Going on a Palm Cove trip and want to know all the best things to do in Palm Cove, Qld? We have you covered! Below you will find our guide on exactly what to do on Palm Cove, Qld to plan your ultimate trip.
Palm Cove is my favourite spot to stay in the Cairns region. Located just 30 minutes north of Cairns, it’s close to everywhere we want to go while feeling like we are surrounded by the rainforest and a beautiful beach.
Palm Cove is gorgeous. It’s the most upmarket of the beaches north of Cairns and it shows – but not in a way where it is too expensive or over-developed. There’s a good strip of some restaurants and shops to give you choice, while not feeling like you are in tourist central, like Port Douglas.
We really like Palm Cove.
And while it’s close to many attractions in the Cairns area, like Kuranda, Cairns Esplanade, Port Douglas and more, it also has some attractions within Palm Cove and immediate surrounds. It’s a great place for a tropical beach holiday.
Below, you will find our Palm Cove things to do blog with everything you need to know about the best activities in Palm Cove, what is there to do in Palm Cove surrounds as well as the best Palm Cove attractions for your ultimate holiday!!
Top 12 Best Things To Do In Palm Cove, Qld
Here are the best things to do at Palm Cove, Queensland. Read through and select the ones that fit your interests and timeframe.
Relax And Enjoy Palm Cove Beach
The unique beauty of the beaches in Tropical North Queensland is thanks to how the rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef, and stunning Palm Cove Beach is no exception. A visit here should be first on your list of things to do in Palm Cove, Cairns!
The focus spot for all vacations in this tropical oasis, you’ll find a golden beach lined by an endless row of palm trees… creating a gorgeous shoreline.
Swimming is terrific all year long with predominantly calm swells, but just stay inside the enclosures during the Summer period (November-May) to avoid stingers or worse! And keep within the yellow and red flags, but never fear as the beach is well patrolled by Australian lifeguards who also ensure it’s kept clean and tidy.
If you’re hanging around and have children with you, why not investigate their Nippers Club which teaches children about surf safety and rescue techniques.
What’s great is the gentle slope as you enter the water at Palm Cove Beach making it a really safe place to enjoy a swim – even if you’re not overly confident in the water. The beach itself is soft golden sand, absolutely perfect for a game of beach volley. At low tide, there’s a wide expanse of flat compact sand that’s ideal for a game of frisbee or even beach cricket.
If you fancy getting out on the water, you can rent a kayak (ideal at sunrise or sunset), and if you have the energy kayak out to Double Island for a glorious paddle around it and back. Or for a more relaxing bob on the water, rent a small catamaran (hobie cat) and sail the length of Palm Cove.
For those looking for a more thrilling experience and one of the more fun things to do in Palm Cove Australia you’ll find a rental spot for jet skis on Palm Cove Beach. Plus, paddle-wheel bikes that are becoming a common sight at the beaches of Queensland. For your younger family members who want to let off steam, there’s a Palm Cove Kid’s Playground just off from the main swimming area.
If you fancy yourself as an angler, cast out from the beach with live or dead bait. The undercurrent will drag your line nicely into the deeper water and – hopefully – you’ll snap up your lunch! Grill this at one of the many public barbecues located beachside, under the palm trees and tropical ferns. You can also fish from the nearby Palm Cove Jetty, a top spot for mackerel and grunter.
As dusk falls, the sun sets behind the rainforest covered mountains to the west of the beach, providing a welcome respite from the heat of the day. It’s the perfect time to check out some of the restaurants and bars that line Palm Cove Esplanade or, if you’re not ready to leave the beach, try your hand at fishing for squid with a special squid-jig lure. Loads of fun this one but avoid their revenge – squirty black ink!
This is the time of day to keep your eyes fixed on the horizon, hoping to spot dolphins or whales between the beach and Double Island.
Should you happen to visit in October you might catch the Palm Cove Reef Feast – when thousands of people converge on the beachfront. Usually spanning 2 days and 2 nights, you’ll enjoy many live bands with stages set all along the Esplanade, yummy food stalls and street theatre. On the first night, there’s a special dinner where you can travel from one restaurant to another – taking entre, mains, desserts and pre/post dinner drinks – as a way to experience many of Palm Cove’s award winning restaurants.
