Want to know what’s top of my “Things to do in Port Douglas” list? Well, I always say that feeding George the groper is the most exciting thing that happens in Port Douglas. It’s certainly not something you should miss if you are in the top right-hand corner of Queensland or visiting Port for our beaches, rainforest, and Great Barrier Reef access. It’s a daily, late afternoon event that locals and tourists in Far North Queensland have been enjoying for many years. Come on down to On The Inlet, and take a seat for feeding time.
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Update: On The Inlet at this location, was forced to shut down because of planned marina developments. This is an absolute tragedy – particularly as the developments had not, at time of writing, happened. On The Inlet opened elsewhere to serve food at a new location, but not on the water. Our daily groper feedings were no more. It’s a terrible shame. Take a look at other things to do in Port Douglas here, maybe check out the cane toad racing instead, if that is your thing. We don’t know if this area will be redeveloped or not, always double-check information for yourself as this site simply reflects our personal experiences and preferences.
It happens every day, it’s family friendly, you can have a couple of glasses of wine and a bite to eat, you’re out of the sun or the rain, it’s educational and best of all, it’s FREE!
Feeding George the Groper in Port Douglas
George the groper is fed every day and it’s a tradition that has been going on for 30 years in Port Douglas. It started when the fishing boats dumped anything unwanted into Dickson Inlet. These days the ritual takes place in a more orderly fashion at On The Inlet restaurant and bar, which stands on the same site as the old fishing wharf.
A suitably muscled staff member makes his way to the jetty at 5pm, armed with tuna carcasses and a stout rope ready to take on the giant fish. Much jiggling of rope goes on before George the groper takes a bite, the rope goes tight and shoots off in unpredictable directions. The guy on the end does his best to hang on and draw the fish to the surface, sometimes we get a good look, sometimes there is just a lot of splashing.
Today’s groper wrangler was recovering from a cracked rib, inflicted by George as he was pulled hard against the railings. It can be quite a fight.
The fish always wins, nobody is trying to hurt the groper, it’s just a bit of a show.
Groper or Grouper
Around these parts they are always called gropers. Giant Queensland Gropers, also known as spotted cod, are the biggest reef fish in the world. They grow up to 3m long and can weigh in at 600Kg. Fatal attacks on humans have been reported, so if you go for a swim in Dickinson Inlet and the crocodiles don’t get you, watch out for George the groper.
George or Georgina? She is a Girl
The gropers you will see in the inlet will all be girls. The species is hermaphrodite, the small males live out on the reef before returning to the inlet as females at over 1.5m long. They are big enough to take on the salt water crocodiles that share the estuary. It’s not uncommon to see 2 or 3 fish at the daily feeding session, along with many smaller species, angler fish, bream, really, and sting ray were there today.
It’s Free to See George Being Fed
Technically it’s free, but you are in a bar serving bar food so it would be bad manners to not indulge. On The Inlet is a great restaurant in the evening, in the afternoon they serve drinks and a good selection of bar snacks. It’s a lovely spot to enjoy the end of the day and watch the reef boats come in before the feeding frenzy.
Get there early! You need to have a ringside seat, it gets incredibly busy. We always aim for 4pm, at the latest.
Early Dinner in Port Douglas, Great for Children
When you are travelling with children it’s often irritating that restaurants don’t open before 5.30 or 6pm. On The Inlet serves all afternoon and children are welcome. There are no children’s meals as such, but my boys are very happy with their battered fish, chips and salad ($12). It’s pricey, but they rarely eat the whole lot, Mum and Dad can share.
We always order the bucket of prawns, for $16 it comes with a glass of wine or a beer and everybody can amuse themselves throwing the shells to the waiting fish. The fish tacos and chili lime calamari are really good, too.
Children may struggle to sit and wait quietly for the big event, but the prawn shells go a long way towards making parents’ lives easier.
So, go, see a great big fish, I promise you, it is incredible, he, or she is ENORMOUS. If you’ve got a thing about big fish I’d also recommend driving to Cooktown, we once saw a groper as big as a minibus hanging out under the jetty up there. You may see gropers or groupers snorkeling on The Great Barrier Reef, but I’ve only ever seen a fish of this size when I was diving the Yongala, out of Magnetic Island.
I forgot to show you a picture of George the groper, here he (she) is. She often hangs around in the shallows before or after feeding, today there were three fish there but the water was a bit murky from the rain. It’s hard to judge size from the picture, but this fish is almost 3m long.
Anybody else seen George the groper being fed? Did you like it as much as me? I’m a sucker for fish.