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Best Beaches On The Cairns Mainland

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Roma Doonga
Updated Thu 09 Feb 2023

The East Coast beaches are for spectacular sunrises and peaceful evenings, and Cairns is no exception. One thing is for sure the beaches around Cairns are never overcrowded, and the sun is almost always guaranteed! The beaches surrounding Cairns are lined with palm trees and have specific areas netted off so you can swim safely and freely. We’ve picked some of our favourite beaches in and around Cairns, and as locals, we know that you won’t want to miss these secluded spots. Whether you’re looking to build sandcastles, bask in the sun or cool off in the ocean, there are plenty of beaches to choose from around Cairns.

Ellis Beach aerial shot

Cairns is the ideal destination for exploring the Great Barrier Reef. With the weather in the tropics hitting average highs of 35 degrees Celsius, you’ll be in search of the nearest beach to laze around on and to escape that everpresent heat with a sea breeze. You can swim at the beach in Cairns, but you should stay within the netted area. When it comes to swimming in the oceans of Cairns, there is always the caution of saltwater crocodiles and jellyfish, aka stingers, so stay between the nets and pay attention to signs posted at the beach. All tours offer the use of stinger suits during stinger season, and some islands around Cairns allow you to swim straight off the beach and into the reef! You can also check out the swimming spots in Cairns’ coolest creeks, waterfalls and pools.

Top 5 Beaches on the Cairns mainland

Two people jumping between palm trees in palm cove

Palm Cove

Distance: 30-minute Drive from Cairns City

North of Cairns is the beautiful beach town of Palm Cove: a sophisticated and relaxed village lined with palm trees on one side and restaurants and hotels on the other. You’ll easily find something to eat after a day in the sun and sea! It is an idyllic Queensland holiday destination. The swimming net is up between November to May and is accompanied by a patrolled swimming area. The nets act as a way to prevent jellyfish stingers from entering the swimming area. If you choose to visit the picturesque Palm Cove, be sure to get that iconic insta-worthy photo under the palms!

Two girls and jeep looking at the sea at Ellis beach

Ellis Beach

Distance: 30-minute Drive from Cairns City

Ellis beach is absolutely one of the locals’ favourite beaches to relax and read a book on a sunny Sunday arvo.  Ellis beach has soft sand to bury your toes in. It's an expansive beach with plenty of parking along the coast, not to mention the picturesque coastal drive on the way out. Ellis Beach is a bit further away from any shops, so be sure to pack a picnic. If you do forget to pack a snack, you can also visit the Ellis beach bar and grill! Ellis Beach has its very own caravan park, with oceanfront bungalows. Wake up and enjoy the sunrise on one of the best beaches in Cairns!

Back of girl in white dress and hat at the beach

Trinity Beach

Distance: 20-minute Drive from Cairns City

Trinity Beach is north of Cairns and favoured by the locals, typically you’ll see dog walkers strolling in the afternoon. Trinity Beach is surrounded by luxury apartments and private accommodations. You can also check out the Henry Ross Lookout during your visit to Trinity Beach to take in spectacular views of the City and Coral Sea. Trinity beach is lined with public BBQs, or you can stop by the local cafes or restaurants for a bite. There is a designated swimming area with a swimming net which is accompanied by a patrolled swimming area.

Bicycles and fishing rod on Kewarra Beach

Kewarra Beach

Distance: 20-minute Drive from Cairns City

A beach with plenty of shady spots under the palms and calm waters, Kewarra Beach is a great spot to catch a mud crab or throw a fishing line! Lifeguards are on duty in the summer between 9am and 5pm, appropriate swimming areas are marked between the stinger nets. This beach is favoured by local fishing enthusiasts and dog walkers alike! Enjoy an open-air dining experience for lunch at the Kewarra Beach Resort, serving a casual bistro-style lunch fit for the whole family.

View of beach from trees

Holloway's Beach

Distance: 10-minute Drive from Cairns City

Holloway’s beach is the top beach closest to Cairns city. The Holloways beachside markets can be explored on the second Sunday of the month and run between 8am to 1pm. Bring your fur babies, as Holloways beach is yet another dog-friendly beach in Cairns. Cool off and relax at Holloways Beach or use the barbecue facilities and enjoy evening dinners with a majestic and tropical view of the Coral Sea.

Other must-visit beaches in and around Cairns

Aerial shot of Nudey Beach

Nudey Beach

A short walk through the rainforests of Fitzroy Island, you’ll find the picturesque Nudey Beach. This might be Cairns’ most Instagrammable beach, boasting clear turquoise waters and white coral sands on a fabulous tropical island! Visit Nudey beach and snorkel straight off the shores, where stinger suits are conveniently available for hire during the stinger season. Don’t be fooled by the name, this is not a nudist beach and there aren’t any official nudist beaches in Far North Queensland. Nevertheless, you’ll easily catch a tan laying on the beaches of Fitzroy Island, and if you prefer to stay in the shade, Nudey Beach has large shady trees to escape the sun.

Car at the beach

Etty Bay

An hour and 20 minutes south of Cairns is a hidden beach called Etty Bay, located along the Cassowary Coast. Etty Bay is a perfect place to spot Cassowaries in the wild! Early mornings and late afternoons are the prime times to catch sight of these large flightless birds. Etty Bay has the feeling of being on an island paradise tucked away in the rainforests on the Cassowary Coast. Etty Bay has its very own caravan park where you can grab a coffee or fish and chips and refuel. The beach is lined with large shady trees to escape the Queensland sun. You can cool off in the waves of this beautiful cove and, of course, stay between the flags or within the stinger nets during the summer months.

Aerial shot of Cape Tribulation

Kulki (Cape Tribulation) Beach

Kulki Beach is a 2-hour and a 20-minute drive north of Cairns, nestled in the world heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, which is a remote beach surrounded by ancient rainforests. Visiting the Daintree Rainforest is on the list of the top attractions for things to do in Cairns. It is famous for its scenic beaches and bio-diverse rainforest! After a day of meandering the rainforests, put your feet up and relax on the soft sands of Cape Tribulation. Be warned, this beautiful beach is infested with saltwater crocodiles, so no swimming at this beach, but you can find swimming holes in the rainforest to cool off in.

Aerial shot o f Port Douglas

Port Douglas

You can’t talk about the best beaches around Cairns without mentioning the pristine 4-mile-long beach of Port Douglas. You’ll be sure to get some privacy under the palms of this Port Douglas beach. This beach also has watersports hire, so if you’re looking for a more exciting day at the beach, hire a kayak! When you’re visiting the beachside village of Port Douglas, take an afternoon stroll along the beach and take in peaceful views of the Coral Sea all the way to the rainforest. The town itself is filled with many restaurants and boutique shops! Port Douglas beach is a great destination to relax on your journey to the Daintree.

Experience the best beaches in Far North Queensland for yourself!

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