Cairns to Port Douglas – Getting There From Cairns Airport

The vast majority of people getting from Cairns to Port Douglas will fly in via Cairns International Airport. Alternatively you have the ‘road-trippers’ or the the odd train arrival but either way nearly all will come along the coastal road which is one of the most beautiful stretches of highway in the country.

Getting From Cairns to Port Douglas
Getting From Cairns to Port Douglas

How far is Cairns to Port Douglas?

66km, but that’s not a great indicator. Once you’ve navigated a myriad of roundabouts you have a pretty serious coastal road to contend with or more appropriately, indulge in, as I mentioned it’s one of the better stretches of road in the country.

How Long Does it Take to get from Cairns to Port Douglas?

A clear run from Cairns to Port Douglas takes 50 minutes in a car, the shuttle bus around 90 minutes depending on how many stops (usually stops at Palm Cove). You can easily add 30 minutes if you plan on returning to the airport at morning rush hour (7.30am – 9am).

Tips on Getting From Cairns to Port Douglas

Keep an eye on the weather and road works. The coast highway is susceptible to avalanche and flooding. There is constant roadworks so it would pay to take note when you drive up as these elements will drastically increase your travel time. Worst case scenario is a road closure which means you’ll have to drive over the hinterlands which will take around 3 hours. This is most likely to happen after heavy rain.

*See our form at the end of this post for pdf directions.

Cairns to Port Douglas by Car

Our usual recommendation is car rental – if there is two or more of you then it’s going to be comparable to hire a car one-way than to catch a shuttle and if you arrive during the day you could make a few stops along the way that may not be worth a full day trip any other time.

Car Rental Cost

$40-80 per day, best to check the search below, it’ll scan all the major options for car rental.

Cairns to Port Douglas by Shuttlebus

Shuttlebus cost

$40 one way

Shuttlebus information

If you don’t want to rent a car the shuttlebus is your only other option to get to Port Douglas.  It can take up to 90 minutes to get to Port Douglas depending on how many stops they will do along the way (Palm Cove, Trinity Beach, Kewarra Beach). There’s quite  few companies that do the trip but I would recommend booking ahead, especially if you are arriving after hours. Most advertise to take you to the door, it may be up to you to ensure that.

Sunpalm – the only shuttle service to have a desk at both the Cairns Domestic and International Airports.



Getting From Cairns to Port Douglas

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Longer Detour Options

Being a relatively short run up to Port Douglas you might want to indulge in a little sight seeing or R&R, especially if your flight lands early and you need to kill some time before checkin. Read on below for some detour options.

Skyrail & Kuranda

If you have a bit of time to kill we’d suggest you drive over the range to Kuranda, in the rainforest/hinterland. You could take the Skyrail (gondola), or train if you fancy splashing some cash early. Check out our post for an in depth look at one of the top tourist attractions in Far North Queensland. The gondola will take you from the highway (Smithfield) right over the range to Kuranda. The train leaves from Freshwater which is over the highway from the airport (10 minute drive). It only takes 15/20 minutes to drive over the range (great views on the way back), doubt you would need more than a couple of hours there even with lunch or coffee. Be warned though Kuranda shuts down pretty much after lunch time so you want to get there early to get value for your trip.

Hang Gliding

And if you are really adventurous perhaps you could jump off a cliff, I’ve covered it in detail on our post Port Douglas Things To Do – Hang Gliding Over the Coral Sea, and if you chicken out you could always opt for Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures which is at the bottom of the hill!

Shorter Detour Options

SKyrail and Kuranda is 4/5 hour day. Hang Gliding would involve a meet and greet, instruction and set up. This stretch of the coast is too good to let it go whizzing by, we thought a few shorter options would be handy.

Palm Cove

We would highly recommend a stop at Palm Cove on the way. It’s right on the highway (2mins), just the other side of the coastal road from Port Douglas and it’s a great way to kick off your tropical escape with lunch, a coffee or cocktail right on the esplanade looking out to Double Island. There’s a lot of options in Palm Cove but we haven’t found better than the options marked below. For more detail, see our post – Palm Cove Coffee & Breakfast Guide.

Hartley’s Crocodile Farm

Another good option for the longer detour would be to make a stop half way along the coast road and satisfy your crocodile curiosity at Hartley’s Crocodile Farm, more details in our post Australian Crocodiles – All You Need to Know.


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