Perfectly positioned half-way between Cairns and Port Douglas, Palm Cove is a laidback, seaside village that has the best of both worlds. Head south and you have the comforts of the city only 30 minutes away – cinemas, shopping centres, markets, and must-see tourist attractions. Head north along the spectacular coastline of the Great Barrier Reef Drive, and you’ll reach Port Douglas – gateway to the world’s oldest, continuously living rainforest – in just half an hour.
But chances are, you’ll never want to leave Palm Cove. With its pristine stretch of sand, Coral Sea views out to Double Island, fabulous eating establishments, spas, and boutiques, it’s the perfect getaway. Here’s how we’d spend 48 hours in Palm Cove.
A laid-back, friendly spot on the corner of Veivers Road and Williams Esplanade, you’ll want to nab a prime spot at the bar overlooking both the passing street action and beyond, past the palm tree-lined shore to the Coral Sea. You can rely on good coffee here and we love the fact it has an all-day breakfast menu, offering healthy options to balance out the likes of eggs benny. And then there’s the banana bread with espresso mascarpone…go on, you’re on holidays!
While only a 45-minute journey across the water by fast catamaran, you’ll feel a world away as you step onto the jetty of Green Island. This is the only coral cay on the Great Barrier Reef with a rainforest, and as we only have a limited amount of time, this is the perfect place to tick both the rainforest and reef off your bucket list. Your coach transfer will pick you up from your Palm Cove accommodation, delivering you to the Cairns Marlin Marina to board your vessel. With three departure times throughout the day from the island – two of which are in the afternoon – you have the flexibility to hop a ride home earlier. But with the lush rainforest, colourful coral, endless island activities, and plenty of sea life to explore, we have a feeling you won’t want to cut down on time spent here. Grab a bite to eat at the casual dining options available on the island.
Now, if you’d prefer to be a Palm Cove purist and opt for island explorations closer to home, Palm Cove Watersports offers a range of tours, including a half-day kayaking and snorkelling tour where you’ll paddle over the fringing reefs, snorkel, and explore Haycock Island, more commonly known as Scout Hat Island, and the exclusive Double Island.
After a day of fun in the sun, it’s time to kick back at Vivo for some al fresco dining. Set in a Queenslander, just a two-minute walk north from Chill Café, this establishment oozes tropical elegance. The service is friendly and the head chef’s passion for flavour and quality is apparent in every dish that is brought to the table. While the menu leans heavily towards Modern Australian cuisine, you’ll find Mediterranean and Asian-inspired dishes too.
After a leisurely dinner, wander back to enjoy your beautiful Palm Cove accommodation.
Need some more time to enjoy all that Green Island has to offer? The best way is to stay overnight in the island's 5-star eco-resort. Choose from Reef Suite or Island Suite accommodation, and enjoy a range of indulgent inclusions in the guest rooms such as high-quality linens and gorgeous soft furnishings. The resort facilities are second to none, with a beautiful heated pool, day spa, restaurant and bars to enjoy. Best of all, your stay comes with the following complimentary activities:
An early morning stroll down the beach as the palm trees sway and the sun rises over the horizon is just so picture-perfect tropical you’ll want to pinch yourself. It’s common for pods of dolphins to be spotted playing in the distant waters, so keep your eyes peeled. Seriously, can life get any better?!
Another beachfront breakfast spot to start your day right, The Pantry serves up great coffee and great food at a reasonable price. You’ll find what you want at this hot spot that’s becoming increasingly popular; the mango smoothie goes down a treat.
Are you ready for pure indulgence? This spa’s signature treatment, the Daintree Rainforest Ritual, promises to take you on a million-year-old journey, using black ash clays, smoked paperbark oil, and Kakadu or wattleseed salts. You’ll be buffed, wrapped in warm clay, and then massaged with aromatic oils – you’d be forgiven for falling asleep at this point. This luxurious spa offers a range of treatments to suits all budgets and specialises in dual therapies so your partner won’t feel left out. There’s also a spa and lunch package available where you can choose to dine overlooking the Coral Sea, or poolside, after your treatment.
If, however, you’d like to explore other options for lunch, Jack and Shanan’s is located right between Chill and Vivo and has a nice vibe. They’ve got everything from cold-pressed juices and smoothies to organic coffee, light snacks, or more substantial meals. If you’re keen to hold on to that post-pampering virtuousness, there are plenty of healthy, yet satisfying options to keep you happy. But if it’s a Sunday, the bottomless Chandon deal at Beach Almond is hard to pass up. Paired with a five-course Asian banquet you have a selection of tasty tropical concoctions such as a lychee kaffir bellini or a lemongrass chandon spritz to wash down those delicate dumplings.
After lunch, take the time to explore your surroundings, with a stroll down the esplanade. Lined with centuries-old paperbark melaleuca trees, there is a range of boutiques and speciality stores worth perusing. But if you aren’t keen on an afternoon of shopping, there are kayaks and stand-up paddle boards for hire on the beach. Or you may even want to try your luck at casting a line off the jetty. It’s known as one of the hot spots for keen fishing folk and there are rods and bait for hire from the food van parked in the car park near the jetty.