But for your day at the beach, you can simply choose to do nothing more than pick your spot under the shade of one of the palms, surrounded by colourful butterflies and exotic birds. Captain Cook used this spot as a rest stop on his trip down the east coast of Australia, and it’s easy to see why he chose this area – with the many beautiful white sandy beaches lined with palm trees that give the region its name.
The heat of the sun is strong here, so always bring a hat, sunglasses, and remember to re-apply water-resistant sunscreen often.
Stroll Along The Sands Of Clifton Beach
Once voted Australia’s cleanest beach and Queensland’s friendliest beach, Clifton Beach is simply jaw-dropping gorgeous! You feel transported to the beaches of the Philippines or Thailand with endless views left and right of spotless gold sand gently lapped by the sapphire sea, all cradled by a coconut grove that stretches off into the distance.
Do beaches come better than this? Honestly, I’m not sure… it’s that beautiful! And it’s netted all year round, meaning you can swim safely at any time, plus also patrolled by lifeguards. A visit here is our top pick of things to do around Palm Cove Queensland.
Quiet, unspoilt, this is more of a “local’s beach” than lively Palm Cove Beach, and you won’t find any water sports here. However there’s a children’s playground at the beachfront and barbecue facilities for that lunchtime grilling session.
Easily reachable from Palm Cove by cycle track or walking path, you can stroll for what feels like miles surrounded by amazing natural beauty, as the palm trees slowly relent into rainforest covered mountains.
If looking for somewhere quieter to stay than Palm Cove Beach, but near enough to walk there, check out the accommodation options along Clifton Beach. No high-rise buildings here, only low-lying holiday houses or self-contained apartments.
Chill At Silver Crescent Park
A local park with a lovely sealed walk to the beach (either Palm Cove or adjacent Clifton Beach), Silver Crescent Park is a centre-of-town green spot to relax at.
You’ll find a fenced off section just for canines, cycling trails, a children’s playground, plus signs that identify the trees and lush greenery that fill the grounds.
If you fancy a stretch, why not try the various exercise stations dotted throughout the park, or instead just spread out a picnic blanket, relaxing and enjoying the sounds of nature.
Our winner of free things to do in Palm Cove Queensland, the park is located on Osterland Street, Palm Cove.
Get Some Souvenirs From The Palm Cove Markets
Starting out as a small event on a Friday evening, the Palm Cove Markets have evolved over six years into the first-Sunday-of-the-month April-December spectacle that now exists. So plan your visit well to include a wonderful morning at the markets. It’s always a favourite activity on top-10-things to do in Palm Cove listings!
140+ stalls stretch out along Williams Esplanade, with the magical setting of Palm Cove Beach in the background. There’s a calm, serene vibe to the markets as locals and tourists stroll casually along under the shade of palm and ancient paperback trees.
Stalls focus on selling sustainable, local, quality handmade products which has made the markets one of Far North Queensland’s most famous community markets. Dive in to find local arts and crafts, gifts or souvenirs, massage and wellness items and lots of yummy snacks. There’s some entertainment too for the kiddies (bouncy castle) whilst buskers keep all age groups entertained. You can sit for a tarot reading or visit a clairvoyant.
Head home with candles, incense, flowers or plants, pet products, tableware items, crystals, natural remedies, new clothes, jewellery, perfume, soft toys, wooden figurines or new artwork for the wall. There’s so much to discover at The Palm Cove Markets!
Running usually on the first Sunday of the month, 8am-2pm, April-December (except for September), check here for latest updates. Located at Williams Esplanade, between Cedar Road and Harpa Street. You can’t miss it.
Taste Wine And Food At The Reef Feast
The Reef Feast Street Festival is an annual 3-day October event – think of it as The Palm Cove Markets on steroids!
Usually held every October, you can be sure of a wonderful time whatever the month! A fabulous line up of live bands play alongside local restaurant food marquees where you can dine to your heart’s (or stomach’s!) content on the free samples alone! An especially great night out for couples looking for romantic things to do in Palm Cove.
