Eric & I relaxed at the Kewarra Beach Resort & Spa (Kewarra) in the month of May (autumn, in Australia) as our accommodation for our visit to tropical north Queensland. We stayed in the 1 room Pandanus Bungalow hidden in the rainforest, not far from the beach. Here is my review of our Kewarra Beach Resort experience.
The Quick: Kewarra is a secluded, private bungalow-style resort nestled in the natural setting of the rainforest along Kewarra Beach in Cairns, Queensland. There’s a lovely open-air restaurant, laundry room and wifi among many other amenities. There are various bungalow styles and locations on the resort , ranging in amenities and prices.
The Damage: Rooms range approximately $277-600 USD ($300-650 AUD) depending on bungalow style, location and season of stay. Packages are available.
Three Adjectives: Romantic, Tropical, Natural
Recommendation: I adored our stay at Kewarra. If I were heading back to Tropical North Queensland, I would stay again. If you’re planning a stay near Cairns or Port Douglas, consider Kewarra for your accommodation.
(AKA things worth bragging about)
- Location, Location, Location! Private, secluded, natural rainforest, along the beach, between Cairns and Port Douglas, not too far from Palm Cove… all these things added up to a sublime location.
- Call of the Wild. Nature lovers, rejoice! You are living among Mother Nature’s finest flora and fauna. The greatest point of difference about Kewarra compared to the other accommodations I considered, was the embrace of the natural environment. While most resorts have that “embellished with landscaping” image, Kewarra seemed like the bungalows were designed around the native flow of the forest.
- Animal Kingdom. It is true that the landscaping at Kewarra is organic and purposefully untamed. That doesn’t mean it is overgrown and unkempt. It means the grounds are a friendlier habitat for the creatures that call Kewarra home. We enjoyed watching wallabies frolic on the lawn, fruit bats hanging out in the trees, gorgeous butterflies fluttering around the tropical flowers, lizards scurrying toward protection, a strange chicken/turkey-like bird digging holes along the path (hilarious, by the way)… every step outside our bungalow created excitement for whatever nature we were about to encounter. We never saw the infamous goanna, however.
- Smiling Staff. The staff at Kewarra genuinely cared and recognized our faces as guests. It’s the familiarity that gave that “We matter” feeling. The Paperbark Restaurant workers were amiable and helpful; the receptionist assisted with all our requests (confirming tours, helping book an excursion, exchanging cash for coins, scheduling airport transfers). It left Eric wondering, “Why are people here SO NICE?!” (people aren’t very nice to him too often…)
- Size Matters. Our little 1 room bungalow was cozy, not small. A room with a bed, two chairs, side table and tv stand was plenty space. It wasn’t luxurious, but was charming and comfortable. It’s not like we were often IN the room, besides for shut eye and watching the strangest Chinese gameshows ever (but seriously entertaining).
- Quiet Public Beach. Kewarra Beach is a public beach, though I never would have guessed it. The sand was litter-free. A few beach-goers relaxed with their families. Couples walked their dogs. A net encapsulated part of the water to safeguard from jellies. Kewarra Beach was tranquil.
- Excursion Friendly. Kewarra is a pick-up point for every tour. Going on excursions was hassle-free with Kewarra. The staff confirmed all our reservations and helped book any additional tours. Even if you do not have any plans, there are plenty of brochures at the desk to make last minute planning easier.
- Laundry Facilities. Back toward the entrance of the resort, Kewarra has a small building beyond the parking lot dedicated to two washers and dryers. Although the laundry room was dated, the ability for us to do our own laundry & pay with coins saved so much money compared to the “laundry service” provided at most hotels ($5 to clean my undies?! No thanks).
(AKA notes/complaints worth mentioning)
- “Hit or Miss” Restaurant. Though I’d slide the scale toward satisfied vs. dissatisfied, my experience with Paperbark Restaurant was mixed. While Eric would classify his dishes as sublime (kangaroo steak = superb, scallop entree = addicting), I had a couple dishes (i.e. seafood risotto) that were as salty as our Great Barrier Reef excursion. There was an evening when the wait staff forgot to place our order, but they quickly rectified the situation with complimentary dessert (gelato trio… mmm). Brekky was painfully expensive to buy every day – even just for poached eggs on toast – so I’d recommend a package with breakfast included in the morning (or BYO). Keep in mind, there’s a reason why Paperbark Restaurant won TripAdvisor’s 2014 Award of Excellence.
