Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures is one of the many attractions in Cairns and surrounding areas which is often on visitor’s ‘must-see’ list. It’s wheelchair accessible and provides and an easy way to safely get up close to local wildlife. The crocodiles are the highlight for many but Hartley’s has a range of Australian animals and the educational presentations will ensure you leave with some cool facts and figures. I found it a little unsettling hearing how many of the most venomous snakes reside in the Cairns area. Fortunately we only saw them from the safety of the stand at the presentation.
Hartley’s started as a tea room in 1933 when the Cook Highway was opened linking Cairns to Mossman. It evolved over time and became Hartley’s Crocodile Zoo and in 2002 the zoo relocated and became the present day attraction, Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. We visited Hartley’s Crocodile Zoo when BJ was around 4 years old. It was his first experience with a crocodile and he was fascinated. On our visit to Cairns as a family we didn’t have time to visit Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures so AJ and I put it on the list for our recent trip.
The signage at the turn off for Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures includes an accessible symbol which is unique. I love the fact it’s identified as an accessible attraction for anyone spontaneously wanting to visit.
Hartley’s is located just a 40 minute drive north of Cairns and 25 minutes south of Port Douglas. Timber boardwalks (2100 metres) and pathways lead visitors through the park and the variety of wildlife on display includes tropical birds, reptiles and native animals.
Most of the fences around the animal enclosures are at a good height for wheelchair users but keep in mind these are safety fences so some are a little higher. You can still see through the fences.
Although there are many impressive crocodiles throughout the park of varying sizes and varieties, make sure you stop in to see Sollie. Solllie is 450kgs and 4.5m in length.
Sollie was named after the dog he ate! Yes, you read right. A group of children ran down to their favourite swimming hole at their local creek. Water levels were high after the wet season and it was the first time they’d been able to visit for a long while. Fortunately for them, but sadly for their dog Sollie, the dog arrived at the water hole first and the rest is history.
It’s a good reminder that crocodile warning signs are there for a reason.
The highlight of a visit to Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures is undoubtedly a boat tour of Hartley’s Lagoon. The man made lagoon is home to 27 crocodiles who happily sun themselves on the bank, seemingly unfazed by the many excited visitors pointing and exclaiming from the boats.
While the croc feed is the moment every child on the boat was waiting for, I enjoyed the commentary and learning more about both Hartley’s crocs and crocs in the wild. The boat driver pointed out a croc nest under a tree. I wouldn’t have looked twice if I’d passed it in the wild as the nest is just an unremarkable mound. In the wild only 1 in every 500 crocs survive to hatch.
Three boats cruised the lagoon, each feeding a croc. Our boat fed Boris a 300kg 4metre crocodile who eagerly snapped up the chicken on offer. The loud clap of his jaw closing left little doubt about the power and strength of his bite.
The cruise is accessible to wheelchair users but be mindful of the width of the entrance if you have a particularly large chair. Check with Hartley’s direct if you are concerned your chair will fit.
Wheelchair users sit at the front of the boat and family sit in the front row behind. This is the best spot on the boat for watching the crocodile feeding so have your camera ready.
The crocodiles may be the headline act but there’s a variety of wildlife to see and enjoy while visiting Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures.
We were fascinated watching this koala joey. So bright-eyed and lively which was a stark contrast to the sleepy-eyed mother. It reminded me a little of BJ in the early hours of the morning when he is full of life and raring to go out for the day and I’m dragging my feet fuelling myself on a dozen cups of tea.
Lilies Restaurant serves a range of meals including crocodile, kangaroo, fish and chips and vegetarian food. There’s also a children’s menu.
The restaurant looks out over Hartley’s Lagoon and is an all weather venue.
Australian Companion Card is accepted.
Two accessible parking spaces are located close to the entrance.
Accessible large stand-alone unisex bathrooms are available. These are available at McAlister Education centre and at Lilies restaurant.
Level pathways lead around the majority of the park. Two small areas of the park are steep and not recommended for manual chair users. These are clearly marked.
During the presentations, hearing impaired visitors can use Hartley’s fact sheets which summarise the information delivered.
The amphitheater, where the wildlife presentations happen, doesn’t have designated wheelchair seating, however there’s easy viewing from the standing area at the back of the theatre.
Make sure you plan your visit by checking the presentation, cruise and feed times to ensure you can make the most of your day. You can check times here.
Take a hat, sunscreen, insect repellant and plenty of drinks.
Arrive early in the day during the warmer months to avoid the worst of the heat.
Pack a towel or windscreen sun protector because the car and steering wheel will be hot on your return to the car, even in winter!
If tropical showers are forecast, make sure you take a wet weather jacket or umbrella.
You can read more about Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures here.
We were guests of Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures for the purpose of sharing accessibility and tips for our readers. As always our opinions are our own and based on our experience. We think Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures is a great wheelchair accessible activity to do if you are staying in Cairns or surrounding areas.