Want to go on my holiday? Great places to stay in Tropical North Queensland

Image of pool at Castaways in Mission Beach, Queensland, Australia
Grand Designs makeover for the Castaways Resort & Spa, Mission Beach, Queensland

We stayed in some amazing accommodation while visiting Tropical North Queensland last month. Obviously I do a fair bit (OK tons!) of research before we go, but I also got a lot of help from the fabulous team at Bridge and Wickers. I like booking my holidays to Australia with Bridge and Wickers as it’s pretty much a no-brainer as they have high standards like me 🙂 As you can imagine I am a reasonably (OK, very!) demanding client so anyone with the patience to deal with me must be good.

Bridge & Wickers logoActually I do have to add that Bridge & Wickers have in fact just won the ultimate ‘Ozcar‘ from Tourism Australia as the best travel company so you don’t just have to take my word for it!

So here’s where we stayed and a mini review of each place:

First stop: Palm Cove

I’m quite a fan of Palm Cove as it’s near to Cairns without being in town, has a lovely beach and a great little selection of places to eat (and a fab art gallery!). It’s super small people-friendly, with a playground right on the beach front. It’s a great base for visiting Cairns Zoo, the Skyrail, Tjapukai, and Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures – all within a 20-minute drive away (Zoo – 2 minutes; Skyrail & Tjapukai – 10 minutes drive; Hartley’s – 20 minutes).

Cairns Airport is only around 20 minutes away too, so transfers are quick and easy (it’s simply a case of leave airport, turn right on the highway, drive North to Palm Cove, done!).

As a family I’d recommend Palm Cove and the Northern Beaches as the best option for a ‘Cairns’ base rather than Cairns itself simply because of the beach. Add in the nice places to eat and spas (thinking more for the grown-ups here!) and then the easy access to major attractions and it’s all sorted.

Where we stayed in Palm Cove:

Angsana – Palm Cove – 2 bedroom pool-facing suite

Image of beachfronted Angsana Palm Cove, Queensland, Australia
Angsana is the only ‘beachfront’ property in Palm Cove – to demonstrate see above!

The only ‘beachfront’ property in Palm Cove. To be fair, a lot of other properties do face the sea, and only have a brick-paved ‘road’ in front of them, but nonetheless having direct beach access through is great.

Image of apartment at Angsana Palm Cove, Queensland, Australia
Our spacious and comfortable pool facing 2 bed suite at the Angsana Palm Cove

The apartments are nicely done, and the spa is amazing. Disappointing swimming pools if I’m going to be picky (small and cold!). Great location though — right on the beach at one end of Palm Cove village, not far to walk along the Esplanade to the shops, and a great little coffee place on the corner opposite: the Chill Cafe.

Image of apartment balcony over the pool at Angsana Palm Cove, Queensland, Australia
The pool view from our balcony at the Angsana Great Barrier Reef (there’s also 2 other pools!)

Special mention about the Angsana is the absolutely gorgeous Wedding Chapel. Was I not already happily married to Mr Loves Australia this wedding venue would have been top of my list. It’s right on the beach, perfectly angled for an amazing view, and very very photogenic (possibly in an upstaging the bride kind of way!)

Image of pool and beach at Angsana Palm Cove, Queensland, Australia
Looking out across the beach pool to the sand & sea at Angsana Palm Cove (Spa on the left)

My verdict on the Angsana Palm Cove: Good for families and couples who want very comfortable and stylish apartments, right on the beachfront.

Book: with Bridge and Wickers from £202 a night or direct

We actually spent a few days at the end of our holiday back in Palm Cove. This was not originally intentional as we were planning to be at the Kewarra Beach Resort, but due to a slight delay in the refurbishment schedule they weren’t quite ready for us! So knowing how much we like Palm Cove we thought why not check out another family friendly option. The Sea Temple is actually only a couple of ‘doors’ down from the Angsana at the Southern end of Palm Cove but given the size of the plots this does add on a few minutes walk when heading into town. Not miles, but something to bear in mind when herding small people towards the playground 🙂

Where we also stayed:

Sea Temple Palm Cove2 bedroom apartment

Image of the pool at Sea Temple in Palm Cove, Queensland, Australia
The biggest swimming pool on our trip was at the Sea Temple in Palm Cove, this is just part…!

The Sea Temple is on the beach, but it’s not beachfront. Confused? It’s merely a simple matter of walking through some mangroves (on a boardwalk) to emerge from the resort onto the golden sand of Palm Cove beach. Not a big trek!

