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Port Douglas & Mossman History


Captain Cook passed the coastline heading north. His ship the ‘Endeavour’ struck the Great Barrier Reef and was beached at Cooktown for repairs.


Palmer River Gold Rush


James Venture Mulligan discovered new goldfields on the Hodgkinson River but access was difficult. Christy Palmerston and William Little set out to discover a route. A track was planned and ships began to arrive into what we now know as Port Douglas.


Cooktown businessmen established branch offices in Port Douglas and a wharf and stores were erected. On 6th September the ‘Bump Road’ was opened which provided access to the goldfields, tin and copper mines and the growing pastoral industry. The Bump Road ran from Port Douglas to Molloy.

In October, the town of Port Douglas was surveyed by Mr. F. Warner. During November, the Hon J. R. Dickson, Hon C.S. Mein and John Macrossan M.L.A., visited and brought official notification from the Queensland Government that the area was to be named Port Douglas after the then current Premier of Queensland. The inlet was to be called Dickson Inlet.

The first mail was dispatched and businesses transferred from the Smithfield area (Cairns) in December.


More businesses moved from the Cairns area to Port Douglas, including several Government offices and Banks. A Road Board was established and improvements made to the Bump Road. Craiglie set up as a Packers and Tramsters village. Farms became established growing bananas, corn, rice, sweet potatoes, yams and pumpkins.


Queensland Parliament Act to set up local government. Don Hart, a native of Jamaica had settled on the Mossman River in 1878, the second resident was Thomas Wilson who grew corn, fodder, fruit, dairy cattle and experimented with sugar.


Opening of tin mine at Herberton district and growth in cutting of timber (cedar). In July, Messrs. Murphy and MacDonald established a coach service from Port Douglas and in September Cobb and Co. began operating. The number of Hotels in Port Douglas grew to fourteen.


A Sugar Mill is erected in the Mossman area by a wealthy Melbourne investor, Mrs. Parker, which was not successful.


Mining communities requested a railway connection. Cairns and Geraldton, by now well established, due to the sugar industry, and Port Douglas, vied for the rail link.


The Government announced in favour of Cairns and this killed any further development of Port Douglas.


Tick Fever, or Redwater, appeared in cattle herds of the district and the farmers turned to cane.


The Mill commenced receiving and crushing sugar on the Mossman River.


The Sugar Milling Co. commenced rail passenger service from Mossman to South Mossman, a distance of 2 1/2 miles.


Government grant of 22,000 Pounds to build extension to the rail line. The line ran to a small wharf in Port Douglas provided by the Council. The Sugar Mill provided rolling stock and locomotive and the line was used for transporting freight and passengers.


The Shire Council provided a locomotive and two passenger cars for the rail service which increased to two return services each day, Mossman to Port Douglas. The population of Port Douglas grew to 331 with 6,000 in the district.


Despite a dwindling population, the town still had an extensive range of businesses, Government and Local Government plus banks and places of worship.


16th March. A cyclone razed Port Douglas and surrounding countryside. Two people were killed. Within twenty four hours, sixteen inches of rain fell.


Population 250.


Business centre began to move to Mossman.


148 cane growers in the Mossman area.


Opening of the Cook Highway along the coast between Cairns and Port Douglas.


Passenger rail service between Port Douglas and Mossman discontinued.


A bomb was dropped eight miles north of Mossman. Due to the shortage of labour, most farmers were forced to abandon dairying. Many turned to cattle fattening and stud farming.


Last rail transportation of sugar to the wharf in Port Douglas. The cargo is sent via road to Cairns.


Port Douglas reverts to a sleepy fishing village and to a certain extent becomes the forgotten gem of the north.

Present Day

With the opening of the Sheraton Mirage Resort in 1988, Port Douglas developed as an international tourist destination. Overseas visitors have discovered the village atmosphere of Port Douglas and visit or stay in one of the many lodges located within the Daintree Rainforest.

The Douglas region has also become a popular destination for Australians to the spend winter months or holiday throughout the year to visit the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. Port Douglas is the closest point to depart for a visit to the coral cay, Low Isles or the Great Barrier Reef.


The weather in paradise today:

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CONTACT US   E info@visitportdouglasdaintree.com P +61 7 4099 4588 Mail: PO Box 511, Port Douglas, Queensland, 4877, Australia

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