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The old Sugar Wharf in Port Douglas is a historic construction and icon of Far North Queensland.
Visitors can see it, for free from the Port Douglas waterfront on the Dickson Inlet side of town. There is no admission charge and no opening hours for The Sugar Wharf.
The Sugar Wharf
This old Sugar Wharf was used in shipping goods, particularly sugar, from Port Douglas, Mossman, and the Douglas Shire, to ports further afield. It goes back to the days when Port Douglas didn’t have the road connections it has today. Port Douglas was a thriving port a century or so ago before transitioning to being a fishing village with a tiny population. Today Port Douglas is a busy tourist destination popular with families and international tourists.
Boats no longer use the Old Sugar Wharf at all. The wharf building has been transformed into a venue for events and tropical wedding receptions. Fishing used to be allowed from the wooden structure. I caught good trevally and some shovel-nosed rays here 20 years ago, but today fishing has been pushed back to the concrete jetty adjacent to The Sugar Wharf if a function is booked. People do still fish from the wooden deck of the Sugar Wharf when it’s not in use, I’m not sure if this is actually allowed.
Sugar Wharf Location
The wharf is just a short walk from the Wharf St end of Macrossan St.. It is adjacent to Anzac Park ), St Mary’s by The Sea Church, and the historic Port Douglas Courthouse. Anzac Park is the site of Port Douglas Sunday Markets. These old buildings are the main historic buildings remaining in Port today.
The Sugar Wharf is at the end of a short palm tree lined road, Dixie St.. There is parking nearby but on market days these car parks are very full, particularly in high tourist season in Port Douglas. (The Australian winter months, the wet season, summer, is quieter.)
Sugar Wharf History
Construction of the Sugar Wharf in Port Douglas began in 1904. It has been used as a cargo shipping wharf, a shipwreck museum and today is a nicely kept and heritage-listed event venue.
This makes the Port Douglas Sugar Wharf 120 years old (approx).
What Was The Sugar Wharf Used For?
The sugar wharf was used to export sugar from Port Douglas, Mossman and the Douglas Shire. Back in the day the cane train tracks connected to the sugar wharf, and were used to deliver goods to the wharf. However, the wharf wasn’t built to ship sugar, it originally handled export cargo, minerals, and even gold from The Tablelands.
The sugar boom in the region was in the 1950s and 60s and the last load of sugar was shipped from the wharf in 1958. Port Douglas Marina began its life later.
The wharf buildings were badly damaged in a huge cyclone in 1911, but were rebuilt. By 1960 the population of Port Douglas had decreased to around 100 people but it was the arrival of Christopher Skase and the Sheraton Hotel in 1988 that kick-started the tourism industry in Port Douglas.
You will see some remnants of the old railway lines and several steam trains, now retired, around Port Douglas today. Even the old Ballyhooley steam train ride no longer runs in Port Douglas. The trains and carriages are now converted to dining cars at Choo Choos restaurant on Port Douglas Marina.
Choo Choos is a good spot for breakfast in Port Douglas and also for lunch or dinner, we mention them in our guide to Port Douglas Marina Restaurants. and in our guide to the best restaurants in Port Douglas. The old engines and carriages make this a must-eat spot for steam train enthusiasts.
The Captain Cook Highway wasn’t built until the 1930s, giving Port Douglas a much better connection to the rest of Australia. The historic Bump Track was a path for bullock carts between Port Douglas and the Tablelands. You can still walk The Bump Track today.
The Sugar Wharf was The Shipwreck Museum in the 1990s until the museum closed in 1999. Then the building became a wedding and party venue for hire.
Is The Sugar Warf Heritage Listed?
The Sugar Wharf in Port Douglas is not UNESCO listed but the National Trust of Queensland has it listed on their Register. The Queensland Heritage Register provides legal protection for the places on its list.
The Wet Tropics of Australia and The Great Barrier Reef are UNESCO listed, and they’re both easy to access from Port Douglas.
The Sugar Wharf As a Party and Wedding Venue
The sugar wharf is an incredible place for a sunset party with one of the most beautiful views in Port Douglas. You can see across the Dickson Inlet with Mount Lewis and The Mossman Gorge as a backdrop. From here you can also watch the reef fleet returning from their days at sea between 4pm and 4.30 pm and the sunset sailing boats departing at about 5pm. Book a Port Douglas sunset sail on a beautiful sailing boat here.
To enquire about booking the Sugar Wharf, download an application from the council website here.
Or call to enquire at Phone (07) 4099 9444
Email enquiries should be to email@example.com
If you’re looking for the best hotel in Port Douglas (with a wedding chapel and excellent buffet breakfast.) Take a look at The Sheraton here.
If you’d like to hold a function, wedding reception or part at the Sugar Wharf, you can. The venue can accommodate 120 people on the outside deck and 200 inside depending on your set up. All furniture and catering equipment need be hired separately. There are plenty of catering companies available in Port Douglas and nearby.
To book the Sugar Wharf (or St Mary’s Church) you need to contact Port Douglas’s Douglas Shire Council to enquire.
The Sugar Wharf is also a popular wedding reception and party venue. You can hire out the historic timber building and party on the deck right over the water for an authentic Far North Queensland-style wedding.