17 Best Cairns Beaches to Visit in 2024

Must-visit Tropical North Queensland & Great Barrier Reef coastal hot spots


17 Best Cairns Beaches to visit in Tropical North Queensland


Are you wanting to visit the best Cairns Beaches? Well, you have come to the right place. My guide showcases the 17 best beaches near Cairns you can go to.

Below is how the post has been arranged.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Magnificent Cairns Beaches
2.1 Bramston Beach
2.2 Cape Tribulation
2.3 Clifton Beach
2.4 Cooya Beach
2.5 Cow Bay
2.6 Ellis Beach
2.7 Four Mile Beach
2.8 Holloways Beach
2.9 Kewarra Beach
2.10 Machans Beach
2.11 Newell Beach
2.12 Palm Cove
2.13 Thornton Beach
2.14 Trinity Beach
2.15 Wangetti Beach
2.16 Wonga Beach
2.17 Yorkeys Knob
3. Need somewhere to stay in Cairns?

I hope you find my Tropical North Queensland Beach travel guide useful and it inspires you to check out a few of them.

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you if you interact with them).

Read Time: 12 Minutes



Cairns might be the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. But before you jump off for boat tours and snorkelling trips there, makes you should visit one of the many awesome Cairns beaches that lie within a couple of hours drive of the city.

From quiet coastal towns lined with swanky five-star resorts to remote, isolated seascapes that time seems to have forgotten, there is a beach near Cairns for everyone to enjoy.

If you are heading to Tropical North Queensland in the dry season to escape the cold winter weather of the southern states, or if you simply want to top up your tan by the Coral Sea during the height of the summer, here are the best places you should go to.

Whichever one(s) you decide to visit, just remember to stay sun safe and croc wise!


Magnificent Cairns Beaches

If you are wanting to feel the sand on your toes during your visit to Tropical North Queensland, there are several Cairns beaches you can go to. Outlined below is a brief summary of some of the best ones to head to:


Bramston Beach

The tiny coastal township of Bramston Beach is about a 25-minute drive north of Innisfail and around an hour south of Cairns. It is home to just 175 people, who have access to one of the best Cairns Beaches most people have never been to.

This fabulous, isolated beach stretches for around 11 km and is the quintessential tropical paradise. It is lined by lush tree and features a thin strip of white sandy beach which is perfect for walking. It is also backed by the two highest mountains in Queensland, Mt Bartle Frere (the highest) and Mt Bellenden Ker, which lends it an air of mystique.

The beach is a good spot for fishing and has a lovely campground for your caravan or tent. It also happens to be one of the last coastal areas in the Cassowary Coast region of Tropical Far North Queensland where the endangered cassowaries stroll along the sand.

You shouldn’t swim here, but if you look out into the stunning azure waters of the Coral Seas you may just be lucky enough to spot a pod of Australian Humpback Dolphins.


Cassowary near Bramston Beach in Tropical North Queensland
Cassowary at Bramston Beach


Cape Tribulation

Home to not one, but two UNESCO World Heritage areas, Cape Tribulation is a very special place where the Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef spectacularly meet.

Renowned for its incredible beaches, such as Wonga Beach and Cow Bay, and spectacular landscapes, David Attenborough referred to it as ‘the most extraordinary place on earth’, and its hard to argue against that.

Cape Tribulation is about a 2.5 km drive from Cairns and is accessed by a ferry from the Daintree River. It is home to two interpretive walks – the Maardja Botanical Walk and the Dubuji Boardwalk that wonderfully showcase the flora and fauna of the trees, mangroves and coastal rainforest.

The great thing about visiting the region is that you will have most of the places you visit to yourself. While most people only visit on a day trip from Cairns or Port Douglas, it is worth spending a good few days here to really appreciate its magnificence.


Cape Tribulation Beach at night in Far North Queensland
Cape Tribulation Beach at night


Clifton Beach

If you are looking for a Cairns beach that is tranquil and and unspoilt, Clifton Beach is an excellent option.

Located about a 20 minute drive north of the CBD, this fabulous palm tree lined stretch of beach runs all the way through to Palm Cove, where you’ll find a great selection of restaurants and day spas.

