Travel guide for Port Douglas: The nine things you should do

THE ONE BEACH

FOUR MILE BEACH

Humble holidaymakers and luminaries such as Bill and Hillary Clinton, back in 1996, have strolled Four Mile Beach. Port Douglas' jewel of golden sand stretches from a rocky headland in the north to Alexandra Reefs, just south of the famous Sheraton Grand Mirage resort. Lined with palms and backed by bushland in many places, the long beach, which is popular with kite surfers, has something for everyone including picnic huts and barbecues in Jalun Park. Back in the early 20th century, there were horse, motorcycle and foot races on the sand, and Charles Kingsford-Smith landed his plane there in July 1932. Today there's no such hullabaloo, just sunbakers and strollers enjoying the serenity from sunrise and sunset. See visitportdouglasdaintree.com

THE ONE HOTEL

Although it's been three decades since its lavish opening, the Sheraton Grand Mirage Port Douglas, sporting a recent $43 million facelift, has plenty of cache. The only property fronting Four Mile Beach, and set in 147 hectares of grounds, the pink Queenslander-designed resort oozes nostalgia and quirkiness; check out the huge lobby with its Roman statues claimed to date back to "BC times" and the baby grand piano moored on its little island. The exterior is still painted "Pixie pink" in honour of founder Christopher Skase's wife. Rooms and suites have been refurbished to today's chic standings. Book a ground-floor suite purely for its direct access into the huge saltwater lagoon via its own ladder. See marriott.com

THE ONE COCKTAIL BAR

Jimmy Rum's Mixing Lounge is what you'd genuinely call a cocktail lounge not just a bar selling booze. While located on busy Macrossan Street, it's a little hard to find, so look for the red light out front. Jimmy's is all about the drinks and the decor – there's no food – so drop in before or after dinner. More prohibition-era speakeasy than breezy beach bar, it is low-lit and furnished with chesterfield sofas, and the hand-painted tiles adorning every wall are great conversation starters. Order a classic old-fashioned or a delectable Gin Lavender Thingy​ from barmen wearing bracers and bowties, who will include the owner, former movie producer James Gorman. See jimmyrums.com

THE ONE RESTAURANT

Crisp pig's ear doesn't sound too alluring but this imaginative take on pork cracking is delicious, as are the miniature Yorkshire puddings filled with scorched wagyu beef. After a decade on Wharf Street, Harrisons by Spencer Patrick has taken its unique version of British fare to the Sheraton Grand Mirage, where guests dine on the terrace overlooking the hotel lagoon by day and under chandeliers and cathedral ceilings by night. Try the superb tortellini of Endeavour prawns with pickled radish and bacon broth and finish off with "Treacle Tart-ish", topped with salted pecan praline and brown butter ice-cream. See harrisonsrestaurant.com.au

THE ONE REEF

With the Great Barrier Reef virtually on the doorstep, it's not surprising there are myriad ways to explore this underwater wonderland from snorkelling and diving, to swimming with minke whales. Cruising to the Low Isles coral cay, 15 kilometres away, combined with snorkelling, is a relaxing day out, while other trips venture to the outer reef – Agincourt, Opal and Crispin's – some 48-65 kilometres off-shore where the coral is spectacular. Silversonic and Calypso are a couple of operators permitted to offer swims with dwarf minke whales during the June to September season. See silverseries.com.au; calypsoreefcruises.com

THE ONE COOKING CLASS

Former Melbourne chef Ben Wallace and local girl Rachel Boon have chosen the most idyllic location for their Thai cooking school; their spanking new alfresco kitchen set in a garden of herbs, vegies and mango trees, near Oak Beach, 15 kilometres south of Port Douglas. Oaks Kitchen and Garden conducts fun and informative seafood and vegetarian classes using homegrown ingredients and Ben's know-how gleaned from his days working at Melbourne's Longrain restaurant. After chopping and stirring, students sit down to a banquet which often includes steamed fish, tiger prawn jungle curry and spanner crab salad. See oakskitchenandgarden.com

THE ONE TRAIL

A hike along the new Flagstaff Hill Walking Trail really puts this beautiful patch of north Queensland into perspective. From the not-very-high summit there are views across the Coral Sea to the Low Isles and out to the Daintree Rainforest. Opened in December 2017, the 1.5-kilometre trail begins at the northern end of Four Mile Beach, where a set of stairs climbs up to Trinity Bay Lookout. The trail then meanders down to palm-fringed Rex Smeal Park on the headland. Those just seeking the view without too much effort can drive up to the lookout. See visitportdouglasdaintree.com

THE ONE STAR-GAZING CRUISE

After-dark wildlife spotting and star-gazing along the Dickson Inlet is the latest way to get onto the water in Port Douglas. The Sunset and Stargazing cruise meanders down this mangrove-lined waterway, on the lookout for crocs with infra-red spotting lamps. As darkness envelopes the catamaran, cutely called the Choo Choo Explorer, an astronomer using licensed military-grade lasers points out the wonders of the night sky. When not on star-gazing duty, the catamaran works with the Bally Hooley Steam Railway to offer rail and inlet cruise trips. See bluedive.com; ballyhooleyrail.com.au

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ONE MORE THING

There's nothing quite as meditative as an art class and especially one where the implement is a pointy stick and the canvas the seed of a matchbox bean. Just 21 kilometres north of Port Douglas is the sleepy town of Mossman (population: 1937) and the Janbal Gallery. Artist-owner Brian "Binna" Swindley teaches small groups the art of dot painting; students can start slowly painting the bean or try their hand at a boomerang. Dots represent rain and each small painting tells a story, many about Binna's early days as a hunter-gatherer in the nearby rainforest and beaches. The matchbox bean gets its name from the fact it rattles about in its pod. See janbalgallery.com.au

Caroline Gladstone was a guest of Tourism & Events Queensland.

See queensland.com

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