13 Best Things To Do In Palm Cove Near Cairns 2023 Guide
Looking for the best things to do in Palm Cove in Tropical North Queensland? While we’ve stayed in Port Douglas, Cairns and Palm Cove, we have to say Palm Cove is our favourite out of the three Tropical North Queensland destinations.
We even considered moving here after our last visit with a fantastic holiday vibe and excellent modern restaurants. So, here are some of our favourite things to do in Palm Cove that you should check out during your next visit to Cairns.
FYI – We checked out the nearby Trinity Beach and although there were definitely some cheaper places to eat there, it didn’t have the same vibe at all and we’re glad we stayed in Palm Cove for sure.
Here are some of the best things to do in Palm Cove in Australia.
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Where is Palm Cove?
Palm Cove beach is located 30min drive from Cairns, and a 35min drive from Port Douglas, making it a perfect place to stay in between the two and the Great Barrier Reef islands. It’s also a 30min drive to Kuranda and 45min to Mossman Gorge, so it doesn’t get much better location-wise.
We recommend hiring a car to make the most of your trip, even though there are plenty of tours you can go on.
Tropical North Queensland Map
Check out our Tropical North Queensland map to find all of our favourite hidden gems in the area! As you can see, there’s so many things to do in Palm Cove and nearby!
1. Sunrise at Palm Cove Beach
Make sure you get up in time to see the sunrise poking through the famous palm trees at Palm Cove Beach. It’s a spectacular sight that everyone needs to witness when on holiday in Tropical North Queensland as it’s a stunning beach and a sandy beach too!
2. Visit the meditation rocks at Wangetti Beach
A 10min drive up the road from Palm Cove will bring you to Wangetti Beach, located on the famous Cairns to Port Douglas Coastal Drive. You’ll find The Gatz Balancing Rocks at the Southern end of the beach.
While the art of balancing stones can have many meanings, each stone tends to represent a prayer or thought of gratitude. You might like to stop by and add to this ever-evolving work of art as we did.
3. Get the Insta famous photo at Thala Beach Nature Reserve
One of the best things to do in Palm Beach is a 15 minute drive away. A little further north of Wangetti Rocks will bring you to the Insta famous Thala Beach Nature Reserve. When we searched for the palm tree plantations, we drove right through it, not realising that it was a lot smaller in person. Just be careful when visiting of the falling coconuts!
There were a couple of people there to get some photos too, but if you continue on the road, you’ll come to the eco-award winning Thala Beach Nature Reserve, which has it’s own private beach and accommodation.
Bring a drone to get the famous shot, it looks more impressive from a bird’s eye view than it does in person.
4. Walk Down The Palm Cove Jetty
We loved having a nighttime walk down the Palm Cove Jetty, which gives you the holiday feels! Come down during day light and watch people fishing for mackerel.
5. Scenic Coastal Drive From Cairns To Port Douglas
Spend the day heading up to Port Douglas on the Cairns coastal drive, which is absolutely beautiful and something everyone needs to do when they visit Tropical North Queensland. You’ll want to stop loads to appreciate it and take photos of the beaches you’ll see along the way. You’ll never get sick of this drive, it’s too beautiful to.
6. Kayak To Double Island
Hire a kayak and paddle about 30 minutes over to Double Island in the Great Barrier Reef! This is a fun activity for the whole family and anyone wanting to get up close to the Great Barrier Reef. On this popular tour, you may find eagle rays, shovel nose sharks, mangrove rays, colourful fish, and sea turtles.
7. Get Up Close To Crocodiles at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures
If you’re looking to visit crocodiles in Cairns, why not check out Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures? This eco-tourism park is situated in the World Heritage Listed Wet Tropics where you can go on self-guided walks and watch a crocodile show. You can also book a special breakfast with koalas as well. Get your entrance ticket to Hartleys Crocodile Adventures here.
8. 27 Degrees For Acai Bowls
We loved the acai bowls at 27 Degrees in Palm Cove. Make sure you swing by and visit them. They also sell homemade peanut butter which is absolutely delicious!
9. Vivo For Dinner
You must go to Vivo for dinner in Palm Cove. We loved this restaurant which serves up excellent cocktails and an all day menu. I remember Steve’s Nasi Goreng dish was exceptional and is one of their longest-serving options on the menu (over six years at the time of writing) which you could have for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I had the ravioli which was also fantastic. We also would have gone to Nu Nu Restaurant if we had time!
Places To Visit Nearby
As we mentioned, there are many things to do in Tropical North Queensland, even if it’s pouring with rain like when we visited in December. You can check out our guide for Visiting Cairns During The Wet Season.
