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Port Douglas, 1759 km north of Brisbane, was once a fishing village, but is now one of the leading tourist towns of Far North Queensland, due mainly to its proximity to the wonders of the reef and the rainforest (it is the closest town to the Great Barrier Reef), and its superb year-round climate. All this natural beauty is supported by numerous restaurants and shops, luxury hotels and resorts and historic Queenslander buildings.

Back in the gold rush days of the Hodgkinson River during the 1880s, Port Douglas boomed, and the town became a
 
major shipping port for sugar. Its decline, and its losing battle with Cairns as the major northern port, started in 1885, when the decision was made to build a railway line from the inland mining regions to Cairns. The cyclone of 1911 that destroyed most of the buildings compounded the population slide. The decline was complete when the railway line from Brisbane terminated at Cairns in 1924. By the early 1980s, however, tourism meant Port Douglas' population began to increase and today its population is more than 2100.

Port Douglas is a great base for exploring the region. You can take day tours to the reef, join a 4WD safari, ride the Bally Hooley sugar train, and travel along the coast to the Daintree and Cape Tribulation rainforests. The Low Isles, on the reef, lie just offshore Port Douglas.

The region is also a known fishing ground for mighty black marlin; Dickson Inlet is best for smaller challenges such as coral trout, red emperor or barramundi. Don't miss the award-winning Rainforest Habitat, which gives a taste of life in the rainforest. The Port Douglas Reef and Rainforest Festival is held each May.

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