A quick roundup of the best beaches in Cairns. Includes some well-known spots and some local gems! Don’t miss these incredible Tropical North beaches during your next visit to Cairns, Australia’s best tropical travel destination!
Cairns is quickly becoming one of Australia’s best travel destinations. It truly does have everything going for it, from epic waterfalls, pristine island gems and bucket list-worthy adrenaline activities, what else could you really ask for?
Well, if there’s one thing missing off that list it’d have to be a couple of unspoiled tropical beaches to cool down at. Lucky for you, there are loads of great Cairns beaches worthy of a visit. In this blog post, I’ve formed a quick summary list of the best beaches in Cairns and the surrounding Tropical North that you definitely should check out on your next trip!
If you’re looking for more Cairns travel inspiration, I’ve written a comprehensive guide to the absolute best things to do in Cairns, as well as a detailed hiking guide to the best trails and a huge list of epic waterfalls to check out too! So, once you’re done chilling at these awesome Cairns beaches, there’s plenty more to explore!
Also, if you’re planning your visit to Cairns, don’t forget to read my comprehensive accommodation guide for where to stay.
Best Beaches in Cairns
1. Palm Cove
Palm Cove is one of the most iconic beaches in Cairns. Located on the northern beaches, approximately 30 minutes north of the CBD is a long stretch of palm-tree lined sand often featured in adverts and travel shows.
While Palm Cove is mostly famous for its palm trees, there is also a stinger net at the surf club for safe swimming, some world-class restaurants, as well as a rainforest walking track on the north side of the bay.
Best for: Restaurants and scenic palm trees.
Best Places to Stay in Palm Cove
Many people choose to stay at Palm Cove rather than in town since it’s closer to the beach. In my opinion, Palm Cove is truly one of the best places to base yourself in Cairns.
Luxury: By far, the best place to stay in Palm Cove is the Alamanda by Lancemore. This one is as lux as it gets, albeit a little cruel on the wallet.
Good Value Resort: Want a poolside resort next to the beach that doesn’t break the bank? Check out Paradise on the Beach Resort.
Budget Hostel: Palm Cove is also the best place to base yourself as a backpacker. Flashpackers on the beach is the go to.
2. Nudey Beach
While you were after the best beaches in Cairns, I present you one of the best beaches in Australia, Nudey Beach. You’ll have to catch a ferry to get to Nudey Beach since it’s on Fitzroy Island. The good news is that Fitzroy is one of the closest islands off Cairns, so make sure you make time for it!
Best for: Seeing Cairns’ most beautiful beach
Nudey Beach is one of those places that just has to be seen to be believed. Tranquil turquoise waters lap the pearly-white, rainforest surrounded sands on the very tip of the island. Here, you won’t find any crocs lurking in the shallows, just plenty of tropical fish and sea turtles!
Stay near Nudey Beach on Fitzroy Island: Fitzroy Island Resort
3. Trinity Beach
Trinity Beach is another Cairns beach, also located on the Northern Suburbs. In my opinion, Trinity Beach is just as beautiful as Palm Cove, just without as many tourists! Similarly though, this amazing spot is lined with palm trees and finishes at a tight little mangrove cove.
Best for: Tropical palm-tree lined beach without the crowds
At Trinity Beach, you’ll find some local restaurants, a stinger-proof swimming net, exercise equipment, barbecues and an all-round tropical vibe.
Stay at Trinity Beach: Sea Point on Trinity Beach
4. Ellis Beach
If it’s a local hidden-gem you’re after, then Ellis Beach has to be one of the best beaches in Cairns! This one is also on the Northern Beaches, found just after Palm Cove.
Best for: Stretches of white sand all to yourself + an epic bar and bistro
More than likely, if you make the trip to Ellis Beach, you’ll have long stretches of it to yourself. This beautiful Cairns beach looks out over Double Island. While quiet, there is still a small lifesaving club near the car park that maintains a stinger net for safe swimming, all year round.
If you make the trip to Ellis Beach from Cairns, I highly recommend stopping in at Ellis Beach Bar & Grill. They do an awesome Nachos!
Stay at Ellis Beach: Ocean Beach Waterfront Bungalows
5. Kewarra Beach
Next on the ultimate Cairns beaches roundup is Kewarra Beach. This one is also a local-secret of sorts. I say this because you won’t typically find many tourists here, just a few locals enjoying a walk or swim.
Best for: Local Cairns lifestyle
If you’re keen on checking out Kewarra Beach, I’d recommend heading do the south end. Here, you’ll find some shady palm trees to relax under.
6. Green Island
Again, some of the most beautiful beaches in Cairns require a boat to get to! Green Island is perhaps Cairns’ most popular island, famous for wide, fringing reef, a huge turtle population and a scenic rainforest interior.
