Palm Cove in Far North Queensland is a tropical paradise. A quiet beach-side village with a white sandy beach fringed with coconut palms, it is a popular holiday destination for those seeking some tropical sunshine and warmth.
At the north end of the Palm Cove beach is the impressive Palm Cove jetty and boat ramp, reaching out from the shore towards Double Island.
With it being such a sturdy-looking structure, together with Palm Cove’s proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, I imagined that reef boat tours would leave direct from Palm Cove, cutting down to the need to drive to Cairns or Port Douglas to join one.
However, in the week we stayed in Palm Cove I never saw a single boat come alongside the jetty…which prompted me to find out why.
Back in the ‘olden days’ (pre-1980s), the area was called Palm Beach, and was a popular weekend destination for the people of nearby Cairns. Then developers discovered its charms, and the first of the international hotels in the area, the Ramada Reef Resort, was opened in 1986.
Of course, one of the biggest attractions of Far North Queensland for tourists is the nearby Great Barrier Reef, so providing direct access to the reef from Palm Cove was a priority.
According to the Palm Cove Jetty group website, construction of the jetty which would provide this access was completed in 1986. A key component of the jetty plan however, was a ‘Stage 2’ which was the construction of an offshore breakwater to protect the jetty and boat ramp from the almost constant prevailing south easterly wind and waves. This was to be done by a company developing a nearby resort and golf course.
But then the 1987 financial crash happened, and the project was axed. So the jetty remains at the mercy of prevailing winds and swell, making it dangerous for boats to come in to take on or deposit passengers. Quicksilver Reef cruises did collect Palm Cove passengers from the jetty for a while, but as far as I can work out, haven’t done so for about the past eight or so years.
And since then, the jetty’s main use has been as a fishing platform – possibly making it one of the most expensive fishing platforms ever built. (Although there are current moves to attempt to develop the jetty with a marina, including the addition of the breakwater.)
The world is dotted with examples of tourism developments that have stalled or changed direction in response to external events and I find these stories fascinating as a reflection of the environment in which tourism operates. Discretionary spend, such as travel dollars, is never guaranteed in any location.
When we honeymooned in The Cook Islands back in the early 1990s, there was an abandoned half-completed shell of a huge Sheraton resort. Despite a couple of later attempts, it has still never been completed…and remains there to this day, slowly being swallowed by encroaching jungle.
Do you know of examples of tourism developments stalled or cancelled?