The Tropical North Queensland beaches you need to visit
Welcome to Tropical North Queensland, where the living is nothing short of easy. Picture weather that’s sunny year-round and a natural landscape that’s brimming with natural wonders, waterfalls and jungle included. Not forgetting the 300-kilometre of coastline present, a collection of popular beaches, rainbow-hued reefs, and secret swimming holes that demand to be seen. But with all that beach to choose from, it’s hard to know where to begin. That’s where we step in: see our guide to the beaches of Tropical North Queensland below.
Just a word of warning before you set off; stay safe. Stinger season runs from October to May, so wear a stinger suit unless you’re between the nets. And don’t forget about the resident crocodiles; take note of signage and if in doubt, stay away from the water.
You won’t believe your eyes upon stumbling into Nudey Beach. Considered one of the most picturesque beaches in Queensland, the swimming spot sits on Fitzroy Island just a 45-minute ferry from the mainland.
Stroll through rainforest to meet the main beach, where white sand and loose coral will greet your feet. Pack your snorkel gear because reef life is abundant in the beach’s turquoise waters. You don’t even have to leave if you don’t want to; camp out on the beach if you’re on a budget, or treat yourself with a night’s stay at Fitzroy Island Resort.
It’s not hard to reach Dunk from Cairns; just jump aboard the Mission Beach Dunk Island Water Taxi and in ten minutes you’ll find yourself in paradise (or something like it). The largest member of the Family Islands National Park, Dunk Island hosts an impressive array of rainforest and reef to explore. There’s even a lookout; walk to the top of Mt Kootaloo for awe-inspiring views of the island and its waterborne neighbours. Not content with a single day’s wander, you can choose to stay the night.
Where the Daintree meets the Great Barrier Reef sits postcard-perfect Myall Beach. Tucked into the southern side of Cape Tribulation headland, the arresting beach is fringed by rainforest canopy; you’ll wander through 1.8km of this luscious forest and mangrove on the Dubuji Boardwalk to reach the turqoise waters beyond.
While bushwalks and horse riding are encouraged here, swimming is less so; this is crocodile country so enter the water with caution.
Rated another of Australia’s best beaches, Ellis is a regular haunt for those who call the district home. It’s not hard to see why; not only is it beautiful, and surprisingly relaxed, but here resides the last stinger net and lifeguard station before Port Douglas.
After a swim don’t forget to drop in to Ellis Beach Bar and Grill, the drinking hole famed for its beachside barbecues.
Fellow Cairns local Trinity Beach is a favourite for families in particular. Fans of a gentle swim will find solace in the calm, sheltered waters you’ll find here.
Sitting between two headlands, this one-kilometre stretch of sand also offers ample space in which to indulge in a little sunbaking, or some sand-based sports if you find yourself inclined.
If you find yourself craving even more exercise, follow the adjoining rocky coastal walk which winds its way around the southern headline, where you’ll catch a greater glimpse of Cairns.
Consisting of four beachside villages (Bingil Bay, North Mission, Wongaling Beach and South Mission), this laid-back district sits on 14 long kilometres of beach, which link the Wet Tropics and the Great Barrier Reef.
But be warned before you embark on a dip; during stinger season, stick to the nets provided at North and South Mission.
Seclusion is the specialty of neighbouring Bingil Bay, found just five minutes north of Mission. The clandestine cove is surrounded by coconut trees and shaded under the canopy of lush tropical rainforest.
Its ample natural beauty is the reason why this picturesque space has long been inhabited by an eclectic population of hippies. This is no metropolis, but that’s the beauty of it. At the centre of the village you’ll find just one building that forms Bingil’s convenience store, cafe, bar, and restaurant offering, all in one.
Where the city meets the sea
Cairns Lagoon on the Esplanade
Technically this beloved swimming hole is not a beach, but that hasn’t made it any less popular. Keeping in mind the thriving crocodile and jellyfish population up north, it’s nice to know there’s a body of water which welcomes a swim year-round.
Sitting in the heart of Cairns is this infinity pool facing the foreshore has become a much-adored part of the community. Those craving a feed after a dip will be pleased to note that there’s plenty of dining opportunities within walking distance; public barbecues and picnic spaces surround the lagoon, and eateries are just a stroll away.
At the top tip of Cairns’ Northern Beaches just a 30 minute drive from the city resides this beloved resort town.
Pretty as a picture, Palm Cove is (as its name suggests) awash with palm trees and ample sand, and surrounded by crystal-clear waters. Perhaps most temptingly, swimming is suitable here year-round thanks to the presence of stinger nets and an on-duty lifeguard who protects the northern end of the beach.
The athletic will be pleased to note stand-up paddle boards and kayak rentals are a dime-a-dozen. Same goes for the foodies; Palm Cove isn’t just a haven of cafes, but home to nationally recognised restaurant Nu Nu.
Four Mile Beach
Trekking north just 45 minutes and you’ll reach the border of Tropical North Queensland hub Port Douglas. This small town isn’t just the gateway to the Daintree Rainforest, but home to district icon Four Mile Beach.
Sharing similarities with its neighbour Palm Cove, Four Mile is a stretch of sand covered in palms which runs all the way from Yule Point to Island Point (four miles to be exact). Particularly popular for families eager to traverse the far north of Queensland, Four Mile Beach is patrolled year-round, and offers plenty of water-based activities to boot; think surfing, kitesurfing and sailing among more.
Budding zoologists will be glad to hear that getting up close and personal with the second largest bird in the world is a given at Etty Bay.
The cassowary population is thriving at this stretch on the aptly named Cassowary Coast, just 15 minutes from Innisfail. Don’t be surprised if after a dip you find yourself getting better acquainted with the locals; Etty Bay is home to a resident families of cassowaries who tend to wander the beach and nearby campgrounds as they please. But be mindful that despite their looks, they can be highly dangerous. Though they tend to only attack when provoked, it’s best to keep your distance.
To watch the sunrise
Amateur photographers will find plenty of potential at Pebbly Beach. Sitting just before Yule Point, not far from Port Douglas, this pebble-laden beach has become a firm favourite for those armed with a camera.
This is not a place to take a dip, but instead come and gaze at the sunrise, which has become rather legendary in these parts.