Despite what some brochures may infer, Cairns city has no beach. But just a 15-minute drive from Cairns will bring you to a string of lovely beach communities, all with their own distinct character. If you’re visiting Cairns and would like to spend some time at one of these beaches, read on to find which one of the top five Cairns beaches is right for you.


1. Palm Cove

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Great for: Honeymooners, those who want a quiet, upmarket holiday

Avoid if: You want a low budget or active holiday

Distance from Cairns: 23km (14 miles)

Transport options: Bus, car


A 35-minute drive north of Cairns, Palm Cove is one of Queensland’s jewels; an idyllic, albeit expensive base from which to explore the far north. It’s a quiet place sough out by those in the know for its magnificent trees, calm waters, exceptionally clean beach, and excellent restaurants.

More intimate than Port Douglas and more upmarket than its southern neighbours, Palm Cove is essentially one big promenade along the paperbark-lined Williams Esplanade, with a gorgeous stretch of white-sand beach and top-notch restaurants luring sunlovers out of their luxury apartments.

A charming beachside village that sprawls back towards the highway, Palm Cove is easily navigated on foot. Many of the best accommodations, bars, and eateries are strung along the oceanfront strip of Williams Esplanade, fronting what has been dubbed Australia’s cleanest beach. At its north end, a five-minute stroll from the village, there’s a jetty and small marina.

Getting here from Cairns is a cinch; by car, follow the signs from the city centre to Captain Cook Highway, then head north, taking the Palm Cove turnoff after about 25 km (16 miles). Regular shuttle buses service Palm Cove from the airport and Cairns. Around this compact beach area, though, most people walk or cycle.



2. Trinity Beach

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Great for: Families, holiday-makers who want a quiet, expensive holiday

Avoid if: You want a low budget or active holiday

Distance from Cairns: 19km (12 miles)

Transport options: Bus, car


Along with Palm Cove, Trinity Beach is a more developed and upmarket tourist area with many dining and drinking options and long stretch of sheltered sands, making it a favourite for holiday-makers. Trinity Beach has spotlessly clean, palm-fringed beaches and lots of luxury holiday apartments, beach resorts, cafes, boutique shops, restaurants and watersports.



3. Ellis Beach

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Great for: Those who want a quiet, low key holiday

Avoid if: You want an active vacation or don’t have a car

Distance from Cairns: 27km (17 miles)

Transport options: Car


Ellis Beach is the last and possibly the best of the northern beaches and the closest to the highway, which runs right past it. If you want to really escape for a few days, you couldn’t ask for a finer place to unwind than Ellis Beach, thirty minutes north of Cairns on the way to Port Douglas. Ellis Beach is nothing more than an endless strip of sand and coastal belt of trees. The long sheltered bay is a stunner, with a palm-fringed, patrolled swimming beach and stinger net in summer.

If you’re staying at Ellis Beach consider visiting Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures which has tours of this croc farm, along with feedings, ‘crocodile attack’ shows, and boat cruises on its lagoon. The park is just up the highway in Wangetti Beach and is open daily from 8:30am to 5pm.



4. Yorkeys Knob

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Great for: Those who want a low-key holiday

Avoid if: You want an active holiday

Distance from Cairns: 17km (11 miles)

Transport options: Bus, car


Yorkeys Knob is a low-key settlement popular with sailors and home to 200 bobbing boats. More importantly, Yorkeys Knob is one of the best kite-surfing beaches in Australia. It is also well known for its Half Moon Bay and picturesque marina. Be quick to visit as a proposed mega-casino could change the relaxed vibe.



5. Holloways Beach

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Great for: Those who want a quick getaway to the beach

Avoid if: You want an active holiday

Distance from Cairns: 11km (7 miles)

Transport options: Bus, car


Around 11km north of Cairns, Holloways Beach is the closest beach to Cairns. Unfortunately, it’s also the closest beach to the airport making it a less quiet place to stay compared to the other beaches further away. Holloways Beach is a string of suburban streets fronting a long strip of sand with nice restaurants, shops and bars.



Tell us what you think. Which Cairns beach are you planning to visit? If you’ve been to one of the Cairns beaches before, please share with us your experiences.

We love to hear from you so please leave your comments below.



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