Exploring Tropical North Queensland with your kids
We took a look in our previous post in this Discover Australia series at all the day trips you can take from Port Douglas, now it’s time to hone in on just the kids! From snapping crocs to cuddly kangaroos, steam trains to speedy boats, seriously, is there anything kids won’t like about Port Douglas!?!
This post is part of our series Discover Australia – learn more about our favourite parts of Tropical North Queensland and beyond as we explore our home country of Australia with kids.
Our favourite kids activities in Port Douglas
We know you don’t want to spend every day travelling in a car or bus, or spending loads of cash so we’ve selected a range of free and paid activities as well as those that aren’t too far to travel from Port Douglas town centre within a day.
Four Mile Beach
How far away: Starts from the end of Macrossan Street – and goes on for 4 miles!
What to expect: It’s hard not to start and end your trip to Port Douglas here, a truly magnificent stretch of sand with the lush tropical rainforest background. In the summer they put up stinger nets in front of the surf life-saving club so swimming in a designated area is still possible even in the wet season.
Other times of the year though, it’s not hard to find your own secluded stretch of sand and pull up your toys, great sandcastle sand and lovely calm waters. Our kids loved fossicking in the rock pools at the northern end.
Don’t miss Port Surf Club for a great place to take the kids for a family feed too. They have outdoor dining overlooking Four Mile Beach, an enclosed kids playground and family-friendly menu. There’s also a great scenic walk at the northern end of the beach if you can encourage little legs to make the climb you’ll be treated to spectacular clifftop views from Trinity Bay Lookout.
No charge – free public beach
Rex Smeal Park
How far away: 5 minutes walk from Macrossan Street.
What to expect: A beautiful grassy park situated at the mouth of Dicksons Inlet. It’s a great place for picnicking kicking a ball or frisbee, or simply watch the sailing boats come and go from the reef and spectacular sunsets. Includes a small play park area. You can also reach the Trinity Bay Lookout mentioned above from here (though at the time of our last visit they were doing restoration work to this section fo the path).
No charge – fee public park
Port Douglas Markets
How far away: In town at Anzac Park, end of Macrossan street near to Marina
What to expect: Held every Sunday morning 7am to roughly 2pm (some weather exceptions in wet season), Anzac Park comes to life with local fresh products, handy crafts, clothing, toys and much more! It’s a friendly and lively atmosphere not to be missed as part of your Port Douglas experience.
(The only thing that lets Anzac Park down is the incredibly average play park. Head a little further on to Rex Smeal Park for the better playground).
If you love markets as much as we do, there’s also a market held at the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina on a Wednesday 11am to 5pm.
No need to book – free public event
Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas
How far away: Only 4kms from the centre of Port Douglas, allow half a day. Self-drive or catch the shuttle bus from town.
What to expect and what’s included: I think due to our kid’s ages at the time of visiting their absolute favourite place was Wildlife Habitat. It’s not one of the largest wildlife parks in Australia, but it does have an intimate feel and offers lots of very personal experiences from small group tours to close encounters with koalas through to reptiles and birds. Our kid’s hands-down favourite part though was getting to hand feed the wallabies and kangaroos, very treasured memories for all of us.
How to book it: You can book tickets here just for the park entry (includes up to 5 days of free re-entry), or as part of a 4-park multipass if you will be visiting Kuranda & Cairns as well
All aboard the Bally Hooley
How far away: Board from Choo Choos at the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina
What to expect and what’s included: Who doesn’t love a steam train! Chug along from the terminus at Choo Choo’s Café to St Crispins in locomotives Speedy and Buddy. They used to haul cane to the sugar mill until diesel locomotives took over, so now these historic trains are used to entertain the tourists.
You will get some fun views of the mangroves, golf course and marina during your journey. There is a second alternatively itinerary now taking the Choo Choo Explorer – a catamaran from the Marina to St Crispins whilst taking in the beautiful mangrove views along the way, before taking the steam train back.
How to book it: From the office at the Marina, or online with Bally Hooley Rail. Adults $40AUD, Kids 4-14 years $20, under 3’s free but no meal.
Please note as of 2023, it looks like this attraction has had to permanently close
How far away: 20 minutes north by car, just past the town of Mossman
What to expect and what’s included: If you weren’t planning on delving all the way into the Daintree Rainforest, Mossman Gorge as a day trip is a great option. Here you will find swimming holes and nature walks to give you a beautiful taster of what the ancient Daintree is all about.
A paid shuttle service runs from the Mossman Gorge Centre into the Daintree National Park, or there are guided tour options.
How to book it: You can pay for your shuttle only at the Mossman Gorge Centre or take an organised tour including the Dreamtime Walk (note minimum age of 8).
