Stinger Season in Port Douglas

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Stinger season in Port Douglas, Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef area and the whole of Far North Queensland is something you need to be aware of if you plan to visit our part of the world. Some insider knowledge on how to be safe, for you and your kids, is essential. We live up here, swim on the beaches, and work on the Great Barrier Reef, we can tell you about jellyfish safety, so read on.

Beach closed marine stingers sign
Marine stingers can close beaches from time to time in Australia, but it’s rare. Read more.

Dates for Stinger Season vary with weather conditions each year, fixed dates don’t really exist, but broadly the start of November to the end of May the next year are considered “Stinger Season.” These months are the southern hemisphere late spring, summer and early autumn. Winter, to those of you in the northern hemisphere, coming here for some winter sun. But don’t panic, you can still visit! Just read on.

If you’re heading to Queensland in the summertime or wet season, you’ll most likely be visiting during stinger season and 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. Locals and tourists swim on the beaches and on the reef right through this time of year. Stinger season doesn’t mean you can’t visit.

All of the information you need about Stinger Season is on this page. There is a brief index below to help you find what you need.

Today – June 2024 the stinger nets are NOT in use on Four Mile Beach, it is no longer stinger season 2024. You can swim at Four Mile Beach without a stinger net, but do stay near the lifeguard station and pay attention to any warnings. (Particularly crocodile sightings.) Stinger season will resume around November. During stinger season most reef boats hand out stinger suits and you should only swim in the stinger net at Four Mile Beach and those on the Cairns beaches. We are in the Port Douglas region now, one of our team works on the reef, and our site is updated with current, first-hand information as often as possible. Reef cruises, snorkelling and scuba trips operate throughout stinger season and are only cancelled in the event of extreme weather.

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The links in the index below will take you quickly to the part of this page you need. They do not take you to other pages.

Stinger Season Information

The stinger net on Port Douglas Beach can be seen in the photo below.

The stinger net on Port Douglas Beach (Four Mile Beach) in summer.
The stinger net on Port Douglas Beach (Four Mile) is at the top end of the beach near the lifeguard station, just steps from Macrossan Street.

What are Stingers?

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

Stinger 1. 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.

Stinger 2. 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. People with heart conditions or any major medical issue should take extra care.

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 a stinger net.

Stinger Season 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, so 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, but they aren’t a big problem. Summer is the really dangerous 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)

Beach Closures During Stinger Season

Beach closed by marine stingers Port Douglas Australia
Occasionally the beach at Port Douglas is closed by marine stingers.

Sometimes during summer, the stinger net on Four Mile Beach will be closed intermittently due to the presence of dangerous Irukandje small enough to pass through the net.

Beach closures during stinger season are fairly unusual. During the wet season, conditions can be very still, but stormy weather can also bring beach and stinger net closures.

At other times during stinger season swimming and conditions are beautiful.

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. If a surf lifesaver finds jellyfish in the net, the net will be closed and you’ll find notices like those in the photo on the beach.

When is Stinger Season Around Tropical North Queensland Region?

The further north you go, the longer the stinger season lasts because the water is warmer. Obviously, this varies year to year.

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 of Queensland, beyond Port Douglas.

But honestly, north of here the crocodile risk gets bigger. Port Douglas is the last beach really, that is considered safe enough for swimming and has a stinger net.

The Stinger Nets

Stinger season in 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. Visitors can swim inside the net with reduced risk from dangerous jellyfish.

The lifeguards drag the net, usually 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.

Stinger nets are potentially not 100% effective, tiny jellyfish can still, possibly, pass through.

It’s a great idea to buy a suit for your kids to use at the beach. It will keep our fierce sun off their skin, along with any jellyfish, deadly or not. You can find some “gentler” jellies and sea lice at any time of year at any tropical beach. So the suits are dual-purpose.

This is perfectly normal in Australia, many kids wear protective sunsuits year-round. Local children can often be in full-body stinger suits, exposing only fingers and faces, even inside the net. I wear a rashie and shorts or scuba tights. But some women wear bikinis, it’s your choice.

Don’t be put off, you’ll also see plenty of people in the water.

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. We cover this in our post on the best times to visit Port Douglas.

The water is warm and can be crystal clear at these times, 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. If waves break over the net, it becomes unsafe.

You’ll also find stinger nets at Palm Cove, Clifton Beach, Yorkey’s Knob, Holloways Beach, Trinity Beach, Kewarra Beach and Ellis Beach, and most popular beaches in the area.

Visiting The Great Barrier Reef in Stinger Season

Things are safer on the Great Barrier Reef, your chances of encountering stingers is small, even in Stinger Season so don’t worry too much about stinger danger on your day trip from Port Douglas

Most reef charter boats have head-to-toe Stinger Suits for snorkellers and divers to hire or use for free. They’re not elegant, but you need to wear one in stinger season.

