Port Douglas occupies a stunning position on a peninsula in Far North Queensland. With the Coral Sea on two sides and the Dickson Inlet on the other, it’s not surprising boats of all descriptions play an important role in the recreational activities the town has to offer. Port Douglas’s proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, its marina, yacht club and anchorage facility, have made it not just a popular place for daytime sailing but as a cruise ship port of call too.
Take a cruise from Port Douglas, and you could find yourself aboard a luxury catamaran, a river-going paddle boat or a speedboat zipping over the waves at forty knots. Take a cruise to Port Douglas, and your ocean-going liner will be dropping anchor in one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Take a cruise around Port Douglas, and you’ll see everything from crocodiles lolling in the mangroves, sea eagles and herons flying above, or turtles swimming over coral reefs.
You’ll find there are so many cruises in Port Douglas; it’ll be hard to choose one from another. Have a read through this complete guide to cruises in Port Douglas, and you’ll find out the types of cruises available, what each has to offer and be able to make up a shortlist of the ones that catch your interest before you go. If you’re planning on taking an ocean-going cruise to Port Douglas from another Australian city, you’ll find more information by scrolling further down to the guide’s final section.
Best Day Cruises from Port Douglas
The Great Barrier Reef is one of Port Douglas’s main attractions. The only way to get up close to the reef is by taking a day cruise from Port Douglas on the Coral Sea. Many of the day cruises from Port Douglas offer activities like diving, snorkelling and additional boat rides from platforms moored out at sea.
If you enjoy an active day or want to explore underwater, then the Quicksilver Cruise is an ideal cruise for you. Quicksilver Cruises operate an ultra-modern, triple deck, wave-piercing catamaran which ferries their guests from the marina in Port Douglas to their multi-activity platform on the Agincourt Reef. After the check-in procedure, you’ll be served a complimentary coffee onboard before setting sail for one and a half hours. If you’re participating in either the snorkelling or diving out on the reef, you’ll also be given a briefing before you arrive.
After being transferred to the Quicksilver platform, there’s time for a swim or to go below decks to the observatory to see the marine life before a buffet lunch is served. The afternoons are taken up with pre-organised snorkelling, scuba diving or helmet walking tours or if you prefer, a sail in the company’s semi-submersible and time spent chilling on the sun deck.
For a luxury cruise shared only with a minimum number of other passengers, choose the Aquarius Cruise, an elegant, masted 620 Lagoon sailing catamaran. Be ready for an early start. The Aquarius departs from the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina at eight-thirty in the morning while you’re being served a breakfast of coffee and cake.
After two and a half hours navigating the Coral Sea, the catamaran drops anchor in Horseshoe Bay for swimming and snorkelling. Lunch and tea, with more cake, is served onboard in the afternoon before the boat returns to harbour at around four o’clock.
The Aquarius Cruise also operate a twilight sailing which departs Port Douglas just before five in the evening and sails for one and a half hours as the sun goes down. Canapes are provided, but you’ll need to take along your own bottle of champagne to toast the sunset.
Wavelength Snorkel Cruise
The Wavelength Reef Cruise is dedicated to giving the best experience to snorkelers wanting to see the marine life on the Great Barrier Reef without causing environmental damage. The Wavelength company have been operating their low impact snorkel cruises from Port Douglas for over thirty years and have been highly awarded for running eco-friendly tours.
After upping anchors and heading out of the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina for the ninety minute sailing, talks are given by qualified marine biologists about what you can expect to see underwater. Once the boat is moored on the outer reef, it’s time to don the snorkelling equipment provided onboard and hit the water. The cruise leaves the marina at eight in the morning, visits two sites, the Opal Reef and St Crispins Reef, before a vegan lunch is served. There are more informative talks while sailing to the third snorkelling site at Tongue Reef where it’s time to take the last swim before returning to Port Douglas in the late afternoon.
Escape Yacht Cruise
If you’re dreaming of sailing over the pristine blue of the Coral Sea on a yacht with the canvas hoisted, then the Escape Cruise could be the one for you. The fifty-eight foot long sailing yacht moors in the Meridien Marina on Wharf Street and has the capacity to accommodate ten guests so is an ideal size if you’re travelling with family or friends or, if you don’t like sharing your day, want to make a private charter.
