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The Top Things to do in Port Douglas

Looking for things to do in Port Douglas? A popular destination for a high-end Great Barrier Reef getaway, if you’re after a laid-back beach and aquatic holiday, Port Douglas has got it all. Port Douglas is a perfect base to explore Tropical North QLD's landscape. After arriving at Port Douglas you'll want to waste no time and head out to the Great Barrier Reef and embark on any number of the available adventure activities such as snorkeling or scuba diving, glass-bottom boat experiences, or take Low Isles yacht cruises. Port Douglas is Tropical QLD's exclusive getaway - enjoy it by booking today!

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The Top 10 Things to do in Port Douglas, QLD

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QLD's Port Douglas is perhaps the Great Barrier Reef's most exclusive holiday destination, boasting an up-market atmosphere and additional feeling of seclusion that helps to separate it from its nearby bigger brother, Cairns.

Located in an idyllic position amongst the triad of natural attractions that are the Daintree Rainforest, Cape Tribulation and the reef itself that's all augmented wonderfully by tropical weather, Port Douglas offers a true “getaway” in every sense of the word.

While it's generally pricier than Cairns and other similar alternatives, Port Douglas' magnificent surroundings and laid-back nature make this extra investment more than worth it; if Cairns is one of Australia's best places to visit in your 20's, then Port Douglas is the oasis of choice for those 30 and over.

In addition to pure relaxation, Port Douglas offers a myriad of activities and attractions within easy reach of its main hub including both the nature-oriented and man-made. But what are the absolute must-do experiences while you're here? We break down our list of the Top 10 Things to do in Port Douglas in detail here to ensure you get the best out of your visit to the Tropical North.

1. Dive the Outer Reef

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Location: Quicksilver & Calypso Cruises: Wharf St, Port Douglas

While snorkelling is all well and good to get an initial sampling of the wonders the Great Barrier Reef has to offer, it's hard to dispute that those who want the most immersive and complete experience available are going to have to go the extra mile, suit up, and embark on a diving trip.

It's only fitting, then, that Port Douglas serves as one of the most popular departure points for dive spots in the country – the reefs located closer to Port Douglas are generally slightly less damaged than those closer to Cairns due to a lesser degree of overuse, and allow divers to see unfettered marine life at its absolute best.

Port Douglas also benefits by being physically closer to the “true” Outer Great Barrier Reef than Cairns is, which can make for a slightly shorter trip out.

While there are many quality operators who service the Great Barrier Reef as a whole, your choice of who to go with will likely depend on which particular reef you're interested in diving and how confident you are in deeper water; however, the two most popular individual reefs accessible from Port Douglas tend to be Opal Reef and Agincourt Reef – with each offering something slightly different.

Opal Reef, which is differently-shaped and offers more sheltered conditions is perhaps the better choice for novices and beginners.

The reefs located closer to Port Douglas are generally slightly less damaged than those closer to Cairns due to a lesser degree of overuse, and allow divers to see unfettered marine life at its absolute best.

Due to its size, only smaller vessels are allowed to visit here, which in turn means both less people in the water overall and thus less of a rowdy and undisturbed atmosphere in the water; this also helps with a greater degree of personal attention and guidance to some extent.

Operator Calypso Cruises comes highly recommended in this regard, with renowned good service, modern and well-equipped “smaller” (relative) vessels that that guests on tours to visit three separate dive sites around Opal Reef and each comes with generally excellent visibility.

The trip out with Calypso takes around 90 minutes from Port Douglas and is a good choice for nervous first-time introductory divers.

Heading to Agincourt Reef with Quicksilver Cruises, meanwhile, is quite a different experience as they're a larger, extremely efficient and streamlined operation that specialises in augmenting their dive trips with additional activities both in and out of the water for guests to take part in.

Trips with Quicksilver are based on floating activity platforms moored at the reef, and this comes in particularly handy if you're the type – or are travelling with someone who is – a non-swimmer, as they'll have greater opportunities to enjoy themselves by taking part in the likes of glass-bottom observatory viewing, semi-submersible trips and even just he simple confidence boost of being able to enjoy the water immediately surrounding the platforms themselves.

