Palm Cove: Holiday destination guide (Top 10 things to do)

Looking for a combination of relaxation and sightseeing? A temperature that is balmy 24-7. The occasional dip in a pool. Look no further than Palm Cove. A holiday destination for Australians and those from around the world to enjoy the best of Far North Queensland.

While Far North Queensland is known for its amazing natural wonders such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Forest. This short holiday trip did not include these in our recent 3-night stay.

Palm Cove was our choice of destination after scouring the internet for possible locations. We were close to going to the Whitsundays but it seemed to be rather expensive and fairly restrictive in what you could do. So we opted for Palm Cove.

What a great decision it was. Flying into Cairns airport. Palm Cover is just over 30 mins drive from the Airport. If you are staying at a serviced apartment. There are Smithfield and Clifton supermarkets. These make for a great stop to pick up any necessary items for your stay.

Palm Cove can be described as a charming little beach town. While it does have a slight manufactured feel to it. They have managed to sculpt an amazing Esplanade. It makes for dreamy views.

It is small enough of a town that you can get by predominantly on foot. If you are going to check out some of the amazing scenery. It’s well worth hiring a car so you can get to your planned destinations. All which are within 30-45 mins away from Palm Cove.

(Side note: There is a public bus system that does run between Cairns and Palm Cove. If you are planning on relaxing you can either take a shuttle or jump on the local bus).

Our four day (three-night) trip, which included return airfares with Jetstar. Three nights accommodation at Amphora Mantra. Four days of car hire. All our meals bought. Cost us approximately $2,000 for two adults.

When we were visiting in October. The holidaymakers were predominantly retirees. Young families and soon to be parents (we were one of those). It is a super family-friendly location. With resorts which cater for all kinds of people.

Ideally, a place with a large pool is best. The ocean while being the temperature of a heated pool didn’t feel particularly safe to swim in. The signs in the surrounding area suggested crocodiles and stingers in the midst. I’m a super safe kind of person so dipping my toes was just all I needed.

(Final note – This holiday was our babymoon. A final holiday with my pregnant and expecting wife to our second child. Child number one was having a holiday at grandmas house.)

The highlights of our trip to Palm Cove were:

Kuranda – Markets

The drive to Kuranda from Palm Cove was approximately thirty minutes. A lovely drive through the hills to get to the village of Kuranda. At the time we visited, there was plenty of space to park the car. That was no issue at all.

There are actually two markets at Kuranda. First, there is the Original Rainforest Market. I really dug the vibe of the setting of this market. It is as named. A rainforest Market set over many levels (not wheelchair accessible). It is also full of hippies. You know. Soft baggy linen clothing, dreadlocks and bad tattoos. Lovely people.

The food area was the highlight here for me. With an eclectic blend of flavours, including French, Indonesian and Japanese. I can’t remember the name of the Japanese place. But boy was it a super cute experience. Very traditional with the eldest daughter assisting in the kitchen (must have been around 9 years old). The Katsu curry was delightful.

We then visited across the road to The Heritage Market, which made for a better knick-knacks shopping experience. Anyone want some kangaroo fur purses. Well, here you go. Some great characters running the market there. A more traditional market than the Rainforest Market.

Really enjoyed the markets. They made for a combination of great vibes, good food, genuine but not tacky souvenir shopping and super cool people. Highly recommend.

Cost: Free Entry
Food Prices: Low end
Souvenir Prices: Reasonable

Barron Falls

Barron Falls is the perfect partner for a day trip to Kuranda. Just 8 minutes from the location of Kuranda Markets. There is plentiful parking. Great to see a sightseeing attraction which is also wheelchair accessible (Albeit the push would be tough in segments).

The view of falls is about a 20-25 minute walk from the car park. It follows a majestic rainforest walk for a majority of the walk. Leading to a platform which if you’re not good with heights (like me) can make you feel a little queezy.

It is a phenomenal view of the Barron Falls and well worth the short and easy walking track. There is also a train station where the Kuranda Skyrail makes a stop. We arrived just as a train did. So it was busy but not super packed. They all seemed to be enjoying their train ride.

