Best Place To Fly Your Drone In Cairns

Cairns is popular amongst drone enthusiasts and photographers for its range of flying locations, which includes the Great Barrier Reef, Rainforest, Beaches and Outback. As you will see on this site, we love our drone and are pleased to provide some top tips on our fav places below. However, please note, while there is no limit on amazing locations up here, there are rules and regulations surrounding drone use in Australia, which are applicable in Cairns. For recreational drone users that includes keeping your drone at least 30m away from other people, not flying over people or popular areas and flying no higher than 120m above ground level. Remember to follow local flying rules and safety guidelines at all times.

Important Drone Flying Tips: Early morning flights are advisable to avoid crowds, especially in tourist areas such as Millaa Millaa Falls. Compliance with regulations, including not flying over people, is mandatory. Do thorough research to ensure you can fly in your chosen location, use common sense and always check flight apps. In our experience the most rewarding drone experiences come from exploring and finding unique shots, rather than replicating popular social media photographs.

Plam Cove Jetty Cairns

Palm Cove Jetty is always a favourite photo and location, especially in the early morning light. Lots of great cafes for coffee and breakfast afterwards too.

Palm Cove on Cairns' Northern Beaches

Palm Cove is one of Cairns’ northern beaches and is approximately a 30 minute drive from the city. This beach is ideal for drone flying, offering varied subjects including Palm Cove Jetty and the nearby, offshore Double Island. I love heading down to the beach to catch the sunrise, the ocean is often flat in the morning giving unique reflections. I have also seen Kayaking, Jetski and even a few eFoils. Double bonus, lots of cafes open for early morning coffee and breakfast.

Yorkeys Knob Marina Cairns

Half Moon Bay Marina, with the new boat ramps at Yorkeys Knob.

Yorkeys Knob and the Half Moon Bay Marina

The Half Moon Bay Marina at Yorkeys Knob presents a mix of photographic opportunities for those with drones. Highlights include the marina itself, Moon River and Trinity Park beach, with a backdrop which varies between rainforest mountains or looking out to the Coral Sea. There’s always the opportunity to catch a yacht heading out to sea too, which can add another dimension to your photos. There is a bar and bistro located here, so you could plan to come for sunset photos and then stay on for drinks and dinner. The Half Moon Bay Marina is around a 20 minute drive from Cairns city.

Port Douglas Marina Drone

Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina at Port Douglas, you can great early morning reflections here.

Port Douglas has a Marina and 4 Mile Beach

Port Douglas, while it is not technically Cairns, it is definitely on the ‘to see’ list when visiting Tropical North Queensland. This boutique, resort-style village is around a 90 minute drive north from Cairns and has lots of cafes, restaurants, galleries and boutiques. It’s also home to the famous Four Mile Beach, which as the name suggests, has ample room for you to find an open space and send up the drone. The Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina is another great drone photo location, especially in the early morning light. If you are heading out to the reef from Port Douglas just get here early to get some great shots.

Nudey Beach Drone

Fabulous Fitzroy Island, you can go for the day or stay at the island's resort.

Fitzroy Island is a Short Boat Ride, from Cairns

Fitzroy Island is beloved by locals and visitors and is undoubtedly one of the most photographed Islands around Cairns. There are many highlights, including the coral beaches adjacent to the jetty, the sandy Nudey Beach and the island’s Lighthouse and Summit walk. You can visit Fitzroy Island on a day trip, or stay at the resort to enjoy more island time. We have done both and to maximise your experience – and chance to fly the drone – I recommend staying a night at the resort, so you can get up early to avoid the day visitors. Please note that 97% of Fitzroy Island is National Park, so check out their website for more information .

Outer Reef Drone Cairns

The Great Barrier Reef is a picture perfect destination for drones, but most boats will not let you fly.

The Great Barrier Reef Beautiful Below and Above the Water

Flying a drone whilst visiting the Great Barrier Reef on a Cairns day tour is almost impossible, as most boats do not allow you to fly your drone off the boat. Personally I do not find this surprising, given the requirements around not flying around people and the limited space on most boats. If this is something you really want to do, then I strongly advise ringing around before booking, to find an operator that will give you special permission to fly. We do know a couple of reef operators that do allow guests to fly drones, but this is constantly changing; so it really is best to check for yourself directly. Also – my top tip – do not attempt to fly your drone on the Great Barrier Reef on anything other than the calmest of days, the last thing anyone needs is their drone crashing into the ocean. It kills your holiday vibe – I know, I’ve done it.

cape-tribulation-drone-photo

Cape Tribulation where the Reef meets the Rainforest.

Cape Tribulation An Iconic Destination in North Queensland

Cape Tribulation is an iconic destination in North Queensland and should be included on any visitor itinerary. Why? This is the only place on earth where two World Heritage Areas meet, the Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics Rainforests, which in this area is the Daintree Rainforest. Drone shots are actually the very best way to ‘tell that story’ of ‘reef meeting rainforest’, as the aerial perspective provides scale and scope. Please note that a visit to Cape Tribulation from Cairns can be booked on day tours (full day tour), or you can self-drive. The self-drive journey is around 2 hours and 40 minutes from Cairns (each way) and will include a trip on the Daintree Ferry. It can be windy during the day, so early mornings and afternoons are the best times for flying drones up here. You may also get lucky and spot a crocodile, (but I have never seen them).