Day cruises from Port Douglas on the Escape head out to the coral cays of the Low Islands. There the boat moors up for swimming and snorkelling. Private charter routes are open to discussion with the captain and can include anchorage at uninhabited islands or by long stretches of deserted coastal beaches. The yacht has three double, en suite cabins and overnight stays on the reef aboard the boat can also be organised. All cruises on the Escape are fully catered, there’s even a barbecue situated on the rear deck and a comfortable saloon for when you want a rest from the sun plus a fully stocked bar. Luxury cruises from Port Douglas don’t get much better than that.
Sailaway Cruises offer two different full-day cruises, a half day cruise and a sunset cruise on their French-built, luxury Lagoon sailing catamaran.
The nine-hour Mackay Coral Reef Cruise sails out of Port Douglas at eight in the morning and arrives at the outer reef around two and a half hours later. After dropping anchor, there are chats about the reef and marine life before snorkelling activities commence. After the buffet lunch, you can take a ride in a glass-bottomed boat then head to the white sand beaches for some sun and relaxation before returning to the boat. Afternoon tea is served during the sail back to Port Douglas.
The full day Low Isles Cruise on the Sailaway catamaran sails from Port Douglas in the early morning and after arriving at the islands, moors for four and a half hours. It’s a relaxed cruise with time for sunbathing, swimming and snorkelling. A guided walk on Coral Cay island is also included in the price of the cruise as is breakfast, a buffet lunch and afternoon tea.
The adults only, Sailaway Luxury Sunset Cruise leaves Port Douglas at five in the evening. It’s a romantic, one and a half hour sailing under canvas as the sun goes down on the Coral Sea. A welcome drink and canapes are served to passengers on boarding, and there is a licensed bar onboard for more refreshments during the trip.
You can read about Sailaway’s Low Isles Half Day Afternoon Cruise further down in the section about half day cruises from Port Douglas.
Diving Cruises From Port Douglas
Silversonic Diving Cruise
If you want to discover the diverse underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef, the Silversonic Cruise, who specialise in diving, is the perfect cruise to take from Port Douglas. During their six-hour sailing, the Silversonic Cruises visit various dive sites on each of their three different monohull vessels, Scubapro I, II and III.
The boats are fully equipped, floating dive centres from where you can make an introduction to diving even if you’ve no previous experience. For qualified divers, the day cruise includes three individual submersions and for non-qualified, the chance to take their first two open water dives in one of the most incredible dive locations in the world. Silversonic also offers liveaboard Padi beginners, professional and advanced certification courses lasting between two to five days.
ABC Scuba Dive & Snorkel Cruise
If you don’t feel confident about diving or snorkelling in open water a long way from the shore, the guided immersions on the ABC Scuba Dive & Snorkel Cruise could be what you’re looking for. No matter whether you’re snorkelling or diving, the ratio of guests to qualified staff is the lowest you’ll find. Snorkel sessions are five swimmers to one instructor, introductory dives three to one and certified dives are four to one so you’re guaranteed plenty of professional assistance throughout.
ABC cruises are an independent company who operate one boat, the Independence I, and prefer to carry only small intimate groups though the boat is licensed for twenty plus passengers. ABC also prefer to pick their route and dive location on the day of departure to accommodate different weather conditions and the preferences of their passengers.
Poseidon Dive & Snorkel Cruise
The Poseidon Dive & Snorkel Cruise sails out of Port Douglas to the Agincourt and the Escape reefs. The sleek, twenty-four-metre long catamaran carries a limited number of passengers on its eight-hour cruise which means divers and snorkelers get maximum attention from the crew.
If you’re a certified diver and have your license with you, you’ll be able to take up to three dives during the day. There are introductory dives organised for those who want to give scuba diving a try but are non-qualified. Snorkel tours are guided by a marine biologist who also gives informational talks when out of the water so you’ll find out lots of interesting facts about what you see when swimming or submerged.
If you’re staying in Port Douglas between May and August, the migratory period for Dwarf Minke Whales you may have the chance to swim or dive with them as the Poseidon Cruise hold a license permitting the strictly controlled activity.
Half Day Cruises from Port Douglas
If you don’t have time on your holiday agenda for a full day out on the water or just don’t like long sailings, you might want to consider these half day cruises from Port Douglas instead.