Image of a smart bedroom at Sea Temple in Palm Cove, Queensland, Australia
The modern ‘bachelor pad’ decor at the Sea Temple in Palm Cove. Nice, just not exciting!

The Sea Temple apartments are very modern, and if I am being truthful rather lacking in ‘warmth’. They are very slick, but quite ‘bachelor pad’ in their decor. Still, what the apartments lacked in interior design comfort, the swimming pools made up for in their scale and variety! The Sea Temple definitely won the award for biggest and best swimming pools on our recent trip. HUGE lagoon pool and a great kids pool too (and a lap pool for those who take their aquatic activity seriously!).

Image of the short path to the beach at Sea Temple in Palm Cove, Queensland, Australia
Just a short sandy walk to the beach from the Sea Temple in Palm Cove through Mangroves

One big moan I did have about the Sea Temple was the internet access. Now this may not be important to you but obviously for a globe trotting blogger like myself it is!  No WiFi, and one short cable from under the TV (so one person at a time access only) to get online.

Book: with Bridge and Wickers from £127 a night or direct

Palm Cove accommodation summary: if you love swimming, the pools at the Sea Temple are amazing, but for location, beachfront setting and comfortable apartments I preferred the Angsana.

Next Stop: Port Douglas

The beach in Port Douglas is called 4-Mile Beach – which says it all really! This is one fabulous beach let me tell you. It’s really quite special.

I really like Port Douglas as a holiday resort. It’s big enough to have plenty going on, but it’s not so huge you’d get lost. Situated on a peninsular there is beach on one side and the marina on the other. Macrossman Street stretches across the Port Douglas headland with all cafes, shops and restaurants you should need on a holiday. Plenty of choice, lots of great options. The Marina is the setting off point for lots of trips to the Great Barrier Reef, and you’re ideally placed to head off to the Daintree and Cape Tribulation for the day or longer.

For children in Port Douglas there’s the beach, the boat trips, a great playground, the markets every Sunday, tons of family friendly places to eat, and of course the chance to meet George the Grouper!

Watch out when you book somewhere to stay in Port Douglas though as the entire road that runs alongside 4-Mile Beach has hotels and apartments which, while of course are close to the beach, may well be too far away from the ‘amenities’ of town to make them walkable. Because we like to be able to walk to eat out, we stayed ‘in’ town. Use Google Maps to see where you are before you book 🙂

Where we stayed:

Mandalay Beachfront Apartments2 bedroom beachfront apartment

Image of the apartment lounge at the Mandalay in Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia
Lounge & patio by the pool and beach-fringing palm trees at the Mandalay in Port Douglas

Absolutely gorgeous apartments. Stunning in fact. Very well looked after and superbly managed. This is gold standard. Now while there is no view of the actual beach the apartments are ‘beachfront’ as all you need to do is cross the road and walk through the trees (that block the view of the waves, damn them!) and there you are, bang on 4-Mile Beach.

Image of the apartment kitchen at the Mandalay in Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia
One of the super posh kitchens in an apartment at the Mandalay Port Douglas

The apartments have everything you’ll need on holiday. Even the outdoor areas are amazing, with huge balconies or terraces. The pool is not big, but like they say it’s ‘perfectly formed‘. With enough space for a few laps, there is a great ‘shelf’ for small people to splash around in, and it wasn’t ice cold either (phew!).

Image of Lucy and smallest person in pool at the Mandalay in Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia
Me and baby loves Australia enjoying the small but ‘perfectly formed’ pool at the Mandalay

If I have to look for a moan then because the apartments are right by 4-Mile Beach then it’s a little bit of a walk (around 15-20 minutes) to Port Douglas Marina. But then you are right by the beach…

Image of second bedroom at the Mandalay in Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia
Very nicely done bedrooms in the Mandalay Port Douglas. Small people approved!

Summary: I am finding it hard to think of other things to say about the Mandalay Port Douglas that don’t include the words ‘lovely’, ‘great’, ‘wonderful‘ and can’t (so I wont!). Loved staying here. Raelene and her team are frankly onto a winner here 🙂

Book: with Bridge and Wickers from £188 a night or direct

Where we also stayed in Port Douglas:

Cayman Villas3 bedroom apartment

Image of hotel sign for Cayman Villas in Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia
Welcome to the Cayman Villas, Port Douglas. In case you need a sign!

Now I already knew Cayman Villas was going to have a tough time as we moved out of Mandalay to stay here. I am not going to pretend it’s as lovely as Mandalay because it’s not. That said though, I know very soon it’s going to be giving Mandalay some serious competition.

