Life doesn’t get much better than soaking up the serenity of the tropics, but it can be tricky navigating your way to the best family experiences when you’re on holidays.
To make it easier to find the tour, restaurant or activity to match your kid-friendly preferences when you visit Port Douglas the Daintree we’ve suggested a few of our favourites that everyone in the family will love.
Adventures Port Douglas & Adventures Daintree operator Greg McLean lives in Port Douglas with his young family and knows how frustrating it can be trying to find somewhere suitable for kids in a location you’re not familiar with.
There are hundreds of reef and rainforest tours and everything in between for you to enjoy when you visit Port Douglas and the Daintree.
Some tours are happy to welcome families but aren’t geared towards them, others are not suitable for kids and a few operators know exactly what to do to make your experience more fulfilling as a family.
Check out our Top 10 Family Tours in the tropics for a headstart on where to look for your next adventure.
- Walkabout Cultural Adventures operates Full-Day and Half-Day Cultural Tours where your Aboriginal guide can teach you how to throw a spear, hunt for mudcrabs the traditional way and give you an understanding of their cultural connection to the land and sea. As the father of a young family, tour operator and Kuku Yalanji custodian Juan Walker has created a fascinating introduction to indigenous culture that offers something for all ages. He also runs highly recommended Half-Day and Full-Day Daintree Rainforest Tours.
- If everyone in your family wants to do something different when they visit the rainforest then jump on board the Cape Trib Adventure Bus. The Adventure Bus operates an express service between Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation where you can choose from activities including jungle surfing, horse riding, snorkelling the reef, fruit tasting, electric bike rides or simply explore the amazing beaches and boardwalks. The operators are super accommodating for families.
- If the kids are a bit older, Make Your Own Adventure with Port Douglas Tropical Trips, recommended for children 10 and above. Whether you want to go north to explore the Daintree Rainforest, south to visit the waterfalls and lakes of the Tablelands or west to an Outback mining township, this personalised charter is a great day out for the family where you can choose what you want to do, when.
- For an epic reef trip the Undine Cay Watersports Adventure caters for up to nine passengers aboard a private charter to a pristine sand cay on a magnificent stretch of the Great Barrier Reef. Snorkel off the beach, check out the reef on a stand-up paddleboard, go tubing or just chill out and enjoy the spectacular view. Windswell also runs the Snapper Island Adventure charter where the lush rainforest meets the reef for an awesome family day of watersports activities and sightseeing. Bretto and his team deliver extremely fun experiences for all ages.
- Low Isles is the perfect place for the whole family to relax and explore. Situated just a short distance from Port Douglas, the pristine sand cay is home to coral gardens, turtles and tropical fish as well as abundant birdlife on the island which also features an historic lighthouse and beach shelters for you to relax in comfort. To get there, your family can unleash their inner pirate aboard The Shaolin, a Chinese junk where getting there is half the fun. You can also visit Low Isles aboard a luxury catamaran suitable for all ages with Sailaway or if you’re in a hurry then jump on the Reef Sprinter for an exciting 80km/h ride suitable for children aged three years and up.
- If your group includes elderly or very young family members and you want to visit the Outer Reef, Quicksilver is a great option with a spacious activity platform. Dive, snorkel or stay dry as you explore the reef in a semi-submersible, check out the fish feeding from the underwater observatory or see the reef from the air with a helicopter tour.
- It doesn’t matter if you’re a fishing fanatic or can’t tell your reel from your rod, there’s a number of awesome fishing tours for families to enjoy. For a half-day family excursion fishing the estuaries and inshore reefs around Port Douglas, Hook-Up Charters and Out ‘n’ About Sportfishing operate really fun shared charters suitable for all ages and abilities. Outrageous Fishing Charters can take the family to the Outer Reef on a deep sea shared charter or throw a line in and explore the mighty Daintree River with born-and-bred local guide Jamie Beitzel. You can also hire a pontoon boat from the Port Douglas marina loaded with all the fishing gear your family needs to snag a fish or three in the estuary.
