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North Queensland's Best Beaches

Ben Hall

When it comes to pristine, uncrowded, and naturally stunning beaches, few places on earth can match the unspoiled beauty of tropical North Queensland. 

If ever a place on earth deserves to be called paradise it’s the reef and rainforest of far north Queensland. From the breathtaking colours of the Great Barrier Reef to the verdant splendour of the Daintree, the area is the ultimate showcase of natural beauty. But it’s also home to some of the planet’s most stunning beaches - dotting sections of the mainland, and tucked away on many of the islands stretching out into the Great Barrier Reef. Here’s our pick of the best. 

Fitzroy And Green Islands 

South of Cairns, Fitzroy is only a 45-minute boat ride away. It’s one of the 600 continental, or high islands on the Great Barrier Reef, and used to be part of the mainland. Fitzroy is surrounded by a fringing reef, and most of it’s beaches are covered with dead coral. The exception is Nudey Beach which spite of its curious name, it is suitable for families. Only a few kilometres away from Fitzroy, Green Island is a beautiful coral cay readily identified from the air by its emerald rainforest surrounded by white sandy beaches and beautiful coral reefs. 

Mission Beach 

On the mainland, about an hour and a half’s drive south of Cairns, is Mission Beach - a vibrant ocean front town boasting over 14 kilometres of pristine beaches. Locals will argue that the oft-used phase “where the rainforest meets the beach” was coined here. Whether that’s true or not is up for debate, but what is true is that many of the area’s long stretches of golden sands have rainforest fringing the pristine beach, earning Mission beach a unique reputation. Mission Beach is also the closest mainland access to the Great Barrier Reef - it’s only 38 kilometres away, or a 50-minute boat ride. 

Dunk and Bedarra Islands 

Less than four kilometres off shore from Mission Beach are the Family Group of islands, including the famous Dunk and Bedarra Islands. Like Mission Beach, Bedarra is a haven of unspoiled rain forest and palm-fringed beaches. But it is also arguably Australia’s most exclusive island retreat, boasting a lavish resort designed to blend in with the beauty of the natural surroundings. In contrast, Dunk Island welcomes all visitors from backpackers and honeymooners to families. The largest of the Family Islands, it was known to its first inhabitants as ‘Coonanglebah’ - the Island of Peace and Plenty. Besides soaking in the sun, it also offers an impressive array of activities for visitors, from rainforest hiking and jet ski tours, to sports and spas for physical and spiritual rejuvenation. 

Trinity Beach 

In the old days, venturing north of Cairns was likened to falling off the edge of the world. Few travellers ventured into this virtually unexplored territory; Cairns was still a provincial outpost, and Port Douglas nothing more than a sleepy village with two pubs and a pie shop. But times have undoubtedly changed. Just 15 minutes from Cairns Airport, you’ll find picturesque Trinity Beach. Dubbed “Cairns’ favourite beach” because of its proximity, Trinity is nestled comfortably between two headlands and has a relaxed, comfortable vibe. 

Palm Cove 

Twenty minutes north of Cairns, Palm Cove has evolved from a sleepy beachside village into a premier international resort. Widely regarded as Australia’s number one spa and wedding destination, it has, however, managed to hold on to its intimate ambience and distinctive character. Explore Palm Cove on foot and you’ll discover old world charm fused with splashes of tropical colour, and a carefully-planned strip of elegant resort hotels, award winning spas, and some celebrated restaurants. But the beach is the main attraction - it’s pristine, lined with coconut palms, surprisingly uncrowded, and was voted Australia’s cleanest in 2003. 

Port Douglas 

Seventy kilometres from Cairns you’ll find picturesque Port Douglas. Another Queensland beach paradise which has evolved into an international holiday mecca, it’s a vibrant town packed with resorts, golf courses, shops, galleries and restaurants. 

The premier sun seeking spot here is Four Mile Beach, and from the main Port Douglas district it can be reached on foot in five minutes.  The beach begins at the northern rocky headland, which is a great place for kids to explore and play. Then the four miles - more than six kilometres - of beach unfold in a gentle curve that continues as far as the eye can see. 

Cape Tribulation 

Beyond Port Douglas is a long, relatively unpopulated stretch of coastline which stretches to remote Cape Tribulation and beyond. Cape Trib - as the locals call it - boasts many stunning beaches: Myall Beach, Coconut Beach, Cape Trib Beach, Emmagen Beach, Donovan's Beach, Noah’s Beach and Thornton Beach among them. And although they all share the dramatic backdrop of the Daintree rainforest, each has its own feel and unique qualities. At the northernmost point of Myall Beach, you can climb out on to the Cape Trib headland for stunning views of the coastline, while Coconut Beach has a large fringing reef with a steep drop off, perfect for fishing with hand lines at low tide. 

Lizard Island 

If you crave a unique beach experience even further north, head up and out to Lizard Island. Around 100 kilometres from historic Cooktown, the island was named for the large goannas which are still common there today and is an idyllic retreated known locally as “one of one”. It’s also Australia’s northernmost resort, and popular with visiting yachts. Lizard boasts no less than 24 powdery white sand beaches, many of which can only be reached by boat or on foot on hiking trails. Fringed with stunning coral reef, it also offers spectacular diving opportunities here, including the famous Cod Hole.

For a great selection of luxe-for-less bargain holidays to North Queensland, check out our sister website,

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