Best Time to Visit Port Douglas

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The best time to visit Port Douglas is of course when you can visit. Never let the weather put you off too much, but should you choose summer or winter, wet season or dry and should you factor in stinger season? A lot depends on which of the things to do in Port Douglas appeal to you most. Do you need the best time for visiting the Great Barrier Reef or to take a tour to The Cape and Daintree? Would you like to see the humpback or minke whales or just enjoy Four Mile Beach? We’ll try to break it down for you. We’ve added an update about the recent cyclones (January 2024). Port Douglas is open but Cyclone Jasper did change the face of the Douglas Shire, somewhat.

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Use the index below to determine if your chosen month is a good time to visit.

We’ll look at the weather in Port Douglas month by month and help you judge what the best time to visit Port Douglas is for you and the things you want to do.

We have a tropical climate here in Port Douglas so temperatures don’t fluctuate greatly.

The hottest, wettest time in Port Douglas is November to April, after the monsoon.

The cooler, dryer period is June to October. Really, we only have 2 seasons, the dry and the wet, with ” the build-up” preceding the start of the wet. During the build up it gets hotter and drier, clouds start to build, and we’re all waiting for the first rains, usually in December, sometimes November.

There are many things to do in Port Douglas, some you can do in the rain if you’re so inclined, but some businesses and activities close for a while in the wet season.

You also need to check out the things to do in Cairns because some of those will be best appreciated at certain times of the year.

So figure out what you’d like to do in Far North Queensland and then see when the weather will allow it.

It is our opinion, as locals, that the ideal time is the shoulder seasons, either side of stinger season and the wet season.

If you’re strapped for cash, come in the wet, prices can be lower then and if you’re in luck conditions on the reef could still be great.

There is also the risk of very bad days out there, so if you only have a day or two and snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef is your goal, you could risk disappointment.

Without doubt, visiting outside of the main tourist season can make your Queensland holiday cheaper.

If you’re looking for a family holiday in Port Douglas and want to find things to do in Port Douglas with kids, school holiday times are popular. I think with kids I’d avoid the very hot times. October can be very hot as we wait for the weather to break.

Cyclones happen up here in Port Douglas too, we have a paragraph on that below.

Best Time To Visit Port Douglas – Guide

Stinger Season & Water Temperature in Port Douglas

Best Time to visit Port Douglas for Great Barrier Reef
Best time to visit The Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas – you can have excellent days at almost any time of year. This photo was taken (by James Long, one of the owners of this site) when it was raining, in January 2024, during the wet season and stinger season.

The best time for swimming in Port Douglas, we think, would probably be April, May to October or November and early December.

Be aware that in the winter months here (northern hemisphere’s summer) it may be cooler, but you’re avoiding the marine stingers of tropical summer.

Stinger season is generally November to March, with the beginning and end of stinger season being safest. We do swim on the beach and on The Great Barrier reef throughout stinger season. You can wear a stinger suit or use the swimming enclosure on Four Mile Beach.

Water temperatures are at their lowest, at 23º C in July and generally max out in February at 29º C.

A good storm can, and hopefully does, cool the sea temperature at that time of year. 30º C is enough to cause coral bleaching. There has been some bleaching in the 2023-2024 summer, but there’s also plenty of pristine coral off Port Douglas.

Port Douglas Weather Month by Month

January in Port Douglas

January a good time to visit POrt Douglas
January in Port Douglas, the wet season, it’s hot and we get a lot of rain. It’s stinger season. But it’s still an OK time to visit Port Douglas

January is super hot, humid and wet but you may still get some good days.

Expect temperatures between 32 and 26C . It’s the middle of summer and the middle of the wet season.

In January February and March, we will likely experience maximum rainfall at over 400 mm in an average month.

Early January will still be quite busy in Port Douglas as the Australian school holidays are long. After Australia Day things quieten down and some businesses will close. Is January the best time to visit Port Douglas? No, it’s not, but it can be a good time to visit if you have plenty of time to wait out any possible storms or weather events. On a good day, the visibility on the reef in January can be phenomenal.