- The Daintree River and surrounds is home to a vast array of primitive plants and animals, a rare glimpse of nature flourishing as it has done for thousands of years. The Daintree River Wild Watch Sunset Tour exploring nearby Barratt’s Creek with nature guide Ian “Sauce” Worcester gives an amazing insight into the diversity of birdlife, snakes, crocs and other critters attracted to the thriving World Heritage-listed ecosystem.
- If the kids are a bit older and you want them to experience a real taste of the tropics, there’s plenty of activities to get their (and your) hearts racing. The family can get up and away with Uplift Parasailing soaring over Port Douglas from the back of a boat, giddyup with a beach horseride, bike ‘n’ hike to a pristine waterfall, see the Bump Track come to life at night or feel the magic of the rainforest Stand-Up Paddleboarding or River-Drift Snorkelling on the Mossman River.
- If you’re looking for a luxury reef experience, a Sand Cay Reef Heli & Snorkel tour gives the best of both worlds with breathtaking overhead views of the reef and rainforest on your way to a remote sand cay surrounded by stunning coral reefs for your snorkelling pleasure. If you prefer a luxury charter, MV Monsoon and Blue Martini can take families snorkelling, fishing and exploring the reef in tropical style.
You don’t need to venture far to find some family fun in and around Port Douglas and the Daintree. Load the kids in the back of the hire car and check out our Top 6 Family Activities.
- Port Douglas and the Daintree is blessed with some of the best wildlife sanctuaries in the country. The Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas is a fabulous introduction to the animals found in the tropics. You can hand-feed the curious kangaroos, mingle with the emus and observe a cassowary up close, wander through the canopy among the colourful birdlife or check out the amazing reptile displays. There’s even a Junior Keepers program for 8 to 14-year-olds during the school holidays. Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures takes you on a journey of discovery through woodlands and rainforest where you can see beautiful tropical birds, reptiles, insects and other native critters. Hartley’s also has a really cool boat cruise where they feed some big hungry crocs right in front of your eyes. The Daintree Wild Zoo is a family-owned zoo just north of Wonga Beach on the way to the Daintree. It has a good variety of wildlife where you can get up close with crocs, cassowaries, kangaroos and dingoes.
- Ask any local and they will tell you the best place to cool off in the tropics is a safe swimming waterhole. There’s a number of spectacular waterholes stretching from Wangetti south of Port Douglas to Emmagen Creek north of Cape Tribulation. Our Favourite Swimming Holes takes you off the beaten track to where the locals escape the heat and relax. Pack a picnic, throw in the pool noodles and settle in for the afternoon. While we have swum at these spots in recent months and they are considered safe, crocodiles can inhabit any waterhole in Far North Queensland.
- Got a hire car? Jump in and start exploring. There’s all sorts of adventures to discover, from restaurants in the rainforest to roadside art galleries and picture postcard panoramas at every turn. The Mossman to Daintree River Tourist Map shows 50+ things to see and do including local parks, swimming holes, public toilets, cafes and even a tropical fruit winery. Check out the Premium Experiences for more information on local tours in the area.
- The best part of being on holidays is usually the simple things. Grab a frisbee, a ball, your fire twirlers if you please, and take your fish ‘n’ chips or cheese platter down to Rex Smeal Park at the mouth of the Port Douglas inlet to watch the boats come in over a sunset with a glass of wine or a beer. It doesn’t matter what age your kids are, pick a good evening with a little cloud cover and find a coconut palm to throw your rug under and watch the sun disappear behind the mountains. The kids can play in the park as everyone enjoys the serenity. If you can’t make it to Rex Smeal, just find any beach or natural space where you can watch the world go around for the same effect. Take a camera if you want to rub it in to friends on Facebook.
- If your children are younger, a trip on the Bally Hooley Steam Train is a must-do. The steam railway runs daily between the Port Douglas marina and St Crispin’s Station in the Four Mile area. It’s best to experience on a Sunday so you can then wander from the marina to the Port Douglas Markets (open 7am-1pm every Sunday), a Cotter’s market where the majority of stallholders produce what they’re selling. You’ll find everything from handmade furniture, jewellery, arts and crafts to fresh produce, tasty treats and alternative therapies at the markets, it can get very busy but it’s well worth the effort. There’s also the Mossman Markets underneath the Raintrees from 7am-1pm on Saturdays.
