Stinger Season in Cairns and Port Douglas Comes with Summer.
Here in Port Douglas, down the road in Cairns and throughout Far North Queensland including the Whitsundays, Townsville and Hamilton Island, stinger season comes every summer Things get sticky and with the heat and humidity come the most dangerous jellyfish. We call them marine stingers.
Some jellyfish can be here in small numbers all year round, including the occasional blue bottle, jelly blubbers and sea lice, they aren’t a problem, summer is the danger time, we call it stinger season or jellyfish season.
From around November it isn’t sensible to swim unprotected from Four Mile beach or any of the Northern Beaches. Deadly box jellyfish and Irukandji can visit our waters and we should all use the stinger nets when swimming from the shore and stinger suits become a very good idea.
When is Stinger Season?
The further north you go, the longer stinger season lasts, the marine stingers enjoy warm water and hanging out in mangroves. Exact dates vary, there is no fixed point but generally expect the season to run from December to March between Gladstone and Townsville, October to June in the far north. While we’ve been living in FNQ the stinger season Port Douglas has generally lasted from November to May, Cairns will be the same.
The Stinger Nets Will be Out.
Stinger season Port Douglas and Cairns stretches from around the first of November to May, the stinger nets will be in the water as soon as there is any possible danger. The best times for swimming here, we think, are on the shoulders of stinger season, just before and just after the stinger nets go out. The water is warm and can be crystal clear, you’ll find us hitting the beach with the kids most days then.
Things are safer on the Great Barrier Reef, your chances of encountering stingers are very, very small. All reef charter boats have head to toe Stinger Suits on board for snorkellers to hire. They’re not elegant, but you need to wear one in stinger season. It’s a great idea to buy a suit for your kids to keep our fierce sun off their skin, along with the marine stingers, this is perfectly normal in Australia, many kids wear them.
Beaches With Stinger Nets Around Cairns and Port Douglas
There is a stinger net at the lifeguard station at the top end of Four Mile beach, Port Douglas. Tourists use it right through stinger season. The net is occasionally closed in stormy weather. You’ll also find stinger nets at Palm Cove, Clifton Beach, Yorkey’s Knob, Holloways Beach, Trinity Beach, Kewarra Beach and Ellis Beach, most beaches in the area.
You’ll sometimes see local children in full body stinger suits, exposing only fingers and faces as the net is potentially not 100% effective, tiny jelly fish can still, possibly, pass through. Don’t be put off, you’ll also see plenty of people in bikinis. The stinger suits serve a dual purpose, we use them to protect our kids from the sun, too. The lifeguards drag the net every day to check for any unwanted visitors, look out for them, it’s interesting see all the small fish and invertebrates they catch, they’re a friendly bunch, say hi.
Out on the reef the risk of marine stingers is even lower but reef boats carry stinger suits to hire to all passengers.
If you’d like to buy your own stinger suits, in your exact size, to use on the beaches as well as on the reef, have a look here.
Is it Safe to Swim in Stinger Season? You Decide.
Thousands of visitors swim from Four Mile Beach all year round and problems are very rare.
To be safe, take precautions:
Check the lifeguards’ instructions on the boards, you’ll find them on the beaches.
If the lifeguards say it’s safe, only swim in the stinger nets.
Wear a stinger suit or as much body protection as you can, rashies and board shorts help.
Do not touch the nets themselves, stingers could be caught in the net.
For my family, we reduce our sea swimming in season, after all, we live here all year round and can swim any time, missing out for a while isn’t a major hardship. We continue to visit the reef , the stingers like to hang out near the coastal estuaries. It’s great to visit hotel pools, the Cairns Lagoon, or some of our natural, fresh water swimming spots at this time of year.
Marine Stingers and Dangerous Jellyfish, What are they?
Te two most dangerous jellyfish, the ones we worry about from November to May, are the box jellyfish and Irukandje.
The most poisonous and deadly jellyfish in the world likes to hang out around Australia. The venom can kill in minutes and is the cause of an average 1 death per year in Australian waters. There are more deaths in South East Asia, where stinger nets are rare. This jellyfish can get large, with tentacles stretching up to 3m behind it.
The tiny Irukandje is the smallest member of the box jellyfish family, it takes its name from the Irukandje people of Northern Australia and measures around 5mm in diameter. It’s tentacles can be up to 1m long. Its tiny size is deceiving as its venom is incredibly strong. Death isn’t inevitable, but Irukandje syndrome isn’t a nice thing to have, symptoms include severe muscle cramps, intense back pain, vomiting, racing heart and a feeling of intense doom.
The Irukandje is the reason many of us wear stinger suits inside the nets, they can be tiny enough to pass through the mesh of the net.
Other Places to Swim Around Port Douglas and Cairns
Safe Swimming Port Douglas
If you are staying at a hotel in Port, chances are you will have a pool. But there are also plenty of fresh water swimming spots to try.
Most places in Port, from camp sites to hostels, have their own pools. Top end Sea Temple (pictured above) has an outstandingly brilliant pool with lagoons, rivers, a hot tub and bridges to swim under.
There are some really lovely places to swim around Port Douglas, some of the hotels allow visitors to use their pools if they are buying food or drinks and Mossman Gorge ( click here for rainforest swimming information) is just up the road, perfect for a cooling dip in an icy cold rainforest stream. Safe Swimming Cairns Cairns has one of the most amazing Lagoon pools in the world, and it’s free. There is also a small waterpark in Cairns, see this post on places to get wet in the area. There are a few natural rainforest swimming spots nearby, we particularly enjoy Crystal Cascades. Fresh water swimming in this part of the world is an experience you shouldn’t miss.
Stinger season is just one of the costs of living in the tropics, sharing our lives with deadly but fascinating creatures, crocodiles, snakes and spiders. We don’t mind, it’s always beautiful here in Port Douglas and the wildlife and scenery are stunning, all year round. Four Mile beach, our home, is beautiful, but once the dangerous jellyfish arrive and stinger season starts, just use a bit of common sense. You have to make your own call, you’ll be fine inside the stinger net and you’ll be safer still on the reef, just keep it in your mind and listen to the lifeguards, they drag the net every day to check for stingers, they know the beach and know when the risk is high, they will tell you.
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