Best for: Snorkelling
Green Island is surrounded by a pristine, white coral-sand beach. The water here is also very clear and perfect if you’re looking to do some snorkeling.
Book a boat to Green Island: Green Island Fast Ferry
SEE THE ISLANDS AND REEF FROM THE SKY: Discounted Scenic Flight Over the Great Barrier Reef
7. Clifton Beach
Clifton Beach is another quite, local Northern Suburbs beach that is well-worth visiting. This one continues on from Kewarra Beach and connects up to Palm Cove in the north.
Best for: Quiet beach with a nice reserve
While you won’t find as many attractions or highlights at Clifton Beach as some of the others on this list, it’s a nice spot to stop and enjoy a swim.
8. Four Mile Beach
The next few items on this list can’t really be considered “beaches in Cairns”. Instead, they’re beach highlights that are unmissable in the nearby Tropical North. The first of these is Four Mile Beach.
Best for: Long stretch of white sand with a great coastal walk
Four Mile Beach is perhaps one of the most iconic beaches in the Tropical North. Located about an hour’s drive north from Cairns in Port Douglas is this huge stretch of white. You could easily spend hours here relaxing under the palm trees or enjoying the cliff walk to Four Mile Beach lookout.
Or read this comprehensive Port Douglas accommodation guide to find the best areas and deals.
9. Myall Beach
Many will tell you that a trip to Cairns is incomplete without a stop to see where the rainforest meets the reef in Cape Tribulation. Myall beach is an incredible, white-sand beach with fringing reef reef and backs onto dense, tropical rainforest. It’s considered the main “beach” at Cape Tribulation and therefore has the most facilities nearby.
Best for: Witnessing the rainforest meet the reef
While it isn’t advised to swim at Cape Tribulation due to stingers and crocodiles, it’s still widely considered one of the best beaches in the Cairns region and entire Tropical North. If you need to cool down, consider a freshwater swim at the local waterhole.
10. Etty Beach
Etty Beach is the first beach on this list of beaches near Cairns that’s located in the south. It’s also one of the most unique due to it being a well-known place to spot wild cassowaries. Etty Bay is located approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes from Cairns. Therefore, this one is better suited to those on a road trip or those spending a day-trip down south.
Best for: spotting a wild cassowary on the beach
The best time to spot cassowaries at Etty Bay is in the early morning and late afternoon. You’ll usually find them wandering the beach, so it’s best to just let them do their thing and admire them from afar.
11. Mission Beach
The final beach on this list of the best Cairns beaches is again, a bit of a stretch from Cairns itself. Mission Beach is located just under two hours south of Cairns but is a must-visit if you’re planning a road trip south.
Best for: huge stretches of white sand, coconuts palms and surrounding island
Mission Beach is a world-class Aussie beach that’s also often featured in tourism adverts and programmes. Chances are, you already know a bit about Mission Beach but did you know that just off its shores is Dunk Island, one of the best Great Barrier Reef islands to visit? The best part is that the ferry only takes 10 minutes, so there really aren’t any excuses not to go!
Can You Swim at the Beach in Cairns?
One thing that you have to be aware of when visiting beaches in Cairns is that there are two major marine hazards here: crocodiles and marine stingers. However, most of the best beaches in Cairns have patrolled stinger nets that keep out both crocs and hazardous stingers.
The truth is, both of these guys are deadly and unfortunately, people fall victim to attacks and stings every year. However, if you swim in the nets when on the mainland, you’ll be reducing your risk to almost zero.
Best Beaches Near Cairns for Swimming
For those visitors to Cairns purely after a good swim, I’d say that Palm Cove and Trinity Beach are the best on the mainland and close to town. However, you really can’t beat the serenity and beauty of the islands, which are easily the best places to swim and snorkel near Cairns.
Tips For Enjoying These Tropical Cairns Beaches
While I’ve already touched on the dangers involved with swimming at the beach in Far North Queensland, the below tips and resources are essential in ensuring you have a safe, enjoyable trip to Cairns.
- Be croc-wise in croc country: don’t swim in saltwater rivers and estuaries and try to stick to the patrolled stinger nets while at the beach
- Stinger suits: stinger suits offer great protection against hazardous marine stingers. Consider purchasing one before you get to Cairns
- Reef-safe sunscreen: The world’s largest coral reef is under threat. Did you know that typical sunscreens are harmful to the reef. Make sure to grab some reef-safe sunscreen before you get to Cairns.
More than Just Epic Cairns Beaches: More Things to do In The Tropical North
I hope that this quick guide to visiting the best beaches in Cairns and the surrounding Tropical North has been helpful in planning your trip.
I’ve spent a long time exploring, documenting and photographing the best attractions and adventures in Cairns. Make sure to read some of the other articles below or start on this mega-guide to the best things to do in Cairns for more tropical adventure travel inspiration!