- The Mossman Library is a great place to escape to. As well as Storytime and Baby Rhyme mornings every Thursday, the library has Queensland Museum kits and local history posters on top of access to thousands of books, e-books, music, magazines and videos. The library also runs special activity programs for kids during the school holidays and welcomes visitors.
Eating out can be a challenge when there’s a tribe of you. Here’s a few suggestions where the kids can be entertained and the food is delicious.
- The Port Douglas Surf Club Bar & Bistro boasts not only one of the few oceanside locations in the village but a full-size playground and plenty of room for the kids to run around in. Food ranges from your standard fish and chips and steaks to delicious sushi and steamed pork buns. The surf club is open for lunch and dinner seven days.
- The Port Douglas marina is a beautiful spot to relax watching the boats in the water. Lure Restaurant does fabulous breakfasts and lunches, with smaller kids given art and puzzle packs to keep them entertained. The breakfast menu features smashed avo, pancakes, eggs done different and the fully-loaded Lure Fix. For lunch you can nibble on prawns, oysters or pork belly or pick from the diverse mains menu. At the other end of the marina is the Port Douglas Yacht Club, an authentic local club with a simple, well-prepared menu selection and a spectacular indoor/outdoor setting. The Yachty is open every night for dinner and for lunch on weekends. The Club also runs free Wednesday afternoon sailing with club members. To sign up for the free sail, register at the club on the day.
- Choo Choo’s @ St Crispin’s has a creative breakfast and lunch menu to rival the idyllic location. The rejuvenated station for the Bally Hooley steam train is perched above the water overlooking the golf course and there’s plenty of distractions for the kids. The food, coffee and service is fantastic, take a newspaper or a magazine and relax for a little while.
- If you’re hanging out for a good pizza, Chilly’s Pizza and Trattoria is a tasty place to unwind for dinner. The kids can roam the outdoor area and stretch out as you choose from wood-fired pizzas, traditional paella or homemade tiramisu. The Beach Shack is another top spot to take the family for a casual dinner and nibbles with the sand beneath your feet. Order from the pizza kitchen out the back for a mouth-watering selection of pizzas and tapas. Chill out on a comfy lounge or grab a table for dinner. Both venues also do deliveries.
- There’s some excellent cafes in Mossman these days but our pick, especially if you’ve got little ones, is Beachwoods on the main strip. They serve up really healthy and delicious breakfast and lunch dishes as well as homemade sweets and there’s plenty of room for the kids to play in, with a toy area out the back. The Junction Café a few doors up is a little bit smaller in size but also caters well for young children.
- There’s some excellent cafes and restaurants between Newell Beach and Cape Tribulation. If you find yourself on this stretch of the tropics keep an eye out for these little family gems. High Falls Farm in the Whyanbeel Valley is located on a picturesque orchard overlooking a tranquil river. The waters are safe to swim in, kids are free to wander around the orchard and the food is pretty good too. The restaurant is only open for lunch Fridays to Sundays though. That means your dance card might be open for Friday Night Rock ‘n’ Roll Fish ‘n’ Chips at the Crossroads Café. The Crossroads is located at the turn-off to the Daintree Ferry north of Wonga Beach and is only open to the public on a Friday night where you can turn up, kick your shoes off and have a dance as talented local musicians entertain the crowd. Get along and meet the locals for a great night out. Over the Daintree River, the Lync-Haven Café on the highway in Diwan is surrounded by World Heritage rainforest and also features reptile and bird displays. The café is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and is a good spot to stretch your legs, enjoy a meal and see some wildlife. If you’re looking for somewhere to feed the masses for dinner in Cape Tribulation, check out the Sand Bar at Cape Trib Camping. You can devour a cassowary pizza (no endangered species used as ingredients) and swap tales with fellow travellers or simply relax with a cold beverage.