Tips for Tropical Travel: Getting to Port Douglas & Daintree

Travelling to the ‘far north’ of Port Douglas and Daintree used to be quite the epic journey. And it still can be – if you are heading to the Cape on a 4WD adventure. Nowadays getting to Port Douglas and the Daintree region is highly accessible and reasonably priced (especially if you keep your eyes peeled for cheap Cairns flight deals!). There are several daily flights to Cairns from capital cities and you can easily be here in just a few hours, away from the hectic pace of the city.

Once you are in Port Douglas, you have several choices in how to get around and that usually depends on how long you are here for, where you are staying and what you intend to do. Here’s a bit of a cheat sheet we have put together to help you plan your transportation to and around Port Douglas:

Getting to Port Douglas & Daintree

Arriving by Air:

Fly into Cairns Airport from most capital cities (and other regional areas depending on the air carrier) with major carriers daily.

Our tip: sit on the right-hand side of the plane when you are heading north so you can look out the window and check out the reef as you are descending towards Cairns.

Arriving by Bus or Train:

Major bus lines and the long-distance ‘Spirit of Queensland’ train arrive regularly into Cairns city; however, this is where both services terminate. To continue your journey to Port Douglas and Daintree, you will need to either hire a car or book a bus shuttle transfer.

Bus Shuttle Transfer:

If you prefer to enjoy the scenery along the beginning of the Great Barrier Reef Drive, you can get a bus shuttle to Port Douglas and Mossman from Cairns Airport or city.

Our tip: book your seat ahead of time as peak travel periods could mean you are waiting around for longer than you need to be at the airport for the next shuttle.

Aim to sit on the right-hand side window to get the best view of the stunning Great Barrier Reef Drive scenery.

Car Hire:

Once you have arrived in Cairns, you can hire a car from the airport or the city with a number of local and national car hire companies. We recommend booking your car ahead of time, especially during peak travel periods (including school and public holidays and from June to October).

Our tip: select the right option for your pick-up and drop-off based on how you arrive into Cairns – if you fly in and select the option to pick-up and drop-off in Cairns city, you’ll be adding in an extra stop to your journey.

Getting Around Port Douglas & Daintree

Your transportation requirements while in Port Douglas and Daintree really come down to where you are staying, how long and what you intend on doing. Here are your options and our tips:

Car Hire:

There is a range of car hire companies based in Port Douglas. Hiring a car allows you to explore at your own pace to a number of areas like Mossman Gorge, the Daintree Rainforest and surrounding Atherton Tablelands and Cooktown regions.

Suitable for: longer stays (3+ days); if you are staying in a holiday home or accommodation that is more remote or not within walking distance to Macrossan Street; if you want total flexibility.

Bike Hire:

Perfect if you are only staying in the Port Douglas township itself and love the idea of quickly and easily getting around without having to worry about parking. Port Douglas itself is only about 7KM in distance and flat, with most restaurants and hotels located in the village around Macrossan Street. This provides an easy area to cover on foot or bike – you can even hire electric bikes if you want an even easier ride.

Suitable for: shorter stays; if you are only staying in Port Douglas (we do not recommend cycling between Port Douglas and surrounding townships); doing tours rather than self-drive activities.

Getting to the Daintree Rainforest

The Daintree is easily accessible to explore, the question is how!

From Port Douglas, you can book a day trip that may cover some or all of the entry points to the Daintree, as well as to private areas that are only accessible on a tour. Families or groups may benefit from a private day charter – that way the day is yours to determine, with the experience and knowledge of your driver and guide.

Your journey to the Daintree National Park and Cape Tribulation begins at the Daintree River. The Daintree River Ferry is the only cable ferry operating within tropical Australia and provides the only sealed road access to the Daintree Rainforest. Situated some 50 kilometres north of Port Douglas, the ferry operates daily between 6PM and midnight.

When is the best time to cross the Daintree River? There are often delays in crossing the Daintree River during the peak visitor season from July-September. We recommend timing your day so that you can avoid the ferry queue between 10am-12pm travelling north and from 3pm-5pm travelling south. The sooner you get up into the Daintree in the morning, the more you can explore of course!

For self-drivers, the Great Barrier Reef Drive is at your beck and call, sealed all the way to Cape Tribulation with a number of secluded beaches and hidden treasures jotted along the way. There are a number of maps to assist your journey, which you can pick up from information and tour booking shops in the region.

The Daintree Rainforest is one of the most spectacular pieces of natural beauty you will encounter in your lifetime, it’s up to you how you would like to enjoy it.


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