Likewise, this comes with the bonus of a full array of facilities on-board such as showers, bars, plenty of seating and more, so it's a comprehensive and balanced experience if slightly more touristy.

In terms of reef structure, Agincourt differs to Opal in that it's a large ribbon reef that offers a slightly more diverse array of coral and fish varieties.

Due to its exposed nature, Agincourt is also thus slightly more conducive to diving rather than snorkelling, and its various drifts and walls have plenty of isolated pinnacles teeming with varieties of pelagic fish and vibrant gardens of coral; expect to encounter massive wrasses and groupers mixed in with clownfish (Hi, Nemo!), anemones and much more.

If you're still having difficulty deciding, the general rule is this: Opal Reef for beginners and those looking to mix in some snorkelling, and Agincourt Reef for more experienced divers and those travelling with non-swimmers who want more to do out of the water.

Regardless of your choice, diving the reef at either of these spots is the quintessential Port Douglas experience and thus hard to dispute as the top thing to do in the region.

2. Daintree Rainforest & Cape Tribulation

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Location: 1.5 hours north of Port Douglas

Port Douglas and the greater Tropical North QLD region in general are blessed to have not one, but two incredible natural wonders on their proverbial doorstep, and while the Great Barrier Reef often receives the majority of the attention on the global stage, don't sleep on the Daintree in terms of impressiveness – it's incredible in its own right.

Featuring a diverse ecosystem and some of the oldest preserved plant life on the planet, the Daintree is home to over 3000 species of plants and contains 395 species that are listed as either rare of threatened, making for a delicate balance of organisms that have existed in harmony since time immemorial.

While it's possible to drive yourself, planning and getting to all of its highlights in a comprehensive itinerary can be quite a chore, and that's where tours come in.

Exploring the Daintree is thus a wonderful adventure, and The Adventure Company offer trips with pickups from Port Douglas that will take you on a journey into its heart. Getting to the most popular entry points for exploring the Daintree (in particular, the section near to highlights such as Mossman Gorge) from Port Douglas takes roughly 1.5 hours via drive along some incredibly scenic coastal road on the Cook Highway.

Upon arriving, you're then able to make your way deeper into the rainforest, when the real journey commences with a walkabout amongst the lush surroundings. Guides will provide detailed commentary during the walk on various plant and animal life encountered while absorbing all the scenery and rainforest landscapes.

Sights such as wild mangroves, massive ferns and, of course, the towering canopy above are breathtaking for their vibrance and akin to stepping back in time a few million years.

Continuing on down to Mossman Gorge – a great spot for a cool-down swim during the warmer months – is another highlight, and there are plenty of opportunities for grabbing some great photos and getting an overall view at the expanse of the rainforest.

While the Great Barrier Reef often receives the majority of the attention on the global stage, don't sleep on the Daintree in terms of impressiveness – it's incredible in its own right.

Pressing onwards, the journey reaches the cable ferry crossing at the Daintree River. Vehicles are taken across via the ferry and then able to travel further ahead to what for many its one of the major highlights of the greater Port Douglas region – Cape Tribulation.

Perhaps one of the most impressive panoramas available in Tropical North QLD, this is the exact point where the “rainforest meets reef” promotional spiel truly comes to fruition; it's still a relatively untouched region and the sheer vibrance of the water/sand/rainforest combination clashing against one another is remarkable.

Cape Tribulation's iconic boardwalk is a staple of postcards and calendars Australia-wide and a living promotional tool to the beauty of Tropical North QLD in a nutshell – the walk provides a truly dramatic lookout point. Couple this with a walk on Cape Tribulation Beach and you've got a quintessential experience of this region all included as part of the tour itinerary.

Capping off the journey is a boat trip down the waters of the Daintree River with a key focus on wildlife spotting and watching, and it's a true treat to see ancient reptiles such as crocodiles and snakes in their natural environment.

