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Australian Crocodiles – All You Need To Know

Say what you will, they are an awesome creature and there are many options to experience the ‘saltie’, but as far as an unwanted experience, education is you’re best friend here. There is a distinction between salt water and fresh water crocodiles. The later are not considered aggressive to humans, I’ll get into this in detail soon.

Crocodile numbers were devastated in the twentieth century and subsequently made a protected species across Australia in the early seventies. The population has since made a comeback. From personal experience we have lived in Port Douglas and kitesurfed off of the iconic Four Mile Beach frequently over the past ten years and have never seen a croc on the beach, that’s not to say they are not there (there are sightings most years), but the potential to damage the areas main industry through the spread of misinformation is a concern. So, Port Douglas like the rest of the northern Australia coastline does have crocodiles, but if people are properly educated there needn’t be a concern to your safety.

Many croc attacks that do occur, can be considered avoidable. Alcohol consumption or lack of awareness are frequent factors, there’s a few simple rules to follow so read on below and get educated.

Port Douglas Crocodiles

Australian Salt Water Crocodiles, AKA – Crocs / Salties

Salt water crocodiles, also known as estuarine crocodiles, are the species that most people are referring to in the tourism or cautionary sense (image below left). They are far more likely to be aggressive towards humans than fresh water crocodiles. Now when I say large I mean large. These babies can grow up to 5 metres. In fact you can visit Cassius on Green Island, just off Cairns who measures in at 5.48 metres. They are awesome creatures and well worth experiencing (on the right side of the boat).

Australian Fresh Water Crocodiles

Freshwater crocodiles (image above right) live in the inland waterways of Australia’s north, such as rivers and swamps. Smaller than salt water crocs and more reclusive, they are not considered to be a lethal threat to humans although there have been rare cases of attacks or probably more accurately ‘bites’.

Where are Australian Crocodiles?

Salt water crocs do swim in the ocean, but they are found mostly in estuaries and river mouths.
Freshwater crocodiles are found mostly inland, I’ve knocked a up a quick map to give you a sense which parts of Australia to avoid embrace as crocodile enthusiasts 😉.

When Are Crocodiles Most Active?

Crocodiles are active by day or night, but they are most active by night and particularly during the warmer months of the year – November through to April.

Small prey are their meal of choice, so maybe send the kids into the water first if you’re unsure😉… so be mindful of children staying away from the waters edge. Dogs are also a target, as I write a dog was taken this week in a local waterway here in Port Douglas.

Port Douglas Crocodiles

Australia Wide Statistics, *Acknowledgments to Dr Peter Fenner.

Click here for a resource that you may find helpful.

Crocodile tourism

Northern Australia is heavily dependant on tourism. Places such as Cairns and Port Douglas, Queensland have such a high tourist profile, so it’s a little bit like “…don’t mention the crocs”. They are often a topic around town (locals will gladly tell you the horror stories) and their presence is a divisive issue that even the locals can’t agree on in many ways, but a chance to experience these creatures ‘up close and personal’ from the right side of the boat shouldn’t be passed up.

Crocodile Tour Operators

WhitsundayWhitsunday Crocodile Safari

CairnsMarineland Croc Park – Green Island

Port Douglas AreaHartleys Crocodile Adventures | Daintree River Cruises (AKA Croc Express)

Kakadu / DarwinJumping Croc Cruise

BroomeMalcolm Douglas Crocodile Park

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Port Douglas Crocodiles

Endeavour River Cooktown, a frequented location of ‘Crocodile Hunter’ Steve Irwin

Crocodile Awareness – GOLDEN RULES


Swim in designated areas – there an area for swimming that is patrolled by life guards at the ‘town’ end of Four Mile Beach. Yes, there are many water users on Four Mile Beach outside of these areas even though there have been sightings of crocs at times. Best to ask a local before you go jumping into the water if no one is around.

Observe warning signs – you’ll notice signs about the place (like the one in this post), but a lack of warning signs does not indicate safe swimming – never go in the water at the inlet (which is where the marina is).

Avoid predictable activities at the water’s edge – do not walk by the water’s edge eg. near rivers, creeks and even ponds. Don’t camp too close to the water’s edge and definitely do not wade in shallow water.

Take care when launching or retrieving boats – don’t lean over the water from boats or tree limbs.

Photo Credits

In order of appearance, thanks to Graham Winterflood and Jan Smith and Bernard Dupont for their wicked Salty pix and Richard Fisher for the equally wicked fresh water crocodile pic.

We’ve used an awesome shot by Gary Leavens for pinterest.

*We are always keeping our ear to the ground so if you’ve got anything to add please comment below.