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Cairns or Port Douglas

Montreal, Canada
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Cairns or Port Douglas

What's the best place for a GBR tour? will be travelling in January 2013 and scheduled 3 days for GBR. Would like to include a trip to Daintree forest also. I don't know if we should stay in Cairns (my first idea) or maybe in Port Douglas, being my first trip to Australia I need all suggestions and recommendations I can get

Which place will be better as a base? I will not be making any reservations ahead, hotel or tours, so I don't want to have a bad experience. Will be leaving from and back to Sydney

Sydney/Melbourne
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1. Re: Cairns or Port Douglas

January is the worst time of the year to travel to Far North Queensland. Wet season, rainy weather, possibility of cyclones and stinger season means you can't swim in the ocean without a stinger suit. And on top of that it's stiflingly hot and humid and mosquito ridden.

Having said that, if you have no choice in travel times and you don't want to miss the GBR, I prefer the small resort town atmosphere of Port Douglas to the busy city that is Cairns. PD is also closer to the Daintree than Cairns.

cairns
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519 posts
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2. Re: Cairns or Port Douglas

HI AnamariaMontreal

Yes its the wet season but sometimes in Jan it is not so bad yes its going to be hot and humid but we are not mosquito ridden yes there are mozzie around but they are not going to carry you away suggested, just make sure you wear protection. As for were is the best place to see the GBR there are lots off tours out of Cairns and PD if you want to do the Daintree maybe Pd will be closer for you .Sorry can't say what the weather will be like you might be lucky and get fine weather,you just never know up here in the tropics.

Regards mosiewigs

Sydney, Australia
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for Sydney, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Business Travel, New South Wales
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3. Re: Cairns or Port Douglas

Another vote for PD.. as mentioned Jan is NoT a good time to visit..

Melbourne, Australia
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4. Re: Cairns or Port Douglas

There is more infrastructure in Cairns and it's obviously much bigger than Port Douglas with more dining options, a casino, a nice esplanade to walk along if it's not raining.

Port Douglas is a nice small town with a slightly upmarket vibe, the main street is Macrossan Street around which most of the dining/entertainment options are centred. There are some other local shopping strips scattered around the town also.

The Port Douglas Sunday markets (0800-1300 every Sunday) are worth a visit in the park at the end of Macrossan Street.

In terms of tours, your hotel will be able to help you wherever you stay, or you can book directly with a tour provider + there are a couple of tour agencies scattered around the place. I like Port Douglas, but if Im looking for non-touristy things to do I'll usually head into Cairns.

Sunshine Coast...
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5. Re: Cairns or Port Douglas

The weather may or may not be good. No-one knows. In recent years the worst of the weather (storms and cyclones) have come late in the season in coastal Qld. As other have mentioned it will be hot and humid. Personally I don't necessarily agree that the "off season" is the worst time to travel. There a benefits in travelling in the less popular times, less people, prices are more competitive, and just being in the wet tropics at that time is an experience.

Which location is better ? Cairns is a city on the coast. Port Douglas is effectively a resort town these days. Personal preference is the deciding factor as either location would be suitable for the excursions you mentioned.

Cairns, Australia
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288 posts
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6. Re: Cairns or Port Douglas

Hello,

As you are planning on visiting the GBR research which sites/localities you would like to see. Cairns has great accessible reef systems, such as Breaking Patches and the systems out near Michaelmas Kay, which are good for snorkeling or diving. Which were you planning to do?

Port Douglas has the Agincourt reef system which I personally think is better experienced diving over snorkeling. They have the low Isles up there for snorkeling.

