Towns in Australia

Exploring Australia, town by town

Port Douglas QLD

Port Douglas

Postcode: 4877

Port Douglas is a town in Far North Queensland, Australia, approximately 70km north of Cairns. Its permanent population was 1287 residents in 2001. The town’s population can often quadruple, however, with the influx of tourists during the peak tourism season May-September. The town is named in honour of former Premier of Queensland, John Douglas. Port Douglas developed quickly based on the mining industry, other parts of the area were established with timber cutting occurring in the area surrounding the Daintree River and with settlement starting to occur on lots around the Mossman River by 1880.

Previous names for the town included Terrigal, Island Point, Port Owen and Salisbury. The town is situated adjacent to two World Heritage areas, the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. The town is within the Federal electorate of Leichhardt, and within the State electorate of Cook.

The Port Douglas township was established in 1877 after the discovery of gold at Hodgkinson River by James Venture Mulligan. It grew quickly, and at its peak Port Douglas had a population of 12,000 people and 27 hotels. With the construction of the Mulligan Highway it serviced towns as far away as Herberton.

When the Kuranda Railway from Cairns to Kuranda was completed in 1891, the importance of Port Douglas dwindled along with its population. A cyclone in 1911 which demolished all but two buildings in the town also had a significant impact. At its nadir in 1960 the town, by then little more than a fishing village, had a population of 100.

In the mid-1980s, tourism boomed in the region with the aid of the late Christopher Skase, an investor who financed the construction of the world-class Sheraton Mirage.

The town has also enjoyed a steady influx of full time residents since its ‘rebirth’, with most newcomers arriving from Australia’s south, namely Victoria and Tasmania.