As Cape Tribulation is the veritable “end of the road”, and the tour is very much a full-day affair, many take the option of booking a night in Cape Tribulation village to recharge their batteries before returning refreshed the next day.

If you're making the effort to travel to Port Douglas, don't let the reef overwhelm your schedule without sparing time for the Daintree- neither are any less essential "bucket list" items than the other.

3. Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas

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Location: Port Douglas Rd, Port Douglas QLD

A favourite of families and wildlife lovers in general, Port Douglas' Wildlife Habitat is a great, reasonably-priced showcase of the diversity of Aussie animal life with some of its own interesting quirks and offerings to set it apart from other standard zoos in the big cities.

Featuring a huge and diverse range of flora and fauna, the facility offers the chance to truly get very close to a wide range of birds and other animal life; it puts a real emphasis on getting “hands-on” with the animals and encouraging interactivity that is always a hit with the kids and visitors from abroad in particular.

All your essential Aussie wildlife staples are covered here – standards such as kangaroos, koalas and snakes are interspersed with other species that are more representative of Tropical QLD.

The crocodiles in particular are a highlight as many of them are huge and watching them being fed is quite a thrill, while other varieties of animals like cassowaries, pythons and tree kangaroos are all living reminders of Australia's natural diversity.

One major point in the Wildlife Habitat's favour is that the animals on offer are given quite a large degree of freedom; their enclosures are far more open than your average zoo, and it's all designed with a natural and organic layout that helps to maintain its feeling of immersion in the rainforest surrounds.

The Wildlife Habitat puts a real emphasis on getting “hands-on” with the animals and encouraging interactivity that is always a hit with the kids and visitors from abroad in particular.

Feeding, patting, and otherwise interacting with the animals is encouraged, while regular talks and presentation by the friendly staff are held at regular intervals throughout the day with highlights such as reptile presentations and croc feeding highlights.

It's also obvious that the animals are all happy and well cared for, which goes a long way in this kind of facility. Optional additions available to the standard Wildlife Habitat entry include the Breakfast with the Birds – which provides a tasty meal as birds wander freely amongst the guests and provide a tableau of natural noise and colour that's exceptionally lively – and the Lunch with the Lorrikeets featuring a barbecue and the rainbow-coloured “Lorries” with a range of bird friends. It's a truly immersive and wonderful experience that expands the habitat into the realm of humans.

Feeding, patting, and otherwise interacting with the animals is encouraged, while regular talks and presentation by the friendly staff are held at regular intervals throughout the day with highlights such as reptile presentations and croc feeding highlights. It's also obvious that the animals are all happy and well cared for, which goes a long way in this kind of facility.

Optional additions available to the standard Wildlife Habitat entry include the Breakfast with the Birds – which provides a tasty meal as birds wander freely amongst the guests and provide a tableau of natural noise and colour that's exceptionally lively – and the Lunch with the Lorrikeets featuring a barbecue and the rainbow-coloured “Lorries” with a range of bird friends.

Lastly, price is one of the main factors in making the Wildlife Habitat so highly recommended; not only is it a quality attraction, but the standard entry price of $33 per adult and $16.50 for kids is incredibly reasonable, particularly given the comparable prices of other zoos throughout the country.

Expanding the experience to the optional Breakfast with the birds or Lunch with the Lorikeets does increase the price slightly, but given you're getting a meal and some interactive animal entertainment along with it, it's still great value for money.

4. Visit the Low Isles

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Location: Shop 18, The Reef Marina, Port Douglas

A slower, extended and more leisurely Reef experience that still provides the benefits of ease of access is desirable for many, and the nearby nature of the aforementioned Low Isles present the opportunity for a leisurely, stress-free visit exemplified by operator Sailaway's – you guessed it – sailing trips.

Given the relatively smooth waters between Port Douglas and the Low Isles as well as the quieter, wind-propelled nature of a sailing vessel, it's a combination that makes for a trip of peace and serenity while still getting to take part in all the essential reef activities such as snorkelling, glass-bottom boat trips and the simple enjoyment of strolling on pristine white beaches amongst the palm trees.