Image of Lucy and small person in the pool at the Cayman Villas in Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia
Enjoying the nice sun drenched pool at Cayman Villas, Port Douglas, Queensland

When we stayed at Cayman Villas it had literally just changed ownership (as in days before!). The apartments are huge, there’s a really lovely pool, and the location is great (almost midway to beach and Marina and 2 minutes walk from town) and the potential is huge.

Image of bedroom at Meridian Apartments in Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia
The Meridian Port Douglas across the road is the showcase for how great Cayman Villas will be

The Cayman Villas has been bought by John and Sue who own the (adults only) Meridian Apartments across the street (literally bang opposite) and having had a nose around the Meridian I am very excited about what they are going to bring to the Cayman Villas as the Meridian Port Douglas is rather special. Obviously one appeal of the Meridian is no small people ruining the ‘ambiance’ (imagine a deliciously serene pool area!), but the other appeal is the style and quality of the apartments and the attention to detail. Once the Cayman has the magic touch that John & Sue have given the Meridian it’s going to be a very nice option for families in Port Douglas. Very nice indeed. I shall be reporting back!

Image of pool-facing balcony at Meridian Apartments in Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia
A pool front apartment at the adults only Meridian Apartments Port Douglas. Lovely.

My summary: The Cayman Villas are a great family option and certainly offer a nice place to stay, at great value for money in Port Douglas – just not as outstanding as the Mandalay – yet!

Book direct here

Next Stop: The Atherton Tablelands

The Atherton Tablelands is the lush farming area up behind the mountains and hills that run parallel to the Tropical North Queensland coast. So head inland a few miles from Port Douglas or Cairns and you’re in the Tablelands. With fruit & dairy farms, and coffee plantations this is a really lush area, and offers quite a lot of foodie treats too (chocolate and cheese a particular highlight for me!). Waterfalls, giant curtain fig trees, and beautiful lakes – there’s lots to see and do so try and find time to explore (you can even do it on the back of a Harley Davidson like me!).

Where we stayed:

Rose Gums Wilderness Retreat2 bedroom ‘Treehouse’ (“Whipbird”)

Image of Treehouse at Rosegums, Atherton Tablelands, Queensland, Australia
Luckily there is no tree climbing required to access your treehouse. Just park right outside!

Yes it really is a treehouse, but no it’s not actually ‘up’ in a tree. I did have a slight concern about the logistics I’ll be honest – bearing in mind I didn’t fancy climbing a tree with a baby! – but it’s all very civilized, you can actually park your car right up by your treehouse front door.

Image of lounge in treehouse at Rosegums, Atherton Tablelands, Queensland, Australia
Enjoy the rustic comforts at Rosegums Wilderness Retreat. The rainforest is your neighbour.

The treehouses at Rose Gums are really great. They are very cleverly designed so you don’t see the other treehouses from yours, but actually you’re not really quite as in the middle of nowhere are you might imagine. Perfect! The treehouses are quite ‘rustic’ and don’t come expecting a slick loft-style interior, instead think ‘rustic comfort’.  Some great obviously hand finished fixtures and fittings, lots of ‘eco’ touches, and a great mish mash of furnishings. I liked that.

Image of lego building on the balcon of the treehouse at Rosegums, Atherton Tablelands, Queensland, Australia
Even in the middle of a rainforest there is still time for lego! (all part of the Rosegums service)

And this is most definitely a place that welcomes families. A certain small person’s eyes lit up at the huge stack of kids DVDs and giant buckets of toys we could borrow. We had them all! (no other children there while we were so we got to play with ALL the toys). Building Lego creations on the balcony of a treehouse in the middle of the Australian rainforest is certainly one of the more surreal moments I’ve had! Needless to say Rose Gums is definitely a hit for families.

Image of spa bath in bathroom of the treehouse at Rosegums, Atherton Tablelands, Queensland, Australia
The spa-bath in the treehouse at Rosegums (when its not dark all you can see are trees)

Any complaints? Well, there’s no swimming pool. But then that’s not really the point here, so am not really counting that as a minus. You do need to remember you’re in the countryside here so there is no popping out for a walk to eat at a great restaurant, but that said there’s a restaurant on site if you want to eat ‘in’ and there are shops and restaurants only a short drive away. What did I like the best? The serenity, the view, the balcony, and the noise of rainforest (captivating, and magical).

