If you’re in the process of planning a holiday in Port Douglas, it’s quite likely you could end up scratching your head in complete confusion. Not only is Port Douglas down under, but it’s also a place where the seasons are back to front too. Add to that any worries you may have about being there in cyclone or stinger season, and it’s quite understandable if you’re left wondering when is the best time to go to Port Douglas.
You’ll be pleased to know Port Douglas is an all year round resort where there is pretty much always something going on. While that’s okay on a basic level, but it’s not so great if you arrive for a quiet break and find yourself in the middle of the mayhem of carnival week. It wouldn’t be good either if you want to spend your days sunbathing on the beach or by the pool and find yourself permanently carrying an umbrella.
There are quiet times of the year in Port Douglas, and then there are times when there’s a lot more happening. Some seasons are hotter, more humid or wetter than others in Far North Queensland and not every climate suits us all. It’s very true; the weather can make or break your holiday. So can raucous festivals and crowds if you want to avoid them or vice versa. There’s nothing worse than arriving somewhere which appears to be a desert island when you’re hoping to socialise and rave the night away.
Have a read through this month by month review, and you’ll soon find out when the best time to go to Port Douglas is for you.
Port Douglas is a great place to visit all year round. We’ve broken down the weather month by month to give you an idea on what to expect when booking your holiday in Port Douglas.
January is a great time of the year to explore Port Douglas. It is still in monsoon season, the rainforest is at its best and the creeks and rivers are crystal clear. Temperatures range from 23 – 32 degrees Celsius, which makes January the hottest month of the year. there is still some clouds about during January but still plenty of sunshine hours with the rain more prevalent in the afternoon and evening.
February in Port Douglas still has monsoonal rains in the afternoons and in the evenings. However the day are still hot and the evenings warm. February is also a great time to visit the rainforest. It’s worth noting that School Holidays finish in January so February is a great time to visit as couples if you’re not wanting the resort to be too busy with kids.
Slightly cooler than the previous months, March in Port Douglas averages between 23 – 30.5 degrees Celsius. Still in the monsoon or wet season, this is the ideal time to visit Kuranda, the Great Barrier Reef, ride the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway or visit the Daintree River, Mossman Gorge and Cape Tribulation in the heart of the Daintree Rainforest. With most rain falling late afternoon and overnight and light cloud cover for around two weeks of the month. Don’t let the wet weather deter you, it is still nice and warm.
April is the beginning of the dry season in Port Douglas, with temperatures ranging between 21 – 30 degrees Celsius. April may still have heavy rain depending on the weather systems that are around at the time but it is a lot less likely. Expect sun with minimal cloud cover which will open up opportunities to experience the full range of fun things to do on offer in Port Douglas. April is a great time to try out the different tours and activities in the region such as white water rafting, hot air ballooning or taking a tour to the Great Barrier Reef.
It’s still stinger season in April, so do be sure to swim safely within the stinger nets and wear the appropriate protection which all the tour operators provide.
May is always a nice month to travel to Port Douglas, the stingers have usually gone by this time (traditionally stinger season ends in April) and the wet season has also come to an end. The weather starts to cool down somewhat with temperatures ranging between 20 – 28 degrees Celsius. You can generally get good hotel deals in May as it is outside of school holidays and is generally considered the month which is the shoulder period as June through to September/October are peak seasons.
Although the first month of “winter”, the water temperatures on the Great Barrier Reef sit at around 23 degrees Celsius, while temperatures in the air range between 17– 26 degrees Celsius. June is a popular time of year for diving and snorkelling. All dive tours provide wetsuits, so you’ll be comfortable no matter where you choose to explore. June is the beginning of peak season so be sure to book in advance. June School Holidays will be in full swing with many people escaping the rest of Australia for some sunshine.
