Cairns to Port Douglas

A scenic drive along this road, the Captain Cook Highway is one of the most beautiful road trip that anyone can do in Far North Queensland. The scenery along this road promises a spectacular views, fascinating beaches, pristine coastline and parklands.

A road trip with a touch of Adventure along the way

Although, the coastal scenic drive from Cairns to Port Douglas is just 66 kilometres, it is one of Australia’s most stunning section of the coastline. Also, known as the Great Barrier Reef Drive, this road winds its way past palm-lined beaches and a horizon of forest-clad mountains. 

It doesn’t matter what is the best time to tackle this highway, it can access all year round. It goes around some of the nations national treasures such as the World Heritage-Listed Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest. Starting in Cairns, this tyre-turning journey to Port Douglas might just become your most memorial road trip ever.   

1. Tropical Time-Out

Catana Wetlands

About 15 minutes drive north-west of Cairns on the Captain Cook Highway is the Catana Wetlands. This is an incredible spot for nature and bird lovers paradise. Park your car and take a short walk around the lake and boardwalk. Your guaranteed to see an abundance of wildlife and don’t forget to bring along your camera to capture some of the amazing scenery in and around the area. 

Trinity Beach

As you continued further along the highway from Catana Wetlands (5 minutes) is Trinity Beach – A perfect beach holiday destination. Park and take a short stroll along this white sandy haven, which is located between two headlands and attracts a mix of both locals and tourists. Wiggle your toes in the mounds of glistening granules, go for a wander or slide into the sea. You can simply relax on the waterfront benches and enjoy the coolness of the sea breeze.

Palm Cove Beach

A further 5 minutes drive along this paradisiacal stretch of highway lies the coconut-palmed wonder of Palm Cove. Here you can jog, walk or cycle along the town’s tree-lined paths. Palm Cove is virtually surrounded by forest and the beach front is undoubtedly one of the best beaches in the Far North Queensland. It also offers some of the best fine dining places in North Queensland which are very popular among locals and tourists. Take a stroll along this beautiful waterfront and try one of the local cafes before heading further north.

Ellis Beach

When you’re ready to peel yourself off the squeaky-clean sand, drive further north-west to Ellis beach. Apart from this beautiful beach, there is only one cafe and a bar on the beachfront where you can enjoy a beer or two. This is the last cafe that is only accessible by public on the side of the road until the next 45 kilometres of drive. It is very popular among locals and self-drive tourists as it has direct views over the Coral Sea to Double Island, off Palm Cove. Weekends are often abuzz at this roadside bar and grill and the beach, which is very popular among families.


Hartley's Crocodile Adventures

The drive north of Ellis Beach is remarkable, as sections of the sea-lined highway had to be carved out of the mountain it winds through. Hop off Captain Cook Highway by turning left and into Hartley’s Crocodile park. It is one of the few wildlife parks in the world bordered by a World Heritage forest. Enter the park with a fee and take a boat cruise along Hartley’s Lagoon, where you can see the world’s largest reptile – the saltwater crocodile – snap, leap and roll during a feeding session. The park has an abundance of different and varied species from snakes, cassowaries to birds and Koalas.

Rex Lookout

Get back onto the highway again until you reach Rex Lookout about 2 minutes from the Hartley’s Crocodile park. The view from here is absolutely breathtaking – as you look out to the open Coral Sea and forested mountains that loom impressively in the background. On a good clear day, you will be able to see Ellis beach and Double Island. Rex Lookout is also a regular spot for hang-gliding, so make sure you look up to see these daredevils soar high above this breathtaking part of the world.


Thala Lodge

A further 10 minutes drive north-west from Rex Lookout, it will take you to Thala Beach Lodge. A luxury eco-resort situated on a private headland with its own beach and hectares of coastal rainforest. Located just off the Captain Cook Highway, the lodge offers plenty of comfort. If you want to pamper yourself, this is the place to do it. Whether your having lunch at the restaurant or simply having a coffee or drink at the ultimate viewing deck, your sure to enjoy the incredible views of the Coral Sea and forested mountains and see bird life on the treetops.


About 15 kilometres from Thala Lodge is the township of Port Douglas. This picturesque township is full of excitement but also has a distinctive laid back atmosphere, and a low-rise tropical old world charm. It is a great place to see the sun rise apart from shopping and dining. It is entirely possible to get around the township of Port Douglas by foot or you can indulge yourself by trying some of the local cuisine which are absolutely mouthwatering. If you plan to stay the night in town, take an evening cruise along the harbour and it will blow you mind-away as you enjoy the evening sunset with a glass of champagne on your hand. 

Things to see and do in Port Douglas?

  • Wander the town, especially few back streets
  • Visit the Port Douglas Lookout
  • Step inside the old chapel, the outside doesn’t do it justice
  • Visit the Marina wharf
  • Take a short ride on the train located next to the Marina
  • Sample the locally produced beer at the Marina
  • Visit the famous outdoor market, operates only on Sundays

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Papua New Guinean living in Cairns, Australia. Weekend getaway adventurer and Free-Independent-Traveller (FIT). Lover of unique and exotic travel experiences with a touch of luxury. Follow me to my travel world, brining you closer to your destination.

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