Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Port Douglas Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 8.2 km (5.1 miles), terrain: flat with one small hill

Photos by Jessica Hauser

For more running routes, see Route List

Port Douglas is my favorite Australian town. It lay at the northern end of a camping trip up Australia's east coast a few years back, and it immediately grabbed my imagination: a laid-back village lining a long stretch of beach, with waterfront restaurants overlooking the little harbor. Nearby, the town is surrounded by the natural beauty of Mossman Gorge and the Daintree Rainforest. And the whole expanse of the Great Barrier Reef is waiting to be explored, just off the coast there, along the Coral Sea.
Port Douglas downtown, photo by Jessica Hauser
Port Douglas is about the last real town along the northern Queensland coast, with the nearby crocodile-infested Daintree River marking the boundary to the dirt roads into the tropical wilderness further north.

The place is full of backpackers and moneyed travelers alike, with everyone seeming to be totally pleased with their little corner of paradise. The busy little downtown is nice enough, but as soon as you get off the main street, things get pretty quiet, and provide a great spot for a run.

The Port Douglas Run
This run combines the two best running-stretches in town: the Port Douglas Coastcare Walk around the village, plus an extension along the seemingly endless sands of Fourmile Beach.

So if you're ready to explore this great place, head to the start at the Anzac Park parking lot, at the north end of town, at Dickson Inlet. The pretty little church St. Mary's-by-the-Sea sits there, near the long white Sugar Wharf shed, built out over the inlet. This part of the run follows the Port Douglas Coastcare Walk. The walk is marked by 15 numbered info-signs, each explaining some of the scenery and nature along the 4.4-km loop-walk.
Sugar Wharf, photo by Jessica Hauser
Standing there at the little open bell-tower at St. Mary's, turn northeast and run through the park along the north end of town, past a little playground and two of the Coastcare info signs (numbers 11 and 10). In just 200 meters, you'll be at the northern tip, with a lawn lined by palm trees at the water's edge, and the coastal mountains lining the horizon across the inlet. There's another sign here, number 9.

Now turn right (south) and follow the path past the little, old wooden courthouse, now a museum. The courthouse is on Wharf Street, which you now cross and start running uphill along Murphy Street, going by signs 8 and 7.

Murphy lies halfway up Flagstaff Hill, which has a great lookout over the beach. The street is lined by nice homes, and to the right, you can see out over the village between the houses and restaurants along this tropical neighborhood.

NOTE: To get to the lookout, just turn left onto Wharf Street at the courthouse, before getting onto Murphy, then just follow it up the hill.

At the south end of Murphy Street, the street just ends, but at the number 6 Coastcare sign you can follow a trail down towards the water ahead, through Julan Park.

Now you're looking at one of the greatest beaches you'll ever see: Fourmile Beach, curving out towards the south, losing itself in the coastal mountains off in the distance. At high tide, the beach isn't very wide, but it's enough to enjoy and to run on. I like to kick off my shoes and run barefoot along the water's edge. 
Fourmile Beach, photo by Jessica Hauser
At about the 2.3-km mark, the Coastcare Walk turns right (to the west) and follows a little beach-access walkway between some houses and sign number 2.

You can follow the Coastcare Walk back to the start from here, if you want to keep it to 4.4-km, but this route adds a further 4-km of beach run by continuing on south along Fourmile for another two kilometers, past the Mirage Beach Resort.

Turn around at a spot where a little stream flows out across the sand and into the Coral Sea, at the 4-km mark.

So now run back north for another two kilometers to the spot where the Coastcare Walk turns west, onto the footpath, at the 6-km mark.

You'll cross Port Douglas Road, the main road into town, and continue along Port Street for a block.

After you cross Mudlo Street (at Coastcare sign number 15), you'll be on Wharf Street, which curves to the right, next to a railroad track. There's a paved trail to the left side of the railroad, so it's best to follow it, along the mangrove swamp.

You're running past a park on the right side, with its cricket oval and other sports fields. After the next right-hand curve, you'll be running northwards along the water of the Reef Marina, on Dickson Inlet, passing signs number 14 and 13. The marina, at the 7.5-km mark, is a great place to look at boats and eat and shop at the water's edge.

After a few more harbor docks, restaurants and wharves, you'll return to the parking lot at Anzac Park, after a really great run!

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