Out on the reef the risk of marine stingers is lower than on the coast because these creatures love to hang out in mangroves, open water isn’t really their favourite place to be.

If you are snorkelling on The Great Barrier Reef you will be required to wear a suit in Stinger Season. 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.

Is it Safe to Swim in Stinger Season in Queensland Australia?

Thousands of visitors swim from Four Mile Beach all year round and problems are very rare. To 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 continue to visit the reef or Low Isles in the summer months, and we generally feel very safe. Stingers prefer 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.

If you are visiting Port Douglas or Cairns and would like to find local, safe, stunning freshwater swimming spots and waterfalls to cool off in summer, we can give you that information too! 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! Chances of you having a mishap are pretty low.

Safe Swimming Port Douglas

If you are staying at any of the Port Douglas hotels, chances are you will have a pool. But there are also nearby freshwater 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 in Stinger Season

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.

Swimming is now discouraged at Mossman Gorge and you may see “no swimming” signs depending on the time of year. There have been deaths here, unfortunately. But you’ll still see people swimming most days.

Safe Swimming Cairns in Stinger Season

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 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 should 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 know the beach and know when the risk is high, they will tell you.

For Pinterest 

stinger season for Pinterest

Thank you for visiting, this is one of the most popular and well-used pages on our website. Would you tell me in the comments how we can improve it to help you with Stinger Season or Far North Queensland travel information even more? Have a great time in Port, stay safe.

About the author
Alyson Long

41 thoughts on “Stinger Season in Port Douglas”

  1. Thanks…Very informative article. Kind of a downer for me as I’m flying into Australia in middle of May for vacation from the states. I have always wanted to experience the GBR but seems my schedule lands me there right in the stinger season. I never even realized this was such a serious dangerous issue. I’ve travelled many tropical locations to snorkel and dive but this is first I’ve heard of the real and possible deadly dangers of the area regarding these jellyfish.

    Part of my worry is also about the Irukanji and from what I read is particularly dangerous for people on anti-coagulants and high blood pressure (which unfortunately I have both)

    I had planned to do a live aboard snorkel cruise in middle of May but now wondering if I should cancel and just stick to the cities and stay south. I feel it’s in my head now and when I enter the water it’ll be all I think about. 🙂

    Would you suggest me changing the date of trip to come later in June or July if I can?


    • No, May is the end of the seasonn, very low chance. If you cover your body with suits, that should be OK. I wouldn’t go in wearing Speedos but I doubt you’d find any skipper who would let you do that. There are much bigger dangers than jellies. Everyone snorkels and scuba dives year round. Australia is rare in that it announces stinger season. Other countries have it, just don’t mention it. I live here, my husband works on the reef , I take my kids out’s not a massive big deal with sensible precautions, like just wearing a stinger suit. But obviously this is not medical advice.

  2. Hi Alyson, Loved your very informative article. My husband and I are travelling from Canada to Australia next February. Fingers crossed it doesn’t get cancelled again. We’ve only got 2 days in Port Douglas and are planning one day for the Daintree Rainforest, and our second day for a Great Barrier Reef tour. I’m prone to seasickness. Should we just do a half day tour? Do you have any recommendations for companies with faster boats to help prevent that?

    • Hi Kim, There are half day tours to Low Isles, some on little red jet boats, Reef Sprinter, and they also go out to Tongue Reef which isn’t as “outer reef” as the reefs most of the boats go to. February isn’t the worst time for seasickness, that’s now because of the trade winds but, if there are tropical storms around there is a chance there will be no boats running at all for a few days. If you get lucky you could also see incredible conditions in February. A lot of people do get sea sick. My husband works on one of the boats and deals with sick passengers daily. He says the hydrobromide seasickness tablets work, the antihistamines aren’t as good because they knock you out. Most people do recover once they jump in the water though. If you choose a half day trip to Low Isles, the snorkelling is still great, but you won’t see the hard corals so much, there’s a lot of soft coral, turtles, juvenile fish. It’s great snorkelling and it’s actually a good idea to visit both if you can. Also, if there is a cyclone or tropical storm about, you won’t be able to get to the Daintree as there’s usually flooding. But cyclones are rare. Best of luck.

  3. Looove this page and all the effort you have put into this!! Currently looking to go up there for a 5 day trip in june. Just our 4year old, hubby and me. Any great ideas especially for 4 year olds? (We live in Melbourne and i personally can not waaait to experience tropical landscapes)

    • Thank you, Charlotte. Glad to be helpful. In June just remember it could be kinda chilly-ish in the water. Some swimming pools will be cold too. Currently, we still have issues thanks to lockdown with restaurants not being able to open at all or only being open on weekends, no staff etc. Boats aren’t necessarily running every day, so book. I can’t see much changing by June unfortunately. Prices for car hire have been crazy too. It’s usually best not to pick up a car from the airport, but right now, it’s the only place you can get one. It’s a terrible rip-off. A lot of our decent shops closed too and won’t be back until the international tourists are back. Hopefully by the end of this year we can all start living our lives again.

