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Stinger Season in Cairns and Port Douglas

Stinger season Cairns, Port Douglas, the Great Barrier Reef area and the whole of Far North Queensland is something you need to be aware of. Insider knowledge on how to be safe, for you and your kids is essential. We lived up here for 6 years safe from jellyfish, so read on.

Dates for Stinger Season vary, fixed dates don’t exist. but if you’re heading to Queensland in the summertime or wet season you need to know where and when to swim safely, what to wear, where the stinger nets are and how your Great Barrier Reef tour or trip will be affected. It’s all on this page.

Today- September 2020 it is not stinger season, the nets came out of the water a while ago. We are in Port Douglas and Cairns now, we spent lockdown here and our site is updated with current information as often as possible. Things are re-opening in Port Douglas and Cairns. You’ll find restaurants and shops open and some reef boats and day trips are operating. Things are changing almost daily up here and tourists are returning. Of course, things look different and you may need to book tables and set dining times to comply with new rules.

tropical north queensland fresh water stream

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We can also give you ideas on local, safe, stunning freshwater swimming spots. No trip to the region is complete without visiting one of our jungle swimming holes

There are more creatures to consider in this part of the world, starting with saltwater crocodiles, you can read what life is like for us living with these prehistoric monsters or discover where to spot our crocs in the wild, I kinda love them.

It’s not just the stingers, crocs, snakes and spiders that are out to get you, we also have a stinging tree, but seriously, don’t worry! She’ll be ‘right, as they say in Australia.

We hope you enjoy your visit to our old home (we left to travel the world, long story, it wasn’t because of the wildlife) and that you get the most out of Far North Queensland.

Stinger Season Information for Cairns, Port Douglas and Queensland

The Great Barrier Reef in Stinger Season Queensland
A day on the Great Barrier Reef, a dream come true, but will your day be affected by our marine stingers? This visit was in winter  (Southern Hemisphere winter ) so no stinger suits on this occasion but in the wet season yes, you will need a stinger suit.

What you need to know about stinger season in Australia

  • Stinger season dates.
  • Where are the stinger nets?
  • How to stay safe in the nets and outside.
  • What to wear? Stinger suits and where to buy them.
  • Swimming pools nearby.
  • Is the reef safe in stinger season?
  • Where are the freshwater swimming holes?
  • Where are the crocodiles?

 Video

 

Safe swimming near Port Douglas, Mossman Gorge
You don’t have to swim at the beach, there are plenty of safe, beautiful swimming pools, fresh water swimming holes, waterfalls and secret jungle pools to enjoy around Cairns and Port Douglas.

Marine Stingers and Dangerous Jellyfish, What are they?

The two most dangerous jellyfish, the ones we worry about in stinger season, are the box jellyfish and Irukandji.

Box Jellyfish

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.

Irukandji

The tiny Irukandji 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. Its tentacles can be up to 1m long.

Its tiny size is deceiving as its venom is incredibly strong. Death isn’t inevitable, but Irukandji 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 Irukandji 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.

Marine Stingers and Dangerous Jellyfish, What are they? The two most dangerous jellyfish, the ones we worry about from November to May, are the box jellyfish and Irukandje. Box Jellyfish 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. Irukandje 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.
Beautiful Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas, on a very busy triathlon morning. This is a crowd in our part of the world.

 Stinger Season Cairns and Port Douglas Dates

If you’re here just for the hard facts, Stinger season is roughly November to May, but there is more to the story than that.

In Port Douglas, down the road in Cairns and throughout Far North Queensland including the Whitsundays, Townsville and Hamilton Island, stinger season comes with summer Things get sticky and with the heat and humidity come the most dangerous jellyfish. We call them marine stingers. However, some jellyfish can be here all the time, we don’t worry about them too much.

The occasional blue bottle, lonely jelly blubbers, and swarms of annoying sea lice visit from time to time, they aren’t a big problem, summer is the real 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 a one-piece stinger or sunsuit becomes a very good idea. ( see where to buy one below)

Port Douglas Dickinson Inlet Travel Blog
Beautiful Port Douglas. But is it safe to swim?

Is it Still Stinger Season Today?

Today, – 17 May 2020 – the stinger nets have just been removed. There were beach closures due to rough weather in the last few weeks but there are people swimming on Four Mile Beach today. I keep this post as updated as possible ( but obviously – we travel full time, I’m often offline) and I’ll post here when the stinger nets are put out on the beach.