Milla Milla Falls Drone

Millaa Millaa Falls is a beautiful rainforest waterfall, but it's really hard to visit without there being lots of people.

The Beautiful Millaa Millaa Falls on the Atherton Tablelands

When you think of a beautiful rainforest waterfall, this might be what you think of. Millaa Millaa Falls is on the Atherton Tablelands, around a 90-minute drive from Cairns, and is potentially the most recognisable waterfall in North Queensland. It is also the most visited, by day tour operators, tourists and locals alike, which makes getting a photo like mine (above) very difficult to get. In fact, to get this photo we stayed on the Tablelands the night before, and I was on site at 5.30am to fly the drone. At this time and on my visit, I had around 30 minutes of time to myself before ‘instagrammers’ started to arrive in numbers. So, unless you are willing to be the first person to arrive in the morning, it would be difficult to get drone photos of the waterfall. It is worth noting that this location – and in my opinion – can be better captured with traditional photography, so pack your tripod.

Cassowary Falls Drone Flying

Cassowary Falls in the Daintree Rainforest. Private property, accessible on awesome adventure tours.

Cassowary Falls in the Daintree Rainforest north of Cairns

Cassowary Falls is not very well known in the scheme of things. In fact, as local residents we had not even heard of it until a few years ago, when we were approached by the new owners to build a website to promote the falls tours and luxury accommodation. When we visited for the first time, it took our breath away and we’ve been back many times since. Cassowary Falls is impressive at all times of the year and you can safely swim here too, with turtles and fish. Located on a private property, Cassowary Falls is only accessible on guided tour (which is awesome) or if you are staying in their luxury chalets. Cassowary Falls is a great location for drone operators, but can be tricky given the spray from the waterfall and surrounding vegetation, but the results are worth it. Please double check with the owners, prior to flying your drone.

Copperfiled Gorge Cairns Drone

Copperfield Gorge in Outback Queensland. Summer SUPs and flying the drone.

Outback Queensland great for Gorges, Savannah Plains and More

Copperfield Gorge is located in Outback Queensland, in the small township of Einasleigh which is around a 5 hour drive (one-way) from Cairns. The gorge itself is stunning for drone photos in summer / autumn, when the rains have fallen and the water is fresh. In winter and spring, there is usually not as much water in the Gorge. Beyond Copperfield Gorge, Outback Queensland has plenty of amazing destinations to fly drones which includes but is not limited to Obrien’s Creek, Undara National Park and Porcupine Gorge. Think endless savannah, heaps of space and no-one around. Perfect for drones! Interestingly one of the best locations for inspiring aerial photography is Cobbold Gorge, but please note you cannot under any circumstances fly your drone here, due to the presence of aerial mustering and scenic helicopter flights. However, you can book a scenic heli flight at Cobbold Gorge Tours to still capture the awe-inspiring images of the Gorge and Outback.

Questions About Cairns Drone Photography

Where can I find out about Drone Regulation in Australia?

Check out Casa’s website – https://www.casa.gov.au/drones

Where should you never fly your drone near Cairns?

Ironically you cannot fly your drone anywhere in and around the city of Cairns, the airport is only 4KM from the Cairns Esplanade lagoon, do not fly your drone in the city or anywhere near the airport.

Are my drone photos for sale?

Technically at this stage no but we can provide images for use in some cases, see our Cairns Stock Images page for more information.

What is the worst part of flying a drone in North Queensland?

Everyone has an opinion about where you can and cannot fly your drone, my advice: find places where there are no people, this is best way to avoid confrontations.

What drones to I use?

Drone aficionados often enjoy discussing their equipment, but in my view, the equipment itself is secondary. Being at the right location at the right time holds more significance than possessing the newest drone model. That said, I currently use a DJI Air2s and a DJI Mini 3 Pro. Previously, I flew a DJI Mini 2, which I greatly enjoyed, but unfortunately, it met its end after a collision with a cliff at Porcupine Gorge. Fortunately, I was able to retrieve and remove the drone from the crash site.

Cairns Drone Flying What You Need To Know

Operating a drone in Cairns for capturing distinct photographs is a special opportunity. Across various regions of Australia, drone flying is subject to restrictions. It’s important to adhere to regulations to prevent losing drone-friendly areas. For beginners, it’s crucial to practice piloting your drone; familiarity with your equipment can prevent wasted time and annoyance, at the time of writing this my DJI app shows I have flowed my drones 403 times and covered nearly 500km in distance and I still find times where I am frustrated by my equipment. Always ensure your batteries are fully charged and your software is up to date before departing. Internet connectivity can be unreliable in certain spots, and dealing with an unexpected drone update while trying to capture the perfect photo can be very aggravating. Make sure you also take your other photography gear, I personally just like taking photos so there is always other photos you can take if you are not able to fly your drone. As they say “take only pictures, leave only footprints”, well in some cases we can even avoid the footprints.

  • Stay away from the public
  • Don’t fly near airports or aircraft
  • Do you research before you come to Cairns
  • Make sure your batteries are charged
  • Have more than one battery
  • Ensure your software is up to date

About the Author

Richard's early years were spent in Southern Africa, where he grew up. During his childhood, he frequently explored game parks and enjoyed caravan adventures. Now residing in Australia, Richard replicates these family experiences with Julie and Ethan. Passionate about outdoor adventures, he eagerly abandons his desk job to either hook up the caravan for a journey or strap on a scuba tank. His explorations are primarily focused on the diverse wonders of North Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef.

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