Peppers Beach Club and Spa, Palm Cove review: A second chance in the tropics

Read our writer's views on this property below

After a false start, Mal Chenu and his family discover the perfect hangout by the beach.

The porter knew we had checked out of another Palm Cove resort to come to Peppers Resort and Beach Club. "Happens all the time," he smiled somewhat smugly, guiding us past the lovely melaleuca trees, ponds and gardenias to the open-air reception area. "You won't want to leave here," he added, passing us over to the next smiling staffer.

We had spent a night at another "top" Palm Cove resort and while it wasn't Fawlty Towers by any means, when you have just a week, and have come this far, you don't want to be disappointed. Poor airconditioning, crappy pools, uncomfortable beds and unsittable furniture were bad enough but $94 for a basic room-service meal for two was the last straw.

The confidence of the Peppers' porter was well-founded. From the moment we entered our adjoining double room - a suite with a full kitchen and dining table and a smaller room with a deep spa bath - we were thrilled.

It was the perfect combination for our family of four and young drop-by cousins. It wasn't huge but there was space to play and relax and enough TV sets to watch SpongeBob, Idol and the footy all at once. And the spa bath was big enough to bathe three youngsters at once.

The stark white of the buildings against the deep blue pools give Peppers a Santorini-in-the-tropics feel. But it does show up the mould on some of the walls - an unavoidable consequence of the wet season, which was playing out its final sodden act during our stay.

Palm-lined pathways wind through the manicured, scented gardens and all lead to the superb sandy-edge, lagoon-style pool area, the centrepiece of the resort. The lagoon was right outside our back gate and repeatedly entertained and exhausted the kids.

This enormous swimming pool area includes a separate whirlpool emptying into a more formal pool and a shore of pristine white sand of ideal sand castle-building consistency. There's also a swim-up bar if your preferred poolside accessory is a cocktail rather than a bucket and spade.

The pools offer various depths and are lined with deck chairs, which filled and emptied as sunshine and rain alternated during our stay. The rain was warm, however, and we swam in the pool as tropical downpours reduced our sand castles to mush.

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The real beach - a long, thin crescent of palm-lined Coral Sea coastline - is just across the road. A stinger-net enclosure extending about 30-metres out provided both assurance and apprehension and we headed back to the resort lagoon where nature is better regulated. In the high season (from July to the end of October) the net and the stingers disappear and the beaches fill with those lucky enough to live here or visit during tropical north Queensland's annual period of perfect climate.

Wonderful views of this tropical coast idyll are to be had from the rooftop terraces of Peppers primo accommodation - two-bedroom luxury penthouses that include either a heated hot tub or private pool.

A further indulgence at Peppers is the serene rainforest-themed Sanctum Spa, tucked away in a quiet corner of the complex, far from the madding lagoon. It offers an array of facials, body wraps and massages incorporating seaweed, algae and mud, including a 90-minute body scrub-massage-facial treatment for $195, less a $25 discount voucher available at hotel reception.

Peppers offers four dining options, plus the best morning coffee on the strip. Lime & Pepper utilises local produce in its tropical menu and claims, for some reason, to offer "eccentric" cuisine. (They probably mean eclectic but whatever they mean, breakfast there was excellent).

Chok Dee Thai restaurant was well short of the high-quality Thai in Sydney but Nu Nu's Asian fusion was very tasty. Wonderful garlicky aromas wafted from Bella Baci Italian, teasing us as we headed out to take the kids to Macca's. The room service tucker was excellent too - promptly delivered, reasonably priced and an extensive menu of child-friendly options.

Palm Cove village delights in its exclusivity and is full of up-market resorts, villas, boutiques, galleries and restaurants. Even the greasy-spoon diner and general store, Pete's, boasts a rack of quality silk sarongs, tucked away between the magazines and breakfast cereals. Pete's does a terrific old-style hamburger and is open until 7 o'clock but rather quaintly - and a little gruffly - stops cooking at 6.30pm sharp.

Palm Cove is a relaxed, delightful and up-scale base from which to access world renowned attractions such as the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest and Atherton Tablelands. As the northernmost beach village up the Captain Cook Highway - about half an hour from Cairns - it is the last village of note before Port Douglas and the spectacular coast-hugging drive up to "Port" is also a must.

TRIP NOTES

WHERE Peppers Beach Club and Spa, Palm Cove, 123 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove, phone (07) 4059 9200, see peppers.com.au/Beach-Club-&-Spa.

HOW MUCH Low-season rates a night: lagoon one-bedroom suite $380, lagoon two-bedroom suite $450, ocean one-bedroom penthouse $550, ocean two-bedroom penthouse $650.

High season rates (July-October) are about 10 per cent higher.

TOP MARKS Peppers runs kids' activity sessions for five-year-olds and above in the afternoons and supervised movies in the evenings during school holidays for $10 a child, which includes a meal. (Not available on Sundays or public holidays.)

BLACK MARK For a tropical resort, the extent of slippery surfaces is surprising and caused many a sore bum.

DON'T MISS Early morning or evening walks along the beach. Sunlight dapples the water and warm, scented tropical breezes assure you this is holiday country.