With the Williams Esplanade closed to traffic, you are free to meander the fragrant food stalls, whilst enjoying dancing in the street. Indulge your sweet tooth and enjoy events such as Prawns On The Jetty where local trawlers dock and fill onlooker’s stomachs with the freshly caught critters. Or if you enjoy a tipple, the Tropical North Queensland Beer Awards Judging Day and Evening is perhaps the one for you!
The town’s premier public event, this is a treat for all your senses and the top activity on annual calendars highlighting what to do at Palm Cove. An awesome mix of family fun, entertainment, music (3 or 4 stages), award-winning craft beers, fireworks, circus shows and world-class grub. The Reef Feast usually spans a Friday-Sunday and is an ear-pleasing and mouth watering event!
Interact With Wildlife At Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures
Fifteen minutes up the road from Palm Cove lies this top one of the things to do near Palm Cove, Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures.
This crocodile farm is part farm, part nature park with some great animal viewing and educational opportunities in an entertaining way. Mostly about getting up close with crocodiles, there’s also many other animals including other reptiles, some Australian favorites like kangaroos and koalas and some local bird life and cassowaries.
This park is mostly about the live shows and when you are planning your visit to this one of the Palm Cove tourist attractions, I recommend taking into account the show times (which you can find on their site here) to maximise your visit. Get to as many as you can!
When you aren’t at a show or tour, this park is in a beautiful setting in a World Heritage listed national park and it’s a great place to walk around exploring all the animals.
The main attractions are crocodile centric – you can do a boat cruise on their main lagoon full of crocodiles. This is a highlight as there are many crocodiles to spot. The guide will get one jumping up on each side of the boat so you can have an up close look at these creatures.
There are crocodile feeding and attack shows as well as a tour of their farm – they also farm crocodiles for their skins as well as other products like their meat. The farm tour is quite interesting so don’t miss this.
There’s a cafe on site so this is the perfect time to try crocodile if you haven’t before. We had some tasty croc kebabs with plum sauce. It was surprisingly good! There’s also a gift shop on site where we picked up some crocodile jerky to take home. Yummy.
It’s also worth learning about the other animals while you are here. We found the snake show particularly good. We were well entertained and learned a lot as well. There are also koala shows and cassowary feeding.
This is without a doubt one of the top things to do in Palm Cove for families, although any age will enjoy a visit here. We visited with our kids aged 5 – 11 and all enjoyed it.
Go Scuba Diving On The Great Barrier Reef
Palm Cove is slap bang in the middle of Port Douglas (40 mins) and Cairns (30 mins), and both are your gateway to somewhere that needs no introduction… The Great Barrier Reef! Our number 1 pick of the best things to do from Palm Cove for all the family, whatever the age.
A UNESCO World Heritage listed site and one of the seven wonders of the natural world, this is the largest living coral reef system on earth. In total, the Great Barrier Reef consists of 900+ islands that stretch for over 2,300 kms, with 2,500+ individual reefs of varying sizes, all within the famed Coral Sea.
The warm clear waters are a mecca for scuba divers who visit for the day (diving from dive boats or massive permanent pontoons found along the reef), visit for an overnight stay to experience both day and night dives or choose to linger on live-aboard boats for days or weeks at a time to fully immerse in the exotic marine life that the reef offers.
Home to around 1,500 species of fish, 400 species of coral, 240 species of birds, innumerable types of sponges, anemones, marine worms, crustaceans and 4,000 types of mollusc! If that’s not enough, there’s also unusual species such as the sea cow (dugong) and of course everyone’s favourite, the widely threatened large green turtle.
There’s vast shallow inshore areas (also ideal for snorkellers), the mid-shelf and dramatic outer reefs where you’ll traditionally find larger fish. Natural phenomena includes the annual coral spawning, migrating whales, nesting turtles and more. This is one place not to miss!
Head to the Marina at either Port Douglas or Cairns to arrange a scuba diving trip or – if you aren’t a diver – there’s still so much to be seen by snorkelling. If you’re travelling with youngsters, book a trip to one of the outer reef pontoons for an amazing day out – quite often with slides into the ocean, netted areas for guided swimming and snorkelling, underwater observatories, glass-bottom boat tours and much, much more.
Try Kayaking To Turtles
Looking for something unique to do in Palm Cove that will have the family talking about it for months to come? How about this epic Kayak Turtle Tour on the inner Great Barrier Reef.
