Our annual winter getaway this year was to the beautiful and totally palm-ilicious Palm Cove in tropical North Queensland. We decided to head as north as we could to get some decent sunshine during the cold Adelaide winter. We'd never been to Palm Cove and after some research (including chatting to the acclaimed Australian travel photographer, Kara Rosenlund, on Instagram!) it seemed like a great choice for a relaxed family holiday.
Palm Cove is a quiet and laid back town by the sea, the pace is slow which is the perfect anti-dote to our busy lives (that's the whole point of a holiday, right?). She might be laid back but gee, Palm Cove is an absolute stunner! The beach is lined with palm trees and the esplanade with paperbark trees...it really puts the 'tropical' in tropical paradise.
GETTING THERE + AROUND // A 3 hour direct flight from Adelaide to Cairns, Palm Cove is then a half hour drive from Cairns. We booked a car online with Thrifty (I'm an RAA member which gets you 15% off) so we had wheels for the week.
STAY // We stayed at the Mantra Amphora on Williams Esplanade. Mantra Amphora is beachfront but our two bedroom apartment was set back within the resort itself. Our apartment was lovely and had all we needed, kitchen, laundry facilities and air con. We hired a cot for $10 per day. The only negative was the fact we were on the third floor and accessible only by stairs...fine for us adults but a bit annoying with a toddler and whilst we are past the pram stage, it's worth pointing out it was definitely not pram friendly. Lola managed to fall down the concrete stairs which gave us a fright. Next time I'd ask for a ground or level one apartment. That said, it was centrally located and everything was a short walk away so super easy to get out and about to Williams Esplanade.
FOOD // 27 Degrees for great coffee, smoothies and ice cream, just set off the esplanade, look for the blue bean bags. Vivo, the restaurant in front of Mantra, had the best pork belly, so good I had it twice. It's a little bit on the pricey side, but the food is worth it. Portofino does great pizzas and cocktails. Try and nab yourself a booth at the front which is great for the kids to lounge and relax in (our kids did colouring in and had screen time while we had a relaxed dinner - which was some kind of miracle!). It gets super busy though so we found the service a little slow. We had lunch at the Rising Sun (opposite the playground), great for people watching and hubby tells me they had a great selection of craft beer. They sell kids activity packs for $2.50. All of the places we ate at had kids menus. Palm Cove is very family friendly.
We ate most of our meals at the apartment which made things more affordable as Palm Cove is not just pretty she's also pricey. Being able to make your own meals helps keep costs down. It was also great being able to eat in our apartment after a full day out or at the pool (because overtired kids do not make for a pleasant dining experience!). Pete's Place, the local corner store, is very expensive. We did a food (and booze) shop at Woolies in Clifton Beach (5 minutes drive from Palm Cove). There's also a Liquorland Express in Palm Cove.
We didn't get to venture to any more restaurants but we were told by a local that the Mexican restaurant on the esplanade is very good and the tavern has a playground for the kids. Nu Nu's looks (and I've been told is) AMAZING. So nice we didn't even bother taking ourselves there because our two year old is a menace! It's the kind of restaurant you want to savior and enjoy as a couple, and has a price tag to match (I looked up the menu online and mains were $45 and upwards). Maybe next time?!
THINGS TO DO IN PALM COVE // There's not a whole heap to do in Palm Cove, which is perfect if you want to just relax (well, as much as you can with kids!). My kids loved the resort pool so we didn't need much more than that to keep them happy and entertained. They would have been happy to swim and play in the pool all day for the whole week. But there's also...fishing off the jetty (our 7 year old loved it, hubby packed his rod from home), the playground on the beachfront is shaded and kept our two well entertained, the esplanade has a great footpath for walks (and scooters if you bring them - we didn't) and of course, beach play and swims. We saw a beautiful pod of dolphins jumping in and out of the water. On Sundays they shut the main street off for the Palm Cove Markets which were surprisingly very good! I always like to bring something home from my travels so this was a real treat for me (not so much for Lola - ha!). Palm Cove also has fireworks on the esplanade on Saturday nights.
Hubby and I had treatments/massages at the Palm Cove Retreat Day Spa which were divine. My body scrub (with a Vichy shower - have you had one? They are the bomb!), facial and massage was lovely - I'd definitely go back. They are located in Mantra but anyone can make a booking.
DAY TRIPS // While there isn't an abundance of things to do in Palm Cove there is a lot to see, with Palm Cove half hour from Cairns and Port Douglas each way, so it's handy having a car to explore. We took the kids to Hartley's Crocodile Adventures, an easy 15 min drive north, for some croc feeding and viewing which was a good 2-3 hour excursion before heading back to the pool.
Fitzroy Island was a full day trip from Cairns. An early start, but it was a great day (the island also has a resort so you can stay here if you wanted to linger a little bit longer). The ferry to the island takes 45 minutes, easily do-able with a toddler. There are a number of ferry/island providers to choose from, we left Cairns at 9am and got back at 5pm. The boys went snorkelling and saw heaps of fish and coral, but the glass bottom boat was disappointing, we didn't see much except for some ordinary looking coral...if you want the colourful stuff you'll have to go to the outer reef. That said, we saw a sea turtle and a whale from afar - yes, a WHALE! This was a definite highlight. Nudey's Beach (where we saw the whale) has been voted Australia's No. 1 beach in 2018, it's about a 10-15 min walk through bush and over some boulders with some steep sections in parts. Perfectly do-able with kids. Lola loved it and didn't complain once. It's a lovely little beach with snorkelling off the shore. Some parts of the island like the toilets and eating area are a bit outdated and dingy but I've been told by a couple of other travellers that Green Island was a huge disappointment and awful in parts so I think we chose the right island.
Port Douglas is about a 30 minute drive north, we went for a drive and some lunch. And I got to check out Ahoy Trader - yay. Lots of lovely Spell and The Gypsy Collective, Jai Vasicek and Bonnie and Neill. Those Jatana Interiors tiles are to die for!
I'm really pleased we chose Palm Cove, a first for us but definitely not a last. An average of 27 degrees in winter, it was perfect weather for swimming, day tripping and relaxing (without the sweaty upper lip!!)...if only we could have stayed longer. We will be back! Till then, stay beautiful Palm Cove.