Cairn and Port Douglas are two of Queensland’s most popular Great Barrier Reef destinations, with both towns provide an easy gateway to this most incredible natural wonder.

Cairns, Queensland, Australia

But Cairns and Port Douglas are both beautiful and unique towns in their own right, providing tourists with different reasons for wanting to stay in either during their Great Barrier Reef getaway.

To answer the question of whether to stay in Cairns or Port Douglas all comes down to what you want to do when you’re not taking in the turquoise waters and astounding marine wildlife in the reef itself.

So let’s take a look at how these two towns match up to one another.

  • Adventures

    Both towns are awesome for visiting the reef – that’s a given. However, if you really want an action-packed vacation without much downtime, Cairns maybe your best option. There is little wonder as to why it is known as one of Australia’s adventure capitals – there is simply so much to do here!

    Most Barrier Reef tour operators are based in Cairns, so you will have endless options for exploring the wonder exactly how you want to do it. But don’t count out Port Douglas: its proximity to the Daintree Rainforest makes it perfect for both a reef and rainforest experience.

  • Nature

    Cairns is a much larger town than Port Douglas, so it should come as no surprise that it is a little more built up than its northern neighbour. If you’re looking for lush, tropical surroundings, Port Douglas is an easy winner on the nature front without the hustle and bustle of a bigger town.

  • Restaurants & nightlife

    If you’re looking to let loose after a day’s exploring the reef, Cairns is probably a better option for a fun time. Cairns offers a host of awesome nightlife options, with bars and clubs catering to locals, tourists and backpackers alike, all letting their hair down once the day’s heat subsides.

    Cairns’ dining scene is more diverse, too, with a huge variety of international cuisines ready to tantalise your tastebuds. Classy Port Douglas offers more of a fine dining experience, with high end resorts and restaurants catering to more upmarket tourists.

It’s how you want to do it

So Cairns offers more of a lively adventure, with endless tour options and a vibrant nightlife scene. On the other hand, Port Douglas is a bit ritzier and offers a more peaceful getaway. It all depends on what kind of holiday you want to have – either way it will be magical!

Related article: What Can You Do at the Great Barrier Reef?

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