Blessed by its incredible location, the relaxed seaside village of Palm Cove is one of Tropical North Queensland’s best kept secrets. Nestled along the coastline of the Coral Sea, only 25km north of Cairns, Palm Cove feels worlds away.
Surrounded by natural wonders and attractions at quite literally every turn, you need much longer than a weekend to experience this richly diverse place. However, if you’ve only got a weekend in Palm Cove, let us tell you how you can make the most of it.
Get your weekend started a little earlier by heading to Palm Cove on Friday afternoon – you want to have a chance to settle in and relax before your busy weekend ahead.
With the Cairns airport only a short 25-minute drive away, getting to Palm Cove is easy. And upon arrival at your accommodation, at none other than the Reef House, you’ll feel an immediate wave of relaxation wash over you. The gin-infused welcome drink might have something to do with that, or it might just be the magic of this gorgeous village – whatever it is, this feeling is like no other.
We might be a little biased, but when it comes to places to stay in Palm Cove, the Reef House is unbeatable. A colonial style beachfront boutique hotel that has been beloved by visitors and locals for decades, the Reef House is one of the first properties built in Palm Cove, having been constructed in 1958 by a Cairns bookmaker.
The Reef House’s long history is rich with tradition, and by arriving late afternoon on Friday, it means you get to take part in one of the favourite traditions – the Brigadier’s Punch & Canapes Cocktail Hour. Each evening, as twilight hits, lanterns are lit around the property, signalling Cocktail Hour. A tradition that dates back to the 1970s, guests can mingle with one another and enjoy complimentary canapes and brigadier punch.
After Cocktail Hour, we recommend heading to the Reef House’s own restaurant for a dinner nestled under the canopy of the Melaleucas and palm trees that call the property home. You can enjoy the sea breeze from the Coral Sea directly in front of you as you dine on local fresh produce.
It might be tempting to spend a long lazy dinner on the deck of the Reef House restaurant, but we recommend heading back to your room for the evening and making the most of the luxurious comforts. With a variety of rooms, suites, villas, and apartments available, you can enjoy a glass of wine and relax in the comforts of your own private spa or enjoy the views of the property from your balcony before heading to bed.
Start your first full day in Palm Cove early by saluting the sun during a beachfront yoga session – one of the many complimentary fitness and exercise classes available at the Reef House – see the rest here.
After easing into the day with yoga, you will have built up an appetite. Breakfast at the Reef House restaurant offers an array of pastries, teas, coffee, as well as many dishes that make the most of the local produce. Enjoy views of the Coral Sea and the palm lined beach while you fuel up for the day ahead.
We mentioned earlier that Palm Cove is surrounded by natural wonders at every turn, and we were being very literal. If you head any direction inland, you’ll reach the Wet Tropics Rainforest, the oldest rainforest in the world. And if you head out towards the water, you’ll discover the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef, which calls the Coral Sea home. Both World Heritage listed sites, you can experience them for yourself through a wide array of activities and adventures. And if you’re going to be in this part of the world, even for just a short time, you may as well get a taste of these incredible natural wonders.
From your base in Palm Cove, you can easily experience these attractions at your own pace and in your own style. Whether you’re interested in discovering the history, flora, and fauna of the rainforests, or want to see the coral gardens and marine life of the Great Barrier Reef, you can discover these sites with self-guided tours or guided half-day and full-day tours. With the help of the Reef House’s own Luxury Concierge, you can organise a tour to suit you. Some of our favourite adventures include:
- A day of Dreamtime walks and river drift snorkelling in Mossman Gorge with Back Country Bliss.
- Meandering through rainforest pockets on horseback with Blazing Saddles.
- Visiting the rainforest village of Kuranda with one of the most unique journeys aboard the Kuranda Scenic Railway and the Skyrail Cableway.
- Snorkelling the calm waters of the coral sea to discover the world below with ABC Snorkel Charters.
- A day trip to the tropical island Fitzroy Island, so you can see where the rainforest meets the Reef.
- Taking in the Great Barrier Reef from a bird’s eye view with a helicopter ride with GBR Helicopters – you’ll find out why the Great Barrier Reef is so great.
You can discover some more of the tour options available to you here.
If you’re not sure whether you want to head inland or out to sea, you don’t necessarily have to choose. You can make the most of both by hiring a car and hitting the road to Mossman Gorge. Located only 55km from Palm Cove, you can head out on your own self-guided tour or take part in a Dreamtime walking tour. Discover the unique native plants and wildlife of the area as you immerse yourself in the tropical rainforest that surrounds you. Mossman Gorge is a favourite destination for many visitors, and when you see for yourself, you’ll get it. You can even have a spot of lunch at the café and restaurant onsite at the Mossman Gorge Information Centre.