Croc Spotting Near to Port Douglas
Now you can’t come up to the Australian tropics and not spot a croc! The great news is there are several different experiences you can try all really close to Port Douglas that will make for good half to whole day experiences.
Lady Douglas River Cruise
How far away: Leaves from the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina
What to expect and what’s included: Lady Douglas River Cruises take you from Dicksons Inlet and deep into the Mangroves for wildlife spotting. Whilst croc spottings, of course, cannot be guaranteed on a nature cruises such as this, you’re a pretty good chance of finding some estuarian crocs. Your cruise includes nibbles and a drink and lasts 1.5 hours.
How to book it: With Lady Douglas River Cruise Adults $35, kids $20 and families $100
Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures
How far away: 25 minutes south of Port Douglas, allow a half day.
What to expect and what’s included: If you want a guaranteed croc spotting and a few more interactive crocodile experiences, then Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures might be the one for your family.
Tour the crocodile farm, stroke a baby croc and take a boat cruise on Hartley’s Lagoon to see the crocs being feed. Not just crocs, you can also learn about cassowaries, koalas and tour their latest attraction Gondwana Gateway which studies the unique fauna and flora of Australia. The highlight is the Crocodile Attack Show which happens at 3pm (at time of writing, check program before planning your visit)
Crocodile Express Daintree River Cruises
How far away: 45 minutes drive north of Port Douglas to Daintree Village, allow a half day
What to expect and what’s included: An alternative croc spotting location not too far from Port Douglas is to take the Crocodile Express Daintree River cruise. The advantage of these cruises is you don’t actually have to cross the Daintree River so no waiting time needed for the ferry.
The boat slowly meanders along the Daintree River while your guide points out the flora and fauna and of course any spotted crocs along the way. Your boats are quite low and small so not great if you’re a little nervy but they assure us 100% safe!
There are two locations on both Upper and Lower Daintree River, both are included in your price but they will only guarantee one booking per day. NB – they advise best timing your visit with low tide to stand the best chance of spotting a croc on the shores.
How to book: Can be online direct with Crocodile Express – pass includes 30 days to return and re-use on either cruise.
Get out to the Great Barrier Reef
The other unmissable attraction in the tropical north is heading out to the Reef, another UNESCO World Heritage listed site. We cover this in more detail in this post, but picked out our favourite family option here:
Quicksilver Outer Reef Cruises
How far away: 90 minutes by Catamaran from Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina, full day trip
What to expect and what’s included: Whilst not all Great Barrier Reef experiences might be ideal with kids, one of the most highly recommended is Quicksilver Cruises. Their huge catamaran takes you the Agincourt Reef.
This is one of the most pristine with coral growth and abundant underwater marine life. From here, kids can snorkel in the shallow water, or your really little ones can visit the underwater observatory. You can even stay dry if you prefer with t the semi-submersible coral viewing tour.
Lunch and any transfers are included at the time of booking, as well as your EMC – Environmental Management Charge – for entering the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area. Diving classes are an optional extra.
How to book: Click here to see pricing for Quicksilver Outer Barrier Reef Cruise
Note: Under 3’s are free, Children’s tickets apply 4 to 14 years. Quicksilver also operate another boat, the luxury catamaran Wavedancer out to Low Isles. Here you can jump on a glass bottom boat, build sandcastles and snorkel in calm waters. This may be a prefered choice if you are new to the water.
Cane toad racing
How Far Away: Right in the centre of town
What to expect: Ah huh, you heard right. Now this is one novelty we didn’t get time to squeeze in on our last trip and now really regretting it, it sounds a hoot. Every night at the Iron Bar Pub at 8pm daily you can catch the hilarious action.
How to book it: Pay at the venue $5 a head.
Family friendly accommodation in Port Douglas
Things kids won’t like about Port Douglas
How could there possibly be a negative about this amazing country Australian town? OK, not really a negative, just a few words of caution to make sure everyone really enjoys there time
- Be SunSmart all the time. Even on the cloudy days make sure kids have sun hats, glasses, adequate sunscreen (we talk more about taking babies and young children to hot climates here)
- Watch for the stingers. During the wet season, there are stinger nets, but outside of these areas, swimming is not recommended in the wet season.
- Mosquitoes can also be an issue, take your mosquito spray and after-bite gel with you, it’s bound to happen no matter how vigilant you are.
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Have you visited Port Douglas with kids? We’d love to hear your tips for family travellers on how to make the most of a visit to Tropical North Queensland
Disclosures: This post is in no way sponsored, we paid for all the activities mentioned and all opinions are our own. This page does contain affiliate links to third-party suppliers. If you purchase anything through these links it may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for being a loyal reader of our blog – our full terms and conditions of use can be found here.
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