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Palm Cove Holiday Planning: What to Know Before You Go

Around half an hour north of Cairns, Palm Cove is one of those magical sweet spots where luxury resorts and fine dining mixes with down to earth village charm.

Only around 2,000 people actually live in Palm Cove, but it’s such a special holiday spot there are more than 2,000 rooms for visitors so the population can more than triple in peak times.

Those who’ve been bitten by the Palm Cove holiday bug don’t easily forget it, and when I shared a photo of a Palm Cove beach sunset on social media I immediately heard from a wide range of friends saying how much they love it there and their favourite places to stay.

The boutique hotel and resorts game is strong in Palm Cove where the resort accommodation ranges from studios to plunge pool and swim out apartments, and there are lots of fully self contained options so the whole family can spread out when you get back from the beach and cook dinner.

Can you already feel a Palm Cove getaway calling your name? Let’s take a look at what you can do when you’re there and see if it’s time to plan that holiday.

Things to do in Palm Cove village

Palm Cove is one of those places that are a joy to simply stroll around, soaking up that laid back beach village vibe and dreaming about which house you’d live in if you could.

The village is home to one of Australia’s original beachfront hotels, The Reef House Palm Cove – MGallery, first welcomed guests back in 1958 and is a mix of boutique hotel and beautiful old colonial beach house. If you miss out on a room in the hotel, treat yourself to dinner at the Reef House Restaurant where you can sit under 300 year old Melaleuca gum trees as you look out at the Coral Sea.

The Reef House Restaurant at the Reef House Palm Cove - MGallery
The Reef House Restaurant at the Reef House Palm Cove – MGallery

If you have a self contained apartment you could cook for yourself, but with dining options ranging from award winning fine dining to fish and chips on the beach, you could also just use the kitchen for making tea and coffee and enjoy heading out for a meal.

Considering Palm Cove has been described as ‘the spa capital of Australia’ it would be a right shame not to include some pampering on your to do list.

Many of the spas offer menus with native Australian ingredients, including Exclusive Spas where their signature Mala Mayi spa ritual from LI’TYA originates from Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.

Exclusive Spas has been named one of the top ten spas in the world by Conde Nast Traveller so it’s not a bad idea to book your treatment as soon as you’ve booked your holiday dates so you don’t miss out on that one.

And you can also do a little shopping and pick up some new resort wear at one of Palm Coves colourful boutiques. All of the shops are found on the beachfront of Williams’ Esplanade so you can’t take a wrong turn and get lost, and you can enjoy that fresh sea breeze along the way.

Things to do on Palm Cove beach

Swimming at Palm Cove beach is usually a relatively calm affair as the coral reef creates a barrier to stop the big waves rolling in, and there’s a nice gentle slope as you enter the water.

If you’re in this part of Australia between October and June remember there could be marine stingers including deadly box jellyfish about, so make sure you swim inside the enclosures. And signs on Palm Cove beach warn visitors that crocodiles may be about too.

Luckily a lot of North Queensland resorts have beautiful big lagoon pools and some come with sandy beach edges, so if you were feeling nervous about going into the Coral Sea you can still feel that sand between your toes as you step into the water in a super safe space.

Lagoon pool, Peppers Beach Club & Spa, Palm Cove
Lagoon pool, Peppers Beach Club & Spa, Palm Cove

At Palm Cove Watersports you can join a sunrise tour or go solo on a kayak or stand up paddleboard, or if you’d rather set sail Beach Fun Co rents out small catamarans to head up and down the cove in.

When the tide goes out Palm Cove beach is wide and flat, making it a great spot for a bit of beach cricket or Frisbee action. There’s also a small children’s playground with a swing set, slipper dip tower and activity area.

Sunrise at Palm Cove beach, image:  Tourism Tropical North Queensland
Sunrise at Palm Cove beach, image: Tourism Tropical North Queensland

And if you’re handy with a fishing rod and fancy catching your own dinner the Palm Cove Jetty is a great spot for catching Spanish mackerel, flathead, cod and whiting.

Palm Cove holiday day tours

While you could spend an entire holiday just relaxing in Palm Cove, with two World Heritage sites on your doorstep there are also some great day tours to do.

Juan Walker from Walkabout Cultural Adventures tours does an incredible job of both sharing the Daintree Rainforest and Aboriginal culture with guests. After being picked up from our Palm Cove resort Juan took us on rainforest walks, taught us how to throw spears on the beach, and invited us into his home to see his family’s artworks and boomerangs.

Juan has been guiding people in the Daintree for more than 19 years and his passion for his stunning part of the country really shines through.

From Palm Cove you can easily pop down to Cairns to join a snorkelling tour on the Great Barrier Reef. But a word of warning, if you get seasick make sure you take your tablets before you get out on that water. Getting to the snorkelling spots can be a pretty bumpy business.

Snorkelling Great Barrier Reef Cairns, image: Tourism Tropical North Queensland
Snorkelling Great Barrier Reef Cairns, image: Tourism Tropical North Queensland

If you’re like me and love a good train journey make sure you book a spot on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. This 34km, two hour ride travels along sheer cliff faces looking down into deep gorges in beautiful rainforest.

The railway dates back to the 1880s, some of the original timber train carriages are around 90 years old, and the gorgeous Kurranda train station is worth seeing even if you’re not hopping on the train.

Kurranda Scenic Railway at Stoney Creek Falls
Kurranda Scenic Railway at Stoney Creek Falls

And while you could get the train both ways, a much better idea is to ride the rails one way, and the Skyrail the other way with a combo ticket. Well, unless you’re scared of heights that is, because this one feels HIGH.

The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway stretches 7.5km from the Cairns suburb of Smithfield up to Kurranda, passing the high point of Red Peak 545m (1,788ft) above sea level along the way. At Red Peak and Barron Falls you can get out and take a boardwalk tour and look out at the waterfall in the wet season before continuing on your way.

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway at Barron Falls, image Skyrail
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway at Barron Falls, image Skyrail

For a glass bottom gondola book a Diamond View Skyrail experience. And if you’re really brave you can do an open air Canopy Glider gondola ride (when Covid restrictions ease that is). 

Then when your big day out is over you get to come home to Palm Cove. To watch the sky change colour behind the palm trees as the sun goes down and think about just how beautiful life can be.

This post has been brought to you by Accor.

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