Travelling Queensland’s tropical north during the wet season isn’t a deal-breaker and here’s why.
As soon as you step off the plane onto the tarmac at Cairns airport you will feel yourself relax. There is something about the aquamarine colour of the ocean, the lush green of the mountains and the tropical heat that allows you to instantly unwind.
A 25-minute drive north of Cairns lies Palm Cove, a tranquil coastal town set amid rows of palm trees with idyllic ocean views and a main street lined with cafes, restaurants and bars.
As the gateway to two of Australia’s most coveted destinations – the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest – there are plenty of reasons to base yourself in Palm Cove even in the wet season.
Visiting Palm Cove in the wet season
Queensland is known as the Sunshine State, but if you find yourself travelling to the state’s tropical north during the summer months you’ll find the weather can be, well, tropical.
I am visiting toward the end of the rainy season in February, which suits me perfectly as I plan to spend the next 72 hours relaxing at my resort. If you want to avoid the wet, be sure to travel during the dry season from April to November: the town is sleepier during November to March; the weather is balmy enough to enjoy a swim in the pool; and the sun still makes an appearance in between downpours.
Where to stay
The Alamanda Palm Cove by Lancemore is as beachfront as it gets in Palm Cove as you only have to walk a few metres to sink your toes into the sand. Just don’t go for a swim, as there is a very real chance you will encounter a crocodile or two lurking in those inviting waters. Opt for one of the resort’s three onsite pools instead, one of which is adults only.
The Alamanda Palm Cove has 69 extra-large one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, each with a private balcony overlooking the sea or the hotel’s tropical gardens – making it perfect for a romantic escape, a girls’ weekend away or a family holiday. Each apartment comes complete with a kitchen, dishwasher and laundry facilities to make a longer stay easier.
Address: 1 Veivers Road, Palm Cove
Where to eat in Palm Cove
If you base yourself at the Alamanda you’ll be within easy walking distance from the esplanade and spoiled for choice for places to eat and drink. Take your umbrella with you and join the early risers for a stroll along the beach before making your way to one of the many cafes for breakfast and coffee.
Serving up the best coffee I had during my stay, Espresso & Co also has a standout breakfast menu. The crushed avocado with pistachio dukkah is served on freshly toasted Turkish bread and topped with roasted cherry tomatoes and buffalo feta, and you can add a poached egg for good measure. If you’ve got more of a sweet tooth when it comes to breakfast, then choose between their buttermilk or ricotta pancakes with all the trimmings. They are also open for lunch and offer a separate kids menu.
Address: 3/115-113 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove, Queensland
This cool cafe came highly recommended by locals and it more than lives up to its name. Perch yourself on the stools at the front of the deck for a good dose of morning sun and views of the beach as you take your pick from the menu. I opted for a breakfast classic of bacon and scrambled eggs, which didn’t disappoint.
Dinner is best enjoyed from the back of the deck. Order the Chill Cafe signature fish tacos stuffed with melt-in-your-mouth coral trout, avocado, shredded lettuce, house-made pico de gallo and aioli alongside jambalaya rice and coleslaw. Settle in for a night of cocktails and live music.
Address: 41 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove
Soak up beachfront views while enjoying modern Australian cuisine made with locally sourced produce at Palm Cove’s award-winning Nu Nu Restaurant. Better yet, indulge in their four- or seven-course tasting menu – both available with matched wines – to really get the most out of your dining experience.
You may be tempted to skip the puffed lemon bread to pace yourself for the rest of the evening – but don’t! The artisanal bread is made fresh twice daily using stoneground flour from Gunnedah. It is all kinds of zesty, crunchy and doughy goodness and is definitely not to be missed.
Address: 1 Veivers Rd, Palm Cove
What to see and do
It may be raining but the water is still at a balmy 22 to 29 °C the wet season, which is perfect
for exploring all the world-renowned Great Barrier Reef has to offer. You can snorkel, dive, take a helicopter or seaplane ride over the top or soak it all in at sea level with a cruise. No matter how you want to experience it, there will be a tour to suit your needs, budget and level of experience.
The Marine Park and World Heritage Area is home to roughly 10 per cent of the world’s coral reef system and you’ll find more than 1600 types of fish, 100 jellyfish species, and 133 varieties of sharks and rays. It’s regularly labelled a bucket-list worthy experience for a reason.
Pull on some waterproof hiking shoes and embrace the 180-million-year-old UNESCO World Heritage site, the Daintree Rainforest, in all its misty, canopy-glistening glory during the wet season.
The Daintree is on the land of the Yalanji people and is the oldest continuously living rainforest in the world. Inside its 17,000 hectares of lush rainforest you will find plenty of trails to choose from, waterfalls to see and an abundance of flora and fauna to spot.
Visit the Daintree Discovery Centre for information on self-guided tours or to book from a range of professional group tours including a guided ‘Dreamtime’ walking tour, bird-watching tours and nature walks.
Alamanda Palm Cove Spa
Treat yourself to an indulgent experience at the Alamanda Palm Cove Spa. I opted for the 60-minute signature massage, which is designed to relieve muscle tension and increase circulation. You also get to choose your preferred aromatherapy oils and, for an extra hourly fee, book the Private Spa Pavilion to enjoy after your treatment.
The pavilion is located above the spa overlooking the sea with a private infinity plunge pool for use. Food can be preordered from Nu Nu’s spa menu and delivered to the pavilion or you can bring your own food and drink to enjoy.
Read the Ultimate Travel Guide to Tropical North Queensland here for more tips on what to do, see and where to eat and stay.