This feeling of solitude is also carried over in the offered itinerary times – trips departing in the morning or later in the afternoon mean that you'll avoid the busiest times on the Low Isles as most other tours will either be just arriving or packing up to leave by the time you arrive.

Cruises are conducted aboard lovely, decked-out sailing catamaran that has all the mod-cons one would expect of larger vessels, and tour group numbers are purposefully kept low in order to maintain a less busy atmosphere throughout.

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Given the relatively smooth waters between Port Douglas and the Low Isles as well as the quieter, wind-propelled nature of a sailing vessel, it's a combination that makes for a trip of peace and serenity.

During the course of the tour you'll get to enjoy a variety of inclusions such as morning / afternoon tea, fruit platters and a delicious buffet seafood lunch as well as all the equipment you'll need to enjoy both the beach and the water.

Once arriving at the Isles you'll have them basically to yourselves other than your fellow travellers, and then be able to take part in your choice of two guided snorkelling tours – one beginner, another more advanced – and head straight into the highly accessible water for some reef exploration just off the island.

Plentiful soft corals, clams, turtles and, of course, fish can be found immediately off shore, and those who would prefer to avoid getting wet can instead choose to laze in the sunshine and then take part in one of the offered glass bottom boat tours that provide not only great views but a guided, interpretive commentary on the reef as a whole.

While both the morning and afternoon itineraries have their benefits, our recommendation is the afternoon tour as you'll have the chance to take in some gorgeous Tropical North QLD sunsets from the boat while enjoying a glass or three of wine, which is what tropical island getaway relaxation is all about.

5. Jungle Surfing

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Location: 24 Camelot Close, Cape Tribulation (approx. 2 hours from Port Douglas)

The rest of the activities on this list not quite adventurous enough for you? Not to worry – while Port Douglas might not have the reputation for adrenaline that Cairns does, there's one experience on offer that take the standard Daintree Rainforest exploration tour and flips things on its head.

Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours based out of Cape Tribulation offer guests the chance to zip through this ancient forested area at high speeds with a series of interconnected platforms that provides not only a dose of fun but great views of the surrounding rainforest that put its dense greenery on full display.

Hovering at a height of 20 metres above the forest floor is a rare opportunity, and the array of freshwater streams below and colours of the reef in the distance make for some great visual variety.

This is an “eco” tour in every sense of the word – it's all conducted with a respect for the environment and aims to educate as much as entertain, with guides offering all the insider commentary on this delicate ecosystem that one could ask for.

This offers guests the chance to zip through this ancient forested area at high speeds with a series of interconnected platforms that provides not only a dose of fun but great views of the surrounding rainforest.

It's also highly family-friendly, as little ones can take the simple standard zip line while those looking to kick things up a notch can perform tricks or even go upside-down! Staff here are all very reassuring as they are experienced with handling people who are iffy with heights, and there's never any rush to do the next zip until you're comfortable and ready to proceed.

The zip lines from platform to platform come with flying foxes of varying lengths, with the longest span reaching over 75m and making for a substantial thrill. Combine this with the ability to do different zip styles mentioned above and it's far from limited to being a slow and boring glide through the trees should you so wish.

Safety is also given top priority at the Jungle Surfing facility, with all the equipment modern and kept up to a high standard while staff consistently ensure that guests are correctly hooked, harnessed and ready to go.

Other additional tours are also available that stray away from the zip line formula and allow you to gain an understanding of the nocturnal ecosystem of the Daintree, and the variety of mammals, insects, reptiles and more that make up its inner workings can make for an enthralling guided walk.

While it's a fair hike from Port Douglas- a drive of roughly 2 hours will be necessary to reach the reserve it's located on- the unique combination of this part of the Daintree and some active outdoor fun make it a distinctive experience that is typically "Tropical North Qld" all around.