After your adventure in the rainforest, take the short drive back to the Reef House for an afternoon break. Enjoy the refreshing water of the pool or bask in the warm tropical sun’s rays. You can enjoy cocktails and delicious snacks with poolside service available between 11am and 4pm. And if you’re around at 3pm, you can enjoy another of the Reef House’s traditions – complimentary local tropical sorbet. The perfect way to cool down before your next adventure.
Next, it’s time get ready for your Great Barrier Reef experience. From Port Douglas, only a 40-minute drive from Palm Cove, you can enjoy a sunset sailing adventure with Sailaway. Experience the sun setting over the waters of the Coral Sea aboard a first-class catamaran. Enjoy drinks and delicious canapes as you watch day turn to night while you sail the turquoise waters of the Great Barrier Reef.
Once your catamaran docks, it’s time to head back to Palm Cove for dinner. While we could eat every meal at the Reef House Restaurant, Palm Cove is blessed with many restaurants and cafes that offer incredible food and dining experiences. A local favourite is NuNu Restaurant. Located a short walk from the Reef House, NuNu offers diners modern Australian dishes that take advantage of the unique local produce of the area. After a delicious dinner at NuNu, enjoy the soundtrack of the Coral Sea as you make your way back to the Reef House, before retiring for the evening.
After yesterday’s full day of sight-seeing experiences, you’ve earned a bit of a sleep in – but not too much, there is still plenty to see and do in Palm Cove today.
If it is the first Sunday of the month, you might want to skip breakfast at the Reef House and instead make your way down to the Palm Cove markets. Held along Williams Esplanade, you can stroll through the various market stalls that offer a wide range of locally handmade products. From jewellery to clothing, pottery to skincare, there is quite the variety of goods available. And of course, there are lots of food options at the market that showcase the unique local produce.
If it isn’t a market Sunday, a morning stroll along Williams Esplanade is still the perfect way to get your Sunday morning started. Discover the cafes, and boutiques of Palm Cove, and see what the locals get to experience every day. You can even borrow a bike from the Reef House and enjoy the easy ride through Palm Cove – it’s nice and flat, so even if you haven’t ridden a bike for a while, it won’t take too much effort.
Enjoy breakfast with a view of the Coral Sea at one of the many cafes along Williams Esplanade, and then take a little time to hit the shops. The local boutiques offer the latest resort wear, clothing, jewellery, and lots more – grab something for yourself, or pick up some gifts for the folks back home.
After you’ve indulged in some retail therapy, it’s time to head back to the Reef House for even more indulgence, this time, at the Reef House Spa.
Palm Cove has been dubbed the “Spa Capital of Australia”, and this is not just because there are a lot of spas in the area. The serene setting of Palm Cove is ideal for the most relaxing spa experience, and the spas available in the area are of the highest calibre, offering a true tropical spa experience. But when it comes to the spa of choice for us, we cannot go past the Reef House Spa.
With a reputation that has been built upon providing incomparable treatments that are expertly administered, the award-winning Reef House Spa has become a destination for visitors far and wide. The treatment menu has been designed to provide an intimate journey to wellness, offering treatments from manicures and pedicures to full body signature spa rituals. Using a combination of Phytomer and Waterlily products, the Reef House Spa is the only Day Spa in Queensland to offer Phytomer based treatments. You can discover the range of treatments available at the Reef House Spa here.
There is no better way to spend a lazy Sunday, or wind down a weekend in Palm Cove than an afternoon of spa treatments and pampering.
Before you head to your last dinner in Palm Cove, there is time for you to take in your surrounds with a sunset stroll along the palm lined beach. There is no place that captures the idyllic charm of Palm Cove more than the water’s edge surrounded by the very trees that gave Palm Cove its name – it really is paradisaic.
Once the sun has set, head back to the Reef House for one last dinner at the Reef House restaurant. Take your time and enjoy the intimacy of the candlelight ambiance while you experience dishes made from the finest local produce, and of course, take advantage of the talents our the inhouse sommelier with a glass, or many glasses, of wine from our extensive wine list.
After dinner, continue your wind down into total relaxation in your private spa with a glass of champagne, before retiring to bed for your last seaside sleep.
No matter your holiday style, if you’ve only got a weekend in Palm Cove, there are so many activities and experiences at your fingertips that can help you make the most of your time here. But once you’re here, don’t be surprised if you extend your stay – you’re never going to want to leave.