there's plenty to see and buy. In recent times these markets have gained a reputation as some of the best in the region.

Courthouse
Located in Wharf St this is the only old buiding (dating from 1879) to survive a devastating cyclone that struck in 1911.

The Rainforest Habitat
The owners of Rainforest Habitat have established an artificial rainforest environment very near to the extensive Daintree Rainforest. There are plenty of butterflies and birds as well as koalas, kangaroos and crocodiles. It is located close to the intersection of the Port Douglas Road and the Captain Cook Highway, contact (07) 4099 3235 or check out: http://www.rainforesthabitat.com.au/

The Great Barrier Reef, Low Isles and other Cruises and Tours of the Region
There are a number of cruises to the Outer section of the Great Barrier Reef and out to Low Isles, a lovely coral cay surrounded by a lagoon with a lighthouse that dates back to 1878.

Other Attractions
There is also a cruise up Dickson Inlet, where there is plenty birdlife among the mangroves, as well as coach trips to Mossman Gorge, Cape Tribulation and Wetherby Station, a working cattle property (one of the oldest in Far North Queensland) where there is a horse show and a country-style lunch.  See the information centre for details of the other services, tel: (07) 4099 5599.

Douglas Shire Tourism Association
40 Macrossan St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 4588

Port Douglas Tourist Information Centre
23 Macrossan St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 5599

Coconut Grove Motel
58 Macrossan St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 5124
Rating: **

Lazy Lizard Motor Inn
121 Davidson St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 3100
Rating: ****

Port Douglas Motel
9 Davidson St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 5248
Rating: ***

Rusty Pelican
123 Davidson St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4098 5266
Rating: ****

Central Hotel/Motel
9 Macrossan St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 5271
Rating: **

Court House Hotel
Macrossan St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4098 5181

Ti Tree Resort
1 Barrier St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 3444
Facsimile: (07) 4098 5025
Rating: ****

Club Tropical Resort
2 Macrossan St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 5885, 1800 079 069
Facsimile: (07) 4099 5868
Rating: ****

Rydges Sabaya  Resort
87-109 Port Douglas Rd
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 8900, 1300 857 922
Rating: ***

Radisson Treetops Resort
137 Port Douglas Rd
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4030 3333
Facsimile: (07) 4030 4323
Rating: ****12

Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas
Port Douglas Rd
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 5888, 1800 073 535
Rating: *****

Whispering Palms Resort
20-30 Langley Rd
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4098 5128
Facsimile: (07) 4098 5762

Garrick House Holiday Apartments
11 Garrick St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 5322
Facsimile: (07) 4099 5021

Outrigger Apartments
16-18 Mudlo St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 5662
Facsimile: (07) 4099 5717

The White House Holiday Apartments
19 Garrick St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 5600
Facsimile: (07) 4099 5006

Four Mile Beach Caravan Park
2 Reef St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4098 5281

Glengary Caravan Park
Mobraw River Rd
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4098 5922

Kulua Caravan Park
24 Davidson St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 3422

Pandanus Caravan Park
97 Davidson St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4098 5255

Catalina Restaurant
Wharf St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 5287

Coconut Grove Motel
58 Macrossan St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 5124

Court House Hotel Bistro
Macrossan St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 4471

Fiorelli's Bistro
Wharf St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 5201

Going Bananas Restaurant
87 Davidson St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 5400

Han Court Chinese Restaurant
85 Davidson St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 5007

Ironbar
5 Macrossan St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 4776

Jade Inn
25 Macrossan St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 5974

La Marina Restaurant
Marina Mirage St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 5548

Mangiare Italiano
18 Macrossan St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 4054

Moustachios
30 Macrossan St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 4440

Nautilus Restaurant
17 Murphy St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 5330

Nikky G's Sports Bar
Marina Mirage St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 5200

Portofinos
31 Macrossan St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 5458

Salsa Bar & Grill
38a Macrossan St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 4922

Sardis Mediterranean Restaurant
123 Davidson St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 5266

Star of Siam Restaurant
12 Macrossan St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 4707

Starfish Restaurant
35 Macrossan St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 4077

Swallows on Wharf Street
Cnr Wharf & Macrossan Sts
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 6100

The Hog's Breath Bistro
Wharf St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 4222

Zai Restaurant
111 Davidson St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 5388

Cafe Ecco
43 Macrossan St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 4056

Cafe Macrossan
42 Macrossan St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 4372

Mango Jam Cafe
24 Macrossan St
Port Douglas QLD 4871
Telephone: (07) 4099 4611

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