6. Scenic Helicopter Flights

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Location: Hangar 10, Bush Pilots Avenue

While most Great Barrier Reef experiences from Port Douglas are concerned with showcasing the wonders of the reef from the water itself, things take on an entirely new perspective when viewed from the air – the sheer scale of the Reef and its status as the world's largest living organism only truly sink in when you see it stretching out for miles below.

Thus, while helicopter flights are a more expensive choice, few other options can match the panorama on display than a flight with Great Barrier Reef Helicopters who offer a variety of different courses showcasing the amazingly vivid colours of both the reef and rainforest from high above.

The juxtaposition of greens and blues on display is incredible, and depending on your choice of routes you'll be able to get an even amount of rainforest and reef in the one itinerary.

It's truly an awe-inspiring spectacle and you'll want to bring along a proper camera – smartphones simply don't cut it – with plenty of SD card memory space as you'll be taking pictures left, right and centre of coral cays, marine life, coral reefs and much more (although the glare of the sun on the glass can sometimes make getting the perfect shot difficult).

Helicopters provide the added benefit of being able to get a close-up look at each of these natural attractions at low altitude, with the pilots adept at hovering in a stable manner to give you a good glimpse at the various animal and plant life beneath the water.

It's a good thing that the helicopters are designed with maximum transparency in mind, as passengers will all have access to window seats for an additional unrestricted view.

While helicopter flights are a more expensive choice, few other tour options can match the spectacular panorama on display than a flight with Great Barrier Reef Helicopters.

In terms of flight itineraries available, options with Great Barrier Reef Helicopters range from 30 minute trips out to the Daintree Rainforest (an incredible array of World Heritage-protected, ancient tree life with highlights including Mossman Gorge and the expanses of the Alexander Ranges), 40 minute reef-focused trips (providing unmatched views of aquatic spectacles such as the Low Isles and marine-life-filled Batt Reef), and 1 hour combined reef-and-rainforest packages that are the most expensive of the lot but provide the best of both worlds into a single itinerary.

Additionally, packages that provide time out on the reef and combine with cruises for the option of heading out in the air and returning via the sea (or vice-versa).

It's an entirely efficient and well-run operation that never feels rushed or hasty that has the added benefit of avoiding any of the seasickness of getting out to the reef that cruises can entail.

In the end, if you're only going to be making the trip to Port Doulgas once, it's worth biting the bullet to pay for an experience that many often cite as their most unforgettable part of their trip to the region.

7. High Speed Reef Cruise

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Location: 3 Wharf St, Port Douglas

Exploring the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef is likely going to be the main point of focus for most visitors to Port Douglas, and there are several ways and methods for getting out on the water for some enthralling exploration.

One of the most time-efficient ways for those with a tight schedule (or not wanting to spend too much time or money for their experience) is joining operator Reef Sprinter for a trip either out to the stunning Low Isles (closer option) or further on to the Outer Reef (slightly longer but better open water).

What sets Reef Sprinter apart from other Reef cruise companies in Port Douglas is their focus on speed, made possible in large part due to their high-speed vessels that are as much of a “ride” as they are a method of getting from A to B.

Close-to-but-not-quite a jet boat in construction, Reef Sprinter's speedboats are highly manoeuvrable and are adept at navigating the waves even on bumpier days, which can be quite thrilling in and of itself.

During the trip out you'll be strapped into your seat – a necessary requirement, as the vessels have a top cruising speed of roughly 70km/h an hour, which is darn fast when being experienced on the water. Once the cruise to your destination is over, the experience you garner will depend on the choice of the two spots you make when booking.

The Low Isles only take around 15 minutes to reach due to their proximity to Port Douglas and boast some fantastic coral situated amongst shallow waters, making it an ideal location for beginning snorkellers or those who may not be too confident in the open water.

What sets Reef Sprinter apart from other companies in Port Douglas is their focus on speed, made possible in large part due to their high-speed vessels that are as much of a “ride” as they are a method of getting from A to B.

