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Local's Guide to Palm Cove

Palm Cove's collection of cafés, boutiques and spas has made it a favourite haunt for travellers and locals alike.


By Hannah Tattersall

The stylish beach village of Palm Cove is known for its centuries-old paperbark trees, which line almost the entire length of the cove including the beachfront main street, Williams Esplanade. The town is an attractive accommodation option if you're visiting the Great Barrier Reef (it's 30 minutes to Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal or 35 minutes to Port Douglas Marina from where boats head to the reef). The Daintree Rainforest is also nearby, about a two hour drive north.

HOW TO GET THERE

Fly to Cairns Airport from any Australian capital city. Palm Cove is a 30 minute drive north of Cairns. You can hire a car from one of several car hire companies at Cairns Airport or in Cairns city centre. There are also regular shuttle services to Palm Cove from both Cairns Airport and the city of Cairns: Exemplar runs an on-demand shuttle service and Sun Palm Transport offers a timetabled service with regular departures.

DON'T MISS

  • An indulgent spa treatment on "Spa Street"
  • A gourmet meal at renowned regional restaurant Nu Nu
  • A sunset or sunrise kayak to Double Island

Palm Cove highlights

TOP THINGS TO DO IN PALM COVE


Indulge in a spa treatment

Palm Cove has so many day spas and wellness retreats that its main street has been affectionately nicknamed "Spa Street". Peppers Day Spa, linked to the popular resort of the same name, is an award-winning sanctum where all treatments begin with an ancient foot ritual and an Aboriginal smoking ceremony. Palm Cove Retreat Day Spa at the Mantra Amphora resort, specialises in Elemis body wraps, massage, anti-ageing facials, exotic body treatments, manicures and pedicures. Also check out Alamanda Resort & Spa, a beachfront sanctuary with open-air treatment rooms and a private plunge pool, or the award-winning Reef House.

Enjoy fresh seafood

In keeping with the area's other indulgent pursuits, Palm Cove is dotted with several upmarket eateries. Beachfront restaurant Nu Nu is the area's culinary standout, with a local seafood menu that has earned it the title of Australia's best regional restaurant. Nearby, dine on fresh juices and bountiful salads on the outdoor deck at locally favoured hotspot Vivo – don't miss the chilli caramel breakfast panna cotta. Or head to The Rising Sun for a sunset cocktail and casual dinner.

Visit Kuranda, the village in the rainforest

Kuranda is located high in the hills above Cairns. From Palm Cove, it's a 30 minute drive to the Kuranda Scenic Railway (if you don't have a car, tour operators will arrange pick-ups from Palm Cove) and from there you'll board a charming train that will weave you through the natural beauty of the rainforest with a stop at the village of Kuranda. There is plenty to do here – visit The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, the largest butterfly flight aviary in the southern hemisphere – and don't miss the Kuranda Heritage Market, open every day from 9.30am to 3.30pm with stalls offering a wide range of locally-produced souvenirs, arts and crafts, jewellery, gemstones and clothing. Catch the train back down and enjoy views of the gorgeous landscape along the way.

Kayak to pretty Double Island

The exclusive Double Island, located directly in front of the beach at Palm Cove, is a favoured retreat for Hollywood names such as Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston and Keanu Reeves, but you, too, can day-trip there in a kayak and enjoy a morning or afternoon of snorkelling, beachcombing and picnicking for a fraction of the accommodation price. Kayaking to Double Island is an experience favoured by locals so there are a few tour operators to choose from, such as the family-owned Pacific Watersports and Palm Cove Watersports. Look out for blue spotted lagoon rays, mangrove rays, eagle rays, shovel nose sharks and an assortment of fish and crabs. 

Head to Reef Feast

The annual Reef Feast festival, which takes place in October, is one of Far North Queensland’s premier community events. It's a celebration of the region's cuisine, produce, live music, culture and lifestyle.

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