In January 2024 Port Douglas had a few issues after Cyclone Jasper. The road from Cairns to Port Douglas was closed for a while, but did open towards the end of January. There have been intermittent issues with the mains water supply, but we believe that’s been fixed and the water is back on.

Can you get cyclones in Port Douglas in January? Yes, but a cyclone directly hitting Port Douglas is rare. Port Douglas had no real effect with Cyclone Kyrilli, which hit Townsville.

Is it worth visiting Port Douglas in January?

Many people visit Port Douglas in January because it is school holidays, Christmas to Australia Day are a fairly busy period for tourists in Port Douglas.

It doesn’t rain all day, every day, we still have good weather in January, some days, and the reef boats will run unless the weather is particularly bad.

If you have bad luck and your visit coincides with a tropical storm or cyclone being nearby, then yes, you may see days of never-ending rain. But if you’re lucky, January can be a great time to visit Port Douglas. If it’s not raining it’s likely to be very hot and humid, the sea should be like a warm bath. Yes, it will be stinger season and there may be more debris on Four Mile Beach because of storms.

There can be flooding nearby too. Port Douglas itself very rarely floods to any extent. This is a great time of year to see Barron River Falls, near Cairns, in full flood!

February in Port Douglas

Best times to visit Port Douglas February
Is February a good time to visit Port Douglas? Most people will say no, it’s not, but this photo was taken in February, on Undine Cay, a coral cay in the Great Barrier Reef. You can have a great time in February and Port Douglas will be very quiet, but you’re at risk of bad weather.

Nothing much changes temperature-wise in February, maximum and minimum temperatures are still 32ºC and 26ºC.

Rain continues, it may be even wetter than January. Humidity is at its highest in February, 79%.

When we experience severe heavy rain in Port Douglas it’s quite likely that there will be flooding in Daintree or as far south as Townsville. This southern flooding can close roads and restrict access to far north Queensland so if you’re heading to Port by car be aware of that.

It’s very unusual to see flooding actually in Port Douglas itself, but it has happened.

Be aware that in February some local businesses and restaurants may be shut. This is the lowest of the low season and tourist numbers drop once the kids go back to school.

February is likely the quietest time in Port Douglas

The Port Douglas Hot and Steamy LGBTQ+ Festival was to be held in February 2024, but unfortunately it has been cancelled. (source)

This event was planned to feature dining, partying and even a reef day.

Niramaya could be a good place to stay for this as they are planning to host a pool party for this event. Things can and do change often up here, so please double-check event specifics for yourself.

Can you get cyclones in Port Douglas in February? Yes, but as for January, it’s rare. In February 2024 Port Douglas is open after Cyclone Jasper although February is normally considered the worst time to visit Port Douglas, you may be able to find cheap deals and promotions.

March in Port Douglas

Visit Port Douglas March
March, at Thala Beach, just south of Port Douglas. A beautiful day!

Autumn is here! Temperatures just may drop a little in March and by the end of March, things should be getting more comfortable.

Expect temperatures between 31 and 25 C. Again, it may be wet, but we’re coming to the end of the rainy season and it feels like better weather is returning. Port Douglas starts to get a little busier in March, it’s not a bad time to visit and you may find some off-season bargains.

Easter 2024 is Sunday, March 31st, Port Douglas is always busy over the Easter school holidays and some tours will be booked out. Easter is a good time to visit, but book your hotel, tours and activities in advance.

April in Port Douglas

April is a good time, temperatures are easier to take, at between 29ºC and 24º C. It can still be pretty wet with an average of 200 mm of rain this month. It is still stinger season, but it will be almost the end of the season.

Humidity seems to tail off around March / April /May and our hair gets less curly. April can be a good time to visit Port Douglas, but it isn’t usually considered “the best.” After the Easter school holidays, Port Douglas will be a little quieter, and probably cheaper.

May in Port Douglas

Port Douglas should experience another good temperature drop in May, we’re down to 28 – 23 C now and days of rain are starting to decrease nicely. Stinger Season will be coming to a close. The stinger nets are no longer in use at Port Douglas Beach as of this week (May 2024)

Port Douglas Carnivale is usually held at the end of May, the weather is pretty good and the tourist crowds are expected to arrive from next month. Carnivale dates and events are further down the page.