Warm water temperatures likewise make for a spot that's more enjoyable to visit during cooler seasons as well, and the relatively uncrowded nature of the spot makes for a more laid-back location than some of the busier reef pontoons and snorkel sites.

Benefits of this option are that you'll only need to allocate around 3 hours worth of your time to complete the tour, and the fact that the Low Isles are so close and the vessels so swift that if you're the type who suffers from seasickness it's usually brief enough to avoid being hit too hard by nausea.

Heading further to the Outer Reef meanwhile both extends the experience and opens up further opportunities to see a more untamed version of the reef – if getting up close with larger fish, as well as a higher chance of seeing quality coral and the like are a prime concern for you then the increased monetary and time required may be well worth it.

Widely considered one of the most visually stunning parts of the reef, the area visited around Opal Reef is truly incredible and embodies what a trip to the Great Barrier Reef is all about – open waters, numerous fish and even sharks (don't fret) are all on the cards here, and if you've been on snorkelling trips before you'll likely want to opt for this choice.

The Outer Reef trip takes around 45 minutes each way, so you'll have to commit 4 hours in total, which is still far more conservative than most other tours of a similar vein.

Couple the convenience mentioned above with a friendly crew with a good sense of humour and you've got a great overall package if a short and enjoyable trip is a top priority.

8. Flames of the Forest

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Location: 29 Barrier St, Port Douglas

While Port Douglas isn't as much of a cultural hotbed as some other popular Aussie travel destinations, the region's Flames of the Forest Aboriginal attraction does the best possible job of capturing the essence of indigenous Australia in a package that avoids being too “commercialised” and thus stripped of its spiritual significance.

Conducted with an appropriate amount of respect to the Aboriginal culture, Flames of the Forest meshes the spectacular ambience of the rainforest with a combination of storytelling, traditional music and dance with some wonderfully enjoyable food for a highly entertaining evening that makes for a refreshing break from your average sit-down-and-dine vanilla restaurant experience.

Located in a designated “hidden” area of the Port Douglas hills, you'll be taken via hotel pickup (takes roughly 20 minutes from point to point) to an area set under the canopy of the Daintree Rainforest.

Flames of the Forest blends stories of the native people with a delightful gastronomical experience – you'll enjoy drinks and canapes before indulging in the comprehensive seven-dish banquet – all amongst a spectacularly-lit forested area that gives a magical aura to the surrounding trees illuminated in a range of dazzling colours.

It's an atmosphere that's colourful without being gaudy, and doesn't ruin the otherwise intimate atmosphere of the evening.

Flames of the Forest Aboriginal attraction does the best possible job of capturing the essence of indigenous Australia in a package that avoids being too “commercialised” and thus stripped of its spiritual significance.

The entertainment throughout the evening consists of a story told by two Aboriginal brothers who have the storytelling technique down to a tee, and it's done in a genuinely enthusiastic and passionate manner that belies the fact they've likely told it thousands of times before.

Didgeridoo playing may be a stereotypical “Aboriginal” item but it truthfully only serves to add to the experience, and it's all coupled with service of a high quality that's attentive without being overly annoying or intrusive.

In addition, food at Flames in the Forest isn't neglected for the sake of the “show” experience and isn't just an afterthought; it's of a universally high quality and incorporates distinctly Aussie ingredients such as kangaroo, fresh local prawns, unique desserts, fig jams and other miscellaneous offerings.

Plenty of wine accompanies the meal as well, so you'll never be left with an empty glass to enjoy amongst the good company of both the hosts and your fellow travellers. The evening lasts around 4 hours in total, and upon completion you'll be safely returned to your accommodation without having to monitor your alcohol intake, which is a nice touch.

Flames of the Forest is fairly pricey, but given its uniqueness and the quality combination of food/service/culture all set amongst such an exclusive location, it's an evening that's well worth opening up your wallet for.

