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Can You Swim in Port Douglas? (2024)

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Yes, you can swim in Port Douglas Australia year-round in the sea from the beach, unless the lifeguards close the beach due to various unusual dangers. Beach closures aren’t common. Should you swim? There are a few things you need to know about safety, crocodiles, deadly jellyfish, nets (swimming enclosures), and lifeguards. This post is all about swimming in Port Douglas Queensland. Don’t be too put off, my family swims here all the time along with thousands of tourists and locals.

children playing in the water Four Mile Beach Port Douglas
These are my children playing in the sea at Port Douglas’s Four Mile Beach. They’re still very much alive.

Swim in Port Douglas. Can You?

Yes you can swim at Four Mile Beach Port Douglas and in various local pools and freshwater swimming spots.

You can swim at Port Douglas year-round, it’s always pretty warm. In July it can get a little chilly and the hotels with large unheated swimming pools may be too cold for some people. We have swum in these pools and in the sea (It’s the Coral Sea, the Pacific Ocean is beyond) year-round.

There is a stinger net at Four Mile Beach, making it possible to swim year-round throughout stinger season. The beach is closed because of dangers, rarely. This is normally used from late October or the start of November through December, January, February and March (the summer months, the hottest wettest time when the sea will be very warm), through to May.

Only swim at the beach in Port Douglas near the lifeguard station.

In June, July, August and September, the winter months, the stinger net is not usually in use and the sea will be cooler. Some people consider these winter months to be the best time to swim in Port Douglas.

On the Great Barrier Reef, from Port Douglas, yes, you can swim year-round and in the months of stinger season, normally.

Rough weather, storms and cyclones do stop the boats from running to the reef sometimes.

Where Can You Swim in Port Douglas? Four Mile Beach

Four Mile Beach is a long, sandy picture-postcard tropical beach, but can you swim there? Yes, you can, swim at Four Mile Beach, so long as the beach is open.

Just be aware of a few important safety considerations.

Port Douglas Beach at Low Tide
Port Douglas Beach at a very low tide. This is the south end of Four Mile Beach, towards the Mowbray River opening. There is some coral visible at very low tides like this but I don’t think I’d be snorkelling out there.

Book a Day Trip From Port Douglas, Palm Cove or Cairns, To Mossman Gorge, Daintree and Cape Tribulation, Here (Jan 2024 – You can’t cross the river and enter the Daintree Rainforest due to cyclone damage, when we hear the road and ferry are open, we’ll update again.)

Port Douglas lies on a narrow sandy spit of land, Four Mile Beach and The Coral Sea is to the east. Dickson’s Inlet is to the west.

These two meet at the northern tip. At the southern end of Four Mile Beach, the Mowbray River reaches the sea.

The section of beach near Macrossan St (The heart of Port Douglas village, where you’ll find shops and restaurants) is generally considered a safe swimming beach and you will find a lifeguard station here.

In summer months there will be a stinger net on the beach to protect swimmers from deadly box jellyfish. There is also a danger of Irukandje jellyfish in warmer months.

Stinger Season in Port Douglas is usually November to March, but dates vary. If the net is in the water, you should use the net.

There is always a risk that very tiny Irudkanje could get through the mesh of the stinger net. Hence, it’s better to cover up as much as possible.

Lifeguards have a good view of the netted area and will post information on current dangers and water conditions. Look for the latest water conditions and dangers on the board below.

Port Douglas Beach Closed Sign

Crocodiles are another consideration.

They are, very rarely, sighted off Four Mile Beach. Even more rarely, one will actually come up onto the beach.

If the lifeguards spot a crocodile they’ll usually close the beach for a few hours and follow it visually until it has departed the swimming area they protect.

You absolutely should not swim in Dickinson’s Inlet, around the Suger Wharf Jetty or near the Mowbray River mouth. There could potentially be some pretty big crocodiles around there.

If you head north to Cape Tribulation or Cooktown, then no, you shouldn’t swim at the beaches, the risk of crocodiles is too high.

South of Port Douglas towards Cairns, the Northern Beaches, and Palm Cove, the same swimming advice applies. Use the stinger nets in season and be aware of crocodiles. You can’t swim from Cairns city itself, it’s on an estuary, you need to go a little north of the city for swimming beaches and many of them have lifeguard stations and swimming nets for stingers.