Another May event should be the Quicksilver Port Douglas Race Week hosted by the local yacht club.

We recently went out to the reef at the very end of May. Visibility was good, water temperature was a cool to comfortable 26ºC. It was a great time to go out, but towards the end of a 40 minute scuba dive in a light shortie wetsuit (provided by the boat) I started to feel cool rather than perfectly comfortable.

Snorkelling for 30 mins in the same wetsuit we felt no cold at all. People were snorkelling without wetsuits and, as stinger season was over for us, no stinger suits.

I think May is a very good time to visit Port Douglas, possibly the best time, you can swim in Australia’s tropical waters without worrying too much about marine stingers in May to late October. But it’s never guaranteed!

June in Port Douglas

It’s getting dry and it’s the first day of winter.  Expect temperatures between 26 and 21 C and markedly less rain, this is the official dry season’s beginning. This is the start of high season and possibly my favourite month to live in Port. Nighttime temperatures could warrant a cardigan or fleece. During the day it can be comfortable to wear long sleeves or even light jumpers, depending on cloud cover.

June is not stinger season normally.

July in Port Douglas

Best Time To Visit Port Douglas July Weather
July is winter in Port Douglas and it’s a very good time to visit. Beautiful sunny days, slightly cooler temperatures, not much rain and no stinger net. Port Douglas will be busy in July.

July is mid-winter and should be the coolest month in Port Douglas. 25-21 C is typical with low rainfall. 6 days. Nights are cool, you could call them cold even and if you’re out before dawn to run or walk, you’ll feel a nip in the air.

The humpback whales should arrive in the Coral Sea, off Port Douglas, about now and will stay until September. You are very likely to see the whales on your way to or from the reef. We recommend you book a Wavelength Cruise (here) because this boat will often stop for you to see the whales. This boat has a maximum capacity of 50 people, so book a spot.

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July is probably the busiest month in Port Douglas because of school holidays in the northern hemisphere, coinciding with the shorter mid-year school holidays in Australia. If you plan to visit Port Douglas in July, book early. We recommend The Sheraton, or, a little more affordable, Oaks.

As July is winter, the swimming pools are likely to be chilly, most aren’t heated. Pullman Sea Temple also has an amazing pool. Check it out here.

August in Port Douglas

August will be a touch warmer than July as winter comes to an end. 27ºC – 21ºC and average just 6 days of rain bringing on average under 70 mm in the whole month. Nights can be comfortably cool, you may even feel a little chilly if you’re out running before dawn as we are. People still use the beach in the depths of winter, Port is busy, and yes, they go in the sea, but some swimming pools get pretty chilly at the coldest times of year.

September in Port Douglas

September is possibly the best time to visit the Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas, the whales should still be around, the Trade Winds should be calming and the water is starting to warm up. Temperatures are rising, 28ºC -22º C with little rain. Humidity is lowest in Port Douglas in September at 67% This is the start of Australian spring, and my citrus and frangipani trees start to flower. The jackfruit are ripe and mangos are forming. Nights can still be comfortably cool. If the rain has quit for the dry season, expect brown, dead grass. This is a great time to spot crocodiles sunning themselves on river banks at low tide.

October in Port Douglas

Things are building up with maximum temperatures hitting 30C and minimums of 23 C Not much, if any, rain happening yet. This is possibly my favourite time of year for the beach or reef, just before Stinger Season.

October can be very hot, the wet season is about to arrive.

The Port Shorts Film Festival is due to be held in Port Douglas in October 2020.

November in Port Douglas

It’s pretty warm in Port Douglas in November! 32-25 C and we look forward to maybe some electric storms in the afternoon.

Not much rain usually falls though, we need December to arrive for a good soaking. 

November is the official start of the wet season. November is a great time to visit Port Douglas, but it will be hot, and you will likely be visiting in early stinger season.

The stinger nets should be in the water at Four Mile beach from the start of November.

December in Port Douglas

In December everyone is usually waiting for the wet to arrive and bring more relief from the heat and water for our gardens. 2023 was a strange year, the wet season arrived in November with a cyclone / tropical storm. This is rare. So visiting Port Douglas in November or for Christmas can be a gamble, you may have great weather and swimming conditions. Or you may see a week of rain.

