Palm Cove proudly displays its traditional architecture with modern stylings.
Palm Cove proudly displays its traditional architecture with modern stylings.

Drink in the Palm calm

WRAP your arms as far as you can around the giant paperbark trees and say hello to Palm Cove.

The size of the gorgeous trees, carbon-dated to be 600 years old, reference the ancient character of North Queensland.

The trees have been given special protection, and the modern resorts have created dramatic architecture by including the stunning giants in their contemporary space.

We are fortunate the locals have been thoughtful enough to enforce a low-rise building code and have respect for the unique flora and fauna. Tropical North Queensland can be a jungle - but not a concrete one.

After a night in Cairns CBD, we take the 20-minute drive to Palm Cove.

Unlike the south where you need cruise control to keep you in check, cars here are cruising 10-15 kmh under the speed limit.

What more evidence do we want of a laid-back lifestyle?

That's what's special about this vast, green, expanse. The warmth creates a palpable mellowness.

Yet at the same time, the pace has quickened enough to attract the best of accommodation and business operators, foodies and chefs, boutique farmers. Mono culture is out and styles that include the quirky, ultra modern, perhaps a tad eccentric, characterise the foreshore. It's a very cool place.

We stayed at Peppers. The bright white building is an interesting compilation of fabulous suites, pools and restaurants.

Peppers had its own in-house restaurant, Lime & Peppers, with executive chef Jira Chantra and two privately run restaurants. Our dinner under the branches of the paperbark, in an enchanting indoor/outdoor setting, spoke simply and deliciously of North Queensland.

A good part of our gourmet presentation came from the sea.

We indulged in an amazing bounty of oysters, chilli mud crabs and fish.

Think fresh and crisp. This is not produce tired and weary from travelling too many food miles.

This produce is at home and shows its happiness by providing sublimely tongue-tingling experiences. From the land, we cleansed our palates with an exuberant array of tropical fruits.

Of course, you must not forget the flavour of cocktails that can be made from local supplies of lycees, mangoes, strawberries, and mint.

And the versatility of such fruits means they can add another dimension to cheesecakes, sweets and desserts.

Just a short stroll up the palm- lined esplanade, Nu Nus celebrity chef Nick Holloway has set up the Rising Sun eatery. This is the informal counterpart of his renowned fine-dining restaurant Nu Nus (next door to Lime & Pepper).

We sat outside, taking in the salty air and listening to the gentle sound of wavelets.

So well did we eat that my friend Juliette felt a need to share with a furry friend: Ben the resident bandicoot which comes out to play with warm-hearted people.

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