As the gateway to Queensland’s tropical north, Cairns is one of Australia’s hottest travel destinations. The laidback city has everything going for it, from fascinating Aboriginal culture to epic waterfalls, pristine island gems and adventure activities aplenty. Even better, it boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, with soft white sand, turquoise waters and the bucket-list busting Great Barrier Reef not far off the coast. If you’d like to explore one of Australia’s most adventurous destinations, read on to find out about some the best beaches in Cairns and the surrounding area.
On the northern fringe of Cairns, Palm Cove is an idyllic escape packed with boutique hotels, luxury spas and top restaurants serving delicious Asia-Pacific fusion food. The palm tree-lined beach is a great spot for kayaking and paddleboarding, or simply soaking up the sun. It’s patrolled and has a stinger net, so visitors can enjoy the water safely.
Trinity Beach is another Cairns classic, also located in the Northern Suburbs. It’s just as beautiful as Palm Cove but less crowded, so you’ll be able to claim a stretch of sand all to yourself. Similarly, this amazing spot is lined with palm trees and finishes at a lovely little mangrove cove. Here you'll find independent restaurants, a stinger-proof swimming net, exercise equipment, barbecues and an all-round tropical vibe.
Further north, Clifton Beach is a local secret (that we’re happy to share), just 25 minutes from Cairns’ city centre. There’s a small shopping area and some holiday apartments, but the waterfront is laidback and quiet. The wide sandy beach has a stinger net when necessary, as well as picnic tables, barbecues and a playground for keeping little ones entertained.
Although smaller than Clifton Beach, Kewarra Beach offers the same stunning scenery as its neighbour and is known as one of the best spots for dog walking and fishing. For the ultimate day of relaxation, head to Kewarra Beach Resort and book a relaxing package at the spa, or try your hand at yoga on the beach to restore both body and mind.
If it's hidden gems you're after, then Ellis Beach is one of the best beaches in Cairns. Just beyond Palm Cove, you’ll find long stretches of power-soft white sand, plus an epic bar and bistro. This beautiful Cairns beach looks out over Double Island. While quiet, there’s a small lifesaving club near the car park that maintains a stinger net for safe swimming.
Four Mile Beach
True to its name, Four Mile Beach is a four-mile stretch of golden, powder-fine sand running from Yule Point to Rocky Island Point. Renowned as a tropical paradise, a trip to one of the best beaches in Cairns usually comprises walking along the shore, basking in the sunshine and splashing in the cool water. If you’re seeking adventure, kite surfing should be on your itinerary. The best time to enjoy this sport between April and October.
If you're short on time but want to explore the Great Barrier Reef, then pint-sized Green Island is the perfect destination. This coral cay is part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park World Heritage Area and is surrounded by pristine beaches and coral reefs. Don a snorkel and sink beneath the waves to see the vibrant marine world unfolding before your eyes. Depending on whether you take the ferry or a smaller boat, Green Island is around 30 to 45 minutes from Cairns. Be sure to book your tickets in advance as there are limited departures each day.
Cairns Esplanade Lagoon
Although not technically a beach, Cairns Esplanade Lagoon still merits a mention. Soak up some rays and enjoy a quick dip at the vast saltwater swimming lagoon that overlooks the Coral Sea. Rest assured that the filtered seawater pools are supervised by lifeguards, so you can swim safely. Alternatively, board a spacious yacht and enjoy hours of fun and adventure on the outer Great Barrier Reef. Jump into the water and snorkel, or dive deep to see the multicoloured coral and an incredible array of marine life.
A 45-minute ferry ride from the city’s Reef Fleet Terminal, Fitzroy Island is a real winner. Here you’ll find Nudey Beach, which is no stranger to Australia’s best beach awards. This white coral stretch is a true beauty and a rich reward after a short 20-minute walk through the rainforest. Aside from relaxing, it’s a wonderful spot to snorkel on the reef right off the beach. Alternatively, go stand-up paddleboarding on the clear turquoise waters.
Just under two hours’ drive from Cairns, Mission Beach comprises nine miles of sand stretching as far as the eye can see. With so much shore at your disposal, you can choose how to explore it. Find a secluded spot and take in all that beauty, or rent a bike and cruise along the coast at low tide, discovering smaller beaches and hidden coves along the way. The safest places to swim are Wongaling Beach and within the patrolled stinger nets at North and South Mission Beach. The Mission Beach Markets are also held on the first and third Sunday of the month right beside the beach.
To experience the outstanding natural beauty of Cairns for yourself, including its spectacular reefs, ancient rainforests, rich culture and alfresco dining scene, speak to one of our expert travel consultants.