• Spectacular views along the Great Barrier Reef Drive


    North Australia's Top Coastal Drive
  • a sunset swim at the northern beaches of cairns


    Spectacular Beaches Along the Great Barrier Reef Drive
  • Cape Tribulation, highlight of the Great Barrier Reef Drive


    The Grand Finale To The Great Barrier Reef Drive

Explore The Great Barrier Reef Drive from Cairns to Cape Tribulation


The 140 km. journey from Cairns to Cape Tribulation is one of Australia's greatest coastal drives.

The Great Barrier Reef Drive takes you from the city to the jungle, and the Cairns Northern Beaches are the start of your adventure. You won't have time to see them all, there are many beaches between Cairns city and Cape Tribulation but try to see at least a few. Most of the Cairns Northern Beaches are sea side suburbs where the lucky residents have a beautiful tropical beach just down the street, only Ellis Beach is more undeveloped having only a cafe and caravan park / resort by the beach.

The Northern Beaches Of Cairns

Cairns Northern Beaches

Cairns Northern Beaches

Cairns does not have beautiful beaches in the city centre like many other Australian cities do, but the northern beaches of Cairns make up for it. If you want to see a few beaches or all you will need to rent a car as there is quite some distance between them and public transport would take too long. All Cairns northern beaches have suburbs behind them and most have resorts

Machans Beach

Machans Beach

The first tranquil and unspoilt hippie style beachside community on the way out of Cairns, not all that popular with tourists, although there are a few B&Bs here. Locals desribe themselves as "down to earth working class people" and have successfully protested against larger tourist developments. The southern end of Machans Beach meets the mighty Barron River.

Holloways Beach

Holloways Beach

Holloways Beach is the second beach out of Cairns and does not take long to get to, unfortunately it is only a few metres in width but it is a perfect spot to cool off, take the dog for a walk, sit and enjoy the sunsets, or throw out a fishing line. A very nice restaurant and cafe add to the attraction, and Holloways Beach has a stinger net during the jellyfish season. 

Yorkeys Knob

Yorkeys Knob

Yorkeys Knob is a suburb and home to many Cairns residents but the waterfront has developed into a tourist location that is very convenient being only about 15 minutes drive from Cairns and not far from world-class golf courses. The mangrove creek at the south end of Yorkeys Knob Beach is great for fishing, few people venture this far down because the road ends a long way back along the beach. Yorkeys Knob is a very popular beach for water sports and even has a small amount of surf generated by the sand bar.

Trinity Beach

Trinity Beach

Trinity Beach is sheltered between two large headlands, and very popular with everyone in Cairns. This explains the good selection of take-away shops, restaurants and accommodation. The beach is lined with picnic tables and barbeques that are free to use, so it's perfect for family outings or meeting with friends while enjoying sunset drinks. Although Trinity Beach is mainly a residential area for the locals, the strip along the beachfront is filled with tourist accommodation, restaurants and cafes. 

Kewarra Beach

Kewarra Beach

Kewarra Beach is located about 25 minutes north of Cairns CBD with not much tourism development. This beach is the south end of a very long beach that also includes Palm Cove and Clifton Beach. The bay is protected from the southeasterly swell by a rocky headland and this is a very good safe place to swim with young children. The beach also has picnic tables, play equipment, and public toilets, and of course a stinger net. Access this beach from the Cook Highway or via a dirt track from Trinity Beach.

Clifton Beach

Clifton Beach

Clifton Beach is a quiet, un-spoilt beach lined with coconut palms and no high-rise buildings, There is a swimming net and a great children's playground with barbeque facilities right on the beach, about a 25 minute drive from Cairns CBD. From here you can walk right through to Palm Cove Beach and its offerings of restaurants and day spas.

Palm Cove

Palm Cove

Palm Cove has developed into a top location for holidaymakers, probably more than any other of the Cairns Northern Beaches. The beach has picnic tables and free barbeques along its entire length, and at the north end of the beach is a long jetty which is used by the boats that service Double Island, the small island you can see above.

Ellis Beach

Ellis Beach

Ellis Beach is a long quiet and undeveloped beach, separated by a rocky outcrop from bustling Palm Cove. This beach only has one cafe, one caravan park, and a life guard station so here you can really relax. Ellis Beach is long and thin, and just over 1 kilometre in length. The fishing is good at the south end of the beach, try your luck!

Mossman Gorge

More Beaches

Once you leave Ellis Beach behind you the beaches along this World Heritage listed coast line don't even have names on them any more, but there's plenty, they're beautiful and deserted, and waiting for you to come and explore. Just remember to take care, no life guards here, there's jelly fish in the summer, and there can be currents.

balancing stones near port douglas

The Balancing Stones

The origin of this phenomena is a bit mysterious but thanks to social media it quickly became a poular stop along the Great Barrier Reef Drive and many people pull over here to add to the considerable collection of balancing stones.

Safety on the Great Barrier Reef Drive

Safety Along This Road

Enjoy the magnificent views and the beaches, but be careful!
Many locals use this road every day in their work and drive fast, accidents do happen here, even on holidays!
Don't hit the brakes when you see a nice beach without checking behind you first, and pull over in the passing lanes, and note that then you have to give way to re-enter the road!

Continue to Rex Lookout...



This drive takes you along the edge of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, but make sure you hop on a boat from Port Douglas or Cape Tribulation too so you can immerse yourself in this amazing world of wild coloured coral and tropical fish.


While you can see some rain forest in various places along the drive you definitely have to cross the Daintree river to see the real ancient Daintree rain forest, do some of the National Park board walks, swim in the pristine creeks, or book a guided tour in Cape Tribulation to learn more about it.


You can see cassowaries in zoos around the world but meeting a cassowary in the wild is an experience not to be forgotten. This ancient flightless bird has been walking the planet ever since all continents were still joined together as one and dinosaurs roamed the earth. The cassowary is listed as endangered but has been making a good comeback, and there is a fair chance you will see one in the Daintree if you spend a few days there.


If you love the beach then you will love the Great Barrier Reef Drive, there are dozens of stunning beaches to explore along the way, just in the Daintree there's ten of them already, and even in the busy season there is a good chance you will find one all to yourself.

There is an amazing variety of things to do and see along the Great Barrier Reef Drive, click here for more information
Tourist attractions in the Daintree


What ever you can imagine, you will find it along the Great Barrier Reef Drive. Exotic fruit wines, hang gliding, home made icecream, crocodiles, rainforest sculpture trail, tea, insect museum, cassowaries crossing the road, massage, jungle surfing, Aboriginal culture tours, helicopter rides, More info added soon on the multitude of attractions and sights to see.