Alright, this is obviously a favourite but we can’t go past sundowners at Vivo. This may be overkill if you’ve already been long-lunching it with bubbles, but the cocktails are exceptional, with a particular favourite being the granita margarita. If you’re a fan of this classic cocktail, trust us on this one.
It would be sacrilege to stay in Palm Cove and not dine at this award-winning restaurant. Head chef Nick Holloway (yes, the one from MasterChef) hails from down south and since opening Nu Nu’s in 2004 has won multiple awards by sticking to his ethos of offering excellent food in a relaxed and luscious tropical setting. The wine list consists of a range that has been carefully chosen to compliment the menu. Sit back, enjoy the ambience, and listen to the waves gently lapping at the shore while you decide on what your trip highlight has been, and what you’ll explore next time you’re in town.
If you’ve only got a limited time in Mackay, this itinerary will still allow you to seek nature experiences in the rainforest, get up-close-and-personal with wildlife on the coast and soak up the city scene all in a 48-hour period.
Cairns is a city that feels more like a big town. Devoid of the traffic and high rise buildings plaguing other east-coast cities, Cairns exudes a relaxed vibe that keeps people coming back. While there’s no denying it’s best known as a hub to explore the World Heritage-listed double act of the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest – and yes, we’ll let you know the best ways to do so – there’s even more to Cairns than this. Teeming with bars, restaurants, and cafes for all budgets, you’ll need a little guidance on the best haunts to visit in 48 hours. So, swap your briefcase for boardies and your heels for thongs (or flip flops – depending on where you’re from), because you’re in the tropics now and we like get down to business in comfort here.
What was once a sleepy little fishing village is now a luxurious base from which to explore the two World Heritage-listed gems of the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest. So, aside from these two must-see sites what else is there to do in, and around, this idyllic seaside location? You mean besides the boutiques, cafes, fine-dining restaurants, art galleries, scenic lookouts, tours, spas, and beach activities? Yeah, you get the picture. But let’s say you only have 48 hours and you want to snap the most drool-worthy Instagram pics. Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s a suggested run down, with a couple of alternative options thrown in for good measure. Enjoy!
How long does it take to get to the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns? It very well may seem like a simple and easy question to answer, however, there are so many variables that make the answer not quite as straight forward as you may have initially thought.
No matter whether you are a snorkeller or a certified scuba diver, there are number of amazing Great Barrier Reef experiences that are a once in a lifetime absolutely ‘must do’. And a Minke Whale snorkel and dive Expedition is one of those that should be on your list!
Thinking of becoming a Certified Scuba Diver and looking to do your learn to scuba dive PADI certificate? Do you wish to learn to dive with a high quality professional company that has an outstanding reputation for not only skill but also safety and can match this with some of the best liveaboard dive boat fleets on the Great Barrier Reef?
This tour is special in so many ways, and is unrivalled to all other reef tours in Far North Queensland. First of all, it has the shortest open water crossing to get to the Great Barrier Reef. Fantastic news for anyone prone to motion sickness. Although this tour is a ‘Reef’ tour, it includes a ‘River Cruise’ on the journey there with Island activities on arrival. And a huge PLUS to guests that like to avoid the crowds, it has one of the lowest passenger capacities of all the island tours with a maximum of 100 guests. The destination is to an uninhabited continental island called Normanby in National Park which is part of the archipelago of Frankland Islands. It is located 10km offshore from the mouth of the Russell and Mulgrave Rivers at Russell Heads, which is approximately 45km South-East of Cairns. The Normanby Island has an abundance of wildlife not only in the water, but also on the island itself. The island is pristine, and has its own rainforest and a fringing reef not far out from its sandy shores. There are also coral gardens located further out from the island for the those that want to explore the deeper waters.
This is not a blog, it is a pitch on how good this Great Barrier Reef 2 day 1 night liveaboard dive trip from Cairns is such good value. One of our team members wrote it because she thinks it is such an amazing good value Great Barrier Reef tour, she wanted to write about it and put it on our Barrier Reef Australia blog page. We were not sure it was appropriate to pitch a single tour but we decided on free speech and free opinions so read more if you are inclined, or go to another page now. From our wonderful Great Barrier Reef Tour Specialist Chelsea Are you looking for a good value liveaboard Great Barrier Reef scuba diving adventure from Cairns without the crowds? Do you want the best dive deal money can buy in Cairns? If your answer is yes, then check out what deals we have on offer with our Great Barrier Reef Tour 2 Day 1 Night Sail, Snorkel and Scuba Dive tour!
If you are scared of the water and the creatures that live there or have never been exposed to an aquatic life in your younger years, but still wish to live out that lifelong dream of seeing the iconic wonders of the world the Great Barrier Reef, then that is okay, we have a tour that will enable you to see the coral reef from above the water and also below the water’s surface without you even getting your hair wet!