Machans Beach, a coastal town, is eight km north of central Cairns. It is flanked by the Barron River on its south and Barr Creek on its north-west. Both watercourses have swampy fringes.

The Machans Beach area was surveyed in 1885, but nearly 40 years passed before Richard Machan acquired a leasehold of about 100 ha. A widower, Machan, his daughter and three sons, were the first permanent white settlers. Machan purchased a T model Ford, using it to cart firewood and to transport visitors to and from the beach. When tourist boats started calling there, Machan built a jetty from the wide sandy beach, then known as Barron Beach.

During World War II Machans Beach was occupied for defence purposes. When petrol rationing continued after peace Machans Beach was an accessible holiday spot. A progress association was formed and the esplanade was a holiday camping area. A shark-proof swimming enclosure was built in 1946. Subdivided blocks were bought for weekenders and by 1952 the town had three stores, a petrol station, reticulated electricity (1949), and a school. Machans Beach was a blue collar, poor relation to the northern beaches, with its own branch of the Australian Labor Party. The international airport on the other side of the Barron River has had the virtue of keeping out high-rise apartments, but low-level flight traffic is an annoyance.

The beach began to lessen after 1939 when the Barron River broke through to a new entrance, and by the 1960s there was a noticeable northwards drift of sand away from Machans Beach. The position was unchanged three decades later, with locals hoping for some natural correction of the beach.

Machans Beach has resisted modernisation and is a minor museum of tropical housing styles, including buildings transferred from development sites elsewhere in the Cairns region.

There are local shops, a community hall (c1956), a primary school (1952) and an active progress association. Adjoining the town, across Redden Creek, is Redden Island. It is connected by Cinderella Street, a name ironically suggestive of its social status.

Machans Beach's census populations have been:

Census DatePopulation
1947133
1954552
1961737
19911065
2006937
2011941
Further Reading: 

Denise Rapkins, Certain friends in uncertain times: a history of Machans Beach, Machans Beach, Machans Beach Progress Association, 1995