In December 2018 we had an early cyclone, a small but damaging Category 1.

Temps are normally getting up around 32 to 25 C in December and the rains will hopefully provide afternoon relief as the month wears on. Summer has arrived and the mango season with it.

We often have infrequent light rain at night through December and the beach can be perfection. Of course, Stinger Season is here by December and the stinger nets are in place on Four Mile Beach.

Sea and reef conditions can be good in the first weeks of December and we can have some great beach days plus enough rain to keep everything green. We have enjoyed a sunset sail with perfect calm conditions in early December. This is the sunset sail we recommend.

Very little happens for Christmas in Port Douglas but most hotels and restaurants are very busy over the Christmas period itself. Things quieten down either side of the big school holidays. The Pullman Sea Temple Resort and Spa normally offers a very good Christmas lunch and dinner. Book this resort here. The incredible swimming pool at this hotel should be nice and warm in December.

Expect prices for car hire and hotels to start increasing around the 15th to 20th of December.

Don’t expect much by way of public Christmas decorations and lights but some of the locals really go to town. You’ll find some houses decked out spectacularly in residential areas.

The lights on the trees on Macrossan Street are year-round features, they don’t go up just for Christmas. They’re really pretty!

Special Holidays, Festivals and Events in Port Douglas

Port Douglas Carnivale

Carnival is generally towards the end of May. In 2024 the Port Douglas Carnivale is May 24 – May 26 th, a lot shorter than previous years. This year marks Carnivale’s 30th anniversary.

The Street Parade is on Friday 24th May, from 4.30 pm. Macrossan Street will be closed for the parade. The best place to watch the parade is The Irish Pub, we think, but it will be packed and you’ll need to get there early.

The Spiegeltent opened in Port Douglas, with shows between the 16th and 26th May 2024. You can book tickets here.

Carnivale events usually include a street parade, seafood extravaganza, longest lunch, a small funfair and dining events. It’s fun if your visit happens to coincide with Carnivale.

Christmas in Port Douglas

It’s quite usual around here to stay in a hotel over Christmas with many big hotels offering seasonal feasts on December 25th.

Take a look at The Sheraton and SeaTemple if you’re looking for special dining events on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Not much happens in Port for Christmas other than a small tree at the end of Macrossan Street and a Christmas concert mostly featuring local kids – Carols in the Park. I’ve only been once and it was very hot and there weren’t many Christmas Carols, more general singing.

We also have a local amateur theatre group in Port Douglas, in 2019 they were presenting “The Wizard of Oz” at the Clink Theatre.

New Year in Port Douglas

There is normally a New Year’s Eve fireworks display in Port Douglas, 2 in fact. One is early for those who need to be tucked up in bed before midnight. January 1st is New Year’s Day.

The CIAF Indiginous Art Fair

School Holidays in Port Douglas

In Australia, the long school holidays are in Australian summer, which is Christmas. 2019 dates are ( approximately ) 22nd December to 3rd February. Local kids will also be on holiday over Easter (7th July – 22nd July 2019) and have a day off for Anzac Day ( 25th April ) and Australia Day ( 26th – 27th January). Half-term holidays are around 7th to 22nd July and 29th September to 14th October. These dates are meant as a guide only please double-check them yourself.

Port Douglas Markets Are Open Year-Round

Port Douglas Markets do run all year round but in the wet season expect a much smaller market than in the drier, cooler months. I used to have a market stall and if it was pouring with rain I wouldn’t go.

Also know that there is a small Saturday morning market in nearby Mossman.

This one mostly centres around produce but it’s a nice thing to go see on a Saturday morning and there is a good children’s playground right opposite.

The Reef Fleet Runs Year-Round

The reef fleet does run all year but bad weather will cause cancellations from time to time. It’s rare for the boats to not go out, however, it can get pretty windy out there sometimes and if good visibility and calm seas are important to you, pick your time to visit wisely.

Check the weather forecast.

Stinger season doesn’t normally affect diving or snorkelling but you will be required to wear a full-body stinger suit.

Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter in Australia

The seasons are strictly regulated in Australia with each season beginning on the first of the month and each season lasting exactly 3 months.

Spring starts in September, summer starts in December, autumn starts in March and winter starts in June. I know it’s confusing, I’m from the Northern Hemisphere!

When is Cyclone Season in Port Douglas?

Cyclone season isn’t the best time to visit. Cyclone season in tropical north Queensland and Port Douglas is approximately November to May. 

A tropical low, tropical storm or cyclone in the region can bring a lot of rain over several days.

Chances of getting a cyclone in November or April – May seem pretty slim to me, having lived here for over a decade, but it can happen.

As far as I know, there hasn’t been a major direct cyclone hit in Port in many years.

I’ve never experienced one. For information on current tropical cyclones, check the BOM

Driving Further North from Port Douglas, Flooding and Road Closures on Roads to The Cape

Obviously, road conditions are unpredictable and vary but in general, there is only a short window of opportunity to drive on up to Cooktown, Cape York and the Tip. 

If you want to do this you’ll join the 4 wheel drive convoys in June to October for the best chance of ideal conditions. You can check the Creb Track opening and conditions here.

Where To Stay in Port Douglas, At Any Time of Year!

As a very quick guide to places to stay in Port, the two big luxury resort hotels are The Sheraton Grand Mirage and The Pullman Sea Temple.

Both of these resorts are regarded as great for families with vast swimming pools. We know both well and we happily recommend either.

Our backpackers will want to look at Dougies (which has been sold, but it’s open still for now), it’s a bit of a classic and we first stayed there many years ago as young backpackers. We visited the town we now call home on a 12-month RTW. There are two other Backpacker’s (Hostels), Global Backpackers and Port Douglas Backpackers, both are in town, and cost about the same.

The Lazy Lizard Motel (see it here) wins awards for being a quality budget choice. We haven’t tried it so can’t comment. There are also a few adults-only luxury establishments. Try this one.

We hope that was helpful! So now you know your best time to visit Port Douglas, go ahead and book your Port Douglas accommodation and organise your trip of a lifetime to the Great Barrier Reef. We’re working on even more guides to our corner of Queensland Australia every day. For ideas on other destinations to visit in Queensland, see our post on places to visit in Queensland.

About the author
Alyson Long

2 thoughts on “Best Time to Visit Port Douglas”

  1. Port Douglas is a lovely place, quite exclusive actually.
    But as the author says, you may be unlucky with the weather in January.
    My wife and me were very unlucky in January 2019 because it rained all the four days we were there, leaden grey skies. Strewth we paid a fortune to escape those back in the UK.
    The Barrier reef in such weather is hopeless, nothing like you have seen on tv, even the sea is grey.
    We did have a great day out to the Daintree river, rainforest, Cape Tribulation beach etc. The rain held off that day until late afternoon.
    I couldn’t wait to get to the airport and fly to Sydney.

    • Hi David, sorry you only had four days here and got so unlucky. I have to say, that The Great Barrier Reef can be fabulous in the rain. It doesn’t rain underwater. If the sea isn’t too stirred up and the visibility is good it’s great. You can get outstanding visibility in January, but there can also be bad weather that forces boats to cancel. People unfortunately have strange expectations about the reef thanks to photos of unhealthy, distressed coral. When coral is in its death throws the colours become much brighter. Healthy coral doesn’t have much colour, it’s mostly brown, so the marine biologists and master reef guides on the boats go to great lengths to help people understand this. My husband works out there as a reef guide and it’s incredibly rare that they have a disappointed tourist, most days, even bad weather days, everyone is happy. The fish are always colourful, and there’s plenty of them. They see sharks and turtles pretty much every day and those are the big draws for tourists. The dolphins and whales are less common, but still common. It’s incredibly rare to have a full week of bad weather, but if you visit in January you’re obviously taking a chance with the cyclones and tropical storms, January is the middle of the wet season. Sorry you wanted to escape the UK too, as a British person I’d be delighted to be there and wouldn’t care about trivialities like the weather. All that history and culture, it’s an incredible place.


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