Port Douglas, Queensland

Port Douglas

A tropical paradise (a cliché but true!)

When looking for a tropical getaway Port Douglas is the perfect destination. I had been before so knew how lovely it was. Others may report on its beaches (spectacular) trips to the Barrier Reef (a must!) and the Mossman gorge and Daintree river (coming shortly) I'm going to live up to my history nerd background and look at Port Douglas' past.

It was established as a port in 1877 for the inland gold mining area which needed a gateway to the sea. Like most Australian towns the first major buildings were the hotels. One still proudly boasts its foundation date.

It's been sympathetically restored complete with wooden sash windows open out onto the street. A newer extension of an outdoor eating area has been built to the right of the picture.

The Court House hotel, opposite the wharf, the original hotel was destroyed in the 1911 cyclone and then rebuilt. 

I thought this church was really sweet. This is not its original location, it was moved here in the late 1980's. It was a former catholic church, it's now non-denominational, it still holds services and can be booked for weddings and funerals.

A lovely example of the wooden architecture of early Queensland.

The inside it's a tiny church perfect for a small wedding, a window was cut out behind the altar and there's a beautiful view of the ocean. A lovely setting for a wedding in the tropics.

The statue of a soldier resting his hands on an upturned rifle can be seen just about every country town large or small in Australia. These are the memorials to those killed in World War I (or the Great War as known when these statues were placed). Australia lost a huge amount of men (more per capita than other countries fighting in WWI) and in the years after the war there was a major push to build memorials to those who had died. This one was unveiled in 1923, the names of those who died in WWI are on the front, on the left hand side are the names added of those who died in WWII and one who died in the Vietnam war.

In the main street (Macrossan street) next to the Central Hotel is the Ironbar, loved the use of old galvanised iron, very rustic Australia! I remembered this restaurant/pub from my first visit. They hold cane toad (a feral pest, a major problem to the environment) races here, very funny to watch!

The restored Court House, it's the second oldest wooden courthouse in Queensland (I read the sign!). It now houses a small museum, a good example of Australian architecture, with the wide verandahs to help keep the building cool.

Port Douglas was a major town in north Queensland until the 1890s when the railway was put through to Cairns. Port Douglas then steadily declined, the road from Cairns to Port Douglas was only put through in 1933.
View from the lookout memorial to the local councillor who pushed for a road to be built from Cairns to Port Douglas. It opened in 1933, Cairns is where the feint hills in the background are.

 By the 1960s the population had fallen to 100 and the school closed. Fast forward to the 1980s and the airport at Cairns was upgraded to an international airport, and in 1987 with great fanfare a major resort was opened in Port Douglas and that brought about its revival. Something that I could see quite clearly as I contrasted all the construction that had occurred from my last visit to this one. On my previous visit Port Douglas was still very much a village, it's now a town.

The tour guide who took us to the Daintree spoke about some advice Bill Clinton gave at a speech to the local chamber of commerce, which was to make sure no building would go above coconut tree height. So no high-rises, nothing is higher than 3 floors, it preserves that small town feel.

Trivia Alert! (I looked it up and Bill and Hillary Clinton holidayed at Port Douglas after an official visit to Australia and he was in Port Douglas on September 11th 2001. I can vaguely remember that as the Australian airforce came and got him and he managed to get back to the US despite the shutdown of the airspace)

Now there was also a pioneer cemetery that I noticed on the road into Port Douglas. I had thought of going to have a look, but then the attraction of lying by the pool and reading won out over the history nerd side of me!