The Calypso half day cruise departs twice daily from the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina. The morning sailing is at seven thirty and the afternoon tour at one in the afternoon. The cruise leaves Port Douglas and navigates the Coral Sea for approximately thirty minutes until it drops anchor in a bay of the Low Isles.
During the time the boat is moored, you can swim, snorkel, or be ferried over to the island to spend time exploring, birdwatching or sunbathing on the deserted beaches. After two and a half hours of free time, it’s all aboard for the half hour trip back to Port Douglas. There are snacks and drinks and a glass-bottomed boat ride included in the cruise price.
Reef Sprinter Cruise
If you prefer to have an adrenaline thrill rather than a tranquil sail across the Coral Sea, the Reef Sprinter is the cruise for you. The company has three different red and white striped speedboats docked in the Crystal Superyacht Marina all of which have a minimum cruising speed of over thirty knots.
Forget lounging on the sun decks to catch some rays, that’s not what the Reef Sprinter cruise is all about. The Reef Sprinter is about getting to the destination in the shortest possible time, on average fifteen minutes, so that you can spend a couple of hours snorkelling or turtle spotting from the company’s glass-bottomed boat. The Reef Sprinter offers several variations of their speedboat cruise from Port Douglas. The briefest is around two and a half hours in duration and the longest, to the outer reef, three and a half.
Sailaway Low Isles Afternoon Cruise
The Low Isles Afternoon Cruise is perfect for anyone who enjoys the nightlife in Port Douglas to the max and can’t manage to get out of bed to catch a cruise departing in the early hours of the morning. The Low Isles Afternoon Cruise sets sail from the marina at one o’clock for the coral cays of the Low Isles. A complimentary snack lunch with drinks is served on boarding the masted catamaran which helps to stave off any lingering effects of the night before.
The catamaran moors up for three hours at Low Isles to give passengers plenty of time for a refreshing swim, snorkel or to head to land and discover the delights of the island. The Low Isles Afternoon Cruise lasts for around six hours with the return sailing to Port Douglas being accompanied by drinks and hors d’oeuvres as the sun is setting.
Shaolin Junk Cruise – Cairns
When you’ve been sightseeing in Cairns and need a break or a breath of sea air, head down to the Marlin Marina on Spence Street. At the marina, you can board one of the four daily sailings of the Shaolin Junk Cruise.
The red-sailed wooden junk is a replica of a vessel from the Ming dynasty and makes one and a half hour cruises around Cairns harbour and Trinity Bay. The daily departures are at nine and eleven thirty in the morning then two thirty and five in the afternoon. Asian-style snacks, including some fun fortune cookies, are served onboard, and the cruise price includes a drink.
Port Douglas River Cruises
A cruise heading up the Dickson Inlet and into the inland, estuarine waters can prove just as exciting as sailing out on the Coral Sea. The river cruises are an ideal way to see the wildlife which inhabits the area, grab some great photographs of crocodiles and birds or just chill out while watching the scenery float past.
The river cruises tend to be of a short duration so you won’t be away from dry land all day and after your trip, you’ll still have plenty of time for lounging on the beach, by the pool or for shopping in Port Douglas.
Best River Cruises In Port Douglas
Lady Douglas River Cruise
The Lady Douglas River Cruise sails from the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina on Wharf Street. The mono-deck paddle boat sails four times daily during high season with the final departure of the day being a sunset cruise. All tours last for around one and a half hours and include a light-hearted, but informative commentary from the captain.
The main aim of the Lady Douglas River Cruise is to show its passengers the estuarine wildlife concentrating on crocodiles which are spotted on ninety-five per cent of the trips. The Lady Douglas River Cruise schedule an extra, one hour sailing after sundown from June through to November which has live music onboard.
Waterbird River Cruise
If you like your boat cruises with minimal passengers and ecologically friendly, you’ll love the Waterbird River Cruise. Board the electrically powered, ten-seater boat in the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina, or Reef Marina as it’s sometimes called, before gliding in silence along the Dickson Inlet and into the mangroves. If you’re an avid birdwatcher, the quiet, two-hour sailing on the Waterbird is an ideal way of getting close to the herons in the estuary.
Daintree River Cruises
Make a one hour drive from Port Douglas to the Daintree village, and there you can join a tour which will take you along the Daintree River through the rainforest. The scenery along the Daintree River is entirely different to the mangroves of the Dickson Inlet so even if you’ve done a river cruise in Port Douglas, you won’t feel as though you’re repeating the outing. The river cruise’s short duration also means you’ll have lots of time for exploring Mossman Gorge and the Daintree Rainforest.
