This quiet beach north of Cairns offers long stretches of white sand and clear water.
Clifton Beach is a tropical beachside town surrounded by two natural wonders: a World Heritage-listed rain forest and the Great Barrier Reef. The six-kilometre (3.7-mile) beach is lined with palm trees, white sand and clear water. Come to swim, go white-water rafting, wildlife watching, or just unwind in the shade with a drink in one hand and a book in the other.
Clifton Beach is relatively quiet, with fewer tourists than neighbouring beaches and an almost non-existent nightlife. Spend a few hours or a few weeks here. Accommodation options range from budget dormitory-style rooms, to luxury resorts. There are cafés and restaurants, grocery stores and a few specialty retail outlets where you can pick up holiday equipment such as fishing gear and snorkels.
At the beach you’ll find picnic tables, barbecues and play equipment. Feed kangaroos and cuddle a koala at the Cairns Tropical Zoo. Keen golfers can enjoy a game on the local golf course, which is considered one of Australia’s top 50 greens.
Explore the headland of Cape Tribulation and the surrounding Daintree Rainforest on foot, by car or as part of a tour. Walk north along the beach to Palm Cove, a town that offers more bars and restaurants, as well as boutiques and art galleries. Port Douglas is a 45-minute drive north of Clifton Beach. Many tour companies leave from Port Douglas for the Great Barrier Reef, and the town of about 5,000 residents has a thriving backpacker nightlife and fine-dining restaurants.
The weather is warm all year, and hot and humid in summer. Clifton Beach has nets that protect swimmers from harmful marine stingers such as irukandji jellyfish, which are in the waters between November and May. Lifeguards patrol the beach every day during “stinger season”.
Clifton Beach is a 25-minute drive north of Cairns along the Captain Cook Highway. Buses run regularly between Cairns and Palm Cove, stopping at Clifton Beach every hour throughout the day.