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No, it is not safe to swim in the Daintree River. The Daintree River in Far North Queensland is in tropical northern Australia and is inhabited by a lot of large saltwater or estuarine crocodiles which are very dangerous to humans and large mammals.
The Daintree River is a very popular place to take a river cruise to spot these dangerous crocodiles, plus other local wildlife.
This river, flowing through the Daintree Rainforest is not only inhabited by saltwater crocodiles, in stinger season it may have deadly marine stingers as it flows into the sea, and potentially bull sharks.
There have been crocodile-related deaths in and on the banks of the Daintree River, so no, it’s not OK to swim here.
Why am I writing a post called “Is it safe to swim in the Daintree River? Who would be crazy enough to do that? I’m writing it because if you search that term today, the answer according to Google is yes! We live in this region, trust a local resident, biologist, and travel blogger, don’t swim! And don’t swim in the inlet in Port Douglas either, you can swim at Four Mile Beach, but not in The Inlet! Read about the last person to swim the Daintree further down the page.
The Daintree River flows into the Coral Sea north of Port Douglas, south of Cape Tribulation.
One of the viewpoints in the Daintree River gives visitors a good view of the mouth of the River Daintree, seen in the photo below.
This lookout is marked, just take a left turn into the Alexandra Range Lookout car park from the road heading north from the river.
This should be your first stop inside the Daintree Rainforest, before you reach any of the beaches or boardwalks.
Things To Do Near The Daintree River
There is no town or village called “Daintree River”, this refers to just the river itself. Daintree Village is on the southern bank of the river and parts of the Daintree Rainforest are on both the north and south sides of the river.
The Daintree National Park is a part of the Wet Tropics of Queensland Heritage Site, as confirmed by UNESCO in 1988.
Below are some of the best tours to take on and near the Daintree River.
We think the best Great Barrier Reef tour from Port Douglas, is this one.
From Cairns, book a full-day tour to Mossman Gorge and Daintree, including an optional river cruise and indigenous experience. Book here.
If you’re staying in Palm Cove, book a full-day tour to Mossman Gorge and the Daintree here.
From Port Douglas, book the shuttle to Mossman Gorge (return) here and enjoy the walkways and freshwater stream independently.
From Port Douglas, book a half-day (morning or afternoon) tour to Mossman Gorge and the Daintree River. This is a cheaper option and great if you’re short of time. Book here.
To book a crocodile and wildlife cruise on the Daintree River, you need this link. for Solar Whisper (near the ferry), or this link for Bruce Belcher Cruises (towards Daintree Village). These two are usually the same price, both are 1 hour cruises.
To take a night walking tour in the Daintree Rainforest, spotting wildlife in the dark, go here. This particular tour is for families with young kids, there is also an adult tour.
It’s also possible to go trekking in the Daintree National Park, look here.
If you’d rather book a Daintree cruise in person, you can do that at Bruce Belcher or the Daintree River Cruise Centre (both are on the Daintree Mossman Rd, past the turn-off for the Daintree ferry as you drive towards Daintree Village, or the Croc Xpress desk in Daintree Village.
Bruce Belcher cruises is located at 2856 Mossman Daintree Rd, Daintree QLD 4873. You can book online here.
We last took a cruise with Bruce Belcher in September 2023 and this cruise comes recommended by us!
No dogs are allowed on the property at Bruce Belcher.
If you book in person you’ll probably have to wait a while for the next boat.
Solar Whisper is just before the Daintree Ferry, but you can book that online for a particular departure time. Do that here.
Can You Fish in the Daintree River
I’ve been told that you can, but that fishing in the Daintree River is regulated because it’s a marine park. I’ve been told it’s in the yellow zone. I’m not much of a fisherman, so check this for yourself at the Queensland Government Legislation page.
I did notice yesterday that there were advertisements for fishing trips and tours on the Daintree River, but these were small companies that I haven’t found online, you’d probably have to book in person.
Hook a Barra is just up the road, past Wonga Beach, you can catch farmed barramundi here, without the crocodiles (hopefully). Book that here.
Alternatively, there are plenty of fishing trips out of Port Douglas, including game fishing. Check this trip out!