Bruce Belcher’s Daintree River Cruise
The Bruce Belcher’s Daintree River Cruise leaves from the company’s private jetty on the Mossman Daintree Road. It’s a wildlife tour from the word go when they invite you to a drink in the conservatory surrounded by rainforest before setting out. The boat sails six times a day and pre-booking is only required on the first tour which departs at eight fifteen in the morning. If you like to get your money’s worth, the midday cruise is the same price, but half an hour longer and includes a free snack lunch. A free drink with nibbles is served on the four o’clock one too. Tree snakes, crocodiles, birds and reptiles are frequent sightings on the one-hour cruise.
The Daintree Crocodile Express operates from two locations in the Daintree village and offers its passengers two different cruises. Check in at their base on either Stewart Street or Cape Tribulation and be ready for some serious croc spotting. Both the Crocodile Express boats have five regular daily sailings with a buy one get one free offer. Navigate the river on one boat, and you’ll be given a pass to take a ride on the other without charge on the same day or within the following thirty days. As well as lots of saltwater crocodiles, you’ll have the opportunity to spot flying foxes, frogs and butterflies.
Navigate the waters of the Daintree River on the eco-friendly Solar Whisper. The electric boat moors up near the Daintree ferry jetty and offers one-hour wildlife tours departing six times a day or specialised two-hour charters for keen photographers. The Solar Whisper searches for crocs, reptiles and birds along the waterway using a high-tech croc cam which relays images to an onboard screen, so you’ll see creatures even when they think they’re hidden from view in the dense rainforest foliage.
Cruises To Port Douglas
Port Douglas may not be your main holiday destination if you’re in Australia visiting family. It may be you live elsewhere in the country and have a yet-to-be-crossed-off wish on your bucket list to visit the Great Barrier Reef. Taking a cruise to Port Douglas is an excellent way of enjoying time out from the humdrum of life and spoiling yourself with a touch of luxury while getting to see all the amazing things the town has to offer by going on shore excursions.
Cruises To Port Douglas From Sydney
The Princess Cruise company operate a ten-day Queensland cruise sailing out of Sydney three times a year usually during the months of September, October and November. The sailing could be on one of either three ships, the Majestic, Ruby or Sun Princess depending on your departure date. The cruise itinerary includes a full day’s anchorage in Port Douglas. There are tender to shore services provided plus pre-booking services available for a choice of eight excursions including a catamaran cruise to the Great Barrier Reef and visits to the Daintree Rainforest.
The Celebrity Cruise company offer a twelve night Great Barrier Reef Cruise aboard their liner the Celebrity Solstice. The cruise departs from Sydney in the month of October and has day-long stop-offs at several locations along the Queensland coastline including Cairns, Port Douglas and Airlie Beach. The cruise is a round trip with plenty of opportunities for exploring on land or enjoying exciting offshore activities like paragliding and snorkelling over the reef.
Cruises To Port Douglas From Melbourne
You can take a fourteen day, round trip cruise from Melbourne to Port Douglas aboard the Golden Princess operated by Princess Cruises. Although the cruise only stops for one day in Port Douglas, it does make seven ports of call in total, two more of which are in Queensland and another at Willis Island.
Cruises To Port Douglas From Brisbane
Spend seven nights aboard the Pacific Dawn, a cruise liner belonging to the P&O Cruises fleet, on their Great Barrier Reef Discovery Cruise. The ship departs from Brisbane several times a year to make the round trip taking in all the major ports of call, including Port Douglas, along the Queensland coast. Guided shore excursions for exploring Port Douglas, Four Mile Beach, the Daintree Rainforest or taking a trip to Hartley’s Crocodile Adventure Park are offered onboard.
The Pacific Dawn also makes a once yearly, six-day cruise from Brisbane to Darwin with a unique port of call in Port Douglas.
The seven day Queensland Cruise aboard the Sea Princess departs from Brisbane in November and makes a round trip cruise with a stop in Port Douglas and three other ports. The anchorage in Port Douglas is for eleven hours so there’s ample time to disembark and discover the magic of the Great Barrier Reef and Port Douglas itself.