Port Douglas in winter. Storm and rain on the beach and crocodile warning sign
Port Douglas in winter. This is the Dickson’s Inlet side with its crocodile warning sign and the gorgeous sugar wharf. Winter is actually peak tourist season and days are normally sunny, we just happened to have rain and stormy skies on the day I took this picture. It was July. Normally, yes, you can swim from Port Douglas in July, from the beach, on the reef and in fresh water streams and pools, it will just be cooler.

People do swim on Four Mile Beach, locals, and tourists, but it’s not 100% without potential hazard, no beach is.

I can’t say it’s 100% safe to swim there, but I have swum there, with my kids, for years.

One thing my family doesn’t worry about in Port Douglas is sharks, but still, anything is possible.

I don’t even know of any shark sightings off Four Mile Beach but out on the edges of the reef and beyond, friends have sighted tiger sharks and great hammerheads.

Port Douglas Beach Closed Sign on sandy beach
The beautiful sandy beach at Port Douglas. On this day the swimming enclosure was shut due to the increased risk of jellyfish. But this is rare. Can you see the little balls of sand that cover the beach? They’re made by bubbler crabs.

My husband swims at Four Mile Beach often. He’s a triathlete, he’s never been eaten by the wildlife.

My kids have swum here on and off, I like to protect them as much as possible with rash vests and stinger suits, but they’ve lived to be teenagers.

I swim in the stinger net too, sometimes. We consider it safe for us to swim on Four Mile Beach Port Douglas.

Why Might Port Douglas Beach Be Closed for Swimming?

Stinger net Port Douglas Beach Swimming inclosure Four Mile Beach
The stinger net on the beach at Port Douglas. This swimming enclosure has a float along the top and is weighted at the bottom. It rises and falls with the tide, as controlled by the lifeguards and surf lifesavers. This stinger net is at the top end of Four Mile Beach Port Douglas, near Macrossan St.

I’ve seen Port Douglas Beach closed to swimmers in very rough weather. In stinger season this means that the net won’t be doing its job properly.

If there is a cyclone nearby you could see beach closures. The lifeguards will also close the beach to swimmers if there is a perceived increased risk of jellyfish or if a crocodile is sighted.

Usually, the croc will just swim on by, they follow it with a drone. They tend to be moving between the Inlet and the Mowbray River at the southern end of Port Douglas Beach.

Is Port Douglas Beach Patrolled?

Yes, Port Douglas Beach, Four Mile Beach, is patrolled by surf lifeguards and/or surf lifesavers. However, only a small section of the beach, at the lifeguard station, is patrolled, and only within daily working hours. If you arrive early or late there will be nobody on duty.

The lifeguard station and stinger net are at the northern end of Four Mile Beach, near Macrossan Street, the Surf Lifesaving Club, and The Esplanade.

Other Places to Swim in Port Douglas

I’ve seen people ask on TripAdvisor if there are other swimming beaches nearby without stingers or any crocodile risk. No, there aren’t.

Nearby beaches such as Wonga Beach, Oak Beach, and Pebbly Beach aren’t “in” Port Douglas and don’t usually have stinger nets or lifeguards and surf lifesavers.

Further south, some of the Cairns Northern Beaches and Palm Cove, do have their own stinger nets and lifeguard patrols.

Our tropical climate comes with wildlife but you will find far more dangerous beaches if you head north to Daintree and Cape Tribulation.

Just about all of the beaches between Cairns and Port Douglas are popular with tourists and several have lifeguard stations and safer swimming enclosures (stinger nets)

Most hotels and resorts in Port Douglas have pools.

The Sheraton Mirage and Sea Temple have giant lagoon pools for you to enjoy. If you really want to avoid the sea these are a great option.

For swim training, you’ll need to go to Mossman or maybe Cairns. The lap pool in Port Douglas recently closed. There is no public swimming pool in Port Douglas at time of writing, and no water park for kids.

There is a pool at the Sheraton Golf Club.

That said, some hotels allow non-residents to use their facilities and there is a possibility of using the Sheraton Country Club pool.

There is the Cairns Lagoon on the esplanade in the Cairns CBD if you’d like to take the kids down for a free splash around. Muddy’s Playground, Cairns, has a free water play area too, and it’s really good.

There was a waterpark, SugarWorld, near Cairns. I’m checking for the current opening status on that one. The Big 5 Camp Site just outside Port Douglas at Mowbray also has water play.

