From reef to rainforest: Top 5 ecotourist experiences to enjoy in Port Douglas

From reef to rainforest: Top 5 ecotourist experiences to enjoy in Port Douglas

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Of all of Australia's lush, green getaway destinations, Port Douglas is largely considered to be the ultimate holiday spot for all proud ecowarriors.

Known as the only place in the world where two natural World Heritage Sites meet (these being the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef), this coastal haven is filled to the brim with opportunities to get seriously up close and personal with some of Australia's most elusive wildlife and witness the sheer majesty of this continent's unique flora.

There is just one downside to Port Douglas' abundance of ecotourism experiences, and that's the simple fact that it can be tricky figuring out just what's worth adding to your trip itinerary.

That's precisely why we'll be exploring the top 5 ecotourism experiences that await those who are looking to plan a family trip to Port Douglas this year.

1. Book a local tour of the reef

Although you can't see the Coral Sea through all the palm trees that line the perimeter of the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort in Port Douglas and other surrounding hotels, there is lots to be said for the reefs that surround this little slice of coastal paradise.

As reefs like the Morey Reef are inhabited by many different marine species, some of whom use the reefs as feeding grounds, they can be a popular fishing site as well as a highly unique and accessible coastal experience.

That being said, there's no better way to kickstart your Port Douglas getaway than with a guided tour of the surrounding outer reef areas, as well as a snorkel session if you and your fellow travellers are keen to get underwater and see the reef up close.

A reef tour may also provide you and the rest of your travel party with the unique opportunity to learn more about the history of this world wonder, and the full impact that climate change has had on the reef over time.

Building your own awareness of the reef's major challenges can help you develop your own eye for sustainability at a time where the reef needs this forward thinking more than ever before.

Be sure to book an ecotourism certified reef tour to ensure that your funds help contribute to natural conservation efforts for the region.

2. Explore the depths of the Daintree

Following the Mossman River from the water's edge will take you deeper into the towering kauri trees, king ferns, and eclectic epiphytes that make up the bulk of the Daintree Rainforest.

As the oldest tropical rainforest in the world, the Daintree is truly an environment that feels preserved in a different and ancient era. The region's rich biodiversity makes itself known with even just a hike or two through the Mossman Gorge, during which you will come across literally hundreds of different plant species.

The Daintree is also home to a myriad of Australian native fauna, including cassowaries, tree kangaroos, echidnas, platypuses, and an estimated 430 different bird species.

Alongside this, visitors to the Daintree may be able to spot reptiles and amphibians that aren't found anywhere else in the world, as the Daintree is estimated to be the home of a quarter of all of Australia's frog species.

We highly recommend exploring the Daintree's aerial walkway and visiting the Daintree Rainforest Canopy Tower if you'd like to see just how awe-inspiring the region is from the perspective of all the birds that call the rainforest home. You may be able to spot a lot more elusive wildlife from the treetops, after all.

3. Visit the Rainforest Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary

If you don't manage to see any mysterious wildlife during your time in the Daintree, then you'll at least be happy to hear that a trip to Port Douglas' Rainforest Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary may be all that you'll need to make up for this deficit.

With a variety of different habitats or ecosystems designed within the sanctuary, guests can actually engage with both furry or feathery forest friends as well as scaly sealife all at the same time.

The sanctuary's CrocArena is also the ultimate must-experience for any adventurous types who are looking to witness the intimidating saltwater crocs that call the region home.

Of course, 'swimming with the salties' isn't for everyone, which is why the sanctuary's many other dedicated habitats are just as popular as their more adrenalin-inspiring attractions.

We recommend the Billabong Habitat for families with smaller children, as they'll be sure to love the colourful kingfishers, black-necked storks, and other bird species that populate this happy, little ecosystem.

If you're feeling brave, then head to the Rainforest Habitat afterwards in order to see the sanctuary's resident cassowaries, Cass and Airlie, amongst other stunning bird species, like Eclectus parrots and rainbow lorikeets.

The Wildlife Sanctuary is also located right in the heart of Port Douglas and just a quick walk from many Port Douglas hotels. Chances are high that the sanctuary may very well be the most accessible attraction on your trip itinerary.

4. Take an Indigenous cultural tour of Kuku Yalanji country

A trip to Port Douglas, or even a mesmerising Daintree or Great Barrier Reef experience, would truly be incomplete without engaging with the region's Indigenous roots.

Port Douglas and its surroundings have always been the land of the Kuku Yalanji Indigenous people, one of the world's oldest and most culturally rich Indigenous communities.

As the Kuku Yalanji people can trace their connections to the region back for over 50,000 years, there are an incalculable number of lessons that can be learned by taking an Indigenous cultural tour or even a walking tour of Kuku Yalanji country.

Learn about the innate cycles of the Daintree Rainforest, and how its traditional custodians lived in harmony with these cycles. Engage with the traditional uses of native plants, and bear witness to cave paintings depicting legendary tales from the dreamtime that in truth, tell us the history of this land in a way that can never be replicated.

The lessons that the Kuku Yalanji people have to share also walk hand-in-hand with Port Douglas' focus on sustainability, as all of the region's ecotourist experiences are developed in accordance with Indigenous cultural practices and teachings.

In this sense, taking an Indigenous tour will essentially provide your own eco-warrior training with a strong and seasoned foundation.

5. Hit the trails and find worlds lost in time

Last but not least, one of the best ways that you can truly engage with all that this rich region has to offer is simply by conducting your own independent explorations.

There are a myriad of forest trails and hiking tracks to keep you occupied on all the rest days in your itinerary. You should feel encouraged to rise with the sun and follow trails that will lead you to some hidden treasures, like waterfalls or cliffside views that'll let you watch the sunrise over the Coral Sea.

We recommend taking the walk to the Big Mowbray Falls found in the Mowbray National Park if you want a challenging yet seriously satisfying hike.

For families with younger children who may not be ready for steeper trails, then a walk along Four Mile Beach or Pebbly Beach to the south could make for a fun and enriching afternoon.


Even those travelling on a strict budget will find that there is truly more than plenty to see and do for all expert and budding eco-warriors during your next trip to Port Douglas.

If you are looking to head off on a reef tour or a trip to the Daintree during your time in this coastal haven, you should absolutely book all of your tickets nice and early, as the region's peak travel season is coming up.