9. Shantara Day Spa

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Location: 31 Davidson St, Port Douglas

Many people choose Port Douglas over Cairns simply for the fact that there's more of a general focus towards laid-back relaxation, and there are few better embodiments of this than the region's Shantara Day Spa – a place of utter indulgence and therapy that will have you feeling soothed and serene in quick order.

Part of the larger luxury Shantara Resort complex, the Day Spa is an attraction in and of itself, and if you've got any lingering tension, tightness or pain from an active and strenuous day of exploring the reef, this is the place to go as an effective variety of massages, scrubs, exfoliations and more are all on offer depending on your personal preference.

It all starts with an atmosphere of tranquility upon entering; décor such as candles and other ornaments create a modern yet alternative feel that is augmented by additional sensory relaxation aids such as scents and oils to create a calming aura, which sets the scene for the physical treatment to come.

Oils and lotions are used liberally here – which is a godsend if you're suffering from the all-too-common Port Douglas “day out on the reef sunburn” before visiting.

Massages here are strong without being unnecessarily painful and designed to “work out the kinks”, incorporating qualified sports masseuse techniques of the same kind applied to professional athletes.

Oils and lotions are used liberally – which is a godsend if you're suffering from the all-too-common “day out on the reef sunburn” before visiting – and are all applied with a therapeutic touch. It's up to you which form of massage you choose – the “menu” has everything from deep tissue, hot stone, and even pregnancy massages on offer, so you'll be able to choose one that's appropriate for your needs.

Other alternative offerings for beauty treatment such as facials, wraps and scrubs are on offer at Shantara as well, with package deals available that can help cut down on the cost somewhat. Standalone massages come in 30 minute, 1 hour and 1.5 hour flavours, so if budget is a major concern then the shorter course may be more suitable – although you'll likely be left wanting more.

If you've got any physical problem areas that are in need of tending during your holiday to Port Douglas- or are simply looking to treat yourself to an hour or so of pleasant escapism- then a visit to the Shantara Day Spa comes highly recommended.

10. Beach Horse Rides

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Location: 6613 Captain Cook Hwy, Port Douglas

Nature is a key focus of Port Douglas, and in terms of exploring its land-based offerings, there are few better ways to do so while retaining this natural feel than a horse riding tour with Port Douglas Horse Riding.

Located just 10 minutes outside the centre of Port Douglas, it's an experience that allows for exploration of both the green inland areas as well as Port's iconic beaches and is set up with a friendliness and willingness to accommodate first-time riders and even kids of a very young age.

The horses here are all very well-trained and of passive and friendly temperaments, so families who may be skittish about getting on horseback have nothing to worry about. Horses are also matched to the ability levels of their riders for added reassurance.

In addition, while Port Douglas Horse Riding caters specifically for beginners as many visitors to Port Douglas are first-timers to the saddle, more advanced riders are also accommodated for with extended canters and jump courses available upon request.

It's an experience that allows for exploration of both the green inland areas as well as Port's iconic beaches and is set up with a friendliness and willingness to accommodate first-time riders.

Various different circuits are available, yet each encompasses a path that will showcase some of the best of the area's tropical scenery while the guides provide information on local history and environmental highlights along the way.

Length of rides can likewise be customised, with anything from half an hour up to multi-hour trips available – beginners can stick to short courses around the farm, while the more adventurous can head out into the rainforest or beach as they see fit.

A tip of the cap must go to the quality and care of the instructor/guide who run the operation as their warmth and down-to-earth nature goes a long way towards soothing any initial nerves those to the horse riding experience may have.

Every facet of the horse riding process is covered in detail here, and you'll be taught all the necessities of how to actually ride, steer and manoeuvre the horses instead of just playing “follow the leader” which tends to happen at many other horse riding facilities around Australia.

Combine the scenery on a course that looks out over the neighbouring Coral Sea with the jovial atmosphere and family-friendly nature of the experience, and Port Douglas Horse Riding is easy to recommend as one of the must-do activities in Port Douglas for those who are making the trip there with kids in tow – plus it's a fairly cost-effective alternative to some of the other ritzier things to do in and around the town.

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