We set aside 6 days to explore the Cairns/Port Douglas area. The first observation I had was its striking resemblance to Hawaii. Beach, forest, and mountains meet in a beautiful, relatively unspoiled region.
While the area is gorgeous, the real treasure resides under the sea. Port Douglas is one of the most convenient launching points to experience the Great Barrier Reef. One misconception I had was that the Great Barrier Reef was relatively close to land. In reality, it requires a one hour boat ride in each direction with a high powered boat.
We scheduled six dives across two different companies. We went with Poseiden for our first dives. I had been certified outside of Washington DC in a quarry the week before so this was my first Ocean dive. The entire day we felt extremely rushed with Poseiden as compared the operator we chose the second day. I was surprised they had a first time diver doing some pretty intense diving activities such as taking us through an extremely tight cave without warning and a drift dive off a moving boat into a current that was extremely powerful. Had they warned me about these things I probably would have said no as a first time diver, but having "just done it", admittedly it was pretty cool and something I will never forget.
The second day we went with Quicksilver and it was a total 180. They were relaxed and let us enjoy our day so much more. The diving itself was absolutely phenomenal. My dive buddy who has 100+ dives under her belt said this was her favorite diving ever. We saw Reef Sharks, Turtles, a billion fish and this super sweet puppy dog fish that comes up to you for hugs. I know you are never supposed to touch fish but this guy makes that decision for you.
Back in the downtown area of Port Douglas, there was a fun little restaurant/bar street to grab drinks after a day of diving.
On one of the days we didn't dive we drove into the rainforest and enjoyed the scenery. The road signs throughout the drive were pretty funny. Watch out for the Cassowaries!
If you have the physical capacity and time/money commitment to get certified for SCUBA diving, I would highly recommend it. For many years, I assumed since I dislike snorkeling that I would feel the same about SCUBA diving. That turned out to be a poor assumption. SCUBA diving is extremely easy from a physical perspective and opens a whole new water world most never experience.
Port Douglas is a beautiful area that closely resembles Hawaii to me. If you are a SCUBA enthusiast, I would say this is a can't miss location. If water activities are not your thing, I would say this is a beautiful area but you can probably find similar scenery elsewhere in other exotic locales.