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Port Douglas



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Port Douglas Local History

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Port Douglas: A Brief History

Port Douglas is a small town located in the north of Queensland, Australia. It is a popular tourist destination known for its beaches, rainforests, and vibrant marine life. However, Port Douglas has a rich and diverse history dating back more than 40,000 years.

Pre-European Settlement

The Kuku Yalanji indigenous Australians are the traditional owners of the lands on which Port Douglas now sits. They are one of the oldest surviving cultures in the world, dating back thousands of years. Evidence of their presence can be seen in the rock art sites that dot the surrounding landscapes. The Kuku Yalanji's primary source of food was seafood, which was abundant in the nearby coral reefs and mangrove swamps. They also hunted kangaroos, wallabies, and other animals. The Kuku Yalanji were a nomadic people, moving from one place to the next based on the seasons and the availability of food and water. However, there are a few places that they considered sacred and returned to year after year. One such place is the Mossman Gorge, located just south of Port Douglas. It was considered a place of healing and spiritual renewal.

The Arrival of Europeans

The first European to arrive in Port Douglas was Lieutenant James Cook in 1770. He sailed past the area on his way north but did not stop. For the next 100 years, the area was mostly avoided by Europeans, as it was considered too dangerous due to the coral reefs and strong currents. It wasn't until the discovery of gold in the nearby Hodgkinson River in 1876 that the area began to attract more people. A port was needed to transport the gold to Cairns and other nearby towns, and Port Douglas was selected as the ideal location. The first permanent settlement was established in 1877, and the town quickly grew into a bustling hub of activity.

The Boom Years

The 1880s and 1890s were the boom years for Port Douglas. The town had become an important centre for the mining industry, with three railways lines and a port that could accommodate large ships. The population grew to over 12,000 people, and Port Douglas became the busiest port in Queensland. In addition to mining, Port Douglas also became a popular destination for holidaymakers. The town's proximity to the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest made it an ideal location for tourists looking to experience Australia's unique natural beauty. The town became known for its grand hotels, including the famous Palace Hotel, which was built in 1878. The hotel was frequented by celebrities and dignitaries, including the British royal family. However, the boom years were short-lived, and by the turn of the century, the mining industry had declined, and tourism had not yet taken off.

Decline and Revival

The early 1900s were a difficult time for Port Douglas. The town's population declined dramatically, and many buildings fell into disrepair. However, in the 1960s and 1970s, the town began to experience a revival as tourism once again began to take off. One of the most significant developments was the establishment of the Johnstone River Crocodile Farm, which later became the Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas. The Wildlife Habitat is a popular attraction that allows visitors to get up close and personal with Australian wildlife, including crocodiles, kangaroos, and koalas. Today, Port Douglas is a thriving community of around 3,500 people. It is known as one of the best places in the world to experience the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. It continues to be a popular tourist destination, with visitors from all over the world flocking to the town to experience its unique natural beauty and rich cultural heritage.


Port Douglas is a small town with a rich and diverse history. From its early days as a mining town to its modern-day status as a popular tourist destination, the town has undergone many changes over the years. However, its unique natural beauty and rich cultural heritage continue to attract visitors from all over the world. Port Douglas has a bright future and promises to be an important part of Queensland's cultural and economic landscape for many years to come.

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