Tropic Now’s list of the best picnic spots around Cairns

From the beaches to the rainforest to the Tablelands and everywhere in between, there's no shortage of amazing picnic spots for those of us lucky enough to call the Far North home. 

And as always, locals know the pick of the pack. So, the Tropic Now team has put together an insider guide to the best places in and around Cairns to put down your tartan rug.

Whether you'd like to snack beside a swimming hole or along a sandy stretch of coast, we've got all the tips you need to know.


1. Cairns Esplanade

We love to picnic here because: it's the ultimate people watching spot. There's always something happening – beach volleyball, skateboarders, basketballers, and birthday parties at the free BBQs – as well as plenty of shady spots to relax with a good book, especially if your kids are kept occupied in the Muddy's Playground. Beware of cheeky, hungry seagulls!

Local's tip: We like the space with lots of shady trees in between Muddy's and the skate park. Also best to pack some insect repellant in case you need it.

MAP: Take me there

2. Palm Cove Beach

We love to picnic here because: there are tables conveniently located along the beachfront, picturesque palms and a tropical view. The pier is also easily accessible for a leisurely stroll, and the shore is a lovely, safe spot for a swim on a hot Cairns day.

Local's tip: Be sure to bring sunscreen and a hat or come around sunset for a pre-dinner platter and a colourful display.

MAP: Take me there

3. Goomboora Park

We love to picnic here because: of the stretching grass field for your furry friends to run around in. Surrounded by countless trees to shelter from the hot summer sun, as well as an adventure playground, a nearby creek for a cool-down dip, and even free BBQs open to the public, Goomboora Park provides hours of fun for everyone.

Local’s tip: This spot doubles as a dog park, so remember to keep your eyes out as our pets get just as hungry as we do!

MAP: Take me there

4. Crystal Cascades

We love to picnic here because: there’s a beautiful, scenic walk to the top of the cascades, with jaw-dropping waterfall views along the way. The three-kilometre trail is spotted with shaded picnic tables, but you’ll want to reach the end to swim in the irresistibly clear water. 

Local’s tip: Remember to wear sunscreen and a hat, and beware of slippery rocks.

MAP: Take me there

5. Botanic Gardens

We love to picnic here because: of its secluded, grassy areas – perfect for a private picnic. There’s also an enclosed conservatory showcasing our spectacular tropical plants and butterflies, and kilometres of walking tracks to enjoy the smell of the garden’s flourishing blooms.

Local’s tip: Markets and events are often held here on weekends which are great for families looking for free kids activities. The pop-up stalls are a favourite for cheap, delicious and healthy hot food.

MAP: Take me there

6. Copperlode Dam

We love to picnic here because: of the magnificent views on the drive up. There are also a stack of new facilities, including a playground, tables, undercover areas and free walking trails. 

Local’s tip: Take care when travelling on the steep access road from Whitfield to the Dam, but trust us, it's worth it!

MAP: Take me there

7. Golden Hole

We love to picnic here because: there's picturesque scenery, crystal clear waterfalls, free BBQs and a dedicated picnic ground. Truly a breath of fresh air! 

Local’s tip: We would suggest not swimming here (crocodiles inhabit the waters), but the nearby Josephine Falls – only a three-minute drive away – is a perfect place to take a plunge after your picnic.

MAP: Take me there

8. Babinda Boulders

We love to picnic here because: of the astonishing views of sparkling clear water. The undemanding trail leads to three natural pools to take a dip in, and you might even see a peacock, one of our famed Far North birds. A playground, amenities and free BBQs are also available for use. Oh and of course, insane aesthetics for your Instagram! 

Local’s tip: You won’t want to skip a visit to Babinda Bakery just down the road for a hot pie or something sweet. Trust us.

MAP: Take me there

9. Lake Eacham

We love to picnic here because: there are plenty of grassy patches to picnic on, right in front of unbelievable water for you and your mates to swim in. Lake Eacham is also a fantastic spot for your favourite water sport activities, including standup paddleboarding, canoeing and kayaking. If hopping in the water isn’t exactly your scene, there's also an opportunity to go birdwatching along the naturally-sheltered walking tracks. 

Local’s tip: While many know Lake Eacham for its beautiful water, locals know there's a lot more to this stunning spot – it's actually an ancient volcanic crater!

MAP: Take me there

10. Mungalli Creek Dairy

We love to picnic here because: there’s no better view of the undulating Atherton Tablelands. What could be better than soaking in some amazing mountainous landscape as you munch on your favourite picnic treats? Well, you can also  visit some cute cows, as well as watch (and taste) how fresh yoghurt, cheese and milk is made. 

Local’s tip: Make sure to support our favourite local dairy and purchase a sweet treat to accompany your picnic. Poppi's Banana Choc Chip ice cream is our pick of the bunch.

MAP: Take me there

11. Rex Lookout

We love to picnic here because: of the elevated grassy area providing a brilliant view of quintessential Far North scenery: mountains, beautiful blue ocean and flourishing rainforest. This is the ideal pit stop when en route from Port Douglas, especially for families with older kids.

Local’s tip: We suggest packing a picnic blanket when preparing, as there are no tables, chairs or amenities at this location.

MAP: Take me there

12. Granite Gorge

We love to picnic here because: With wildlife to be found in every corner of this nature park, including tame (and too-cute) wallabies, birdlife, peacocks, as well as guinea pigs, snakes, parrots, lizards, and even miniature ponies in the nearby visitor centre. There's also a swimming hole, multiple walks of varying difficulties, and plenty of places to picnic, with breathtaking landscapes to boot.

Local’s tip: The park is quite busy at peak times, so choose a weekday for a quieter experience. This area is completely free to visit, but you might like to purchase some wallaby feed from the reception centre.

MAP: Take me there

13. Four Mile Beach

We love to picnic here because: it's a beautiful stretch of beach along one of our region's renowned escapes: Port Douglas. With golden sand to squish between your toes and locally-owned markets and shops right nearby, there might well be no better picnic spot. 

Local’s tip: You'll need to swim in the nets between November and May while we're in stinger season.

MAP: Take me there

14. Yellow Arrow Summit

We love to picnic here because: it’s the best spot to soak in some panoramic views of Cairns. Walking to the summit involves a bit of exercise, but a rewarding one at that with lush rainforest surrounds. Atop Mt Whitfield there’s an undercover area in case of rain (or shine), as well as a cleared grassy area.

Local’s tip: Tackle this activity with a hungry appetite and at least two hours to spare, as the 30-minute hike up will leave you ready for a good feast.

MAP: Take me there

15. Jindalba in the Daintree Rainforest

We love to picnic here because: who wouldn’t want to pass some time in the world’s oldest rainforest? With wildlife you won’t find anywhere else and no end of swimming holes spotted along exotic walking tracks, it’s a truly stellar place to stop for a spot of lunch.

Local’s tip: The Daintree can be a full day adventure, so don’t forget to pack sunscreen and some insect repellant.

MAP: Take me there

The Tropic team reckon we're pretty lucky to be able to picnic in places like these – and we hope that everyone keeps them clean and pristine by taking all rubbish and food waste with them.

Any other secret spots you think we should include? 

Let us know on our Facebook post here


Words by Eve Maskell and Bella Kidston.