  4. I am planning on travelling in May or June 2021 and was very much wanting to swim in the ocean with my children. Would it be safer to swim with the nets in place in May or after the stinger season is over in June? I would make sure everyone was wearing stinger suits

    • Kate, plenty of people swim in the nets without incident. If the sea is rough the nets may be closed, but that’s not common. Last year the nets were also closed for a while because people were stung in the nets, but mostly, they’re open and people use them. It did seem to be a very bad year for stingers last year, fingers crossed this year won’t be. Stinger season now officially starts in November, from next week the stinger nets will be in place.

  5. 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,


    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 😉

    • 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.

  6. 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.

    • 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.

  7. 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?

    • 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.

  8. 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

    • 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.

  9. 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.

    • 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.

  10. Hi,
    I enjoyed reading your article! I’ve been to Palm Cove a few times now (I’m from Melbourne) and have visited once in summer and I did swim in the nets with no problem, unfortunately the water was no relief from the heat as it was the temperature of a warm bath!!
    Nowadays we try to come up during September/October. Do you ever have stinger problems at this time? I ask as the weather trends are changing with unseasonably warm winters!

  11. I wouldn’t suggest swimming at the beach at all during stinger season. I was stung inside the net at Palm Cove in mid December 2014 and I was only half in the water! I was laying at the shore playing with shells with the tiny waves lapping over my back when I felt the sting on my lower back. I was alone and new to cairns and had never been in an ambulance before. A very scary experience where I would have died had a stranger not made me go up and tell the life guard instead of driving home and hoping it wasn’t a deadly jelly that stung me. It was an Irukanji that stung me and the symptoms were horrible. I couldn’t breathe and my ability to breathe worsened as time went on. I had shots of extreme pain running through my body, could barely stay conscious, felt like I was slowly dying and felt like I just wasn’t there. I can’t describe it all, it felt that my strength was evaporating from me. Later at the hospital I was vomiting, not sure if that was from morphine or venom. And I felt lousy for the next couple of days recovering. I was playing with a 6 year old girl when this happened and considering how the venom affected me, I’d hate to know what would have happened if it was her that got stung. I’d advise not running the risk, especially with kids. THE NETS DO NOT KEEP OUT IRUKANJI!! The beaches here in Cairns close all the time from these tiny jellyfish getting inside the nets.

  12. Ive lived in Newell Beach for 20 years.
    I try to swim in the sea every day.
    There are crocs n jellies snakes n whatever.Perso I say so what…
    Cos im still here and I have never heard of a stinger case here.. crocs well ya gotta be smart and follow the rules about them.
    Be brave and smart.

    • You should be fine Sheena. The date the nets go out is different every year, it’s usually the start of November.If there is any danger of stingers the nets are out. Early October is actually a great time, warm, clear waters. Enjoy!

  13. I don’t get the purpose of the net – are you supposed to try and scoop them all out of the water before you go in? I don’t think I’d trust that at all. What if you miss one? Yikes. I think I’d stay out of the water too.

    • No, Sonja, you swim IN he net, it is a large enclosure, supposed to keep the singers out. they aren’t very effective, unfortunately. Crocodiles have also been known to find their way into the nets. You take your life in our hands round here! Thanks for reading and aking he time o commen Sonja.

  14. I have never heard of stinger suits. In Texas’ Galveston Bay, the jellyfish we have hurt but aren’t deadly. You don’t jump in if you see them, but otherwise, you take your chances. We’re headed to Cairns or Port Douglas around Christmas. Will it still be stinger season? Is it a problem at the GBR so we shouldn’t plan on snorkeling?

    • Hi Michele, thanks for stopping by. Yes, Christmas is right in the middle of stinger season, but don’t worry, all the reef charter boats have stinger suits for hire available on board. The risk is less out on the reef but they are still a risk. christmas is peak time, there will be thousands of others out on the reef. You should be OK. If I can be of any more help with your planning, just let me know, happy to help. enjoy your trip! Alyson

  15. Yes it is a bit of a worry but it’s so lovely to live near the beach and sea. I really miss that while I am living in Herts UK, not a snake in sight either!

  16. Hi Danielle and Lisa, my first two comments on my brand new website, I’m so happy! Thank you so much. Lisa, you are lucky you’ve got that fabulous lagoon pool, we’ll be down there taking full advantage pretty soon, just a few weeks to go before the nets are out.


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