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Cairns or Port Douglas

Plymouth, United...
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Cairns or Port Douglas

We are travelling to Cairns to go to The great Barrier Reef in November. Would it be better to stay in Port Douglas?

Nanaimo, Canada
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27,057 posts
103 reviews
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1. Re: Cairns or Port Douglas

Both Port Douglas and Cairns have tours to the GBR, so it depends on which tour you are going with, and your other interests. I actually spent a week in Palm Cove just last month. I would prefer staying in Port Douglas over Cairns, but then I don't know what your interests are, or your age. If you enjoy the night life, maybe Cairns would be better for you. I'm in my mid fifties, and was VERY glad NOT to be in Cairns! Port Douglas is an hour north of Cairns, but then you are so much closer to exploring the Daintree area. Port Douglas also has Four Mile Beach, Cairns only has the lagoon, a manmade pool. I don't know if you will be able to swim in the ocean in November though... not sure when the stingers show up. And please... just because the stinger net is up, does not mean it is safe to swim in it! Check for signs! In January, the stinger nets were in place, but they still had stingers in them. Actually, in Palm Cove, they had a crocodile in the net the week before we were there! CHECK THE SIGNS!!

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Palm Cove
Palm Cove
Cairns Region, Australia
Auburn
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1 post
11 reviews
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2. Re: Cairns or Port Douglas

We stayed in Cairns and Port Douglas in May 2012 and visited the reef from both locations. The boat ride out to the reef was about the same, close to an hour, but we enjoyed the reef near Port Douglas a little more. If staying in Cairns, I'd suggest booking a hotel that is within two blocks of the esplanade. Outside of that, the town of Cairns is surprisingly dodgy looking. Cairns has cheaper accommodations; more restaurants, shops, pubs and tour operators; and everything is within walking distance. But it is quite touristy. It has a very nice municipal pool that is free, but NO beach. Port Douglas is more upscale, resort-like and spread out, so a car is helpful. It has a nice beach and a lovely strip of shops and restaurants. I'd say if your under the age of 30, stay in Cairns. If you're 30 or older, definitely stay in Port Douglas.

Melbourne, Australia
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289 posts
56 reviews
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3. Re: Cairns or Port Douglas

I've been to both on ONE trip and been out on the reef from both, and if I were you, I'd choose Port Douglas.

Cairns is a backpacker kind of place, it doesn’t have a beach - for me, there would be only two reasons to base yourself here: visit to Green Island with Ocean Free - http://www.oceanfree.com.au/, and the fact it is cheaper (cheaper doesn’t mean it is better though). Oh, and very nice botanical gardens – that’s three reasons to stay here. But it has a younger, drunker crowd and Cairns has a long strip of fast food / takeaway shops.

Port Douglas is the glamorous choice. It has a lovely beach and a lovely little town and is more scenic / tropical. It has enchanting restaurants and bars and is lovely by night. Lots of catamarans make the trip out to the reef.

Edited: 06 June 2012, 02:23
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Green Island
Green Island
1,897 Reviews
Cairns, Australia
Cairns, Australia
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70 posts
72 reviews
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4. Re: Cairns or Port Douglas

I would recommend Palm Cove over Cairns and Port Douglas. It's halfway between Cairns and PD and is one of Cairns Northern Beaches. The Esplanade is longer than PD and has hotels right along the strip. The street is paved which makes it look and feel really cosmopolitan. The shops and restaurants are as good as PD. The tour companies offer pickups from hotels so that shouldn't be a problem.

If you hire a car, which I would recommend, then the drive to PD is lovely and you can spend the day there. If you want to do more day trips, such as Kuranda train, Skyrail and Tjapakai, than just the reef, then it's best to stay closer to Cairns than PD. You can take a day trip to Daintree/Cape Tribulation from Palm Cove or drive there yourself, which would be much better and you can drop in to see Mossman Gorge on the way.

Cairns Tropical Zoo is only 5 min from Palm Cove and is great to see Australian Wildlife.

Have a great trip, wherever you decide to go.

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Palm Cove
Palm Cove
Cairns Region, Australia
Sydney, Australia
Destination Expert
for Sydney, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Business Travel, New South Wales
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30,742 posts
1,692 reviews
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5. Re: Cairns or Port Douglas

Another vote for Port Douglas. I love the restaurants & cafes plus it has a lovely beach too.

Melbourne, Australia
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289 posts
56 reviews
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6. Re: Cairns or Port Douglas

I seriously discourage you from the dinner show at Tjapukai (Cairns) - an awful, awkward, rip off that is disrespectful of Indigenous culture. I was embarrassed to be an Australian when I went. Other visitors say the day time visits are good however.

Edited: 12 June 2012, 23:37
7. Re: Cairns or Port Douglas

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