The tropical cyclone is expected to bring destructive winds and heavy rain when it makes landfall.
The Bureau of Meteorology on Sunday declared tropical cyclone Kimi had quickly developed about 200km north to northeast of Cooktown.
It was moving south at 6km/h late in the evening.
The category one system is forecast to turn southwest overnight and cross the state’s north coast between Port Douglas and Innisfail on Monday afternoon.
The bureau says there is “considerable uncertainty” about crossing time and location, but predicts Kimi may intensify to become a category two system.
Cape Melville and Cardwell residents were told to secure boats and property during Sunday’s daylight hours as the cyclone approached.
Kimi is tipped to lash an area from Cooktown to Innisfail from Monday morning, with destructive winds up to 130km/h in the offing.
“These winds are strong enough to bring down numerous trees and powerlines and cause power outages and even cause damage to property,” meteorologist Dean Narramore said on Sunday.
Rainfall totals of 100 to 300mm are likely near and to the south of the cyclone’s path, although isolated falls could exceed that.
A flood watch has been activated, with Mr Narramore saying soil and catchments were saturated after weeks of rain.
“Flash and riverine flooding is likely across numerous rivers on the north tropical coast of Queensland on Monday and Tuesday,” he said.
“Roads will become impassable and residents may be cut off as rivers and creeks rise up and over roads and bridges.”
In preparation for the cyclone, the Cairns Botanic Gardens were closed on Sunday afternoon while the Daintree Ferry expects to operate in the early morning before reviewing operations later on Monday.
The latest warning zone includes Cooktown to Lucinda, inland to Mareeba and Chillagoe, and taking in Cairns, Port Douglas, Cardwell and Atherton.