Port Douglas is beautiful in July with temperatures hovering in the mid-twenties and the water temperatures hovering between 22 and 25 degrees, Port Douglas should not be too hot or cold for anyone. Days in the Port Douglas mid-winter resemble a warm summer’s day in Sydney or Melbourne. July is Humpback whale season and you will almost certainly see these creatures in their natural environment if you take any Port Douglas cruise at this time.
Port Douglas is a busy time in August. Be sure to book well in advance to avoid any disappointment. Port Douglas in August is not your traditionally winter month in Australia. Still plenty of sunshine and mild warm days to take advantage of the beaches and pools. Barrier Reef cruises are in full swing at this time as well.
Port Douglas Weather doesn’t get much better than in September. The days are nice without being too hot and the nights don’t get too cold. The average temperatures for September in Port Douglas is between 22-28 degrees and there is very little rainfall ( 5 days). This is the perfect time to visit the Great Barrier Reef, see humpback whales or indulge in some sailing.
We love Port Douglas in October. The weather is perfect beach weather – not being excessively hot – and the water is free of stingers at this time. There is some rainfall overnight. Popular pastimes during this period include a visit to the small rainforest town of Kuranda, via the Kuranda Skyrail. Cruises to Green Island in particular are still popular at this time of year.
Wet Season is approaching and the water is warming up. November is stinger season so be sure to only swim in the netted areas at the beach or in your resort pool. If you choose to go out on a reef tour stinger suits or usually available on board and offer good protection from the sun as well as stingers.
The true summer period arrives in Port Douglas in December. Hot humid days and nights are the norm at this time and but it is still wet season. December won’t typically be as wet as February or March, but it is something to keep in mind.
Temperatures don’t fluctuate much throughout the year in Port Douglas so it can be difficult to differentiate between or even notice the changing of the seasons. That said, there are official seasons and the year is climatically split into four sections covering a proportional three month period.
As well as spring, summer, autumn, and winter, Port Douglas has an additional two seasons which are considerably more noticeable than the other four. Cyclone season spans a six month period from November to April. The start and end of stinger season can be unpredictable, but the general time span for the floating tropical jellyfish invasion is from November through to May.
Springtime in Port Douglas encompasses the months of September, October, and November. Average temperatures range between the low twenty degrees Celsius rising to around thirty degrees towards the end of the season. Humidity wavers from sixty to seventy percent and there are only about two week’s worth of rainy days in the entire trimester.
Spring is the ideal time for hiking, walking and exploring the Far North Queensland rainforest environment. It’s the right time for lazy days on the beach and for swimming in the Coral Sea without having to be preoccupied about jellyfish. If you like to be active on your holiday than spring in Port Douglas will be perfect for you.
There are no major events or festivals held on a regular basis in September, but that doesn’t mean Port Douglas is deserted. September, because of its agreeable climate, is classed as high season for accommodation price-wise and is one of the busiest times of the year. Many visitors take advantage of the lower temperatures to explore the town on foot. There are two popular walks, the Port Douglas Historic Walk Tour and the Port Douglas Coastcare Walk, which are free and can be completed at your own pace. Brochures with information and maps of the walking routes stocked in most of the agencies who sell the tickets for tours. There are also downloadable apps for both here. The Coastcare Walk is four and a half kilometres with interpretive signage along the entire route.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Port Douglas while you’re exploring, there are low-priced walking tours given by local guides who know the town and its idiosyncrasies inside out. The Port Douglas Tour, a sedate amble, meets in Anzac Park and lasts for around two hours. For ornithologists or anyone wanting to take a more personal tour, try the Port Douglas Birds. The routes are individualised to suit both the fitness of the walker and what they want to see. September is also a good month for aquatic activities such as snorkelling. There are several cruises sailing out of the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina who specialise in snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.
If you’re in Port Douglas in October, you’ll have a real mish-mash of events in or nearby the town to enjoy. There is everything from cycling to folk music and seafood. The weather is still cool enough to go hiking in the rainforest too, and if you’re making a trip up to the Kuranda Village, there are some tremendous jungle-like trekking routes to do. The hikes range from easy to moderate with the longest one taking only forty-five minutes to complete and rewarding you with superb views of the Barron Falls.
