Cow Bay: Best Visitors Guide 2024 (UPDATED)

Beautiful and remote beach in Tropical North Queensland


Cow Bay Visitor Guide for this Tropical North Queensland Beach in Australia


Table of Contents

Welcome to my Tourist Visitor Guide to Cow Bay in Tropical North Queensland! To make it easier for you to follow I have organised it into the various heading below:

1. Introduction
2. Where is Cow Bay?
3. Best Time To Visit Cow Bay
4. What Facilities do they have at Cow Bay?
5. How to get to Cow Bay
6. Things to do at Cow Bay
7. Cow Bay Accommodation
8. Where to Eat at Cow Bay
9. Final Thought
10. FAQs

Please read this visitor guide until the end. If you do, I hope it will have inspired you to visit this fabulous Tropical North Queensland beach!

(My post about Cow Bay may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you).

Read Time: 12 Minutes



Situated roughly at the midpoint between Cape Tribulation and the Daintree River, the beautiful coastal area of Cow Bay is the first place of note to check out after crossing the Alexandra Range. Defined by its gorgeous mix of rainforest and pristine beaches, this gorgeous beach in Tropical North Queensland is a lovely place to enjoy a bit of well earned rest and relaxation and switch off from the frenetic pace of your daily life.

Getting there is half the enjoyment too. The dark, hilly aesthetic of the Alexandra Range and odd sighting of cassowaries is enchanting and immediately connects you to the outstanding natural beauty of the area. However, it is at the beach, where you will most feel it, especially as you could well be the only person there.

Cow Bay has a rich history of logging, farming and grazing. Interestingly, it is a place name not a township, though people aren’t quite sure how it was derived. One suggestion is that it was named after the farming of cattle which took place here many moons ago. Another is that it was so called on account of the sea cows (dugongs) which feed on the bay’s seagrass. Whatever the inspiration, Cow Bay is now somewhere that relies on sustainable tourism. So, if you do go there, make sure you see it as a privilege and treat it with respect.


Throughout its locality, several parts of the Daintree National Park run through it, most notably around its west, south and north-eastern areas.


Where is Cow Bay?

Cow Bay is a stunning coastal locality which resides in the Queensland shire of Douglas. It is approximately 65 km north of Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas and about 15km south of Thornton Beach. Shipwreck Bay is also located just a little bit south of it as the crow flies, though the road distance is more like 14km.

According to the most recent census of 2021, the area has a permanent population of around 220 people. In terms of landscape, much of the eastern and north-eastern boundary is flanked by the lapping waters of the Coral Sea. Its northern boundary is taken up predominantly by Hutchinson Creek. Throughout its locality, several parts of the Daintree National Park run through it, most notably around its west, south and north-eastern areas.

Cow Bay Beach sits on an area of land traditionally owned by the local Yirraganydji and Kuku Yalanji people.


Distance to Other Beaches in TNQ

  • Thornton Beach (15km)
  • Wonga Beach (26km)
  • Cape Tribulation (28km)
  • Newell Beach (44km)
  • Four Mile Beach (61km)
  • Wangetti Beach (83km)
  • Ellis Beach (92km)
  • Palm Cove (96km)
  • Clifton Beach (98km)
  • Kewarra Beach (102km)
  • Trinity Beach (104km)
  • Yorkeys Knob (110km)
  • Holloways Beach (114km)
  • Machans Beach (115km)
  • Best Time To Visit Cow Bay

    As it is located within Tropical North Queensland, Cow Bay is a place you can visit all year round. However, certain times of the year and day might offer a different experience. Therefore it is important to be aware of how the timing of when you go there can influence your enjoyment of the coastal area and plan accordingly.

    Overall, the region has only two seasons – the dry season and the wet season. The dry season runs roughly from April to November generally speaking, though there might still be the odd rain hangover and either end of those months. During this time the humidity tends to be less and the temperatures not as scorching – though still very agreeable. The skies tend to be clear too. For this reason accommodation prices might be slightly higher than at other times of the year – especially during the school holidays.

