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The town received another free worldwide promotion boost
when a (false) rumour went around on the internet that Monica Lewinsky
had also been spotted cruising around Port Douglas. Visitors to this
place mainly keep themselves busy with shopping, eating, relaxing on
Four Mile Beach, and trips out to the Great Barrier Reef and up to Cape
The first European settlement in the area was kicked off by Christie Palmerstonin 1877 when he cut the infamous Bump Track through the rainforest from the goldfields down to the coast. The town boomed immediately as it was now the main shipping port for the inland goldfields and in to time at all the town had over 50 pubs and even had a bigger population than Cairns for a while. But as usually happens with booming gold rush towns, the gold started running out around 1886 and the town reduced in size, and it went through several names like Island Point, Terrigal, Port Owen and Salisbury, until it was finally named after John Douglas, a Queensland Premier in the 1870s. Most of the locals now simply refer to it as 'Port'. In 1911 the town got hammered by a cyclone that destroyed much of it, though some good historical buildings still remain nowadays. The port remained important as this was where all the sugar from the district was shipped out from, sugar is still, after tourism, the biggest economy in this shire, as you will be able to tell from the vast canefields next to the roads. Unfortunately world prices for sugar are low, and the mill in Mossman, that crushes the sugarcane to extract the sugar, has been basically bankrupt for years, but to avoid half the shire losing their job banks and governments keep putting more money into it.
Since the passing of the goldrush Port Douglas remained a sleepy fishing village surrounded by sugar cane fields, until in the 1980s Christopher Skase set his sights on the town.
Two of the town's favorite watering holes; the Iron Bar on the left and the Courthouse on the right.
Christopher Skase, the television station owner and manager of the Qintex Group who ran a booming empire at the time, transformed the sleepy town forever when he built the Sheraton hotel that kicked off the building boom. Things turned sour however and after a bit of trouble with the bank he ended up fleeing the country leaving over a billion dollars in debts behind. The Australian government tried to get him extradited from Spain but at every court appearance Skase arrived in a wheel chair breathing from an oxygen mask and managed to convince the Spanish judge that he was too sick to fly home. The Australian government then offered to arrange passage on a ship but he was too sick for this too. Alan Bond ( another famous character who had built an empire that left millions of dollars in debts) publicly called on Skase to come home and do his time in jail like he had done. In the end Skase ended up dying in Spain without ever having returned to Australia to face the music. The whole scenario inspired the movie 'Let's get Skase' which told the story of frustrated creditors hiring a bounty hunter to kidnap Skase and transport him back to Australia. The movie was like a combination of 'Stripes' and James Bond, it did not win any Oscars or other prizes and became somewhat irrelevant when Skase actually died before the movie was released.
Although there are people that think that Port Douglas
is overdeveloped, just because there is more built there than there
used to be in the sleepy fishing village days, that does not mean that
it has turned in to a city. Compared to popular tourism destinations
around the world Port Douglas has managed to retain its small village
character very well, as you will see when you stroll up and down the
main street, lined with cafes, restaurants and shops.
Before you leave Port Douglas book some Accommodation in the Daintree and spend a night in the rainforest, you will find it an amazing experience and it will give you more time to explore the amazing Daintree region than on a quick and rushed day tour.