Does The Daintree River Contain Crocodiles?
Yes the Daintree River has a population of crocodiles, specifically saltwater or estuarine crocodiles.
The Daintree River has a population of about 70 adult crocodiles. The biggest crocodiles are males at about 5 metres in length. The female crocodiles in the Daintree river reach a length of about 3.5 metres.
Most of the crocodiles that are known to the various tour guides have names.
There is also a large population of juveniles and hatchlings.
The photo below is of a large crocodile in the Daintree River.
In the 1950s and 60s crodiles were hunted and their population dropped to almost zero. Back then it was said that you could swim the Daintree River and in 1986 a local tested that, he swam 350 m across the river for a carton of beer.
Crocodile hunting was banned in Queensland in 1974. Today they sometimes need to be culled or relocated (source).
Since then crocodile numbers in the far north have recovered well and it’s thought that there are 30,000 crocodiles in Queensland living near human populations. (source Department of Environment and Science Wildlife)
How Long in the Daintree River?
The source of the Daintree River is in the Great Dividing Range of eastern Australia. The actual source is near Black Mountain in Daintree National Park.
The river flows down its slopes heading north and east until it reaches the Daintree Rainforest and the open sea just north of Wonga Beach.
The Daintree River is considered to be 140 km (87 miles) long. This makes it one of the longest rivers in eastern Australia but very short compared to many of the world’s rivers. The River Nile is 6,600 km (4,100 miles) long for comparison.
Does The Daintree River Contain Sharks?
Yes, there are bull sharks in the Daintree River, it is not known how many. (source)
Bull sharks are considered dangerous to people and are known to swim upstream into fresh water from the sea.
Can You Take a Cruise On The Daintree River?
Yes, there are many operators providing river cruises to spot crocodiles and other wildlife from the Daintree River. Tours depart from Daintree Village, but also from various jetties between the village and the Daintree Ferry.
These are marked on our map above.
Some cruises are early, others are sunset cruises. Most cruises on the Daintree river are 1 hour long. Some of the best cruise options are below.
Can You See Crocodiles From the Daintree Ferry?
Yes, you can sometimes see crocodiles from the Daintree Ferry. Occasionally you will see them on the banks of the river either side of the ferry embarkation or disembarkation points. Other times you may see them swimming on the surface of the river.
When is The Best Time To See Crocodiles on the Daintree River?
The best time of year to see crocodiles on the Daintree River is during the colder months of Australian winter. The best months are June, July, August and September.
At this time of year they will bask in the sun on the river’s banks to warm up. Because of this, low tide is the best time to spot them.
Crocodiles are usually most active in the mornings and in mating season which starts in September.
Can You Feed The Crocodiles in the Daintree River?
Unlike in the Northern Territory, there is no “jumping crocodile” cruise or crocodile feeding for entertainment on the Daintree River at the time of writing.
I’ve been told that this is illegal in Queensland. (source, Bruce Belcher tours)
If you want to see crocodiles being fed in the Douglas Shire or Cairns, you need to visit Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures for their crocodile cruise. You can book this here and enjoy breakfast with the koalas!
You can also try eating crocodile at Hartley’s, they normally have crocodile pie on the menu. If you want to learn more about Australian wildlife you can and can’t eat, go here.
Can You Swim With Crocodiles? (Yes)
People are just very careful in croc country and most wouldn’t even consider going near the water in crocodile habitat. The term in Australia is being “crocwise.”
You should never even consider swimming anywhere there could be wild crocodiles in Australia. You should stay at least 10m from the water’s edge too.
That said, one of the best things to do in Port Douglas is to get in the crocodile tank at the Wildlife Habitat. Book it here. You can also get in the tank with the crocodiles in Darwin in the Northern Territory.
My son has done this and loved the experience, he says swimming with the crocodiles at the Wildlife Habitat is well worth it.
Both experiences have huge safety precautions.
I’ll also tell you that at least one crocodile has been sighted out on The Great Barrier Reef, I’ve seen the video and I know the guy who filmed it. We have more information on crocodiles on our post about living with Port Douglas’s crocodiles. It’s part and parcel of living in the tropics.