Spending A Few Days In Palm Cove, Cairns
Palm Cove about 25 mins drive from the centre of Cairns is a really lovely place to spend a few days relaxing pool or beach side.
Cairns city doesn't have a beach and while they do have the lagoon pool, sometimes you need the sand and palm trees to really feel like you are at the beach.
We lived in Palm Cove for around 12 years so yes I am a little biased but there is a reason we lived there! The warm waters of the tropical north make for great swimming in Australia's winter season with an average water temperature of around 22-24 degrees. Summer can see the water temp reach as high as 27-28 degrees, however that is also stinger season so unless you want to brave the rather restrictive (and very ugly) stinger suits swimming is summer is left best to the pool. Some summer seasons don't really have large stinger numbers, however you would be best to ask around before assuming that because the locals are swimming unprotected you should too!
Things To Do In Palm Cove
While it has grown over the main highway in recent times, the traditional suburb of Palm Cove is only quite small and is almost triangular in shape. Walking the Esplanade, Vievers Road, Cedars Road loop is about 3km or half an hour or so for an average walker. Both Cedars Road and Vievers Road have sidewalks and the esplanade has of course a good path for its length.
With the opening of Sea Temple around 10 years ago their is now a road that connects the highway with Palm Cove so if you wanted a longer walk, you could also walk through to Triton Street (off Veivers Road) then up Palm Cove Boulevard and back along the highway. While you are walking on the highway there is a good path and it's probably 2-3 metres from the road for most of the path so very safe.
This Google Map link will enable you to plan your path.
Eating and Drinking
There are some great restaurants in Palm Cove and also some more affordable, casual options.
The Reef House has a very nice restaurant and when the weather is nice there is nothing better than sitting at one of their white cloth covered tables on the deck, listening to the ocean, drinking wine and eating seafood.
Nu Nu is another fave of mine however it is more on the pricy side with appetiser with main meals setting you back $55-60 at least per person. The food is very good though but typically I don't think just a main meal would be enough for dinner. I personally like their breakfasts the best and the mud crab omelette is a must!
Fish and Chips from Pete's place are a local staple. I haven't had them for a few years, but they do always seem to be just the right amount of fried without being swamped in grease.
Kushi, above Pete's place is great for Japanese food.
Ilforno Pizza is mostly still the best pizza I've eaten outside of Italy. They do that amazing thin salty crust with just the right amount of toppings. I personally don't like pizza's with heaps of stuff crammed on so its perfect for me.
The Surf Club has good meals but are no longer cheap. They are affordable, but as Queenslanders we were always used to very cheap meals from the clubs, however that seems to be a thing of the past now.
Choc Dee Thai Restaurant has always had very good food. Their coconut rice is to die for!
And of course there is always the pub! The Palm Cove tavern does the usual pub fare for lunch and dinners.
If you wander along the Esplanade their are lots of options for a casual wine or three. Too many to list but don't be scared to go into the hotels as some of them have great bars.
While there is shopping in Palm Cove it is mostly directed at the holiday maker so you will find swimwear, souvenirs and casual clothing, but there isn't a lot else. Head into Cairns city for a wider range of options. Just remember you are in North Qld so the shopping centers rule here (malls if you are American). It is so HOT in the summer that no-one is going to wander the streets to shop, so Cairns Central Shopping Centre should probably be your first port of call shopping wise.
Palm Cove Accommodation
You can swim anywhere along Palm Cove beach, however they do have swimming nets around the centre part of the beach. Please look for all signs before swimming as they do sometimes close the beach if the stingers are bad.
Don't forget to check the tides. This is the far north and if the tide is out – no water to swim in!.
Also remember to reapply your sunscreen often. I couldn't tell you how many bright red tourists I've seen because they underestimated the Australian sun.
There is a little supermarket in the Palm Cove shopping village along with a tourist info place & a small pharmacy. Like most beach side locations, the products won't be the same price as the supermarket but you can get sunscreen or fruit in a pinch. There is also a small Coles at Clifton Beach about 5km from Palm Cove. It is in the Clifton Shopping Centre as you head out to Palm Cove on the main highway. If you don't notice it on the way out, driving back toward Cairns turn left at the very first set of traffic lights and then promptly right at the next little street to get into the underground carpark. There is also a Target Country there as well.
Parking anywhere along the beachfront is very hard to get however there is a public car park at the north end of the suburb. As you head north on the Esplanade, you get to a point that you have to turn left to head up Cedar road to get out of the suburb, but you turn right here. You really are heading straight, but the road does curve around so you are turning off the main road. You go past the caravan park and the car park is at the end of that road.
The Great Barrier Reef
Cairns is one of the best places on the coast to get out to Australia's Great Barrier Reef. There are so many operators its hard to pin down just a few, however almost all of them offer pickups from almost anywhere in Cairns. You will be up for an earlyish pickup from Palm Cove but they will gladly do it. Just check if they charge extra for the service and some do and some don't.
Read my Great Barrier Reef article about who I love hitting the reef with.
Hotels And Accommodation
Cairns is a seasonal destination so prices for rooms can very MASSIVELY between seasons. Be prepared for a wide range of prices depending on the dates.
Rooms from around $90 a night, for a superior king room.
Rooms start from around $140 for a studio.
Spring $370 per night for a verandah suite. The hotel is older but has been fully renovated.
Palm cove also has lots of AirBnB options for a more family holiday.
The Best Time To Go To Palm Cove
Obviously it is far north Queensland and it gets HOT in the summer, however if you are OK with the heat I would go in February. The accommodation can be heaps cheaper and it is reasonably quiet, but it will be HOT HOT HOT! Be prepared for a wet week though as if the wet season arrives in force, February can be rain and not much else. That's nice if you want a real RnR trip and there is nothing like sitting on the verandah reading your book watching the rain, but if you are after beach weather winter might be a better time.
The main tourist season is the winter which is beautiful weather but it can get busy and prices are at their peak.
The shoulder seasons of April/May and Sept/Oct can be very nice, however you need to stay out of school holiday times to get any kind of decent deal on accommodation.
- Palm Cove is about 40 mins drive from Port Douglas so a day trip to Port is a must.
- Smithfield Shopping Centre is probably the closest larger shopping area and about 15 mins drive. Smithfield is also where Skyrail is.
- Kuranda is about 30 mins drive up the range. It's not a difficult drive but DO NOT try and pass outside of designated overtaking zones on the range.
- Cairns City is about half an hour drive and has a lot of tourism options and is where the main Reef Terminal is located.
My nephew Noah swimming with Wally a humphead wrasse on the Great Barrier Reef
Palm Cove beach and Double Island in the distance
Get The Best From Palm Cove
To really get the best of Palm Cove you do have to have money to spend as the local restaurants aren't budget focused and the day tours from Cairns aren't cheap. In saying that however, you do go bigger distances and most tours are very big days. I wouldn't visit Cairns without doing the Great Barrier Reef at the very least.