Daintree River Cruise Vs Lady Douglas Cruise

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Which is better, a Daintree River Cruise or a cruise on The Lady Douglas from Port Douglas Marina? How to book, costs, and pros and cons of each.

You are highly likely to see crocodiles on either a Daintree River Cruise or a Lady Douglas Cruise. You will see a mangrove environment and other wildlife on both. We’ll help you decide which river cruise is best from Port Douglas.

The Daintree River drone photo
The Daintree River. It’s a very large estuary, full of crocodiles. The Daintree River Cruise we recommend below takes you into narrower waterways off the main river to spot wildlife.

The Daintree River is a wide estuary and is a National Park, but the cruise won’t take you into the rainforest proper. To see that, you need to visit the rainforest north of the river, or opt to visit Mossman Gorge. Mossman Gorge is much closer to Port Douglas than the Daintree and you won’t have to pay the heft cost of using the Daintree Ferry. (Check Daintree Ferry times and costs here on their website, it’s about $47 Au return for a car.)

The Daintree Car Ferry in Operation
The Daintree Ferry costs about $47 Au return, per vehicle. The Daintree Rainforest starts the moment you get off the car ferry, you’ll be driving through the oldest Rainforest on Earth. There are lookouts, boardwalks, unspoiled beaches, tea plantations, fruit farms, a bug museum and ice creameries to visit. Part of the road is still closed, but it shouldn’t affect your day out, too much. It’s still worth going. Cow Bay is a particularly beautiful beach for a stroll.

Both Lady Douglas river cruises and Daintree River Cruises operate throughout the day and there are multiple cruise providers on the river. Some depart from Daintree Village, others are along the southern bank of the Daintree River, between the ferry and Daintree Village.

If your goal is to see crocodiles in the wild and you’re on a budget, visit the Mowbray River footbridge and viewing platform about 10 minutes south of Port Douglas. You have a good chance of seeing wild saltwater crocodiles there, for free.

Mowbray river crocodile viewing
About 10 minutes south of Port Douglas along the highway, you can go croc spotting for free. It’s very common to see crocodiles in the mouth of the Mowbray River and there is now a car park, footbridge and viewing platform. It’s all free.

Lady Douglas Cruise vs Daintree River Cruise

A Lady Douglas River Cruise usually includes refreshments and the boat is more “luxurious” with a bathroom. The Lady Douglas is a beautiful old paddle boat and she departs from Port Douglas Marina multiple times throughout the day. A Lady Douglas Cruise is 1.5 hours long and costs $45 Au for adults, $35 Au for kids (2-12 years). Infants are free. The Lady Douglas is accessible with wheelchair and pram access (according to their website). If you have accessibility needs it’s probably best to call them and check. Reserve a Lady Douglas Cruise here.

Lady Douglas Sunset Cruises are here, same cost.

If you don’t have a car for your Port Douglas stay you can easily walk to the marina for a Lady Douglas River Cruise.

Both cruises should be possible for cruise ship passengers looking for Port Douglas shore excursions. Both cruise types have some shade, with Lady Douglas probably having more.

A Daintree River Cruise (we’ll use Bruce Belcher Cruises as our example here) is a little cheaper, adults cost $35 Au, Kids (4-14 yrs) $16, and babies (0-3 yrs) are free. There are also family tickets available. Bruce Belcher Daintee River Cruises do not operate in February nor on Christmas Day. The boats do not have bathrooms. Book a Bruce Belcher Cruise here.

To drive to the Daintree River from Port Douglas takes about 45 minutes.

These prices were correct at the time of publication (June 2024) and we try to keep everything current, but obviously, they may change.

Daintree River Cruise Bruce Belcher boat.
Cruising the Daintree River with Bruce Belcher cruises. We did this ourselves recently and it was a great experience.

Both cruises are good options. I don’t think it’s necessary to do both cruises, as there’s not a huge amount of difference between the two. I’d be slightly inclined to choose a Lady Douglas Cruise over a Daintree River Cruise because she’s such an icon of Port Douglas. This cruise also takes you out of The Inlet for views of The Combined Club, Sugar Wharf and Rex Smeal Park from the water. The sunset cruises are particularly good for photos of local scenery. The small difference in cost really isn’t much of a consideration. ($10 Au = $6.5 US roughly.) For a family, particularly if you have a 3 year old, A Daintree Cruise could work out cheaper. But then, would a boat without a bathroom be OK for your child?

Both are good options, your choice is just personal preference.

If you’d like to combine a Daintree River Cruise with a half-day or full-day Daintree experience there are a lot of options. Find out more at the links below.

The Lady Douglas website is here. The Bruce Belcher Daintree River Cruise site is here.

Other Cruises and Boat Trips From Port Douglas

You can visit the Great Barrier Reef and/or Low Isles. There are fishing trips, private charter boats, luxury yachts and simple boat hire. The sunset sails are not to be missed. We can give you an itinerary, and a full post on boat trips. Most tours operate year-round from Port Douglas with some taking a break in February for the worst of the wet season. The best time to see crocodiles is the winter months, when they are more likely to be sunning themselves on the banks to stay warm.

About the author
Alyson Long

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