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A family vay-cay to Palm Cove, Far North Queensland

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You really don’t need to venture out of Australia to have a wonderful tropical holiday. Far North Queensland has it all … in spades … and is very kid-friendly, too. And when it’s winter in Sydney, escaping 15-degree days for 27-degree days is very appealing.

I keep coming back to Palm Cove because it’s well and truly a slice of paradise, and because the resorts are very comfortable, the pools are fantastic, the food is amazing, and it’s just soooo relaxing, even with a toddler in tow.

Accommodation

We have stayed in a number of resorts around Palm Cove with our three-year-old son over the past few years. Here are a few good ones for kids.

Peppers Beach Club & Spa 

The rooms are lovely and very roomy (which you would expect for a luxury resort), but you literally stay here for the pool. It’s massive, and one half of it is a man-made beach that is perfect for children (even very young ones) to wade in and spend hours digging and building sandcastles (just try and drag them away!). The resort is also in a fab location, right on the main esplanade opposite the beach. Free wi-fi is available up to 500mb.

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Hotel Grand Chancellor Palm Cove 

This used to be a Novotel, one of the first resorts in the area, and it still retains the original ‘cool’ crocodile slide into the main pool. There’s also a wading pool for younger kids. We found the 24-hour reception desk handy as we arrived at midnight after a late flight. And although the resort looks a little tired in places, the rooms are nice enough and it’s really good value for money, especially when ‘kids stay free’ deals are offered. Wi-fi is available for a fee.

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Mango Lagoon Resort & Wellness Spa

This resort is about 12 minutes walk from the beach, but we didn’t really mind as we had a stroller for our son and it was a nice wander past palm trees and holiday lets. There are four pools here, but we only utilised the one pictured below, as it was ideal for our toddler with it’s varying shallow depths. The views to the mountain range behind were gorgeous, the atmosphere relaxing, and the two-bedroom apartment we rented was almost bigger than our house back home! Free wi-fi is available in all rooms, though it can be a little unreliable.

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Kid-friendly restaurants 

I have to say, they are all pretty kid-friendly here. Even the more ‘posh’ restaurants, such as Nu Nu Restaurant, will happily cater for a young one with a colour-in menu and plastic cups, and don’t have a problem wiping up spills and cleaning up messes — they’ll even do it with a smile!

Here are five more places go that extra mile for kids…

  • Apres Beach Bar and Grill – Colour-in menus with pencils, free wi-fi.
  • Palm Cove Tavern – Indoor play equipment for kids under 120cm high, plus three TVs set up with PlayStation computer games. The food is great.
  • Portobello Italian and pizza restaurant – Kids can draw on the paper tablecloths. Great kids menu.
  • The Surf Club Palm Cove – Two TVs set up with PlayStation computer games, kids’ activities packs, free wi-fi.
  • Vivo Bar and Grill – The kids menu is quite sophisticated but extensive and tempting enough for fussy eaters; everything from bolognese to a petit fillet steak. Staff are helpful even with tired and grumpy children at dinner.

Things to do

My vote would be to nab a sun lounge at your resort or lie like a starfish on the beach for several hours, but it appears that kids need entertaining, so here are some great things to do with the kids at Palm Cove.

Play at the parks

Right on the beach opposite Peppers Beach Club on Williams Esplanade is a small kid’s playground consisting of a swing set, a climb-over slippery dip tower and an activity hub with a digger. It’s fenced on the road side to stop little ones straying, but open on the beach side. There are also a couple of park benches to sit while you watch the kids play (providing you have clocked off swing duty!)

A block back from the beach, you’ll find Tom McDonald Park with a nice kids playground and oval. Just head up Harpa Street off the Esplanade and you’ll run into it at the end. Our son spent a while here on the swings and bouncy things and climbed all over the fort.

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Go out for ice-cream

There are a few ice-cream outlets spread along Williams Esplanade – Scoops Gelatiland north past Peppers, and Numi plus Jack & Shanan’s at the southern end. Grab a scoop or two, then head across the road to the beach and enjoy. If you’re in the mood for a slushie that’s all-natural and all-delicious, you must go to Lost Eskimo which is about halfway along the Esplanade. You won’t be disappointed.

