Far North Queensland, Melaleuca Trees in Palm Cove

On a cold June morning, we flew out of  Canberra, and four hours later we landed in a very different Australian city, Cairns, in Far North Queensland.

Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, and the Daintree Forests, part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage area.

Despite its international airport and city status, Cairns has lost none of its original laid-back Queensland character.

view of the cane fields and the mountain range as we drive from Cairns airport to Palm Cove

Driving from the airport there are cane farms on either side of the road, and some original old Queensland houses dotted around the countryside.

We are heading just a short distance away to our favourite spot, Palm Cove…where the winter temperatures at this time of the year are around 14 degrees to 26 degrees.

…let’s just keep that a secret…

We have been visiting Palm Cove with our family for about twenty years.

When our children were young, you could take camel rides along the beach, and an old hippie had a little wooden stand where you could have a foot massage…..those were the days!

In  the colder southern states of Australia, the gardens and parks have died back for the winter, so it is almost like sensory overload seeing the glorious colourful flowers and shrubs that seem to grow anywhere and everywhere…





However, Palm Cove’s signature for me, are the most incredible Paperbark Melaleuca trees.

The trunk of the tree is layered with papery bark, which is in a continuous process of peeling and replacing. In a monsoonal tropical climate like Palm Cove, this discourages parasites from getting a hold on the tree.

(It is also very hard to pass a tree and resist peeling a fine layer of bark as you go.)

Tea tree oil is distilled from the fresh leaves and twigs of the Melaleuca, and come to think of it, this is probably what the hippie used, all those years ago, for his foot massages.

These distinctive Melaleucas were here when Captain James Cook sailed his ship, the Endeavour, within three leagues of the Palm Cove foreshore on 10 June 1770….some of the species are reported to be over 400 years old.

It is said that Captain Cook tried using the oil from the leaves to make tea, as a possible way of preventing scurvy.

The beauty of the Paperbark Melaleucas in Palm Cove is the seamless way the buildings, paths and people fit around the trees.

I have read that the local council regulated, many years ago, that buildings in Palm Cove could not be built higher than the Melaleucas…what a visionary decision!

Palm Cove will never be one of the many beaches lined by generic high rise buildings, all looking exactly the same.

Rainbow lorikeets, the busy noisy local parrots in this area, are regular visitors to the trees, as are honey eaters, sunbirds, fruit bats, native bees and many other species that feed on the Paperbark trees.

My apologies, I couldn’t find a Rainbow Lorikeet in Palm Cove the day of taking photos, so  I had to borrow a busy Lorikeet from a trip we did to Sydney’s Centennial Park. This Lorikeet is feeding on equally striking flowers from a tree called Cape Tulip Red, originally from Africa, but also very common in the warmer parts of Australia.

The camels and hippies have gone, but, thank goodness some things stay the same, Pete’s Place, with the best fish and chips in Palm Cove.

Barramundi is a locally caught fish here, and is absolutely out of this world….may it never change.  I haven’t got a photo of any of our fish and chip meals because they were eaten so fast!

….and, I need never feel too far away from home, because one of the noisiest cockatoos I’ve ever heard, is nesting just across the way from our balcony

…well, if you can’t find an almond tree in Canberra, then a Paperbark Melaleuca tree is a pretty good second…

Not even a cockatoo winging in like a Boeing 747 could ruin an evening walk on Palm Cove beach.

I hope you are enjoying your good fortune if it is summer in your part of the world, and if you are in the middle of winter, as Monty Don says, make it a restorative time.

In my next post Paul and I will go on a bird watching tour in Port Douglas…


Copyright:Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.










22 Replies to “Far North Queensland, Melaleuca Trees in Palm Cove”

  1. I haven’t visited Queensland for many years so it was a pleasure to go back there. Palm Cove sounds an idyllic place and those trees something special. Thanks for the tour.

  2. Now you really are pulling at the heartstrings. Arriving late at night, as we did, there was no choice but to have breakfast out by the beach before tackling the shops for provisions. A blissful introduction to the many delights of Palm Cove. Far North Queensland is one of my favourite parts of Australia and we will be back.
    Summer here in England. It is pouring with rain this morning and my winter wardrobe is back out. It’s most probably warmer in Palm Cove!

    1. Oh no! Too much rain in summer is very unfair. Re: Palm Cove, I had to leave out so many photos, it is very photogenic! We have a lovely memory of eating our fish and chips sitting on the beach watching the big moon. Yes, definitely worth a return visit.

  3. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this virtual visit to Cairns, bringing back happy memories of a long distant real visit. Thank you so much for sharing this post. Hope you enjoy the rest of your trip Gerrie 🙂

  4. I have wanted to go to Cairns ever since I read “A Town Like Alice,” and saw the tv series back in the 70s (probably my favorite series ever). The scenes on Green Island near the Great Barrier Reef were just amazing. I have now put Palm Cove on my Australian travel list (which is growing ridiculously long). It looks much like Hawaii–only different, of course. Still, that same tropical, lush, ocean, paradise feel. Too bad the camels and the hippie are gone! At least the Barramundi haven’t been fished out and there are no looming high rises. Thank goodness for that.

    1. Yes, the whole area is very interesting, but they do get the tail end of cyclones very occasionally so our summer is not the best time to visit..otherwise … Gorgeous!

  5. Oh…Cairns! I adored the place when we visited several years ago, I still remember seeing the humpback whales, one of the most astonishing moments of my life, and as for Daintree, that was what got me hooked on jungles. You could spend a lifetime exploring that alone.
    Palm cove looks simply heavenly, as do those trees, so that’s where tea tree oil comes from. What foresight to not allow buildings to be bigger than them. I’m smiling at the cockatoos, obviously they are following you.xxx

    1. Yes, the whole coastline is gorgeous…..and the Daintree, you need to come back and do a post on that area!

      1. Oh yes!!! I could easily live in Cains, it has everything…sighs…I must post on my time there…bring on the day I get back there! Lucky you though!xxx

  6. It’s lovely to see another part of your wonderful country. I found it so interesting, I’m not surprised thaty you have been visiting here for a long time. Sarah x

    1. Thanks Sarah, it is a lovely part of the world, and is much warmer than anywhere in southern Australia, at this time of the year.

  7. Looks like a tropical paradise, and a perfect place for a family getaway. I heartily approve of the local decision to control the height of buildings, though that can make housing more expensive – not sure if that’s an issue there. That tree is wonderful, as is the Rainbow Lorikeet (even the name is wonderful).

    1. Good point about the restricted height of buildings making housing more expensive, it is beginning to happen…sadly!

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