Reef, rainforest and rejuvenation: the top 10 things to do in Palm Cove

Palm Cove is everything you’d imagine it to be: calm swells, shady palms and an incredible backdrop to your getaway plans. Relaxation is often top of the list of things to do in Palm Cove.

But what they don’t tell you in glossy travel magazines is that the culture there is rich with experience. Both the yin and yang of ‘holiday mode’, Palm Cove has the complimentary forces to rest one moment and surrender to adventure the next.

A little town only 35 minutes north of Cairns, there’s plenty on the ‘to-do’ list that will set your holiday apart from any regular soul-search by the beach.

Capture the moment

The east coast of Australia is a magnet to budding photographers and the romance of Palm Cove provides quite a setting to fill your photobook or Instagram feed. Focusing through a lens is a great way to set out and appreciate the hues and textures of a place in a way you might not otherwise. It might even have you discovering a few things to do in Palm Cove that you didn’t see before.

You’ll find no shortage of muse where the glassy Coral Sea meets landscaped greens. Whip out the camera and practice your composition, with ancient paperbark trees on one side of the esplanade and the township’s famous coconut palms on the other. Beyond natural charm, there’s a quaint beauty about the low-rise development in the background, so the tourism industry isn’t intrusive to your shot (or your eyeline).

Whet your appetite

Having nowhere to be at no particular time leaves you with plenty of opportunity to explore the dining options Palm Cove has on offer. Few places come close to Nu Nu Restaurant, a Good Food ‘hatted’ restaurant three years in a row.

With views as memorable as the food dished up by celebrity chef, Nick Holloway, there’s no doubting why the fare on offer is worthy of recognition in our favourite restaurants list.

Choose your own dining adventure with their versatile breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. They offer a large selection of dishes made to be shared, best served (in their words) with a drink and a smile. Explore a host of Australian flavours, all brought about through Nu Nu’s commitment to using local and organic (where possible) produce. A friendly spot that can cater to most dietary requirements, so you don’t have to leave your vegan, vegetarian or celiac counterparts at home.

Take a journey to Clifton Beach

For a mix of both downtime and discovery, take a stroll along the sand to Clifton Beach. A truly unique spot to discover at Palm Cove.

Pop your togs on and be ready to explore a beach that was voted both Australia’s cleanest beach, Queensland’s cleanest beach, and Queensland’s friendliest beach, all within the last decade. Take some time to wander the land and strike up conversation with the locals you’ll meet – we can assure you they’re always up for a yarn about your travels, and very proud of the place they call home.

Unlike most other beaches on the east coast, Clifton Beach is netted year-round, so you can enjoy a dip in the waters no matter what month you visit.

Stretch before every adventure

Find stillness by the shores of Palm Cove. Connect with your body and ground yourself in nature all while soaking in some rest and relaxation in the yoga studio at Alamanda Resort.

Join Harti Yoga at the palm-fringed beachfront outside the resort, pop your matt on the grass and salute the Tropical North Queensland sun. A place that will fill your soul with nature’s spirituality, and have you reflecting on your journey thus far. Leave feeling new, all before your day starts.

With classes at holiday appropriate hours (no 6am starts, thank you), we recommend booking your spot online as classes a small and quite popular.

Slow down and eat up at Reef Feast

One of the most popular things to do in Palm Cove as October rolls around. Mark it in your diary and plan your week getaway around four days of celebrating food, wine and local produce at Reef Feast.

The event breaks down the boundaries of each local restaurant, as Tropical North Queensland’s best chefs come together to dish up the best of the destination on your plate.

More than just seafood and tropical fruits, the longest lunch of your year also includes workshops, circus performances and live music. It runs along the main drag of Palm Cove, which makes it an accessible event for all ages, prams and wheelchairs (not too much of a hike, and a nice flat stretch of road).

A treat for all of your senses

While Palm Cove is all about indulging in nature’s top offerings, there’s always a little time to indulge in some self-care as well. Leave sight-seeing by the shore and treat your other senses to a Day Spa and Dine package at Vie Spa at the Pullman Palm Cove.

Let your ‘slow’ reach a ‘stop’ for a couple of hours as you surrender to a 60 minute Vie massage. Immerse yourself in a blend of essential oils before draping your towel across a lounge by the pool and settling in for a two-course lunch.

Live as the locals do

Palm Cove Markets is another accessible option for any holiday maker to enjoy during their trip to the tropics. There’s even a free jumping castle to pop the kids on if you’re travelling Palm Cove with your troop.

Held on the first Sunday of every month between April and December (except in September), you can mingle with the locals that give Palm Cove its character, meet crafty stall holders and stock up on plants, produce, and a trinket or few to remember your travels.

With over 130 stalls to wander through, you’ll find yourself leaving with a true taste of the region’s personality. Expect everything from handmade products, jewellery, leather work, pottery, clothing and skincare.

New ways to enjoy old favourites

No matter your age or tastes, there’s very few things that evoke a wave of nostalgia like fish and chips by the water. Lucky Fish is high on the list of things to do in Palm Cove, offering everything from your seafood favourites to a fun fit-out.

Fill your culinary cup with a selection of crumbed and battered fish, tacos stuffed with crumbed fish, Asian coleslaw and aioli, all nestled in a soft tortilla, or their calamari with lime pepper seasoning. If it all sounds too good to choose, go the whole hog and order their ‘Lucky Box’ for a little of everything from fish, calamari, prawn cutlets and their famous fries.

Interacting with wildlife

We were raised to look, but not touch, and while so much of Palm Cove is immersive with nature, we’d highly recommend keeping your hands to yourself at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures.

Take a half day trip to Hartley’s – one part zoo, one part commercial crocodile farm, and watch a 5m crocodile leap from the water to catch its dinner. Walk across various boardwalks that connect different wildlife encounters or take a boat tour on Hartley’s Lagoon for a front row seat to the croc-feeding show.

If crocs aren’t for you, there’s an array of cuddly creatures like cassowaries, koalas and quolls at Hartley’s for the whole family to enjoy – no adrenaline necessary. Call ahead if you’re looking for accessibility arrangements, they’ll tailor an experience for your needs.

Take to Palm Cove like a duck to water

When you’re looking for things to do in Palm Cove, you can’t go past dipping your toes in the Coral Sea. Experience everything the tropical waters have to offer and join Pacific Watersports to paddle your way by SUP, kayak or kiteboard to Double Island.

With only crystal waters separating the mainland and the island, it’s the prime opportunity to spot wildlife that calls the area home. Be part of their world and make friends with small rays, turtles, dolphins, dugong and even pods of whales depending on the season.

You’ll find Pacific Watersports HQ on the Esplanade next to the hordes of paddle boards and kayaks.