Beach Closures During Stinger Season

Beach Closed sign Australia Stinger Net Beach Closed Port Douglas Dangerous to Swim

In the past week ( January 2020 ) the stinger net on Four Mile Beach has been closed intermittently due to the presence of dangerous Irukandje small enough to pass through the net. The week before we were down there swimming and conditions were beautiful. This too shall pass. Beach closures during stinger season are fairly unusual, in January 2020 conditions are very still, but stormy weather can also bring beach and stinger net closures. The stinger nets are not foolproof, tiny jellyfish can easily get in if they are in the area and the lifeguards check the net often.

When is Stinger Season Around Tropical North Queensland Region?

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 November or 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.

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.

How Will Stinger Season Affect Your Great Barrier Reef Trip?

Things are safer on the Great Barrier Reef, your chances of encountering stingers are very small.  All reef charter boats have head to toe Stinger Suits on board for snorkellers to hire or use. 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 at the beach, along with the marine stingers. This is perfectly normal in Australia, many kids wear them at any time of year.

stinger season port douglas and cairns
Stinger warning signs like these are on the Cairns and Port Douglas region beaches year-round, the bottle beneath contains vinegar, a good treatment or some stinger stings.

You’ll sometimes see local children in full-body stinger suits, exposing only fingers and faces, inside the net. Stinger nets are potentially not 100% effective, tiny jellyfish 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 also use them to protect our kids from the sun.

The lifeguards drag the net every day to check for any unwanted visitors. Look out for them, it’s interesting to see all the small fish and invertebrates they catch. They’re usually a friendly bunch.

Out on the reef the risk of marine stingers is even lower but reef boats carry stinger suits to loan or hire to all passengers. If you are snorkelling on The Great Barrier Reef you will be required to wear one. Likewise, if you are learning to scuba dive, enjoying a trial dive, taking a liveaboard dive trip or anything else that puts you in the water, you’ll need a stinger suit.

Stinger suits are also a very good idea to protect your children from the harsh Queensland sun.

High UV levels in Cairns and Port Douglas make stinger suits or sun protective suits a very good idea, even outside stinger season.
High UV levels in Cairns and Port Douglas make stinger suits or sun protective suits a good idea, even outside stinger season.

Buy a Stinger Suit Here

If you’d like to buy your own stinger suits to use on the beaches as well as on the reef, have a look here for kids’ and adult’s stinger suits and rash vests. ( works for USA, UK and more). If you’re wanting to buy stinger suits in Australia try here.

Is it Safe to Swim in Stinger Season? You Decide.

Stinger suits on the Great Barrier Reef in wet season or stinger season
My family visiting the Great Barrier Reef in stinger season. The black stinger suits were provided by the charter boat. My younger son wore his over his rashie and shorts. The suits have hoods and mittens leaving only tiny areas of skin exposed.

Thousands of visitors swim from Four Mile Beach all year round and problems are very rareTo 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 reduced our sea swimming in season, after all, we lived here all year round and could swim any time.  We continued to visit the reef and felt very safe, 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, after all, there are plenty of other things to do in Cairns or Port Douglas.

Other Places to Swim Around Port Douglas and Cairns, Swimming Holes, Pools and The Lagoon.

Safe Swimming Port Douglas

Sea Temple Port Douglas Swimming Pool Best

If you are staying at any of the Port Douglas hotels, chances are you will have a pool. But there are also nearby fresh water swimming spots to try. Most places in Port, from campsites to hostels, have their own pools. Top-end Sea Temple (pictured above)  has an outstandingly huge and luxurious pool with lagoons, rivers, a hot tub and bridges to swim under, it’s one of the biggest and best in the world and we would spend every Christmas there along with many locals. The pool at The Sheraton Grand Mirage is even bigger.

Hotels in Port Douglas With Stunning Pools

Hotels in Cairns With Good Pools

  • Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort Novotel are a great up-market chain of hotels and they do family and kids really well. We always expect high standards with Novotel.

Hotels in the Port Douglas and Cairns Area with Good Pools

Safe Swimming at Port Douglas

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. Maybe stinger season isn’t the best time to visit Port Douglas, but you’ll find plenty of things to do in Port Douglas, safely and enjoyably at most times of the year.

Stinger season Cairns, Port Douglas and the Great Barrier Reef. Four Mile Bach Port Douglas Astralia
Fabulous Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas.

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. 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.

Queensland Stinger Season Port Douglas Cairns Australia

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Thank you for visiting, this is one of the most popular and well-used page on our website. Would you tell me in the comments how we can improve it and help you with Stinger Season or Far North Queensland even more? Have a great time! Want more information, try our Australia Travel Blog page.

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Yvan

Monday 11th of November 2019

Hi!

