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An aura of romantic summery barefoot elegance: Palm Cove

An aura of romantic summery barefoot elegance hangs in the air at Palm Cove

It’s a real mystery why Kiwis don’t flock to far north Queensland in winter. Head to Cairns and it’s between 27-31C degrees, mostly dry, month after month. This is the easiest gateway to a New Zealand winter break.

Petrol is so much cheaper, rental cars are a lot cheaper and it’s only about four hours from Auckland airport. More than six million overseas tourists visit Australia every year – but just 28,000 Kiwis head to northern Queensland annually. It’s baffling.

We stayed at Palm Cove, the most idyllic little resort 20 minutes’ drive north of Cairns airport. After a week there, we wondered why go anywhere else for a winter break? We set up base at so often regarded as the No.1 resort – Peppers Beach Club and Spa. It’s easily the most relacing and best situated-place to stay – with three pools including a giant beach pool surrounded along three sides in sand, and a pool bar on the fourth side; a cosy deeper water warmer pool with a waterfall and plunge area and a tranquil shaded serenity pool. It’s heaven. Right across the road is the palm tree-lined beach which looks out to the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Sea.

This is the place to dodge the cold New Zealand winters and the Peppers resort is a tropical haven. Most Kiwis go to Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane but it’s hard to believe that Cairns, 2000km north of Brisbane, is not much busier in winter. It’s not long haul like going to Los Angeles, or Singapore. I didn’t want to go to the islands as that can involve more connections, boats, small planes and transfers to smaller islands, dragging out a whole day’s travel. It was 28Cdegrees on arrival and in seconds we totally forgot about the wintry weather back home. We slipped into the Beach Club pool soon after we arrived and we started our dream holiday – instantly feeling like it was the height of summer.

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Port Douglas is about an hour’s drive north of Cairns and much busier but not as cosy as Palm Cove which has a more ‘local’ feeling, rather being in a bigger tourist resort. The locals we spoke to said they loved Palm Cove and enjoyed the peaceful lifestyle. Peppers was the perfect place to set up camp. It had great staff, good breakfasts and we had a fantastic suite looking out to the reef and see families and people strolling lazily among the palms night and morning.

We know the place was popular for families with very young children but we were staggered to see so many pregnant mums enjoying their last moments of peace at Peppers. The resort and Palm Cove generally is one of Australia’s top wedding and honeymoon destinations. For those without children, people lazed on loungers, tapped away on their computer tablets or gravitated to the thatched roof pool bar. This was an outstanding spot, so far from the chills of Christchurch. The beach across from Peppers had its own Palm Cove Surf Lifesaving Club guard, every day. We even joined the club to support their good cause.

We gazed along the esplanade at a number of outstanding art galleries. We ran up and down the beach, out to the wharf which was popular for fishing - for mackerel, giant trevally and shark. Others headed out to the Great Barrier. The ocean water temperature was 23C degrees, warm and refreshing. Signs pull no punches to also point out this is serious crocodile territory. The salties (saltwater crocs) and the freshies (freshwater crocs) don’t cause people problem but there were reports of plenty about in creeks and their natural habitats. We visited Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures 15 minutes north up the Captain Cook highway and saw a Steve Irwin type croc-lover feed a massive croc, just centimetres between them. Hartley’s is a genuine eco-adventure for visitors who enjoy experiencing wildlife in the Wet Tropics World Heritage area.

At Cairns Tropical Zoo right by Palm Cove We were in awe of the size of saw Trinity, the biggest croc we saw: More than 4.6 metres long, weighing 450kg. We missed seeing Zont, a croc that ate 30 cattle up north before being safely located to the zoo which has about 100 crocodiles and alligators on site. We gingerly held a small crocodile for a photo before gazing at Sally the three metre long reticulated python weighing 100kg. They have every reptile, dragon, lizard and Australian wildlife you could think of there. We held Cooper the koala who took it all in and he seemed to sum up the relaxing atmosphere that pervades the area. We headed back to Peppers for a game of tennis – just to work up thirst for a cool beer at sunset at our little hideaway. We could afford the beers as petrol was just 1.43 centres a litre!

This little corner of tropical north Queensland is perfect for romance, with its pristine golden sandy beach, palm trees, secluded locations, first class resorts and gorgeous scenery to enjoy divine moments together and the stroll afterwards with an aura of barefoot elegance hanging in the air.


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