Port Douglas, Queensland, travel guide and things to do: Nine highlights

THE ONE NEIGHBOURHOOD

Anzac Park is a nexus of primo Port Douglas pleasures – a palm-fringed park beside the Coral Sea, a picture-perfect whiteboard chapel, a handsome old hotel and restaurants serving chic eats. Treat yourself by doing the Headland Walk at sunset, arriving just as the Macrossan Street trees are starting to twinkle and the crowd is getting its buzz on. Sublime.

THE ONE HOTEL

Christopher Skase put Port Douglas on the map with this 295-room resort which was famous for being "Pixie pink". After 25 years (and a $43 million-dollar refit in 2016) the Sheraton Grand Mirage has been rendered whiter and lighter but still retains its Queensland swagger. It features two hectares of turquoise lagoon (53 rooms have step-off pool balconies), a super-smooth restaurant called Harrisons (run by Marco Pierre White acolyte, Spencer Patrick) and a golf course designed by Peter Thomson. It also fronts 500 metres of Four Mile Beach – so you can go from glam resort to wave-tickled idyll in a matter of steps. Rooms from $300 a night. See marriott.com.au

THE ONE BAR

Barbados Restaurant and Bar Port Douglas one & only ; text by Max Anderson
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(handout image supplied by TEQ for use in Traveller, no syndication) 
Mandatory credit: Krista Eppelstun
Barbados Restaurant and Bar

Port Douglas' bar scene is truly a many-splendoured thing. You can rough it in the Iron Bar, mix with the botox n' Blahnik brigade in Barbados, and even pretend you're in Havana c1930s at Jimmy Rum's Mixing Lounge (opened by James Gorman, producer of Sniper starring Tom Berenger). Have to pick one? Hell, go for the Courthouse. This big old Queensland pub (1878) is all sea air and good times. Nice rooftop bar, too. See ironbarportdouglas.com.au; barbadosportdouglas.com.au; jimmyrums.com; courthousehotelportdouglas.com.au

THE ONE RESTAURANT

Another tough choice, but Salsa perfectly embodies that "kick off the Gucci heels and live it up" ethos. Spacious dining with cooling breezes and heart-warming views? Yes. Exuberant and faintly ridiculous cocktails? Yes. Waiter clearly having as much as fun as you are? Yes. It also exhibits total respect for seafood – think oysters in grapefruit and finger lime, tataki salmon belly sliced and "kissed by a flame", and linguine with redclaw (a signature dish gracing the menu for 26 years). See salsaportdouglas.com.au

THE ONE CULTURAL HUB

For a village of just 3500 people, Port Douglas is quite the festival town. In October, against all the odds, the community rallied to restage the Taste Port Douglas food festival headlining with chefs like Philip Johnson (E'cco), Adam Wolfers (Gerard's Bistro), Ben Williamson (Agnes) and Laura Sharrad (Nido/much-loved Masterchef finalist). A long lunch under giant fig trees, a Harry Hawker Food Village beside the Sheraton lagoons, gourmet golf and masterclasses galore, reminded everyone just how fab festivals are in the tropics. It'll be all systems go in 2022 with Hot & Steamy LGBTQI+ Festival in February, Carnivale (kicking off the tourist season) in May and Taste Port Douglas back in August. See visitportdouglasdaintree.com

THE ONE BEACH

Frankly you could lob a poorly-aimed mango in any direction and hit a beach to die for. But why bother when you've got Four Mile Beach? Though a misnomer, it's still very long at 3.5 kilometres and ridiculously empty. At the Port Douglas end is the little Lighthouse Cafe offering coffee shots from 7am; at the other end is a river mouth; and in-between is a palm-fringed swoosh of South Pacific tropes.

THE ONE DISH

Adrian Friend and his family have been selling coconuts at the Port Douglas Sunday Markets for 20 years. Pick a fresh coconut for $8 and drink it. Adrian will then crack the nut and attack the flesh with a home-made drill bit. When it's fluffy and moist, he adds naturally-ripened organic banana (so sweet it tastes like caramel) and tops it with coconut flower nectar which is a bit like honey. Any questions? See portdouglasmarkets.net

THE ONE TOUR

Outer Reef Tour Port Douglas one & only ; text by Max Anderson
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(handout image supplied by TEQ for use in Traveller, no syndication) 
Mandatory credit: Tourism and Events Queensland
Sailaway - Snorkelling and Sailing Tours
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For an intimate, convenient and thoughtful excursion to the reef, try a half-day Sailaway cruise. You'll leave Douglas at 1pm aboard a beautiful catamaran with only 32 other adults and a marine biologist for company. Snorkel the fringing reef off the nearby Low Isles (165 species of coral and turtles aplenty), do a glass bottom boat tour and explore the island complete with 1878 lighthouse. After a sunset sail you're back for 6.30pm. Lunch, afternoon tea and drinks are all included for $283 a person. See sailawayportdouglas.com

THE ONE VIEW

Logically speaking, this should be the infinite loveliness of beach and mountains afforded by the Headland Lookout. However! For a somewhat unusual perspective, take a peek inside St Mary's By the Sea. The little white Catholic chapel in Anzac Park was built of weatherboard in 1881 before being moved to its present location among the palms of Anzac Park. The view? Well, it comes courtesy of a substantial window in the wall behind the altar looking out to the Coral Sea. Uniquely, it invites congregations to fill their souls with vista as well as dogma. See stmarysbythesea.com.au

ONE MORE THING

There's an odd connection between Port Douglas and 9/11 because the town knew something significant had happened moments before the rest of the world. Bill and Hilary Clinton were on holiday, enjoying a drink in the Iron Bar on Macrossan Street. Suddenly security agents whisked the former First Family away to a waiting jet, and the road to Cairns was sealed. Onlookers would remain perplexed until TV screens began showing vision of the first smoking tower.

Max Anderson was a guest of Sheraton Grand Mirage.

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