Clifton Beach is notable for not having any high-rise buildings. Instead, its smattering of self contained vacation apartments and low-lying holiday homes merge naturally into the surroundings to give it a largely residential feel.

As it is a relatively quiet, patrolled beach, it is ideally suited to couples and families seeking a low-key holiday. There is a stinger net and a fantastic children’s playground located under big shady rain trees, with several BBQ facilities and picnic tables making it a fantastic beach to spend relaxing days.


View from Clifton Beach in Tropical North Queensland
Stunning views at Clifton Beach


Cooya Beach

You’ll have to drive a distance to get to Cooya Beach – it is about an hour’s run north of the city centre along the Captain Cook Highway. However, when you get there, you’ll find a pleasant coastal village, just a stone’s throw from Mossman.

Popular with families, it boasts an idyllic beach that is perfect for walking with your four-legged friends and is a good place for spearing mud crabs on a cultural tour around the mangroves.

Providing wonderful views of the Coral Sea and the coastline, visitors will have to be on their toes here as crocodiles have been spotted in the area. That said, it is a good spot for boating, fishing and birdwatching.

However, unlike other Cairns beaches, facilities are limited in the area. So, you should bring your own food and drinks with you.


Cooya Beach Far North Queensland is a terrific place to visit on a holiday
View of the Coral Sea at Cooya Beach


Cow Bay

Cow Bay is one of the smaller and secluded Cairns beaches you can visit. You’ll have to drive 2.5-hours from the CBD into the Daintree Rainforest to get there. But once you have crossed the Alexandra Range and made your way roughly halfway between the Daintree river and beautiful Cape Tribulation, you’ll find yourself at the picturesque beach.

Overall, there are three isolated bays that make up the beach, all of which are ideal for walking, sunbathing and fishing. There is a good chance you’ll be at Cow Bay all by yourself, so make sure you take full advantage of the serenity.


Cow Bay is a beautiful beach to visit in Tropical North Queensland
Beautiful seascape at Cow Bay Beach


Ellis Beach

Eliis Beach is one of the nicest family-friendly Cairns beaches you can visit.

Reached via a 30-minute drive from the CBD, its stunning pumice-filled shoreline extends for miles, making it a terrific place for a romantic stroll on the sand with your loved one. The beach is also patrolled, and during the warmer months, a stinger net is in place to ensure safe swimming.

Throughout the year, the local surf lifesaving club hosts competitions and events along the sand, that can be quite compelling. There is also a lovely beachfront caravan park at Ellis Beach Cairns that provides visitors with the perfect coastal base for their Tropical North Queensland holiday.

While there is good fishing to be had here, and barbecue facilities to cook up your catch, over the road from the beachfront is a very popular grill and bar restaurant that serves a wide range of classic dishes.


Beautiful Ellis Beach coastline view in Tropical North Queensland in Australia
Beautiful Ellis Beach coastline view


Four Mile Beach

Many tourists say that Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas is the best Cairns beach you can visit in Tropical North Queensland.

Blessed with outstanding natural beauty, the beach comprises four glorious miles of white sands backed by the silhouette of brooding mountains and gently swaying palm trees.

Walking is one of the best things to do at Four Mile Beach, with the average time to complete a full length stroll of its golden sands being about an hour and forty minutes. On the return leg, the views of the Low Isles and the Daintree Rainforest are simply wonderful.

At the top end of the beach is a stinger net, which is patrolled by the North Queensland Surf Life Saving Club. Here you can swim safely until your heart is content.

Alternatively, you can enjoy jet skiing, paddleboarding and kayaking in the crystal clear waters of the Coral Sea.


Ocean view of Port Douglas Four Mile Beach in Tropical North Queensland
Ocean view of Port Douglas Four Mile Beach in Tropical North Queensland


Holloways Beach

If you are looking to dip your toes in the Coral Sea somewhere close to the CBD, then you should head to Holloways Beach Cairns.

Situated just a short 10-minute drive or bus ride away from the Cairns Esplanade, the beach is nestled in between Machans Beach and Yorkeys Knob.

