By Samantha Carver
The seaside town of Port Douglas has a reputation for luxury. Yet locals know that within the Wet Tropics stunning rainforests, pristine beaches and crystal-clear rivers, there are plenty of affordable adventures to be had. With school holidays so frequently upon us, we’ve created a list of cost-friendly activities that will have the kids (and your wallet) jumping for joy!
1. Bally Hooley Train
Embarking from the Marina in Port Douglas, this authentic locomotive is designed to charm the entire family. The grand old train provides a two hour return ride of beauty and excitement. Kids will be thrilled by the open windows that frame a magical rainforest. And grown-ups can’t help being captivated as you delve through tropical mangroves, with the Daintree Mountains on the horizon. Arriving at St Crispin’s Station, the family can grab a delicious lunch or ice cream at Choo-Choo’s café on the lake. During the season of Port Douglas Carnivale, the train boasts a moving pantomime, complete with pirates and villains in an interactive show. The Bally Hooley runs all day Sunday, and costs just $8 per child for unlimited rides on the day of purchase!
2. Snorkel in an Enchanted Forest
When holidaying in Far North Queensland, most have visions of viewing Nemo and coral on the Great Barrier Reef. Yet for something wholly unique and unforgettable, Back Country Bliss Adventures offers the chance to see not just fish, but turtles, dragons, birds and butterflies, all in a majestic 100 million year old rainforest! On Australia’s only River Drift Snorkelling adventure, your family will be fitted with wetsuits and masks to float down gently cascading waters, (Flotation vests are available for small children). The jungle here is so pristine; you’ll find a natural zoo of wildlife above and below the crystal-clear river! Guests only need moderate swimming ability, and Back Country Bliss provide complimentary return transfers from your accommodation, for this three hour magnificence!
3. Seasonal Sandcastles
Planning your holiday around the thrilling May/June season ensures the excitement of Port Douglas Carnivale. Not only is there free entertainment in the form of a colourful street parade, but you’ll be here in time for Family Day at the Beach too! Dedicated to kids and affordability, you’ll find the tropical shores of 4 Mile alive with kite flying, face painting, treasures hunts, and the annual Sand Sculpting Competition. A Kids Zone runs from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m. on the last Saturday in May, and is a free event!
4. Sea Kayaking
This exhilarating journey across the waves can be done in tandem with the kids. Young families with children aged 8 and over are able to paddle up close and personal with brilliant marine life. Port Douglas Adventures provide kayaks and fun tuition for this two hour tour. On most occasions, more than a few giant meandering sea-turtles will pop their head above the water to say hello. It might be your lucky day to spot a manta-ray gliding beneath the water, or a baby dugong feeding on sea-grass. In the cooler months, there’s even the possibility of spotting a legendary Humpback whale rolling around off the shore of 4 Mile Beach!
5. Jungle Surfing
It’s true, you and the kids can actually swing through the trees! The experience of a life time, Jungle Surfing is soaring through the Daintree Rainforest on secure ziplines with safety guides every leap of the way. One of the most amazing things about this activity is that anyone from the age of 3 to 103 can do it! Here’s where we recommended treating yourself and the family: The friendly local team at Back Country Bliss have created the greatest exploration imaginable! On a full Daintree Adventure Day, you’ll not only Jungle Surf, but also spot crocodiles on a wildlife cruise, discover ancient forest walks, swim in crystal-clear creeks, and eat rainforest flavoured ice cream!
6. Hand Feed Kangaroo’s
The remarkable Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas is famed for its animal interactive encounters, with so many weird and wonderful species to meet! Through elevated boardwalks and leafy paths, you and the family will discover unlimited adventure in the Woodland, Wetland, Rainforest, and Savannah habitats. Some of the wildlife is so rare, they’re not found anywhere else on the planet! One of the activities that will really thrill the kids is hand feeding kangaroos and wallabies. You can have a family snap taken cuddling a koala for a little extra. But the low entry fee ($35 for Adults & $17.50 for kids) includes reptile, bird & koala presentations, as well as turtle, cassowary and crocodile feeding shows! And best of all, this price includes entry for the next four days too!
7. Movies in the Moonlight
The walls to your theatre are swaying palms, and the roof is a sky of stars. The Port Douglas Moonlight Cinema is set outdoors amongst rolling green hills and warm tropical air. The moonlight season begins in early June and runs through to October. Showing the best of new-release films, kids and the young at heart will be enchanted by a magical atmosphere, blockbuster movies and mouth-watering snacks. Mums and dads can even sip a beer or wine! Bring your own picnic blanket or fold out chairs to recline in. However, you might not have these things handy while on holiday, so the cinema has bean-bags for hire!
8. The Real Jurassic Park
Show the kids a 100 million year old place where the dinosaurs truly used to roam! Mossman Gorge, nestled in the rolling cane-fields just north of Port Douglas, is an emerald wonderland of towering rainforest. Back Country Bliss Adventures host a guided tour through this ancient realm, with a fascinating presentation for the adults and fun animal facts for the kids; keep an eye out for wildlife along the way. The whole family will love swimming in the cascading creeks and crystal-clear lagoons. The friendly and local Back Country Bliss team are ranked #8 in Trip Advisors Queensland Adventure Companies, and offer fun and affordability on a marvellous full morning or afternoon! Alternatively, simply self-drive to Mossman and explore the region on your own 🙂
9. Aqua Action
With a mini-version of wet & wild, the promise of a visit to the Big 4 Caravan Park at Craiglie will have the kids behaving for the rest of the year! Just $15 dollars per person for a whole day pass, you can either self-drive or grab a local shuttle 10 minutes out of town. In this kid’s action park, you’ll find waterslides, aquatic playground, an obstacle course and even a toddlers wading pool. Adults can relax nearby while lounging around the resort style lagoon. Why not bring some sausages and use the offered BBQ facilities for an Aussie lunch? There’s also an onsite kiosk for snack and ice-creams. You don’t have to be a staying guest at the Big 4 to take advantage of this treat!
10. Family of Pirates!
No license is required to sail your own Pirates of the Caribbean adventure! Simply take the family to the marina and hire yourself a pontoon vessel! These safe, stable and unsinkable boats are amazing for children, with room to move around and endless wildlife watching. At only $47 per hour for the whole family, you can explore the stunning waterways and estuaries of the Wet Tropics! Port Douglas Boat Hire also provide fishing rods and hand lines for a small cost, in case you’re keen on catching lunch. And if not, bring your own picnic and watch the world drift by, with a sun-protective canopy over your family. Ahoy, fun!