As everyone has stated Port and Cairns are very different. Living in Cairns I feel that there is more variety and vibrancy for tourists where as Port Douglas is more a resort/pampering one street town. Some lovely restaurants but more of a place to relax where as Cairns has the lively esplanade area and walkable city.

you said you had 3 days? What times are you arriving and departing- That would give us a better chance to advise you? If you are arriving in the morning here is a possible schedule:

Day one AM : Arrive Cairns- taxi to hotel/accommodation (which I would personally book as it is Australian School Holidays and American Summer Break and can get busy in City accommodations)

PM: trip up to Kuranda and catch the Skyrail down for the great views. Cairns city walk around, visit esplanade, night markets and have dinner at the Pier Complex (suggestion: Tha Fish)

Day two: GBR trip with a local company (I would suggest Passions of Paradise- see the reviews on tripadvisor and I personally have experienced many great trips with this boat. Also it is advisable to book as many group bookings occur in January)

After reef trip drive up to Port Douglas and stay overnight (somewhere on Maccrossan Street) dinner in Port (suggestion: Watergate or Finz)

Day three: Drive up to Daintree and Cape Tribulation - Stop at the Daintree Discovery Centre.

If you are leaving this evening you definitely still have time or if you are leaving the next day head back to Cairns or maybe Palm Cove for a luxury last night!

I hope that helps, but feel free to sent through your arrival and departure times.

Montreal, Canada
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7. Re: Cairns or Port Douglas

Thank you everyone for your response and comments. I know Jan may not be the best time but the trip is already booked and I absolutely want to get out of winter in Montreal. Hot and humid, cyclones, here I go. I'm ready!!

I was planning to reserve the GBR tour once in Cairns in order to check the weather; however, it was suggested I do it before due to the school break...now I'm worry. I get to Sydney Jan 10 and planning to leave for Cairns Jan 21-22, will try to get a morning flight and return to Sydney 3 days later, in the afternoon. Any suggestions on airlines? Would it be OK to reserve flight and hotel once in Sydney or it will be too late?

Impickles, thank you for the itinerary. Very useful. Thanks everyone for the information and suggestions provided. You can be sure I will have more questions coming.

Cairns, Australia
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288 posts
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8. Re: Cairns or Port Douglas

No worries!

For Discount airlines- Try Jetstar.... You can be added to their email lists and they will send you specials. They often have a Cairns to Sydney special on for around $170-$200 AUD each way. It is like the airlines in the US, where you will buy a base ticket and add your baggage allowance on- depending on what you need.

Sydney/Melbourne
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9. Re: Cairns or Port Douglas

www.webjet.com will give you comparisons of airline prices (but book through the airline and avoid the webjet fees). You can sign up for their email newsletter and get alerts for cheap fares.

Nanaimo, Canada
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10. Re: Cairns or Port Douglas

Anamaria, my husband and I spent a week in Cairns in January. We were there Jan. 10th until the 17th. We had clear blue skies EVERY day. We had rain the last two nights we were there, and only during the night. We were lucky. The year previous, they were dealing with a cyclone, and lots of damage to the area. There are no guarantees. And yes, it was humid. VERY humid! Dripping on the keyboard as I typed trip reports!

Are you going to be renting a car? That would simplify your holiday, but you need to be comfortable driving on the "wrong" side of the road. Also, north of Cairns to PD, there are half a dozen traffic circles to contend with. We only have two of those on all of Vancouver Island, and they are dinky, so not sure if you are okay with those either.

We flew from Sydney to Cairns with Virgin Air. They actually had a "happy hour" on their website. You need to do the math though, and figure out the time zones to see their specials. Also, NSW goes on daylight savings time, Queensland does NOT!

Mosquitoes... never experienced any. Maybe because the wet season was so late in starting.

Another note... there will be stinger nets set up at Port Douglas and Palm Cove. Don't just run and hop in assuming it will be safe. Palm Cove had a croc in the net the week before we got there. I jumped in the net at Port Douglas, and the lifeguard was racing down the beach yelling at me to get OUT! With the winds, the stingers still get in there occasionally! Luckily, I didn't need to use the vinegar bottle. Check the signs on the beach before entering.

Lastly, have a GREAT time!