As soon as you get there, its enchanting tropical vibe will instantly compel you to lay down a towel and enjoy some ‘you’ time with your Spotify playlist or a good book.

When you fancy going for a swim, you’ll have the peace of mind of there being a stinger net in place during the warmer months for you to enter and it being patrolled all year round.

As Holloways Beach is one of the closest Cairns beaches to the CBD, it is busy most times of the day. If you come here on a Sunday morning, there is a vibrant market set up near the shoreline, which you’ll be able to check out.


Holloways Beach Guide Tropical North Queensland, Australia
Holloways Beach in Tropical North Queensland


Kewarra Beach

Another of the best Cairns beaches to visit is Kewarra Beach.

Located some 20 km north of the city, this stunning palm-fringed beach is a beautiful and secluded locals-mainly beach. Those who do go there get to enjoy a relaxing tropical paradise with alluring turquoise waters, golden sand and few other people.

The area surrounding Kewarra Beach is home to expensive private homes, many resorts and luxury accommodations. Should you want to stay at any of them, they make an ideal destination for those looking for a peaceful and luxurious getaway.

If your budget can’t stretch to hiring one, don’t worry. There is a nice, partly shaded-boardwalk that lets you walk right past some of the best of them to get at good view of what they are like.


Kewarra Beach Queensland is a beautiful beach in Tropical North Queensland
Aerial view of Kewarra Beach


Machans Beach

If you only have time to visit the closest Cairns beaches near the CBD then Machans Beach is a very good choice as it is only a 10-minute drive away.

What I like most about this quaint and charming coastal town is that it offers visitors a taste of traditional Australian beach culture you can’t really find elsewhere in this part of Far North Queensland.

The beach itself is a long stretch of sand that is perfect for sunbathing and strolling along its shoreline. The waters are generally calm and is known for being a terrific place to fish.

There are a few nice cafes fitted around the area as well as parkland and playgrounds, so it is a lovely place for families to come and enjoy some quality time together.


Read my Machans Beach Tropical North Queensland Tourist Visitor Guide
Stunning waters at Machans Beach


Newell Beach

Newell Beach is another of the more secluded Cairns beaches you can visit when you want a bit of rest and relaxation.

Situated about a 25 km drive from the Cairns CBD, it is an picturesque destination is surrounded by lush tropical vegetation and stunning mountain views – which gives visitors a true taste of the tropics.

Despite its proximity to Cairns, it seldom gets too busy at Newell Beach. Therefore, you will be able to walk along the sand, sunbathe and relax within having to worry about being disturbed.

For those who want to soak in its vibes over a couple of days, there are a handful of luxury resorts and private villas available in the area.


Newell Beach in Tropical North Queensland
Bird’s eye view of the Coral Sea at Newell Beach


Palm Cove

Palm Cove is hands down my favourite of all the Cairns beaches. Even though it takes me two days to drive there from the Sunshine Coast I try and go there at least once every year.

The upscale beachside town is about a 25-minute drive from Cairns. It is notable for its golden sand, idyllic palm trees, and casual, laid-back nature. It is also the kind of beach I can easily stay all day at without a care in the world!

One of my favourite things to do on Palm Cove beach is walk. It has a long stretch of sand that extends for far in the distance. Additionally, it there is a stinger net for those who want to swim, a pier for fishing and rental facilities for watercraft activities like canoeing and kayaking.

Away from the sand, there are several top-notch cafes and restaurants, including the fantastic Nu Nu’s – which offers superb al fresco, beachfront dining with views of the palm trees.


View of the Palm Trees at Palm Cove in Tropical North Queensland
Beautiful Palm Cove Beach near Cairns


Thornton Beach

Thornton Beach is a beautiful, remote beach in the Daintree Rainforest, tucked between Diwan and Cape Tribulation.

It is notable for its immaculate white sands, azure waters, and the stunning views of Struck Island and the surrounding mountains and rainforest it presents – which provides superb Instaworthy photo opportunities.

Overall, it will take you the best part of 2.5 hours to get to Thornton Beach, making this one of the furthest away Cairns beaches on this list from the city centre. However, it is well worth the effort to come here, as you’ll likely have this little piece of paradise to yourself once you arrive.