Departing from the south end of Palm Cove, you’ll don your lifejacket, listen to a short safety briefing before paddling out in your 2-person kayak towards Double Island. Then it’s time to explore mangroves – a quiet meandering river of them adjacent to the island – before kayaking on to explore the nearby coral reef.
If you’re lucky, you’ll spot a handful of turtles, some gliding beneath the kayak in the crystal clear water, whilst others raise their heads from the ocean gasping for breath before diving back down to the reef. But it’s not just turtles you’ll spot as this is a rich marine-filled ocean, home to dugongs, rays, sharks, and even pods of dolphins or whales have been spotted on the trip.
This gorgeous kayak trip takes around 3.5-4 hours with the open-sea paddle to Double Reef quickly completed in 20-30 minutes.
Book this amazing turtle experience here that was one of our family’s favourite activities to do in Palm Cove, Cairns.
Go Bike Riding
Still wondering what to do in Palm Cove, Cairns? Well, similar to the nearby towns of Cairns and Port Douglas, Palm Cove has smashing cycle paths. Routes that take you to hidden beaches, through palm tree groves, along mangrove boardwalks, and into rainforest spots heavy with wildlife!
One such ride is the 2-hour cycle from Palm Cove to beautiful Kewarra Beach, that passes through gorgeous Clifton. The track is flat and meanders wonderfully through the palm-fringed shores. At Kewarra Beach, you can stop for a swim or check out the Kewarra Beach Resort for lunch or snacks.
A much longer ride, at around 4 hours, will take you from Palm Cove Esplanade to the Northern Clifton Beach mangrove boardwalk area. A fabulous place to explore, where you’re immersed in the sounds and smells of nature, before cycling on again to Kewarra Beach (where you can stop for a swim) before reaching the adjacent town of Trinity Beach.
If you have a full day (and the energy!), why not opt for the 40km return ride from Palm Cove to Yorkeys Knob. Following the 4-hour ride above, from Trinity Beach you’ll cycle on to the base of Earl Hill.
Still flush with adrenaline? Well, here you can tackle the Summit Trail (a 2.9km bushwalking path that takes you up almost 200 metres) for a 360-degree view of Cairns.
Back on the bike, continue on to the Cattana Wetlands for another break, before cycling past sugarcane farmlands on your way to the quaint township of Yorkeys Knob. Half Moon Beach at Yorkeys is astounding. A massive bay that stretches way into the distance. Settle here for lunch before making your way back to Palm Cove.
All sounds too confusing to plan out? Nevermind, as there are shops offering guided cycling tours to help you find your way.
But if you’re really into cycling, don’t forget that you have the iconic Smithfield Mountain Bike Park just past Trinity Beach (20 minutes from Palm Cove), thought to have some of the best rainforest terrain in the world.
This world famous location has more than 60km of green, blue and black-rated trails. Or travel just over an hour up into the Kuranda Range and on to the Tablelands, to the Davies Creek Mountain Bike Park. Here there’s a network of mountain bike trails between Kuranda and Mareeba at the Lamb Range which take you along the rain-shadowed slopes of the mountains.
Whatever your level or fitness, there’s a cycling route for you!
Only about 30 minutes drive from Palm Cove, a day trip to Kuranda should definitely be on your Palm Cove to do list.
Kuranda is a small town in the rainforest above Cairns. Known for its World Heritage listed rainforest, art scene, markets and animal sanctuaries, there are so many things to do here that you may struggle to work out what to do with only a day.
I recommend you start the day taking the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway up to Kuranda. This cableway stretches up over the rainforest for great views as well as making some stops within the rainforest on its way to Kuranda. It’s the perfect way to get up close to this World Heritage listed rainforest.
Once you arrive in Kuranda, I recommend taking the shuttle bus to Rainforestation. Here, you have your choice of activities. I highly recommend one of the Aboriginal experiences. We chose the Pamagirri Experience where we went on a dreamtime work learning more about the local culture as well as watching a dance performance and learning how to throw a boomerang.
After this, the World War II Army Duck is the perfect vehicle to take you on a tour to learn more about the surrounding rainforest both on land and then it drives into the lake and takes you for a cruise! There’s also a wildlife park here you can explore.
