Far North Queensland (or FNQ as it is affectionately known by locals) is one of the best vacation spots for families. I am constantly surprised by how many Australians tell me that they have never been here – are they crazy? It is such a beautiful part of the world to have on your doorstep, and Port Douglas with its stunning beaches, incredible rainforest and Great Barrier Reef is the jewel in its crown.
Port Douglas is just an hour’s driver from Cairns International Airport via a spectacular coastal road and is an excellent choice for a family holiday. Not only does it have the fabulous Four Mile Beach for hours of sandcastle building fun, but it also boasts easy access to both the Great Barrier Reef and the rainforest, and several family-friendly visitor attractions to keep the kids entertained all holiday.
Here are five of the best things to do with children in Port Douglas, Australia.
Great Barrier Reef Tour
You can’t come to Port Douglas and not enjoy a day out on the Great Barrier Reef, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. A trip to the Great Barrier Reef is definitely one of the best things to do in Port Douglas with kids. Quicksilver Cruises is a great option for families travelling with children. Their Outer Barrier Reef cruise transports you quickly (well, in 90 minutes) via giant catamaran to a floating platform at Agincourt reef.
Here you can snorkel to your heart’s content, or if like me your children are still too young to snorkel, there is an underwater observatory to view the fish feeding, and semi-submersible submarines for a real underwater adventure. Another option if you are travelling with smaller kids, is a trip to the Low Isles, closer to the mainland. Sailaway’s boat trip moors at the coral cay, meaning you can snorkel from the beach, hang out and build sandcastles or take the glass bottom boat tour.
Another best thing to do in Port Douglas with kids is to explore the rainforest. The Daintree Rainforest contains the world’s oldest surviving rainforest and is such a unique attraction of Northern Queensland that you won’t want to miss it. There are plenty of tour operators offering half-day and full-day trips, but these can make for a long travel day for smaller kids. Mossman Gorge is the most easily accessible section of the Daintree National Park and is an excellent option with children, being just a 20-minute drive from Port Douglas.
There are several easy walking tracks, serviced by sturdy boardwalks that meander through the rainforest and skirt along the Mossman River. To wander further into the trees, the 2.4km Rainforest Circuit Track gives you more of a sense of adventure, but is still an easy hike – my 3-year old managed to walk it all without too much complaining (the promise of an ice-cream at the end did wonders).
One of the absolute best things to do in Port Douglas with kids is to visit the fabulous Wildlife Habitat, just on the outskirts of Port Douglas. This immersive wildlife experience puts you right in amongst the action – walking amongst the flying birds, feeding the kangaroos and wallabies (which, by the way, my kids NEVER get tired of) and even cuddling a koala. Arrive early to experience the Breakfast with the Birds – a tropical breakfast buffet in amongst the cacophony of sounds and colours of the birds as they fly and roam around you.
Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures
A 20-minute drive south of Port Douglas brings you to the excellent Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. Set on the site of a commercial crocodile farm, there is plenty of croc-related fun to be had here: take a tour of the crocodile farm where you can stroke a baby croc, enjoy a boat cruise on Hartley’s Lagoon to see the crocodile feeding in action, and be enthralled by the Crocodile Attack Show, where one of the park rangers takes on a large Saltie! An unexpected highlight for us was the Gondwana Gateway, where the kids can pet and feed the kangaroos and wallabies. My brave 3-year old even posed for a photo with a large Black Necked Python – while I stayed well out of the way!
While Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures makes for a fun day out, nothing beats spotting crocodiles in their natural environment. The Lady Douglas River Cruise departs four times throughout the day from the Port Douglas Marina, and takes you on a leisurely tour of the nearby mangroves. Of course this isn’t a theme park and so crocodile viewing isn’t guaranteed, even though they claim to spot crocodiles on over 90% of their trips. We only spotted one, and she was mostly hidden amongst the trees, so I was pleased to have chosen the Lady Douglas, which allows you to walk around the boat, rather than stay seated. Even then, 90 minutes on a small boat with not much crocodile action was a bit of a test for my 1-year old and 3-year old, but older kids should be fine – and they served sparkling wine to the adults so it wasn’t a total disaster!
We stayed at Peppers Beach Club when we were in Port Douglas. Read our Review here. For more ideas of things to do with kids in Northern Queensland, see our other article Things to do in Cairns with Kids.