Explore the tropical northern beaches of Cairns

Road Trip
Don’t overlook these idyllic locations when visiting Queensland's far north.
Couple walking along the beach at Palm Cove.

Cairns is a world-renowned tourist destination, cherished for its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef and World Heritage-listed rainforest.

However, there is much more to the jewel in the far north’s tourism crown with many of its more “local” attractions often overlooked by visitors.

These include the “northern beaches” – a series of tropical beachside suburbs and villages stretching north from the city.

The farthest, Ellis Beach on the spectacular Captain Cook Highway to Port Douglas, is less than 40 minutes’ drive (27km) from the CBD while the closest, Machans Beach, is about 15 minutes (12km) from the city.

Machans Beach

A coastal suburb and the closest beach to Cairns, Machans has private rentals if you are after a beachside escape that’s close to the CBD.

Stop by the beachfront restaurant for sea views, a drink and a meal.

There is a post office attached to the quaint petrol station on the main road to the beachfront.

Holloways Beach

Holloways Beach is the second closest beach to Cairns CBD and the closest patrolled beach with a swimming enclosure.

The area features a handful of holiday apartments and a few cafes and restaurants, playground equipment and free barbecues.

Yorkeys Beach

The wide sandy shore of Yorkeys Knob is a favourite with kite surfers when the trade winds blow.

There is a patrolled swimming enclosure, a playground, exercise equipment and free barbecues.

Tee off at the 18-hole Half Moon Bay Golf Club, put your boat in at the boat ramp or relax on the large deck with marina views at Yorkeys Knob Boating Club.

On the drive to the seafront you’ll come across a small community shopping village which offers a supermarket, pharmacy, casual restaurants and a post office.

There are several accommodation options along or near the Esplanade.

It’s a great base for families, as it is only a seven-minute drive from the major shopping centre at Smithfield where there is a movie theatre, shopping, dining and supermarkets.

Trinity Beach

Trinity Beach is perfect for active travellers with walking tracks along the waterfront and headlands or the more challenging 1km climb to the summit of Earl Hill. For swimmers, there is a patrolled swimming enclosure.

There are many accommodation options at Trinity Beach including luxury apartments and a local tavern perfect for a good Aussie pub feed or drink overlooking the beach.

There are free barbecues at the beach, a small playground and great exercise equipment.

The suburb also has a shopping village with a supermarket, pharmacy, casual restaurants and a post office.

Trinity Beach

Kewarra Beach

A small and charming beach, Kewarra is an idyllic spot to watch the day fade into night as people take afternoon strolls.

From May to December woodfired pizzas and live music can be enjoyed below a string of fairy lights at The Beach Shack nestled among beachfront coconut palms at Kewarra Beach Resort & Spa.

There is a swimming enclosure and the kids will enjoy the playground.

Kewarra Beach

Clifton Beach

Clifton is a relaxed beach where locals go to escape the hustle and bustle.

There are only a small number of holiday apartments and a few restaurants with most attached to the shopping centre.

The centre has a large supermarket, bottle shop, post office, doctor, pharmacy and dentist.

Pick up some supplies and make your way down to one of the free barbecues along the beach, ride bikes along the pathways or use the free exercise equipment. There is a swimming enclosure with weekend lifeguard patrols.

Clifton Beach

Palm Cove

The most iconic of Cairns’ beaches and a personal favourite, Palm Cove is famed for its ancient melaleucas and palm trees framing the ultimate idyllic seaside village.

This is the place to stop for a bite to eat with 25 restaurants to choose from, including fine dining, cafes and, of course, a couple of ice cream parlours.

Glamorous resorts and day spas share the esplanade with a mixture of resort-wear boutiques, gift shops and an art gallery. There is a patrolled swimming enclosure, a playground and water sports including kayaking and jet skis.

Cook your own dinner on the free barbecues and fish from the jetty.

Palm Cove jetty 

Ellis Beach

Five minutes north of Palm Cove a postcard-perfect scene will greet you and with a population of 24 people, there are no buildings or crowds to interrupt your view.

The Ellis Beach Bar & Grill offers tasty food, including $1 oysters on Sundays and mates rates daily between 4-5pm.

There is a patrolled swimming enclosure and accommodation at the caravan park.

Contact RACQ Travel to plan your next Cairns holiday

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Things to note

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.