Foodies staying in Port Douglas in October will want to make the forty-minute drive to neighbouring Palm Cove at the beginning of the month. The village hosts a three-day outdoor event, the Reef Feast, which is an absolute gastronomic indulgence. The festival takes place both during the day and in the evening. There are food stalls galore, art exhibitions and live music. If you want to feast on seafood without leaving Port Douglas, check out the monthly Seafood Market event held on the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort. There’s a seafood barbecue and lots of fresh shellfish all accompanied by live music. There’s also a short film festival in Rex Smeal Park for lovers of the cinematic arts. The Ports Short Film Festival is a two-day event with film screenings and workshops with professionals from the Australian film industry.
October is when Queensland takes to the road and tracks on two wheels. For fans of cycle sports or mountain biking, it’s the month to be in Port Douglas. If you want to participate, you can sign up for a three, four or eight-day Cycle Queensland Adventure Tour. Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas is also the finishing point on the last leg of the MTB Crocodile Trophy Challenge. You can watch the exhausted riders roll into town or take part yourself in the gruelling, three-day race through the rainforest and over rough terrain.
One of the most significant events to take place spring in Port Douglas is the Great Barrier Reef Marathon Festival. While it won’t be taking place in 2019, the festival will be reinitiating in either October or November of 2020 as the Great Barrier Reef Running Festival. You don’t have to be a marathon runner to participate as there are several different race distances and even a junior category if you have some young athletes in the family. The races start on Four Mile Beach, and the finish line is on Port Douglas Esplanade. The festival attracts over two thousand runners, and a percentage of the entry fees are donated to the Run For The Reef organisation.
In November, the big game fishermen prepare their tackle and sail out on the Coral Sea for the Port Douglas Marlin Challenge. The three-day, tag, and release, sport fishing event is organised by the Queensland Game Fishing Association and is one of several big game fishing events held in Port Douglas throughout the year.
By the end of November, spring begins to give way to summer. The mercury in the thermometers starts to creep up, and it can sometimes reach the low to mid-thirty degrees. There’s also more chance of being caught in a rain shower, and it’s time to get out the Lycra one-pieces ready for the onset of stinger season.
Summer in Port Douglas is in the months of December, January and February. It is the hottest and wettest time of the year. Temperatures average around thirty degrees plus most of the time but can occasionally dip to the high twenties. Humidity is over seventy-five percent with torrential rain and electric storms being a frequent occurrence. In general, over the ninety-day season, forty or more days will experience some kind of rainfall.
Summer is the main stinger season in Port Douglas too, and the jellyfish are usually present from the beginning to the end. The tropical downpours or the fact it’s summertime doesn’t dampen the Christmas spirit in Port Douglas though, and there are lots of ways to celebrate the festivities. New Year is one long party too.
If you’re in Port Douglas during December, you may well find yourself wearing a Santa hat to keep the sun off your head. When it’s not raining, the languid heat is perfect for spending lazy days on the beach or by the pool. Even considering an energetic activity will have you breaking out in a sweat.
The Port Douglas Sunday Market is a great place to browse for and buy handmade gifts. The market is held in Market Park next to Anzac Park from eight in the morning until one thirty in the afternoon. It’s a cotters market, so you’re guaranteed everything on sale is handcrafted or produced by the person selling it. You can also do Christmas shopping at the Wednesday Sunset Market at the Crystalbrook Marina on Wharf Street. The market opens for business at eleven in the morning and closes as the sun sets over the Coral Sea.
If you’re spending Christmas in Port Douglas, you’ll find there are lots of restaurants who serve up a traditional festive meal at either lunch or dinnertime. To break from the typical festive routine, try a Christmas day cruising the Great Barrier Reef. Quicksilver Cruises operate all through the festive season, and Santa even pays a visit to their offshore platform.
