Port Douglas Marina – The Guide
The Port Douglas Marina, in many ways, is the heart of Port Douglas. Everyone that visits Port Douglas or lives in Port Douglas for that matter, eventually finds themselves wandering through the Marina. Whether it be on the way to a reef tour, a spot of breakfast or a sunset cocktail, there’s way more to the Marina than just pretty boats. Yes, this post will fill you in on some places to spend your money, there’s some lovely opportunities to indulge in a beverage or two, perhaps even invest in a little sun protection but first let me tell you a little bit about the Port Douglas Marina as someone who has operated a shop in it. ….more.
History of the Port Douglas Marina
The Marina in its current form was created by Christopher Skase in the 80’s (if you’re Australian and over 40 you’ll know that name, if not read this). It was an important part of his vision to turn Port Douglas into a playground for the rich and famous. But for a while – post GFC – it looked like that was a distant memory. When we set up shop in 2010 it was a little like watching tumble weeds at times. Half the shops were empty. Many were boarded up. Port Douglas relied heavily on international tourism and after 2008 they stopped coming.
A resurgence in domestic tourism has seen Port Douglas and the Marina spring back to life. There’s been a number of investments around town and the Marina has seen the arrival of a few nice little ventures like Hemingway’s distillery and Choo Choo’s (yep… the train station/cafe).
What’s in the Port Douglas Marina
In it’s hey day the Marina was home to Cartier and clothing brands like Lacoste, it is still very much in it’s transformative stage but this is still an area of Port Douglas that is certainly worth setting aside a morning coffee and wander or an evening sip and dine. In a nut shell there’s a bunch of reef tour operators, two quality cafe/restaurants, a wine/cocktail bar, a brewery, several apparel stores and a train station.
There are quite a few reef operators in Port Douglas and we’ve never heard a bad word about any of them. Whether you’re planning on snorkelling or diving you wont be left wanting for choice. The prices are going to vary but a day on the reef won’t be cheap, your looking at a baseline $200+ for a decent reef experience. The ideal day on the reef would be dead calm and no recent rain or high winds as it affects the visibility. The reality is that most of us will have to take what we can get given time restrictions but either way I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
There are several options, the closest experience is the Low Isles, a Coral Cay Island that can be seen from Port Douglas on a clear day. A great way to experience the reef without spending too much time on the ocean. I’ll cover the reef in a lot more detail soon, but for now I’ve listed the reef operators that have bases at the marina.
Aquarius Port Douglas Cruises – also have a cheaper sunset cruise option if a day on the reef doesn’t do it for you.
Calypso Reef Charters – Snorkel and dive tours.
Lady Douglas – a riverboat that chugs up and down the inlet, sneaking up on crocodiles and dropping people off at Choo Coo’s, St.Crispins.
Poseidon Outer Reef Cruises – a high speed catamaran that has access to a number of individual reef locations as well as minke whale swimming experiences in May and August.
Reef Sprinter Snorkelling – if you fancy spending more time experiencing the reef than getting there, this is your choice. At 80kph these guys will get you to the closest reef experience, the “Low Isles”, in just 15 minutes.
Sailaway Reef & Island Tours – they’ve been around for along time and have as good a reputation as the rest.
Quicksilver – this is the granddaddy, they were the first to do tours out to the Low Isles nearly 40 years ago. If the size of the boat is anything to go by, they must be doing something right.
Wavelength Reef Cruises – this the second oldest and the only outer reef tour operator that is locally owned.
Of course the marina has you covered for reef apparel and hardware with several stores selling bathing and water gear eg. goggles, wetsuits, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen etc.. there’s also an extensive amount of souvenirs and clothing.
The Bally Hooley Steam Railway is a heritage railway operating locomotives that were originally built for cane hauling. It runs along a 4 km line from the Marina to Choo Choo’s, St. Crispin’s Station and takes around 20 minutes one-way. They’ve teamed up with the “Lady Douglas” to offer round trips also.
The train runs on weekends and holidays throughout the year and everyday during the high season, May – October.
Adults – $10 single – $20 return.
Kids – $4 single – $8 return.
Drinks & Food
There’s two very cool spots inn the marina with spectacular views across the inlet and beyond to enjoy a tropical tipple.
So you too can discover the art in drinking (if you haven’t already). They do an array of in-house (literally) beers, their pizza, tacos and crayfish sliders go down well, especially with the sun setting.
Open: 7.30am – 11pm
Perfect stop to sample a colourful cocktail list after a long day on the reef. They do light meals such as fish tacos, oysters and beef sliders. Their “share boards” are a great idea, although I can’t figure out how they keep those comfy day beds clean. The views out to the inlet and Daintree in the distance are special… very, er… Barbados?
Open: 3pm – 11pm
For drinking of the caffeinated kind, the two cafes below are some of Port’s best options and are also listed in our post, Port Douglas – the Coffee and Breakfast Guide, click here for more.
Will be opening up for dinner this year but they do a nice breakfast menu, one of our favourites for eggs benny and we just noticed a happy hour lunch on offer.
This train station was all but a shell up until about 12 months ago, they’ve done a great job with it. A very cool spot to look out on the inlet over breaky and lunch, hard to miss as it’s the first business you see from the road.
Marina opening hours & travel info
7 Days a week, all the dining options have varying operating hours. Both cafes are open by 7:30am as is Hemmingway’s, Barbados opens at 3pm through until 10/11pm.
Where to Stay in Port Douglas
We use Airbnb whenever the opportunity pops up. We run our own place in Port Douglas so know the system pretty well and for us it’s the most user-friendly of the private holiday rental apps. It’s a bit tricky to find places under 3 nights but if you are planning a holiday for longer click here to set up an Airbnb account, you’ll get way more bang for your buck.
Getting to Port Douglas
See this post on Cairns to Port Douglas
Getting around Port Douglas
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