Finally, it’s time to head back to Palm Cove. If you took the Skyrail up, take the Kuranda Scenic Railway back down. This two hour journey takes you though the World Heritage listed Barron Gorge National Park and includes a stop at the Barron Waterfalls. The views are spectacular on this rail journey and the railway itself is quite amazing with 15 hand carved tunnels and 37 bridges.
You can find a tour that takes you on both the Skyrail and Scenic Railway here.
Explore The Rest Of The Cairns Region
If you want some more answers to what to do in Palm Cove, Australia, don’t worry. There are so many things to do in the surrounding area that you won’t be lacking ideas!
This guide has concentrated on the immediate Palm Cove area, but Cairns itself, just 30 minutes away, has many things to do. You can take a trip to Green Island, zoom across a dome at Cairns Dome, hang out with the kids at Cairns Esplanade or head in the opposite direction and drive into the Daintree Rainforest and go on a crocodile cruise.
Spend A Day In Mareeba
Another place to add to your list of things to do and see around Palm Cove is Mareeba. Located about an hour away in the Atherton Tablelands region, this town offers a great contrast to Palm Cove with some interesting attractions including coffee plantations, hikes around the unique scenery, meeting rock wallabies and tasting passionfruit wine. It’s an easy (and fun) day trip destination.
Top Things To Do Palm Cove Qld Map
Best Place To Stay In Palm Cove
When it comes to where to stay in Palm Cove, you are spoilt for choice. There is a great range of options. Places do tend to be pricier than in Cairns but you also tend to get more for your money and get to stay in a stunning area :)
Below, I’ve listed a few different places to consider based on price. I also have our favourite family option further below in the Palm Cove with kids section.
Beautiful and refined, Peppers Beach Club & Spa Palm Cove is our clear number one choice of accommodation in Palm Cove. Step into a crisp white colonial plantation-style beach resort, where the heavy aroma of frangipani fills the air. A handful of two or three-level grand buildings surround the bluest of sprawling lagoon pools, complete with a swim-up bar. Lush gardens and palm trees complete the picture, along with a rainforest rock pool and a gold sandy beach adjacent to the lagoon pool.
Located directly on Williams Esplanade, there are three swimming pools, a day spa, tennis club with gym facilities and a stunning beach. This is opulent luxury, elegantly delivered!
Rooms are contemporary and chic in design and come in many types – Spa Rooms, Suites, Penthouses with plunge pools and – our favourite – peaceful Rainforest Suites. All offer wonderful views of the ocean, pools, the lush gardens or the rainforest-clad mountains.
Plantation shutters and open terraces extend out from the rooms and corridors. Splashes of blues and greens interrupt the stark white walls, tiles and linen. There’s air-conditioning, ceiling fans, WiFi, cable television, refrigerator, mini-bar and luxurious bathrobes.
Spa Rooms come with a spa-bath on the balcony, whilst the Penthouses boast two levels with private rooftop terrace and jacuzzi. Some of the larger Suites and Penthouses have a fully equipped designer kitchen for that home-away-from-home vibe.
Rooms are spread across various wings of the resort, providing a sense of privacy for all. Plus there’s a 24-hour reception desk, the offer of luggage storage, a tour desk, child minding service and secured guest parking.
Equal to the rest of the resort, the dining is fabulous. La Mesa is a premium Palm Cove restaurant and seats you beachside listening to the ocean’s soothing sounds. Featuring fresh seafood and modern Australian cuisine using ingredients sourced locally, food presentation is exquisite. But for a quick snack, lunch or a tropical cocktail, try the Rocks Cafe Pool Bar.
If you can bear to leave your accommodation, search out an umbrella at the lagoon-side, take your youngsters to the Children’s Playground directly opposite the entrance, book up a ready-to-go barbeque pack from the restaurant or discuss with the tour desk what adventure to plan for the coming days!
MID-RANGE – Mango Lagoon Resort and Wellness Spa Review
How’s this for fun. There’s not just one or two pools, Mango Lagoon Resort and Wellness Spa has three adult swimming pools and one fun kids pool!
