Palm Cove and Port Douglas

So anyways, Sarah and I hired a car when we arrived in Cairns – partly because we needed it to get out and about, but mostly because we wanted to head up to Palm Cove and Port Douglas for a look. We’d been told that we couldn’t come to Cairns without doing that.

I, however, left it until the last minute to book – imagine that, me leaving it until the last minute to book something? While I am a last-minute packer (yep, I’m the one who zips the suitcase up just as we’re due to leave for the airport) I do tend to have the structural stuff ticked off. This time though I left it until the day before we flew out to do something about car hire and to say the coice was limited was an understatement.

‘Here’s the scratch sheet,’ said the girl behind the counter. ‘But don’t worry too much about it. You have insurance so it’s only the big stuff we’re worried about.’

The car, an older model Camry, had plenty of little scrapes on it. It also had cobwebs on the mirrors. Hardly surprising, we figured, the borders had only been opened for a week and Cairns is very reliant on tourism. By this stage, I’m pressing the button on the keyring and nothing is happening. That’s when we realise this needs a key to open the boot. Sarah has never seen such a thing so we laugh and laugh.

It is, however, super comfortable to drive, perfect for what we need and cheap.

Palm Cove

Okay, if there’s a place closer to paradise, I’d love to see it.

Palm Cove is just beautiful. Blue skies, swaying palm trees, water gently lapping against a white sandy beach…what’s not to like? At just 27kms north of Cairns, it’s an easy drive if you wanted to fly into Cairns and stay here.

Okay, so you can’t swim in the beach between November and May – on account of the stingers – and there are crocodile signs up near where the stream meets the beach, but the resorts look beautiful and there are plenty of options for eating. At this tie of the year, in what is the middle of winter, I couldn’t think of a better place to be.

We’d decided to stop here for breakfast and chose Chill Cafe.

Chill Cafe

Sarah had an eggs benedict that she said was almost perfect – except for the Turkish toast (she’s a hard marker when it comes to eggs bennie) and I have avocado with tomato and a poached egg on Turkish toast with, wait for it, a scrape of vegemite. And you know what? It worked.

Afterwards we walked up and down the beach path a little to check out the resorts and the little shops before hopping back into the car and heading up to Port Douglas.

Port Douglas

Port Douglas Beach – from the lookout

I’m one of those people who doesn’t particularly enjoy driving. I freak out, and I mean really freak out, on multi-lane highways and much prefer to be a passenger.

The road between Palm Cove and Port Douglas is, while a tad twisty, okay for me. We rarely got up to speed, and everyone was taking it pretty easy – mainly because it was so scenic. The road hugs the coast so around every curve is another beach or the great expanse of Coral Sea.

Sarah had a Zoom call that she needed to sign on for – a briefing for the uni course she was beginning on Monday – so we called in quickly at Four Mile Beach for a look before finding somewhere with phone reception.

Port Douglas itself is beautiful – not jaw-droopingly gorgeous like Palm Cove, but more like what you’d expect a tropical tourist town to look like. It reminded us a lot of Noosa – great eateries, some lovely art galleries and shops.

We found a spot for Sarah to do her call – at a cafe attached to the bookshop – so I settled back with a book and watched the world walk by.

We had a fabulous lunch at Watergate – sharing three small plates between us: a tuna tataki, karage crocodile with sriracha and a herb salad, and salt and pepper cuttlefish with a green papaya salad.

I also loved this takeaway place – Dave’s – where they have walls of Daves. If your name is Dave you get your photo on the wall and a discount. Too funny.

On the way back to Cairns we called in at a few of the lookout points and lay-bys and a few of the beaches off the main road.

Another perfect day in paradise.