    During the rainy season, the chances of anything from a heavy downpour to a monsoon are quite high. The mercury also tends to regular top 30 degrees Celsius and humidity is regularly 75% plus. It is important to be aware of the weather if you plan to visit Cow Bay at this time because a prolonged period of heavy rain could make some areas difficult to drive on. Subsequently, I would recommend you keep an eye on the Weather Zone forecast.

    Cow Bay is renowned for being inhabited by crocodiles, so you should be especially mindful not to visit the beach after dark. However, that said, if you can find a good and safe spot away from the water (and there are no claw tracks around) to see the sunrise over the Coral Sea, this is something I would recommend doing.


    Check out my visitor guide for Cow Bay Tropical North Queensland Australia


    What Facilities do they have at Cow Bay?

    As it is a remote area, there aren’t that many facilities at Cow Bay Beach for visitors to enjoy. That said, at the car park you will find a public toilet and picnic tables.

    Located just a ten minute drive away at the Daintree Discovery Centre, you will find better toilets and washroom facilities, as well as cafes, restaurants and an RACQ depot.


    One of the best reasons for visiting Cow Bay Beach is that it provides a genuine ‘deserted beach’ experience for those who go there.


    How to get to Cow Bay

    Cow Bay is a relatively easy place to get to if you have a car. Regardless of whether you are coming from Cooktown or Cairns, you will need to make your way to Cape Tribulation Road via the Captain Cook Highway and Mossman Daintree Road. Once on it, you will eventually come to Silky Oak Road which takes you to the main car park at Cow Bay beach.

    If you don’t have access to a car you can hire one from Cairns airport or some other locations in Tropical North Queensland. The likes of Budget, Avis, Enterprise and Europcar all have outlets in the region.

    For those who don’t want to hire a car there is a bus service available on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday that stops at Cow Bay during a route that links Cairns to Cooktown. It is run by the Trans North Bus & Coach Company and you can find out the timetable here.


    Distance to other places in Queensland

  • Port Douglas (65km)
  • Cairns (120km)
  • Kuranda (123km)
  • Cooktown (130km)
  • Mission Beach (258km)
  • Townsville (466km)
  • Airlie Beach (740km)
  • Mackay (852km)
  • Longreach (1068km)
  • Mt Isa (1197km)
  • Hervey Bay (1563km)
  • Noosa (1695km)
  • Brisbane (1827km)
  • Surfers Paradise (1895km)
  • Things to do at Cow Bay

    One of the best reasons for visiting Cow Bay Beach is that it provides a genuine ‘deserted beach’ experience for those who go there.

    The beach is not patrolled by lifeguards and there are no stinger nets, so you are not recommended to swim in the area – particularly because jellyfish and crocodiles are present. However, those who venture into the water tend to swim or snorkel on the inshore reefs, though it is at their own risk.

    Fishing is a very popular pastime here, with many locals choosing to cast a line at high tide off the rocks around the twilight period or take their boats out to the Daintree River or reef. Several tours can also be booked at the Daintree Discovery Centre, if you don’t have your own vessel. Kayaking trips onto the Coral Sea and other areas can also be reserved.

    Aside from sunbathing, one of the most popular things to do at Cow Bay is beach walking. At low tide you can walk (with your dog) north around the headland to a trio of other remote beaches which will impress you with their pristine beauty and tranquillity. Just make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get back to your starting point before the water levels rise to uncrossable levels.

    If that proves a bit too energetic for you, one of the best things to do at Cow Bay Beach is to sit on the Cow Bay Swing. This fabulous, Insta-worthy swing is attached to one of the many palm trees that line the beach. It is a fantastic feeling moving forward and back on it while you watch the water gently lapping just a feet metres away.

    At some point during your visit to the beach it is also worth checking out the award-winning Daintree Discovery Centre. This eco-friendly facility accommodates elevated walkways that will take you through the treetops to give you a fascinating perspective of it from a lofty position. They also have plenty of other educational exhibits and interactive displays that all the family are sure to find fascinating.

    Elsewhere, the Jindalba Boardwalk is also worth visiting. This well-trodden boardwalk will take you on a 45-minute exploration of Mount Alexandra and the Daintree Rainforest. It’s a relatively easy course that will guide you through lush rainforest where you might get to see the odd buff-breasted paradise kingfisher or Bennett’s tree kangaroo.