Just a quick 5-minutes walk from Palm Cove Beach, set on Cedar Road, this fully self-catering resort resembles a long rectangle with the four pools running down the centre and the accommodation alongside.
Everyone enjoys free WiFi, air-conditioning and a private bathroom. Almost all the ground floor apartments come with private courtyard areas. The larger apartments come with gourmet kitchens, spacious living/dining areas and flat-screen television.
You can select from Budget Hotel Rooms that are perfect for those watching the $’s or planning to spend a lot of their time out of the hotel exploring the region. The rooms are definitely cosy at only 20sqm, but fit either a King Bed or Twin Singles. There’s a walk-in shower but the rooms offer no laundry or cooking facilities.
The larger and more luxurious options are the 1 or 2-bedroom apartments that come with/without Courtyard. Perfect for couples or small families, these are home-away-from-home options, with a full size refrigerator with freezer, oven and dishwasher. There’s also a washing machine, ironing facilities and you can add in rollaway beds or a baby cot if needed. Some have a Spa Bath, whilst the Courtyard apartments have direct access to the pools.
The hotel’s facilities include a covered BBQ area, sun loungers around all 4 pools and an on-site tour desk. With no restaurant on site, you have endless fine dining or grab-and-go options along the Esplanade, and you can hit the wonderful Palm Cove Beach in under 5 minutes.
BUDGET – Sarayi Boutique Hotel Review
A budget hotel with a rooftop pool and terrace… Now, that doesn’t happen too often! Sarayi Boutique Hotel is another option right on the Esplanade; a budget hotel in a 5-star location.
Rooms are basic, yet come with air-conditioning and feature a 42-inch plasma-screen TV and tea/coffee maker. All have private ensuite facilities.
Room types include a Budget Double Room (with 1 extra-large double or 2 x single beds) and a Standard Room (with the same bedding options). The larger room choices are the 1-Bedroom Apartments – that come with either mountain or ocean view or with a Spa Bath.
Overall, rooms feel a little sparse with basic but cosy furniture – sofa, beds and lounge furniture. All Apartments are on the second floor and have a balcony that catches the setting sun.
There’s free WiFi throughout the property, even at the rooftop pool which is a nice touch (but note there is only stair access, no elevator). Free parking is offered for a maximum of 8 vehicles with a paid private airport shuttle available.
The hotel has two on-site restaurants and is also surrounded by many restaurants on the Esplanade that meet all budgets. It’s directly opposite the stunning Palm Cove Beach.
Billed as a family-owned boutique hotel, it’s definitely budget-style accommodation with the hotel and it’s facilities beginning to feel dated, but if you can overlook that, the rooftop pool and prime position make it perhaps worth the dollars.
How To Get To Palm Cove
It’s easy to get to Palm Cove by bus or car. If you have your own car, great! You are good to go.
Coming from Cairns International Airport, it takes approximately 25 minutes to get to Palm Cove. You can rent a car, ride a taxi or hop on an airport transfer bus to reach your destination.
This is our preferred option when visiting Palm Cove so we can easily visit all the surrounding stuff to do in Palm Cove.
Palm Cove With Kids
This is a great place to visit for families with many great things to do in Palm Cove with kids. In fact, everything above can be great answers to what to do in Palm Cove with kids.
They are sure to love the beach and Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures in particular.
If you are looking for things to do in Palm Cove with toddlers, you can’t go wrong with the beaches and Silver Crescent Park. Some of the attractions in Kuranda are sure to appeal, like the Butterfly Sanctuary.
It’s a great piece of the world and we have stayed here several times with our three kids from birth to 11 years old and look forward to coming back and having new adventures as they continue to grow.
Another great accommodation option for families is The Villas Palm Cove. We love staying here in our own fully self contained pool villa – that’s right, you get your own pool! It’s a total win for families.
Palm Cove is a fabulous slice of the world. Beautiful and with enough answers to what to do in Palm Cove Queensland to keep you busy as well as tons of attractions in the surrounding areas.
There’s also a great range of accommodation.
You really can’t go wrong with a trip to Palm Cove!
I hope you found this guide to the best things to do around Palm Cove, Qld useful. You can also check out our full guide to surrounding Cairns here and nearby Mareeba here or read more Queensland travel guides here.