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

31 thoughts

  1. The beach, the palm trees swaying, the food, the scenery, the bookstore…this all looks like paradise indeed (except for the Vegemite which I am firmly declining). See you soon! 😀

  2. Thank you for taking me back! The first time I drove that road was in 2002, and in a top down Megane. The best. Loved every part of the drive, because around a corner, there would be more of that ocean. Two more times I have returned once with B and I admit I loved the solo part. Did day trips to Mossman Gorge, Atherton Tablelands and had a barbecue lunch in a secluded spot of water where you could see the little fishies!! Denyse #mlstl

  3. Such beautiful photos, Jo. I loved the swaying palms and gorgeous beaches. I loved every minute of living in a tropical climate and miss it every day, so thanks for taking me back for a few minutes. Oh, and the wall of ‘Daves’ was awesome, too! #MLSTL

  4. LOVED the Wall of Dave – absolutely the best of Aussie-ness isn’t it? Also enjoyed all the blue skies and palm trees – but most of all the little shops etc – I love those tourist towns that are brimming with interesting little places to check out. Your time away sounds like it was divine.

  5. Palm Cove looks beautiful. With views like that, I wouldn’t even care if I couldn’t go in the water. I could just listen to the waves. I’m glad you are able to get out and about during the pandemic.

    1. Thanks Michele. While Queensland has closed it’s borders again to the southern states, we still only have a handful of active cases and one massive state we can explore. We are very fortunate indeed.

  6. Absolutely beautiful pictures! Thank you for sharing them with us. I would not want to walk where the crocodiles lurk and I too am a nervous traveler. When my husband drives, I close my eyes, and try to sleep because I am also not a great passenger. Those pictures, that water, I agree with Michele. It could be enough to listen to the water music. (Another) Michele Somerville, The Beach Girl Chronicles

  7. Both places look like paradise to me: gorgeous scenery plus bookstores, cafes, etc. I have to get used to driving on the left when I visit Australia as we drive on the right over here. #lovin’lifelinky

  8. Great wrap up! We went to Palm Cove and Port Douglas when we were in Cairns last year also. My daughter was chauffeur in her um … interesting car with no working aircon so our tresses were getting whipped about via the open windows. Palm Cove is pretty stunning isn’t it? I’d love to vacay there one day. Port Douglas as you say isn’t quite the same level but there was some nice cafes and interesting shops. Not sure when I’ll get up there again now that my daughter is transferring to the Gold Coast – arriving back later this month.

  9. It’s such a beautiful part of the world – your trip really cheered me up on SM while you were posting. I like the quietness of Palm Cove. It feels more remote, even though there are plenty of resorts and restaurants….

  10. I think my grandmother used to put vegemite in her gravy. Vegemite works with a lot of things!

    Am also not the biggest fan of driving. But it’s annoyingly unpredictable what I’m ok with. My main stopper for road tripping really.

    I’ve never had crocodile let alone karage croc!

    The whole thing looks picture perfect.

  11. Hi Jo I haven’t been to Port Douglas for about 20 years but after seeing your photos on Instagram Mike and I are planning a trip north post COVID – if that every happens! Gorgeous photos and that food! Would you be our travel guide? I’m sure you would make it fun. Thanks for sharing at #MLSTL and have a beautiful week. x

  12. I’ve not been that far up the coast bit it’s on my list and thanks to your post I now have a good idea what to do when I get there! Your photos are gorgeous and I love the fun you had with Sarah. #mlstl

    1. I can’t wait to go back. I have no idea what it would be like in the summer with the humidity, but I do want to go back.

  13. The first time we went to FNQ we stayed in Cairns but after a day trip to Port Douglas, every time we ventured north for a holiday we stayed there instead. Reading your post brought back so many happy memories although not of that road between Cairns and Port, that’s not for the faint hearted or the easily car sick! You’re so lucky to have that on your almost doorstep and now that the borders are closed, in your own state 🙂

    1. It’s interesting that you say that – Sares and I loved PD but thought we’d probably still stay in Cairns next time…and there will be a next time – especially now that we can fly from Maroochydore and don’t have to do the run into Brissy.

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