    Cow Bay is a beautiful beach to visit in Tropical North Queensland


    Cow Bay Accommodation

    For those who want to stay around Cow Bay, several types of accommodation are offered in the area, and nearby Diwan, which makes a nice base to explore other parts of the Daintree Rainforest. They include everything from bungalows and motel rooms to safari tents.

    One of my favourite places to stay is the Cow Bay Hilltop Escape, which is not far from Cow Bay Beach. This unique tropical home has 4 separate bedrooms and a fully equipped kitchen. It also boasts a patio where you can take in superb views of the Coral Sea.

    Another good option is the Daintree Crocodylus. Situated on Buchanan Creek Road, this charming rustic resort in the heart of the Daintree Rainforest comprises a range of wood-frame huts that feature canvas ceilings and walls. The dorms here are fairly straightforward and guests will have to share bathrooms, bunk beds, verandas and fans. All of these cabins come with mosquito netting which is very handy!

    If you would prefer a bit more privacy, you can choose to book more upscale cabins that have their own verandas and private bathrooms. However, it is worth noting that none of the cabins have air-conditioning. That said, there is a shared kitchenette you can use with BBQ facilities, a swimming pool, bar, cafe, laundry facilities, free parking and a general store. You can also go for rainforest walks here and rent bikes and kayaks from here.

    Other places to stay near Cow Bay Beach include the Wompoo Eco Retreat, which offer comfortable and well-furnished eco bungalows that showcase outside panoramic views and The Epiphyte B&B which offers spacious rooms that come with private bathrooms and porches and serves up a terrific breakfast.


    It is not often you get to spend time in paradise without other people being there. So, for this reason, Cow Bay Beach is somewhere that everyone should visit when they come to the Daintree National Rainforest.


    Where to Eat at Cow Bay

    If you are looking for places to eat at Cow Bay there are some decent options available, particularly on Buchanan Creek Road. One of the most popular is Cafe Crocs which offers is located within the Cafe Crocs and has a nice outdoor seating area and a good menu featuring plenty of choices for children, vegetarians and those with dietary requirements like gluten-free and dairy-free. The mango chicken, spinach feta penne and vegetarian curry are popular with diners.

    Over in Diwan, On The Turps with the Heritage Lodge offers a serene environment to enjoy an upscale lunch or dinner. Their lamb shank, Confit Duck Maryland and seared kangaroo are superb dishes to treat yourself too if you are a meat eater. For vegetarians, the fish of the day is always a winner.

    When you need something to cool you down, head on over to the Daintree Ice Cream Company in Diwan. Located within a tropical fruit orchard, they sell a superb, seasonal selection of ice creams that are freshly made from exotic fruits that are grown in the surrounding locality.


    Final Thought

    It is not often you get to spend time in paradise without other people being there. So, for this reason, Cow Bay Beach is somewhere that everyone should visit when they come to the Daintree National Rainforest.

    If you do go there, it pays to go prepared as there is little in the way of shops to easily stock up on provisions. However, if you have everything you need to sustain you for a good few days, you should take every opportunity to spend as much time as you can in on of the most beautiful coastal region near Cairns in Tropical North Queensland.



    How Far Is Cow Bay from Cairns?

    Cow Bay is located about 120 km north of Cairns. It takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes to drive them along the Captain Cook Hwy/State Route 44


    How do you get to Cow Beach?

    To get to Cow Beach you should turn onto Buchanan Creek Road from the Cape Tribulation Road (aka Great Barrier Reef Drive) at the ice creamery. This will take you towards Cow Bay Beach. Once there, you will see three isolated bays which you can explore along this desolate stretch of beach. If you get there around low tide you should be able to stroll around the headland to the north to other secluded beaches in the area.


    Is Cow Bay Dog Friendly?

    Yes, Cow Bay has a place where your pooch can run off-leash. This is located around the southern end of the sand near the car park at Buchanan Creek Road. However, it is important to be aware of crocodiles as they reside in the area. So, don't let dogs enter the mangroves or swim after dark


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