New Year’s Eve in the town is as big a party as you will find anywhere. Port Douglas shows just how family friendly it is by having a fireworks display early in the evening. Anzac Park is one of the best places to watch both the family firework event which takes place at eight thirty and the repeat performance as the clock strikes midnight.
January in Port Douglas is a time of rest and recuperation from the frenetic Christmas and New Year celebrations. The mid-summer heat is at its peak, and you can expect to see rain, on average, at least fifteen days out of the month’s thirty-one. The heavy rainfall does have one bonus – the Far North Queensland waterfalls are in full flow during January, and it’s one of the best times of the year to see them. The closest waterfalls to Port Douglas are the Barron Falls, the Crystal Cascades, the Stoney Creek Falls, and the Millaa Millaa Falls.
The big event in January in Port Douglas, the same as all over Australia, is on the twenty-sixth of the month. Australia Day celebrations begin early in the morning with a free breakfast BBQ followed by award ceremonies to honour local citizens and family picnics with games like broom throwing and three-legged races. Many of the town’s bars, hotels and restaurant organise their own parties with barbecues and live music or DJs. So, if you’re in Port Douglas on Australia Day, don’t expect a quiet time, be prepared to party.
February in Port Douglas is the month everyone is starting to dream about winter. The temperatures, the humidity and the level of rainfall are all still high. If you don’t want to spend all your time at the beach, then it’s a great month for visiting places which have air-conditioning. Stay fresh by taking a drive to Cairns to visit the Cairns Aquarium, the Cairns Art Gallery or the Cairns Museum.
If the high temperatures are getting to the kids, or even any adults you might be travelling with, cool them off with a trip to the Sugarworld Waterpark. It’s an hour’s drive away from Port Douglas in the town of Edmonton. Cairns Wake Park in Smithfield is a fifty-minute drive from Port Douglas. The park offers its visitors the chance to cable water ski on knee or wakeboards plus there’s a waterpark with inflatable equipment where the kids can spend an hour splashing around.
If you are in Port Douglas in February although it is stinger season, you’ll still want to swim, snorkel or maybe even scuba dive. All the reef and snorkel cruise companies provide the safety suits either free or for a small charge. The crews and diving instructors on the tours are professionals and know how to take adequate precautions to ensure you stay sting-free.
While officialdom declares the months of March, April, and May to be Autumn in Port Douglas, weather-wise you’d be hard pushed to notice any major change in the climate. There are only moderate decreases in temperature and no let up until mid-April or early May with the amount of rain the town receives.
The first couple of months in autumn are quiet are as far as events and festivals go too, so for a tranquil break, it’s a good time of the year. But Port Douglas in May is an entirely different story. May is the build-up to the start of the busy winter season and when the town really comes to life.
If the weather takes a turn for its rainy worst when you’re in Port Douglas during March, don’t worry, there’s still plenty of things to do. All of the reef tours continue to operate when it rains though not if there’s a cyclone brewing. Port Douglas has several interesting art galleries which are ideal to while away a rainy afternoon. The Port Village Shopping Centre has indoor retail outlets, or there’s always the pokie rooms in the pubs. You can find more things to do when it rains in Port Douglas – here.
April in Port Douglas is a pretty laid back month. It’s perfect for a restful break and the town isn’t crowded. By around the middle of the month the seasonal storms are beginning to dissipate, so it’s a good time for venturing out and exploring. If you hire a car and drive from Port Douglas along the road to Cairns, you’ll discover some amazing scenery and plenty of things to do. Stop off at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventure Park to see some of the native salties up close or get an adrenaline buzz by taking a bungee jump at the AJ Hackett Adventure Park. Towards the end of the month is not a bad time to think about heading up to Kuranda on the Skyrail as there’s less chance rain will obscure the incredible views.
May is the month of the year when Port Douglas gets ready to party, party, party. Limber up for the main events with a visit to the Cairns Craft Beer Festival. At the beer fest, you can sample the beers from five local breweries along with food and live music. It’s held at the Hemingway’s Brewery premises on Wharf Street in Cairns and is just a taster of what’s to come later in the month in Port Douglas.