- Secluded… and Stuck. While Kewarra is a nice little hideaway, it also means “trap” to guests who don’t hire a car or walk to the bus stop. There really is nothing within close walking distance (unless you want to trek over 30 minutes); essentially you’re bound to the resort restaurant/bar and grounds. We beach walked to Palm Cove one day (40 minutes) for a change of scenery & food. When on excursions, we’d take advantage & purchase snacks/wine from random stores we encountered. Most excursions pick up at the reception of the resort.
- Alligator Toots. A barely noticeable odd odor lingered in our room. The veranda of our bungalow overlooked the lagoon – this may have been the culprit of the smell. It was a subtle scent of alligator toots, as my sister would have said during our childhood trips to Florida when we’d cross a swamp/stillwater. It wasn’t terrible and after 5 minutes our noses acclimated… so don’t let that deter you.
- Weak Air Con. It was not terribly hot during our travels, but the room felt slightly muggy and never reached that bitingly crisp cold. I could see this being a nuisance in the summer, but for our stay, it was not a hindrance to a comfortable sleep. Just something worth noting.
- Lonely Pools. We never saw a soul in the pools. We never swam in the pools. Partly because our days were consumed by activities, partly because the evenings grew dark by 6pm, but mostly because the pools were sheltered by the rainforest. The pools didn’t see the sun, weren’t overly warm, and the leaves from the surrounding trees tainted the water clarity. Oh, and I had the irrational fear that a spider would web down from a tree above. I did see a diligent cleaning crew at the pool every morning, but by the time evening rolled around they’d be full of debris again. But what would you expect from a pool surrounded by trees? The pools are beautiful, but if you’re looking for an open, pristine, sun-filled, Olympic-size pool, this is not it.
- Nananananananananana… Bat Land! A point of admiration for Kewarra was the abundance of wildlife. When Eric and I first toured the footpath that weaved around the bungalows, we encountered hundreds of flying foxes screeching in the trees above. This didn’t bother me a bit; I like nature (& bats). We never heard them from our bungalow. But if you were the bungalow beneath the bats? Darn, good luck sleeping. If you have a fear of bats? Darn, happy nightmares to you. Perhaps request that your bungalow isn’t close to the bats to mitigate this issue.
I felt a touch of magic from Kewarra as I researched accommodations from home. Kewarra seemed to offer that unique experience I sought – and it delivered. When the airport shuttle first dropped us off to that lush green canopy and we walked up to the open air reception (open air! no walls! what?!) my expectations for a tropical getaway were already met. Kewarra forever has the honor of being my first ever resort stay, so when our luggage was whisked away to our rooms on a golf cart while we sat in plush lounge chairs enjoying a refreshing, pineapple-y welcome drink, I refrained from a happy dance that wanted to jump around from the excitement of luxury. Kewarra wasn’t a sterile, uniform hotel. Every step outside the bungalows was art for the eyes between the flowers and nature that encompassed the bungalows. The pace of Kewarra felt slow and relaxed. It wasn’t overrun by tourists. Sometimes it seemed we had the whole place to ourselves. I’m so fond of the memories made at Kewarra. We laughed with outrageous joy as we watched a joey wallaby bounce around the lawn like a spazzed out kitten on catnip. I laughed when Eric encountered a gecko in our bathroom. We discovered what a paperbark tree really felt like. I made an embarrassing scene over Eric dipping his toes in the ocean for the first time. Every night ended with watching the strangest Chinese dating game shows. We spent a dark evening taking long-exposure photographs of the stars. We were happy. Truly, blissfully, adventurously happy. And Kewarra was the setting.
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Have you ever stayed at Kewarra Beach Resort? Thinking about it? How about any other accommodations around Cairns? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below! :)
*Lucky me – I was a guest of Tourism & Events Queensland from winning a blogger contest. A portion of my stay in Queensland was covered. All opinions are genuinely my own.