Queensland: Koalas & The Great Barrier Reef

Queensland is a state of Australia that offers unique opportunities, ones that are unavailable for visitors in the majority of the rest of the country, including snuggling with koalas..

Port Douglas Australia kangaroo

The opportunity to cuddle with a Koala, swim the Great Barrier Reef, and walk out of the rain forest directly onto a white, sandy beach are very unique and essential must dos when visiting Queensland. The town of Port Douglas exists as a hub for tourists, on Queensland’s northeast coast, providing a location to relax and fulfill these opportunities.

Port Douglas is a little over an hour drive from the city of Cairns and is very easy to get to. One of my favorite parts of a trip to Port Douglas does not even exist within the actually town, but rather lies in the drive there. Once you have gotten out of the city of Cairns, the road follows the tropical Australian coastline all the way to the town. It is the perfect opportunity to roll down the windows, pump some beats from the stereo, and take in the clear blue water of the ocean and low hanging tropical trees that surround the road. If an hour is too long to hold off running along the beach and jumping into the ocean, the road continuously runs next to various beach parking lots, making it the perfect road trip stop to get out of the car and take a swim.

Port Douglas Australia Great Barrier Reef
Photo courtesy: Will Grine

Port Douglas is an extremely touristy part of the coast and therefore the majority of accommodations are very fancy resort, spa type places. The first street you take into the town is littered on both sides of the road with beachside resorts. However, if you are a student, like me, and cannot afford to spend a few nights being pampered in a resort, then there is cheaper accommodation offered. The Parrotfish Lodge is a fantastic and affordable hostel, located less than a five-minute walk from both the beach and downtown. The hostel offers relatively cheap food and drinks, a comfortable lounge/bar area – perfect for traveling on a tighter budget.

The reasons for Port Douglas being such a busy haven for tourism are obvious. It is surrounded on almost all sides by idyllic tropical beaches, it is warm most of the year, it gives the easiest access to the Great Barrier Reef, and it is a short bus ride away from both the Daintree Rainforest and city. These factors definitely make it a fantastic spot to take a vacation, but the extreme number of tourists and the amount the town focuses on tourism has its drawbacks and makes it a frustrating place to stay for a prolonged period of time. After a few days, I found myself getting tired of overcrowded beaches and grossly overpriced meals and felt the necessity to move onto greener, more open land.

However, despite my frustrations, I am glad I stopped there on my trip because it gave me priceless memories and opportunities that are hard to come by in the rest of the world. Spending an entire day snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef is a surreal experience that I will never forget and Port Douglas is one of the best places to experience that. It is the closest mainland port to the Great Barrier Reef and therefore is home to a large number of boat companies offering snorkeling and scuba diving tours. I booked my snorkeling through the company Quicksilver and was very pleased with the experience I was given. Almost all the boats are very large as a result of the huge demand from tourists to experience the reef, which may make it seem like a less personal diving experience, but I had no problems and thought all the staff were very personable and helpful despite the large number of divers on the boat.

Port Douglas Australia Queensland bike
Photo courtesy: Sharan Seth

Port Douglas also gave me the unforgettable experience of being able to hold a koala. Queensland is the only state in Australia where it is legal to hold koalas and given the dwindling numbers in their population, there is speculation that it may one day be outlawed there too. The Port Douglas Wild Life Habitat offers the opportunity to see and interact with all the exotic animals from around Australia. Besides holding a koala, I was also able to feed, play with, and take multiple selfies with kangaroos, wallabies, and emus.

Port Douglas is known for its tropical beaches, which are undeniably beautiful. However, as a result of it being a hub for tourism, the beaches are typically overcrowded. It is worth seeing the famous spots, such as Four Mile Beach, but if hanging out on unreal tropical beaches is a necessity of your trip, then it is definitely worth driving further north to either Cow Bay or Cape Tribulation, where tourism is not as overwhelming and you can sit alone on a white sandy beach, with the rainforest behind you. Port Douglas is a place worth visiting, but not for an extended vacation. Tourism runs the town and it is definitely worth it to move further north in order to escape the cluttered vibe of the beach town to find more vacant, more beautiful lands.


map great barrier reef australia


Evan Molineux

Evan's favorite country in the world is Canada. His travel style is to keep it real, relaxed, and experience something dangerous now and then. Ask him what he loves to do and he'll say "roll with nature's flow." You'll never find Evan without a disposable camera, lip balm, and yoga pants, they're must-haves no matter what he goes.

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