You’ll need to be croc wise if you do visit and stay off the beach before sunrise and after sunset. That said, during the day look out for cassowaries, tree kangaroos and a variety of bird species as you stroll along it.


Thornton Beach Vacation Guide Tropical North Queensland
Thornton Beach is one of the best beaches near Cairns Australia


Trinity Beach

Just about 10-minutes to the south of Palm Cove is the charming coastal town of Trinity Beach. As it is one of the more well-known northern Cairns beaches, it is a popular day-trip destination and stop off point for people heading further up north towards Port Douglas and beyond.

As the beach is defined by the stunning coconut and almond trees that line the sand, you’ll have no trouble finding a nice shaded spot to plonk yourself under. There is also a patrolled stinger net set up for safe swimming and several walking tracks in the area. One of which will take you to Taylor’s Point, a scenic area towards the beach’s southern end.

Opposite Trinity Beach Cairns is a number of barbecues areas which you can use to cook up an al fresco meal. You’ll also find several holiday apartment rentals where you can sit on your balcony and take in superb views of the Coral Sea.


Beach Scene at Trinity Beach Tropical North Queensland
Trinity Beach is one of the best beaches near Cairns Australia you can visit


Wangetti Beach

It’s fair to say Wangetti Beach is one of those Cairns beaches that are a bit of a local secret.

Located just up the road from Palm Cove, this stunning 4 km stretch of virtually straight shoreline runs from Slip Cliff Point to Red Cliff Point. There is nothing in the way of facilities here, only car parks at either end of its sandy expanse. The beach is also backed by the Captain Cook Highway, which has only a couple of access points to it. So, you’ll get a real sense of remoteness if you do visit here.

When visiting Wangetti Beach, I recommend starting at the southern end. The untouched, pristine coastline is home to a section where people have built striking stone towers.
Once you have explored there, drive up to the northern end of the sand, where the lookout there will give you a stunning full length view to photograph.


Walking on the sand at Wangetti Beach in Far North Queensland
Woman walking on the sand at Wangetti Beach


Wonga Beach

Nestled on the eastern coast of the Cape York Peninsula, between the Daintree River and the town of Mossman, you’ll find Wonga Beach.

Once you have visited some of the other Cairns beaches it is worth coming to this spot 80 km north of the CBD to take in its wonderful coastal views. The sand is perfect for sunbathing and the shimmering waters should be fine for a dip in the shallow.

Another of the beaches near Cairns which is undeveloped, this is a terrific place to come for a digital detox. Though it is worth bringing your iPhone or Android with you as there are lots of Insta-worthy snaps to be had.

For those who want to explore the area further, there are a number of hiking trails and scenic drives in the surrounding rainforest and hills. The nearby Daintree River also offers a range of opportunities for river cruises and wildlife viewing.

In addition to its natural beauty, Wonga Beach is also a great place for birdwatching and wildlife spotting. The shoreline is home to a number of bird species, including the majestic osprey, as well as a range of other wildlife, such as monitor lizards and wallabies.


Sunset at Wonga Beach Tropical North Queensland
Sunset at Wonga Beach


Yorkeys Knob

The last destination on this list of the best Cairns beaches is Yorkeys Knob.

While it might have a rather saucy name, this charming coastal suburb is popular for its long sandy beach. It also has beautiful scenery, and a relaxed atmosphere that belies its location just a 15-minute drive north of the city.

Yorkeys is one of the best beaches near Cairns for kite surfing and windsurfing, thanks to its consistent winds. You will also likely see beach volleyball and frisbee played by locals throughout the day.

Additionally, many people come here to this beach to fish, kayak or paddleboard and there is a patrolled, stinger-safe swimming area, by the lifesaving huts at its northern end.

Nearby to the sand, the lively yacht club is a terrific spot for sunset drinks and a lovely waterfront meal.


My visitor guide to Yorkeys Knob Tropical North Queensland Australia
Driftwood at Yorkeys Knob


Need somewhere to stay in Cairns?

Has this post about the best Cairns beaches to visit inspired you to book a Queensland Family Holiday?

Then check out my list of the best luxury Cairns accommodation near beach for some ideas about where you can stay.

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