Play hide-and-seek

There are so many palm trees in Palm Cove along the shoreline that a game of hide-and-seek can last for hours. As we didn’t want our little guy to ‘go missing’ we were smart enough to pop a My Buddy Tag on his wrist so we actually knew how far away he was (it would send an alarm to my phone via an app) plus, if I got really desperate, I could check his location on a map.

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Fish

At the northern end of Palm Cove, there is a great jetty that’s ideal for fishing. All you need to do is hire some fishing gear from the caravan park that’s just across the road and then try your hand at catching some dinner together.

Visit Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures

Just 10 minutes drive north of Palm Cove is the amazing crocodile and wildlife park, Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. You can easily spend the whole day walking the more than 2000 metres of boardwalk through rainforest and bush to see a whole array of animals, birds and insects, including cassowaries, koalas, and mean-looking crocodiles. If you didn’t bring the stroller, that’s ok, you can hire them for just $5. The best part of the park would have to be a boat cruise on the lagoon where you can spy up to 19 crocs in the water!

Journey on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and Kuranda Scenic Railway

This Skyrail is like the one at Taronga Zoo on steroids! It takes almost an hour to go from the base at the Smithfield Terminal (about 15 minutes drive south of Palm Cove) to the top at Kuranda, but if you stop at the two lookouts along the way (don’t forget the mozzie spray), you’ll need to add extra time. The view is incredible! You can take the Skyrail back down again, but it might be nice to mix it up and do the return journey via the Scenic Railway. Built over 120 years ago, it winds down the mountain to Freshwater Station at the bottom (allow 1.5 hours), where you can take a coach transfer back to your starting point at the Smithfield Terminal.

Head out to sea

While I used to spend all my time in FNQ out on the reef snorkelling and diving before I had children, we are waiting till our one-and-only grows a little bigger before venturing out again. However, there is no reason those with young ones who aren’t able to swim yet can’t go on a day trip to Green Island (27km off the coast of Cairns/45-minute boat ride) and have a wonderful day out. It’s the only coral cay on the Great Barrier Reef with a rainforest growing on it, and it’s small enough to walk around in about half an hour. There’s a resort on the island, so you’ll still be near amenities and food, the beaches are pristine, the water lovely (older kids can still snorkel), and there is even the Marineland Melanesia where you can hold a baby crocodile if you’re that way inclined.

Temperature

During summer you can expect temps to go over 31 degrees in the daytime, and the humidity can be really high – uncomfortably so. And at night-time temperatures will only drop to 24 degrees.

Winter is a lot more comfortable, with daytime temps at around 26 degrees and night-time temps of about 17.

Water temperatures are always warm – a bath-like 29 degrees in summer and a delightful 24 in winter.

Stingers?

When it’s warmer – from November to May – stingers are about, so if you swim at the beach, you need to swim inside the stinger net enclosures. They’ll prevent the large box jellyfish, and their tentacles, from getting near you. At other times of the year it’s pretty safe to swim all along the beach – but between the flags, of course!

Getting there

Palm Cove is about 20 minutes drive north of Cairns. You simply fly into Cairns (about a three-hour flight from Sydney Domestic Airport), then you have a couple of options to get to Palm Cove. You can take a shuttle bus – Sun Palm Transport is the biggest and cheapest. Adult tickets cost $18 each to Palm Cove, and children under the age of 12 ride free. You even get a free transfer if it’s your birthday! Taxis cost about $75. And there are a number of car and driver options, too. Hire cars are quite expensive up this way, so unless you are planning on driving around the area a lot during the time you are visiting, it’s much cheaper to use public transport.

Have you been to Palm Cove with your family? We’d love to hear your thoughts and tips in the comments section below.

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  1. John Felan
    John Felan

    It’s such a gift to move thoughts into words in a way that is informative, motivating and real. Thank you Natasha for this gentle contribution to where we live at the Cove.

    4 July, 2017 at 7:23 am Reply

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