Image of bedroom of the treehouse at Rosegums, Atherton Tablelands, Queensland, Australia
A romantic treehouse for 2 at RoseGums in the Atherton Tablelands, Queensland

One thing I do have to mention is that you may get reminded (like we did) that you are a little bit ‘off the grid’ here. How were we reminded? Well, there was a power cut as we arrived, and that meant no water either (electric water pump). All was resolved in a couple of hours but just bear that in mind – Rose Gums is a fabulous experience but leave your ‘room service’ expectations at home!

Image of bedroom of the treehouse at Rosegums, Atherton Tablelands, Queensland, Australia
Our treehouse had a loft style open plan bedroom upstairs, and a cosy bedroom downstairs

Summary: Fantastic ‘retreat’ in the Atherton Tablelands that grown ups and children alike will enjoy. Just remember it is a ‘Wilderness’ option so no 24-hour room service, but you will get round the clock immersion in the sights and sounds of the rainforest and I that’s a service you can’t get just anywhere.

Book: with Bridge and Wickers from £179 a night or direct

Where next? Mission Beach

I could go on (and on) about how much I love Mission Beach but I already have. Really is one of my most favourite spots in Australia. It’s authentic, it’s beautiful, it’s got an incredible beach, and yes I am a stuck record 🙂

Where we stayed

Castaways Resort and SpaThe Beach House (!)

Image of Castaways at Mission Beach in Queensland, Australia
The ‘new face’ of Castaways Resort & Spa Mission Beach (lawn stops, sand starts)

We were expecting to stay in a 2-bed apartment in the hotel itself (check out the ones that open out onto the pool – very nice!) but due to the extremely hospitable manager Will we were very well looked after in ‘Beachside‘ the house owned by the hotel a couple of doors down. A huge 3-bedroom beachfront property with a vast open plan living area, seriously big deck (with its own plunge pool, and a catering size barbecue!), we were very spoilt.

Image of the beach house lounge area of Castaways at Mission Beach in Queensland, Australia
‘Beachside’ beach house at Castaways with view through to sand & sea of Mission Beach

I have already extolled the virtues of the renovations at Castaways (which were literally being just finished off when we stayed), and special mention has to go for the amazing ‘Grand Design’ that has transformed this once ‘motel-like’ property into a rather fine hotel.

Image of the seaview from rooms at Castaways at Mission Beach in Queensland, Australia
Do I need to write a caption? Pool and sea views from the Castaways rooms at Mission Beach

The food’s great, the pools are nice, the view is amazing, the finish is good, the service and staff are excellent, the spa is beachfront, the weather is tropical. I am going back as soon as I can…

Book: with Bridge and Wickers from £109 a night or direct


Bridge & Wickers logo

If you like the sound of this as a Tropical North Queensland holiday itinerary then the lovely team at Bridge & Wickers (who I entrusted with my own, very demanding travel plans!) can sort it all for you.

Based on my holiday accommodation… I’d suggest a Queensland holiday staying:

  • 5 nights Palm Cove (Sea Temple)
  • 7 nights Mandalay apartments in Port Douglas
  • 2 nights Rose Gums – Atherton Tablelands
  • 5 nights Castaways at Mission Beach

If there are just 2 of you travelling then ‘my holiday’ (as described here) will cost from £1761 per person based on 2 people travelling including a car (add £188 per person for the Angsana in Palm Cove).

For a family (of 2 adults and 2 children) to take the same holiday, the costs would be £1080 per person, (£59 extra for the Angsana in Palm Cove)

The family itinerary is based on staying in 2 bed apartments and family rooms. And also includes car hire (if you need car seats add £39 per child for the 19 days).

Bridge and Wickers can book you ‘my holiday’ (and a lot of other options too!) for your Tropical North Queensland holiday (and all over Australia), so if you want some help from real travel experts, who’ll look after you give them a call. Matt is my ‘man’ at Bridge & Wickers if you really do want to follow in my exact footsteps 🙂 Here’s the number to call: 020 7483 6555

Have a lovely holiday! I did…

One Response to “Want to go on my holiday? Great places to stay in Tropical North Queensland”

  1. Debbie says:

    hi Lucy,

    Just wanted to say thank you for this great site of yours. I am going to Oz for the first time with my family next christmas, 2011.

    Our children will be 11 and 18 months by the time we go, so your tips on family friendly places are really helpful to me. I’ve been to quite a few places in the states and all over Europe, but australia is an unknown entity to me and your tips are helping me get a grasp of whats what.

    So thanks,
    Debbie & Family

Leave a Reply