Obviously you can’t come to Palm Cove without visiting Cairns! Home to the largest city in TNQ, you’ll find plenty of tours and day trips departing from here as well as loads of restaurants and nightlife to go to.
Here’s some of our top picks!
Helicopter Ride Over Great Barrier Reef
Easily one of the best things we have done in Cairns is a helicopter flight over the Great Barrier Reef. It tops any snorkelling or scuba diving tour we’ve done there too. There are quite a few different options to choose from to book, but here’s the most popular options:
Experience the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns and visit Green Island or Fitzroy Island. If you’re unsure which one to visit, check out our article which compares both in an honest light.
Enjoy The FREE Cairns Esplanade Lagoon
The Cairns Esplanade Lagoon really is pretty awesome, especially because it’s free for everyone (which is surprisingly brilliant!). Because there’s no beach in Cairns, many people sit at the lagoon and enjoy the day here instead.
While Port Douglas is that bit further away from Cairns, it is a popular holiday spot for a reason! Being close to The Daintree National Park packs a punch for good restaurants, laid back holiday vibes, and access to The Great Barrier Reef.
Here’s some of our top picks for what to do in Port Douglas!
Obviously you have to visit Mossman Gorge when holidaying in Palm Cove. It’s also an easy way to access the Daintree Rainforest (there is an entry fee).
Mossman Gorge is one of the most popular places to visit near Cairns. It’s also one of the easiest ways to get into The Daintree Rainforest as you can swim here (be aware most of the Daintree swimming holes are off limits as they are sacred for the local indigenous community). It is a stunning slice of paradise and a bucket list item to tick off that you’ve swam in the oldest rainforest in the world! It is busy so don’t expect to have it to yourself.
Trinity Bay Lookout
One of the first things to do in Port Douglas is to make a beeline to Trinity Bay Lookout. This beautiful lookout has views stretching as far as the eye can see over Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas and right back down the coast towards Cairns. It’s a stunning first point of call when you come to Port Douglas! Good news is you can drive right up to it, so no walking is involved!
Walk Along Four Mile Beach
Four Mile Beach is a stunning beach in Tropical North Queensland everyone should make an effort to go and see. You’ll be able to see it from Trinity Bay Lookout but just be careful when swimming and swim between the flags during stinger season.
12. Cape Tribulation
Although it’s a 2h30m drive from Cairns, Cape Tribulation is absolutely beautiful and where the rainforest meets the ocean. It’s gorgeous here and feels like a world away. You’ll find the second half of The Daintree Rainforest up here too.
Here’s some of our top picks for things to do in Cape Tribulation & The Daintree Rainforest.
Swim At The Beautiful Mason’s Store Swimming Hole
Mason’s Store Swimming Hole is often regarded as the best swimming spot in Cape Tribulation. The turquoise water is enough for anyone looking to find a spectacular swimming hole near Cairns.
Drive One Of The Best 4WD Roads In Queensland
If you’re heading up to Cooktown, the 4WD only Bloomfield Track is one of the most scenic drives in Queensland. Also known as the Coast Road or the Cape Tribulation to Bloomfield Road, the Bloomfield Track is 33km of incredible landscapes, swimming holes and much more.
Daintree Rainforest Aerial Walkway
Walk along one of the top 10 skywalks in Australia according to Australian Geographic at the Daintree Rainforest Aerial Walkway. It sits 11m high above the rainforest and is a spectacular way to take in the experience of standing in the world’s oldest rainforest!
13. Waterfalls in Atherton Tablelands
If I had to pick my favourite place in Tropical North Queensland apart from Palm Cove, it would be Atherton Tablelands. Read our guide for the 28 best things to do in Atherton Tablelands to read more about this spectacular part of Tropical North Queensland.
Home to so many swimming holes and waterfalls to visit, here’s our top picks, including a Spanish castle!
There are so many amazing waterfalls in Atherton Tablelands to visit, but make sure you tick off the famous ones along the Waterfall Circuit because they really are all worth visiting!
Swim in Lake Eacham
We just fell in love with Lake Eacham and it’s a must-visit from us when coming to Cairns. The crater lake is huge and there’s something quite magical about it that you need to go in person to see it!
The Spanish castle hidden in the beautiful rainforest in Tropical North Queensland is a sight you won’t see anywhere else in the world. We were blown away by it and spent a few hours here so excited to walk around and take photos of this special place. You can check out our guide for visiting Paronella Park to find out more. Tip – buy the combo package and visit Mamu Tropical Skywalk around the corner as well – it’s brilliant!