Hartley's Creek Falls Waterfall and swimming hole near Port Douglas
There are some amazing swimming holes near Port Douglas. This is Hartley’s Creek Falls.

There has been talk for years of building a pool and a water park with waves or surf in or near Port Douglas. It’s still just talk, nothing has happened, they’re not building it yet. If I find out it’s actually going to happen I’ll add it here.

Near Port Douglas, there are various opportunities to swim in rainforest pools, waterfalls and streams. At the time of writing, we believe Mossman Gorge is still open, but do check, things are changing almost daily in this part of the world.

We have a post on freshwater swimming holes and waterfalls near Cairns and Port Douglas.

The waterfalls on the Atherton Tablelands are very popular, including Millaa Millaa falls, Mossman Gorge is also a must-visit.

We also have a post on visiting Mossman Gorge. Official signs at Mossman Gorge say “no swimming” but the rule hasn’t been enforced when we’ve visited this year.

Be aware that it can be very dangerous there in heavy rain and flash floods. We don’t suggest you ignore the signs, there have been deaths swimming at Mossman Gorge.

The fleet is runs to the Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas year round, with only occasional closures in bad weather.

Tours to Daintree Rainforest also run more or less year- round, heavy rain or flooding may prevent these tours from operating.

Expect restaurants and some tours to be closed at very quiet times such as late November and February. Christmas is normally a busy time in Port Douglas.

The wet season only really reduces tourist numbers after the Christmas school holidays, around Australia Day.

We hope you found our post useful. Before we moved to Port Douglas, many years ago, I did a lot of searching for safety information about Port Douglas beaches.

It’s very strange to outsiders that we can swim where there could possibly be a crocodile, but we do.

Once you see a beach full of people enjoying the water it should reassure you and your anxiety will evaporate.

The often crystal-clear water should reassure you even more. Enjoy your holiday in Port Douglas and check out our related posts, we have endless information for you on our site about the Douglas Shire and Cairns.

Book a Day Trip From Port Douglas, Palm Cove or Cairns, To Mossman Gorge, Daintree and Cape Tribulation, Here

Do you need more Port Douglas information? Maybe you’re planning a holiday to Port Douglas or this part of Far North Queensland. If so, head to our Port Douglas holiday information page, or our more general Port Douglas and Cairns section.

If you'd like to hire a car during your stay, use this car rental comparison tool to find the best deal!

We also suggest you take a look at this company to get a quote for all kinds of the more tricky adventure or extended travel insurance.

Try Stayz / VRBO for an alternative way to find rentals on homes/apartments/condos in any country!

Ryan Biddulph

Monday 20th of March 2023

Nice breakdown here. Super thorough and quite helpful. I have Port Douglas on my mind when we make it down that way. Those stingers can be rough; when they are around it looks like a beach hike day for me having been stung by even more benign jellyfish. Happened in Costa Rica. The burning sensation on my toe was terrific for the first few hours and even though it lessened in intensity, the pain and tenderness stuck around for 2 days. They hurt!

Ryan

Alyson for World Travel Family

Tuesday 21st of March 2023

The only thing that ever stung us on 4 Mile Beach was sea lice, tiny invisible stinging jellyfish. We do see blue bottles sometimes (Portuguese man of war) but their sting actually isn't too bad. The lifeguard will put vinegar on stings for you and there are bottles of vinegar all along the beach. But the Irukandje can kill you, so can the box jellyfish - hence the nets and stinger suits in summer. (I believe very hot water is recommended as better than vinegar for jelly fish stings now, according to first aid courses, but I don't know for sure as I've never been stung).

John Playfair

Thursday 26th of August 2021

Enjoyed your swimming article. Yesterday I called into the Mirage Country Club Pro Shop & their 25m pool is available 7 am - 6 pm for $5. It's not heated - I live on the Gold Coast so I thought I'd "test the water" after it's had the sun on for a bit - I don't expect the water temp will be any colder than oceans swimming on the Gold Coast right now (maybe 20 degrees...)?

Alyson for World Travel Family

Friday 27th of August 2021

My kids used to have swimming lessons there John. Watch out for the mozzies round the back there, it's quite shady. The big pool at Sea Temple used to get really cold in winter, can't remember if that one did. I can tell you I haven't been in my backyard pool in months, it's freezing.

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