What is the best way to get from Cairns to Port Douglas and why?


If you are planning a holiday to Port Douglas, you’re likely very excited about all of the amazing sites and excursions waiting for you when you arrive.

From the sapphire expanse of the world-renowned Great Barrier Reef to the lush emerald density of the Daintree Rainforest, you’ll find yourself positively spoiled for choice when it comes to activities. However, what is the fastest, cheapest, and easiest way to get from Cairns Airport (CNS) to your booked accommodation in Port Douglas? 

If you want to hit the ground running when you touch down, this is the article for you. We’re going to highlight the best way to travel between Cairns and Port Douglas and why. 

What is the best way to get from Cairns to Port Douglas? 

The best way to get from Cairns to Port Douglas is via one of the airport transfer shuttle services. There are two different types: 

  • Shared airport transfer shuttle bus: this refers to the process of booking a shared coach or shuttle bus that leaves Cairns Airport periodically. 
  • Private airport transfers services: this refers to booking a private car or mini-bus for you and your fellow travellers. 

What alternative methods of transportation are there?

So, why is an airport transfer service the best way to travel from Cairns to Port Douglas and what are the alternatives? 

The alternative modes of transportation are: 

  • Flagging down a taxi: it might be possible to flag down a taxi at the airport when you touch down. While this is ideal for those who don’t like to book anything or make plans in advance, this will typically end up costing you more than an airport transfer service. Not only that, but you run the risk of finding a taxi driver who is in a rush to drop you off so that they can get straight to their next fare. 
  • Booking a rental car: booking a rental / hire car is ideal for some people, however, it is a far more expensive alternative. Not only do you need to pay for the car rental itself, but you will also need to fuel the vehicle and pay for insurance. Once you touch down at Cairns Airport, you will also be required to fill out paperwork which can be time-consuming and frustrating after an exhausting flight. Yes, having your own vehicle will offer you the freedom to explore Cairns and Port Douglas at your own pace, however, given that Port Douglas has relatively good public transport (particularly when booking excursions), it’s largely unnecessary. 
  • Taking a public bus from Cairns City Centre: some may prefer to head into the Cairns City Centre and take a public bus. This is less convenient as you will likely need to book a taxi to take you into the centre and then wait for the next bus. This will ultimately add unnecessary confusion and will likely end up costing you more. 
  • Uber: booking an Uber in advance is certainly convenient, however, it isn’t the cheapest mode of transportation – particularly when travelling for over an hour. 
  • Charter a boat: it is possible to charter a speedboat from Cairns to Port Douglas which is certainly the scenic route. If money is no object and you want the fresh sea breeze while you travel, it’s certainly worth exploring for special occasions. 
  • Charter a helicopter: it is even possible to charter a helicopter ride to Port Douglas. As you can imagine, flying over the Great Barrier Reef and near the Daintree Rainforest will offer you some of the most breathtaking views, however, the price tag will be excruciatingly high! 
  • Private limousine: if you want to travel in style and don’t mind paying a premium for a private limousine, this is an option. Again, it’s not the cheapest alternative, though it can provide maximum comfort and convenience. 

Why is an airport transfer shuttle service the best mode of transportation from Cairns to Port Douglas? 

There are many reasons why a Cairns airport shuttle service is the best method of transportation to Port Douglas, for example: 

  • No paperwork: you can simply book your airport transfer service in advance and all you’ll need is to show your booking number to the driver and you are good to go. Perfect after a long journey. 
  • Comfortable, spacious, air-conditioned vehicles: the best Cairns airport shuttle services have some of the finest coaches and buses available. If you want to complete the last leg of your journey on a comfortable, spacious, and air-conditioned vehicle, you can’t go wrong with a shuttle bus. 
  • Cost-effective: airport shuttle services are among the most affordable means of travelling from Cairns to Port Douglas. For example, a return ticket for one person can cost as little as $90 ($45 each way). A taxi on the other hand can cost you up to $200! 
  • Short wait: as soon as you touch down at Cairns Airport and collect your luggage, you can load onto the shuttle bus immediately. You may be required to wait 10 to 20 minutes maximum, but then you’ll be on your way. 
  • A scenic journey: The Captain Cook Highway boasts some of the most incredible views and sitting on an elevated coach can afford you a wonderful way to soak it all up. 
  • Pay in advance: not only are you able to pre-book your spot on the shuttle bus, but you can pay in advance as well. This means you don’t have to worry about drawing cash out from an ATM in the airport or finding a currency conversion kiosk. 
  • Ideal when travelling with kids: if you are travelling with small children who will need child seats, having an airport shuttle bus booked in advance is practically an essentiality. That way, you can ensure that you have child seats lined up and waiting for you when you arrive. A taxi on the other hand will almost certainly not have any. 

Final thoughts 

There are many different ways that you can get from Cairns Airport to Port Douglas, however, an airport transfer service is by far the most convenient and affordable option. If you want the peace of mind of knowing that the last leg of your journey will be taken care of, we highly recommend exploring the Cairns airport transfer services available and getting yourself booked in!

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