Thankfully they left not long after and we got to enjoy the view by ourselves. It was great! The huge gorge and valley that the viewing area between the falls is actually quite amazing. The fall at the time wasn’t gushing but it was enough to get a small kick. Look, waterfall.

Cost: It’s Free

Palm Cove Esplanade Walk

The Esplanade Walk is basically Palm Cove. The environment they have been able to model through that section is what a tropical esplanade should look like.

With a combination of windy paths. The delectable palm trees. Giving you at every step one postcard shot after the other. It probably takes around 20-25 minutes to walk from NuNu’s cafe and restaurant all the way to the Pier.

Make sure you walk down the Pier. It provides a whole different perspective of Palm Cove. You get to see this adorable beach town with the enormity of the lush green mountain ranges behind it. It’s absolutely heavenly.

I’d highly suggest stopping off at one of the local ice creameries and get a double scoop cone for your travels. Do it! You’re on holiday.

Crystal Cascades

On the back of our visit to Cairns we decided to stop by another sightseeing adventure in the ‘outdoors’. I only say that because it is the oddest combinations of accessibility and nature in the one experience.

It’s super that the access to this beautiful waterfall, cascade and rock pools. The walk to the top of the hill takes about 30 minutes. Along the way, you will see the cascades flowing. With people intermittently popping down the access points to have a jolly swim.

As we made it to the top of the walkway. We ventured down to get a better look from the water itself. The location has a great outdoor vibe. With a backdrop of super close steep tree laden mountain tops. It was rather spectacular.

The sound of joy was everywhere. While extremely warned against, some young men were taking dives off the cliff. One belly wack after another. It was a treat to watch albeit the dangers involved. Thankfully all seemed calculated on their front.

The cascades themselves were flowing well, while not gushing with water. It made for a serene walk and relaxation. Dipping the toes in the water and just taking in the day, while doing some gentle people and dog watching. Yes, there was massive pitbull there, that was having the time of its life.

Well worth visiting if you have a spare 3 hours somewhere. A combination of getting there. Doing the main walk. Then enjoying the cascades with a possible dip will take some time if you want to get the most out of it.

Cost: Free again (Are you following a theme here?)

Dinner at Kushi

Our final night in Palm Cove was spent having dinner at Kushi. A Japanese Restaurant which specialised in Yakatori. Basically chicken skewers. We reserved a seat for two on their balcony. The balcony itself faces out to the wonderful Williams Esplanade with the night sea in the background.

The food here was great. Our meal consisted of entres of Edamame and Gyoza. Four our mains my wife had her second serving of Karage in two days. I had the Teriyaki chicken (not very adventurous). Some white rice on the side.

The food was delicious. Nothing too fancy and well priced. It would be a mid-range pricing relevant to other restaurants in Palm Cove.

Cost: Two Entres, Two Mains, Two Sides of Rice, Mock Tail and a beer. The total cost was around $90.

Tanks Art Market & The Tanks Art Precinct

Unfortunately, the Tanks Market is only open the last Sunday of every month. April to November. Lucky for us it fell on a Sunday we were there. Set at the Tanks Art Precinct which is an art exhibition centres. At the time we were there.

In one tank there was a Bonsai exposition and competition. In other it was just a regular art gallery. I’m not so much of an art fan. Although my wife thorough enjoyed it. For those of you into art will probably enjoy.

The market itself is set down a road which runs through the botanical gardens region. So it is a well-manacured rain forest setting. I would describe this as being a regular style pop up arts and craft market. There was plenty of knick-knacks to choose from.

If you are into markets you will enjoy this spot. I would say it was my least favourite of the markets on this visit. Still enjoyable with lots to see and the selection of food vans was nice. Although we were mid-meal and didn’t feel like a bite at the time.

Morning Coffee at Nunu

Coffee was great! Make sure you do it. This picture says it all.

Thanks to the random cyclist who recommended it. Best 45-second friendship.

Spa Treatment @ Palm Cove Spa Retreat

This one is recommended by my wife. While I hate the thought of random people touching me. She is a fan and thought that Palm Cove Spa Treatment was lovely and highly recommends. She mentioned that they were mid-priced compared to those she was shopping around for.

