Dive The Reef Lodging Guide
The Cairns-Port Douglas region is host to a wide range of Lodging Options in a number of diferent cities and towns. Not only do is there a great many kinds of places to stay, but each town has it's own lifestyle, so considering where you stay may help you have a enjoyable visit. We hope this guide helps you find the perfect lodging.
The great thing is that there are lots of choices, and we have chosen the most outstanding in each category we to be listed in our lodging directory. Let us know if you are having trouble making up your mind, we can help you sort through your many options.
We like staying in Cairns for several reasons. As the biggest town in the area, there is clearly a lot more happening here. There is the widest selection of lodging, the widest selection of dive trips, a vibrant café and restaurant scene, as well as a variety of cinema, theatre and sports events.
Most of the adventure trips in the area depart from Cairns. While nearly every trip can arrange your pickup and return from the other areas, some people find it more convenient to stay in town. Connections by air, train, and bus all depart from this Cairns also. While much of the town has a tropical resort feel, we still enjoy the fact that the town retains much of it's heritage as a timber, fishing, and outback supply center. You can meet cattlemen, prawn trawlers, and office workers here.
Beach lovers will be disappointed, that the nearest sandy beach is 15 minutes from town, and while the excellent city bus service connects you to all of the beach towns, if you like the feel of sand underfoot, you may prefer to stay in one of the beach towns listed in this guide.
The Northern Beaches:
The Northern Beaches are a string of small beach communities strung along coast North of Cairns. Here you can find a variety of beach lodgings, ranging from standard to luxurious, most of them being smaller resorts of 50 rooms or less. There are also several golf courses nearby, and Wild World, an Australian wildlife park. There is a large shopping complex located at Smithfield to serve nearly any shopping needs. top
This small beach community is a 15-minute drive from Cairns. It is a quiet community, with just two small holiday apartments. The beach is fairly long with a small play center for the kiddies. There is a single small beachside café open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A couple of blocks inland is a small set of shops including a grocery store and a café. The southern exposure of the beach can mean that afternoons can be windy during the May through August. The city bus service does visit Holloways Beach. top
Yorkey's Knob is larger than Holloways beach, and is located 20 minutes from Cairns, and 15 minutes from the airport. There are perhaps 10 holiday lodgings, including two unique beachside establishments that we have selected as good places to stay, as well as a small set of shops. One dive boat, Moonlighting II, leaves from the Yorkey's Knob Marina, making for a very convenient reef trip. There are several restaurants, a golf course and a set of small shops selling the basic provisions within walking distance from the lodging houses, and a big shopping center is a 5-minute taxi ride away.
Yorkey's Knob beach is perhaps a mile long. This beach also faces south, and afternoons can be windy May-August. The Cairns city bus serves this community. top
Trinity Beach is one of the more popular beach locations in the area. Being protected on both its northern and southern ends by forest-clad headlands, it is less windy than some of the other beaches. Being just 25 minutes away from Cairns, it is easily reached by the City bus.
The beach is a little less than a half-mile long, with an assortment of cafes, bars, and restaurants just back from the beach. We liked the fact that there were small playgrounds for the kiddies, and a beach rental shop where anyone can rent sailboards, beach chairs, and other items. There are a number of holiday apartments here, some absolutely beachfront. There is a small shopping center about 10 minutes walk inland which will meet nearly all the basic needs of holiday visitors. top
Kewarra beach is a very pretty beach. It is one of the favorites of locals for morning beach walks. The nearest café/store is about 15 minutes walking distance. The Kewarra Beach Resort is the sole place to stay here, and is a lovely place.
The beach itself is protected from the winter winds by a hill, and its arc shape means that there are sunny and shady parts to enjoy at nearly all times of the day. There is a shady barbecue and play area in the trees back from the beach. The Cairns city bus service does serve this community, although it is a short walk to the bus stop from the beach. top
Clifton Beach is sandwiched between Kewarra and Palm Cove Beaches. Walk about 10 minutes up or down the beach and you are at the neighboring beach. Clifton Beach is a relatively quiet community, with just several beachside apartments, and a single café within walking distance. There is a store about 15 minutes walk away, and the cafes and shops at Palm Cove are about the same distance away. The beach is relatively unused, most of the people we have seen there are beach walkers from the adjacent beach communities. The Cairns city bus service has several stops in Clifton Beach. top
Palm Cove is the beach most oriented towards overseas tourism. The beach is a long strand of sand, and just behind it is a row of Beach Resorts and Holiday Apartments. Many of these are very nice and very expensive facilities. There are a number of nice restaurants, as well as a small assortment of shops and cafes. Two companies, Quicksilver and Sunlover, use the pier as a take off point for their reef trips.
The beach itself is nice and clean, with great views of the small offshore islands. Afternoons can be windy from May-August, as it is more exposed to the Southeasterly winds that can blow at that time of the year. The Cairns city bus service does serve this community. top
Ellis beach is probably our favorite beach. It was voted Queensland's Cleanest Beach last year, and is a beautiful long strip of sand. There are shady areas, sunny areas, and very private coves located at both ends of this long beach. The southern end of the beach catches the late afternoon sun, and is protected from the Southerly winds.
There is a single place to stay here is Ellis Beach Bungalows. Which has some very nice beachside bungalows, a caravan park, and a camping area, all overlooking the beach. There is also a small café/pub located here. There are no stores nearby, although a small amount of supplies are for sale in the shop at the Bungalow offices.The beach is located about 35 minutes from Cairns, and is not visited by the city bus service. top
Port Douglas is a beachside resort town located about 45 minutes drive North of Cairns. It has beautiful beach, accurately named Four-mile Beach, alongside which are located an assortment of holiday resorts and apartments. Port Douglas is larger than the other beach towns, and has a large number of shops and restaurants that primarily cater to holiday visitors. A number of dive boats are based in Port Douglas, providing a number of choices for anyone heading out to the reef. It is a beautiful, clean, and bustling tourist town. top
Within one of two hours drive of the coastal towns mentioned in our guide lies a wonderful and varied landscape, and we hope all visitors to the area will get out and sample the lifestyles of these areas. Rural retreats are unique lodgings, set in unique areas close enough to Cairns to make for an easy one or two-day stay.
Most of these lodgings are located too far away to use as a base for visitors taking dive trips. They include forest retreats, farm stays, outback pubs, and other unique opportunities. We will very soon be publishing a guide to the rural regions surrounding Cairns, in the meantime email us if you are interested in visiting these areas and wish some advice. top
So where do we stay?
Good question. Amongst our company we each have our preferences:
One of us, a single guy active in sports, prefers Cairns: he likes the more active nightlife, and social opportunities in the sports clubs in town. He also likes the fact Cairns is not solely a tourist town, and that he can meet locals, buy food for his dinner at the farmers market, and lead what he considers a tropical Australian lifestyle.
Another partner prefers staying in Port Douglas. He and his wife like the tidy downtown area, with its many shops and restaurants. They like the really nice lodging choices, and being able to walk to anywhere in this town, including to their dive boats at the Marina.
A third partner has just planned his first visit to the area with his girlfriend. They have chosen to stay in one of the quiet Northern beach towns. The rest of us think they want to cozy up in their romantic beachside hideaway, and wonder if they will even get out of their place to go diving. top