Strolling around Port Douglas today it is hard to imagine that it was once a wild frontier town filled with itinerant seamen and gold prospectors. The sleepy little village which still remembers its roaring days is now filled with cosmopolitan cafes, boutiques and well-heeled shoppers who insist on paying a visit to as many of Port’s famous restaurants and fashionable stores as possible.
There is a definite unreality and aloofness about Port Douglas these days, but is that not the ideal escape for the tourists’ otherwise dreary life in the big smoke.
Situated only 60 odd kms north of Cairns, Port Douglas was first established in 1877 when Christie Palmerston cut a road through the rainforest and down the mountain range.Born as Cristofero Palmerston Carandini in Victoria, Palmerston was one of those iconic characters who occupy the fascinating early history of the then undiscovered Far North Queensland, Australia.
Allegedly Palmerston headed for Far North Queensland in 1873 to join the Palmer River gold rush. However his fame came to him with the Hodgkinson River goldrush, when the track he cut from those goldfields to Port Douglas was his first.
Palmerston’s track was known affectionately as ‘The Bump’.
In the early days the settlement at Port Douglas was known as Island Point, Terrigal, Port Owen and Salisbury.
With the latter title derived from Lord Salisbury, the British Prime Minister at the time, this name went by the way after a visit by government officials who changed the town’s name in honour of the then Queensland Premier – John Douglas.
An amazing collection of historic photographs can be viewed at both The Newport on Macrossan and with cocktail in hand at the restored Court House Hotel on the corner of Macrossan Street and Wharf Street. See a taste of the history of Port Douglas.
Dive north this October for a little reflection in Port Douglas before the big wet season which is due to arrive anytime between December 2005 through to March 2006.
Within weeks of its establishment the town was booming. There were an estimated 50 tent pubs, a bakery, a general store and rough accommodation. People poured in on their way to the diggings. By mid-1878 there were 21 permanent hotels and a local newspaper, the town had been surveyed, lots of land were for sale, and the mail was being delivered from Port Douglas to Thornborough on the goldfields. Early the following decade the town had a population of 8000 and had overtaken Cairns as the most important port on the north Queensland coast.
Just like its rise Port’s decline was rapid. The gold started to run around 1886 and the miners moved on to Papua and New Guinea.
Port Douglas, however, remained the port for the sugar mill at Mossman until 1958.
Today the sugar cane comprises a shrinking part of the district.
The majority of the land has been or is in the process of being subdivided to make way for the demand in “lifestyle blocks” and residential housing. Recently released to the market is the land at Cooya Beach aptly named “Cane”. With prices starting at $115,750 these property allotments could be referred to as – never to be seen again prices!!!