Breakfast at Pete’s Place

We loved Pete’s Place. As we didn’t have breakfast included in our stay we had to find a reasonably priced place to have breakfast. After a search of the whole strip, we settled on Petes.

What I loved about it was its lack of flair. I mean that in the nicest way. I’m a simple kind of guy and it appealed to me. Was like your basic general store with quasi fish and chip store. It also did breakfast.

The breakfast there was well priced. Starting with simple toast for $5. To bacon and eggs with toast for $10. To a big breaky for $16. Compared to most places that started at $16 for a bowl of muesli, it was great value.

I would describe the food as breakfast you would cook at home. I like breakfast at home. So it was a match made in heaven. I was pleasantly surprised by the thick-crusted sourdough toast which came with all the meals. It was super yum! We had breakfast there 3 times and was not let down once.

Finally my sincerest of apologies to the man who I didn’t catch his name. He was serving us on our last day. I had an awkward conversation about who is the famous Pete. I asked in this specific sequence of questions. Are you Pete? No. Ohhh no is Pete Dead? Yes. Ahh are you Pete’s son? Yes, that would be me. Guhh, sorry!

Food was still ace! Couple of BBQ Snags with the big breaky was a winner!

Cost: Simple toast for $5. Bacon and eggs with toast for $10. Big breaky for $16.

Dinner at Vivo

To celebrate our holiday we decided to have a fancy night out. Thankfully the accommodation we were staying at, had a fancy restaurant. Vivo was its name. Vivo, I believe Spanish for ‘alive’. This restaurant was certainly that.

We were greeted by a lovely French man, who informed us about the wait in the kitchen. Setting our expectations nice and early, which was great. Fortunately, we were in no rush. So a beer and a mocktail in their lounge as we waited for a seat on the verandah.

The staff were super friendly there. The restaurant itself is quite lovely. It was a fresh and modern but still with that tropical vibe about it. The predominantly verandah seating was superb. The weather was just perfect to be sitting out and enjoying the company, the food and scenery.

We skipped the entres as our appetite wasn’t huge, after our big market lunch. In saying that my wife ordered the half roast chicken, which seemed novel at the time. It was as typed half a roast chicken. I had the Beef Ragout Pasta. It was great. Enjoyed it thoroughly. Also enjoyed helping the wife with her chicken and duck fat potatoes. Yummo!

Cost: The two mains and the drinks was $100. Well worth it.

Best Steak Sandwich in town – The Surf Club Palm Cove

Well, what’s a small beach town without a Surf Club. It had the old RSL style sign in, which I still find odd to this day. Let me tell you though as we arrived we were fanging for some lunch. At the end of exploring the main strip, we ended up at a sign that said lunch special.

I had been craving a steak sandwich all day. Yes, I had been talking about it. There it was the $12.50 steak sandwich. It was a match made in heaven. My wife and I both had the steak sandwich. They were super delicious. At that price tag it was an absolute tasty steal.

Honestly, it was one of the best steak sandwiches I’d ever had. It was literally a moist, easy to bite porterhouse steak in a sandwich. If you are looking for a well-priced meal, go and check out the surf club. I believe there were 4 things on their $12.50 specials menu.

So was Palm Cover worth it?

Yes! Totally. The 3-hour flight is a breeze.

Palm Cove itself is laid back, not too busy, but busy enough to feel like it’s happening. It was the sweet spot for me.

There is so much more than you can do, but this holiday was one which involved a pregnant woman and the aim of relaxing. I should add even though we got so much in. We still had plenty of time to relax by the pool. Go for plenty of dips. Have a couple of lazy gin and tonics.

Don’t forget for those of you feeling a lot more adventurous than we were. You can also visit places such as:

  • The Daintree Forest
  • The Great Barrier Reef
  • Mosman Gorge
  • The Rainforest Cableway
  • Wildlife Parks
  • Crocodile River Cruises
  • Way more waterfalls
  • Port Douglas

I highly suggest getting a car to get around. We got our car for 4 days for around $70 a day with full insurance. Spent a whole $25 doing around 350km’s in the 4 days.

Overall Palm Cover is a great location for a short trip. I highly recommend it and if you were thinking about doing on the cheap there was also the Palm Cove NRMA Palm Cove Holiday Park which is ripe for a camping trip.

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