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.
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.
Is George the Groper Still Alive?
We have been told that after On The Inlet was closed and torn down, all or most of the gropers died. The inlet didn’t have enough food to support a large population of giant gropers. We can’t say for sure, but that’s what we’ve been told from fairly reliable sources. I’ve never seen any evidence of groper activity in the Inlet since.
We do think you can still see gropers being fed in Cooktown, but we haven’t seen this ourselves.
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.
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Friday 15th of October 2021
Thanks for the update , as we’re here in port Douglas now & have been before & seen the feeding of George the Groper & wondered if it was still going . Such a shame . It was an entertaining afternoon waiting for George to show up & have his snack. 😥
Alyson for World Travel Family
Saturday 16th of October 2021
It stopped a very long time ago now Donna. If you wander down that way you'll see everything half demolished. You're right, it's a terrible shame and we've been told all the gropers died. I can't verify that but it was from a good source.
Monday 5th of November 2018
Sounds Awesome. Sadly on the inlet has moved away from the water front. George the groper must be finding food elsewhere :(
Monday 5th of November 2018
I know, such a shame. I heard about this recently when we met Port Douglas friends in Vietnam. It does actually say this in the post above. I suspect the groper population in the inlet has been decimated by having such a major food source removed. We're back soon, I'll have to write a whole new bunch of posts about Port and things to do there. Looking forward to catching up and seeing what's new.
Saturday 30th of April 2016
That all looks like just too much fun! I had never heard of George before, and have added it to the bucket list for the round Oz trip before too long! Thanks!
Friday 29th of April 2016
yes my grandpa when he was in ww2 he watched a native child (cant remember were from) that was very large get eaten whole !!!!! yuck...scary! obviously a bit bigger than gorge! judging by the photo
Monday 15th of June 2015
while i was waiting for George a large zebra striped fish swam past looked like a barracuda but way to big - as anyone got any idea what it could have been ??
Friday 29th of April 2016
Yes Baby Groupers look like that I think you were looking at a baby grouper
Tuesday 23rd of June 2015
Sorry Rob, I can't think of any long this stripey fish. We see loads of archer fish there, they're stripey, but not baracuda shaped. We've caught barracuda when we've been fishing on the inlet, so they are about, if stripeless.