Thanks for the great read. We are right now in australia and noticed that most of the beaches we go to are completely empty ever since we left Hervey Bay to go north. We are so many beaches, today at Mackay, but we are very hesitant to go and take a swim. Your post mostly answered our feared question; can we still swing at this point in the season at unguarded beaches? We are going more and more north towards Cairns the coming two weeks.

Love to hear your thoughts on it:)

Kind regards,

Yvan.

PS we love it here so far, able to swim or not, everything is just so beautiful. We envy you get to live here every day ;)

Alyson Long

Tuesday 12th of November 2019

The beaches are empty because so few people live here Yvan. Quite a few locals don't even worry about stinger season and just carry on as normal if they're fishermen or whatever. I don't know if it's started up here or not yet, but you're a lot further south. It starts first in the north and moves south. Also it's low season now, kids are in school, not many tourists. As locals, we don't go to the beach, ever. We run on it at dawn. Otherwise we never, ever go there. Which is why I don't know if it's started yet or not, I haven't been to the beach to see if the nets are out. No nets, not started yet. Once the sun is fully up we don't even go outside. So if you see a beach with a lifeguard station and ropes for nets and nets not out, you should be good still.

Liz

Sunday 25th of August 2019

Hi. We’re going to cairns September 5 for the 4th time. Although I won’t swim as I thought it was months with an R that were the unsafe ones , my sons might want to. If we go to Fitzroy island is that safe ?? We were also told of a waterhole near the Daintree but I’m afraid of the crocs. We had our honeymoon here 1988 and have pics of me on beach at cape Tribulation but I’m not keen to repeat some of those early adventures.

Alyson Long

Monday 26th of August 2019

September is usually still Ok I think. What are the dates in the post above? I can't remember off the top of my head. Most of the boats will give you a stinger suit in stinger season anyway. I wouldn't swim up on the Cape though, crocs, and the stinger season will last a fraction longer. There are plenty of safe freshwater swimming holes in the region, we have a post on that too, lots near Cairns, Crystal Cascades is lovely, up here we have Mossman Gorge. The one on the Cape - do you mean the Blue Hole? That's an Aboriginal sacred place, I wouldn't go there and I have heard of crocs there.

Rich

Saturday 16th of February 2019

Awesome article, very informative.

I was planning to have a few days on a liveaboard from Cairns in early March. However, I'm concerned at the extreme heat and unusually high humidity you guys are having at the moment, this combined with Stinger Season is making me think more than twice!

I only have a week to visit this trip, but if I come back next year in October I could have a whole month touring the Queensland coast.

Is the weather generally more pleasant in October compared to March? Will visibility be better for snorkelling, or about the same? When is the earliest that Stinger Season is declared in Cairns?

Alyson Long

Saturday 16th of February 2019

October and March are both pretty good. It should have cooled down a fair bit by March. Live aboards are fabulous, we've done a couple, stinger risk out on the reef is pretty low, we were out there a couple of weeks ago. Decent viz, not perfect, but much better than I expected. Earliest stinger season call...don't know sorry, would have to Google for records back through time.

Kiki pan

Monday 16th of July 2018

Hi there we are hoping to visit port Douglas in early September. Is it safe to swim at that time of the year?? What about going out to the reef?? Many Thanks Kiki

Alyson Long for World Travel Family

Monday 16th of July 2018

Dates of Stinger Season are above. Once the lifeguard find the first one, it's officially stinger season, so the date varies. September in not usually ( never, that I know of) in Stinger Season. As I say above, the reef is safer than the coastal waters because the jellies like to hang out in the mangroves before being flushed into the sea by the rains. Is it ever 100% safe, probably not. Is September a good time, yes.

Ken

Friday 6th of July 2018

We will be visiting Cairns from the middle to the end of October to snorkel and dive, mostly along the Great Barrier Reef. Do you recommend trying to buy a stinger suit by mail order (probably Amazon) in advance or are they available and at reasonable price locally? We are considering waiting till we got to Cairns so we could try them on and ensure they are the correct size.

Alyson Long for World Travel Family

Friday 6th of July 2018

If you're going out on the boats they will usually have stinger suits on board because you're not allowed in the water without one. I generally wear my wetsuit instead. Buy one online if you can, they're hard to find locally and Australia is expensive.

nomadic family life

Alyson is the creator of World Travel Family travel blog and is a full-time traveller, blogger and travel writer. A lifetime of wanderlust and now over 7 years on the road, 50+ countries allowed the creation of this website, for you. She has a BSc and worked in pathology before entering the travel arena and creating this website. World Travel Family Travel Blog has been helping you travel more, better and further since 2012, when Alyson and James first had this life changing idea. On this site you can find endless travel information, tips and guides plus how to travel, how to fund travel and how to start your own travel blog.

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