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17 September, 2021

Modern day dinosaurs

66 MILLION years ago dinosaurs roamed the earth, and we can trace the heritage of three of Hartley’s star attractions to that time. Obviously, the crocodile, which is the closest genealogical link to a dinosaur, the cassowary, a classical flightless bird that time forgot and the Komodo Dragon.

By Peter McCullagh

Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures is the largest and most extensive wildlife experience in the Tropics, and their work with these three relics of our ancient past have assisted in preserving these throwbacks to ancient times, allowing tens of thousands of locals and visitors to Cairns an opportunity to view and learn more about them in a safe and relaxing setting.

  Established more than 85 years ago, Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures is one of the longest running continually operating tourism attractions in Australia. Nestled into a tropical bush setting in the Wet Tropics, Hartley’s is a picturesque 40-minute drive north of Cairns and 25 minutes south of Port Douglas. Featuring a crocodile lagoon and more than 2.5 kilometres of board walks, visitors can comfortably explore the park at their leisure, before taking a 20-minute lagoon cruise for that exciting close encounter with the many resident crocodiles.  

For the past 32 years Hartley’s has operated a commercial crocodile farm dedicated to breeding for the production of skins and meat products. Visitors to Hartley’s can participate in a guided tour of the farm and view, up close, juvenile crocodiles. For a modest extra cost visitors can enjoy the opportunity to hold a 70 cm juvenile croc for a souvenir photograph.

The Southern Cassowary can be viewed in a naturalistic setting at Hartley’s. Four beautiful cassowaries call Hartley’s home, where they roam through their natural rainforest home. Cassowary numbers in the wild are under threat from encroaching civilisation as well as cars, wild pigs and domestic dogs. Hartley’s participates in the regional zoo association’s captive management program for the Southern Cassowary.

Just as COVID struck, Hartley’s was set to commence a breeding program for the Komodo Dragon. Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic has delayed the commencement of this program, however visitors can still see, and learn about this relic of the Jurassic era sunning himself as the star of the Gallery of Living Art Reptile Exhibition.

Some of the most popular activities for visitors to Hartley’s are the daily feeding and educational presentations. Each day there’s at least nine wildlife presentations in addition to up-close premium wildlife experiences (which must be booked in advance). Activities commence from 8:30am when the park opens and continue through to just before closing time at 5pm.

For the kids and young at heart, you can find countless koalas, wombats, emus, wallabies and kangaroos, snakes, lizards and a host of Australian native birds.

You can relax at lunchtime in Lilies Restaurant where you will find family friendly meals, or feel free to bring your own picnic and dine outside in the park, the choice is yours.

You can find out more about Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures at

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