If yachting floats your boat, you’ll want to be in Port Douglas for the Quicksilver Port Douglas Race Week. The sailing regatta is a five-day event hosted by the Port Douglas Yacht Club. Even if you’re not a sailor, the sight of the yachts with their sails raised racing over the Coral Sea is quite a thing. There are some great nautical photo opportunities to be had too.
Towards the end of the month, though the dates do vary slightly every year, is when mayhem and madness take over Port Douglas. Yes, it’s carnival time. The Port Douglas Carnivale is a three-day event, opening with a massive parade down Macrossan Street, and crammed with entertainment from the word go.
Dixie Park hosts the Wonderland Spiegeltent Circus who wow the crowds with their astounding acrobatic and trapeze skills. Sugar Wharf and Anzac Park are illuminated for two consecutive nights with digital lights shows. There’s a family day with professional children’s entertainers, helicopter and skydiving displays held on Four Mile Beach. The Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina holds a day-long Seafood Extravaganza, and in Rex Smeal Park there is a stage for live concerts. If you don’t like noise and crowds, May is not the best time to be in Port Douglas for you.
The winter months of June, July and August are the busiest time in Port Douglas. Average temperatures are a comfortable twenty-five degrees, and humidity fluctuates between sixty-five to seventy percent. While there may be the occasional shower, it’s pretty much blue skies for the entire season.
The lower temperatures are perfect for aquatic activities, and there are agricultural and cultural shows held in several neighbouring towns. Thankfully, it’s the season Mother Nature takes away the jellyfish and brings some true wonders to the Great Barrier Reef in the form of migratory whales.
June is often the windiest month in Port Douglas, so it’s ideal for water sports like kitesurfing or board surfing. Paddleboarding is popular at this time of the year too, and you can do that either on the Coral Sea, the Tully River or the Mossman River.
If swimming or diving with whales is one of your life ambitions, then June is the best time to go to Port Douglas. It’s the month when the Dwarf Minke Whales swim in. Poseidon Reef Tours organise snorkelling cruises with the whales, and Silversonic Cruises offer both day or liveaboard diving cruises.
If you enjoy large, exhibition-style shows, you’ll want to be in Port Douglas in July. The Mossman and District Annual Show takes place over two days in the nearby town of Mossman. There are agricultural and horticultural exhibits, equestrian events, cooking display and lots of handicrafts. The first night of the show closes with live music and the second with a huge fireworks display.
In July the city of Cairns hosts Queensland’s top cultural event – the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair. Held over four days, the CIAF supports and promotes the works of Aboriginal artists in all the genres. The fair takes place in various locations where there are music sessions, story readings, fashion shows, and workshops. There are also daily art exhibitions and markets where the artist’s creations are available for purchase.
July sees the arrival of Humpback whales on the Great Barrier Reef. The only way to observe them is to take a boat cruise to the outer reefs although there’s no guarantee you’ll spot the colossal mammals. To avoid disappointment, the best idea is to enjoy your day cruise and all the onboard activities, then if you get lucky, be thrilled at the bonus of spotting a whale while you are out there.
There are two events to keep an eye out for in Port Douglas in August. One on land and the other in the water. Surf Life Saving NQ play an important role in keeping the beaches of Port Douglas and North Queensland safe. In August the town branch of the SLS holds their own two-day surf carnival on Four Mile Beach. During those two days, the lifeguards get to show off their prowess at a number of disciplines including inflatable boat rescue and resuscitation. There are also competitions for first aid, patrol and life-saving.
The second event happening in Port Douglas in August is the arrival of the TARGA rally. Approximately two hundred drivers participate in the two hundred kilometre long cross country rally. Yes, you may well need some earplugs as the cars come roaring through on the PD stage of the race. It’s a fun diversion trying to name the various models of luxury cars as they zoom past on the way to the next pit stop.