Mission Beach

View over Mission Beach, Dunk & Family Islands from Bicton Hill

Mission Beach is a very laid back community in Far North Queensland. Off the main highway, it has avoided the over development that has infected so many beach towns in Australia. Surrounded by lush rainforest, the town is home to 4000 humans and 40 wild cassowaries. You can't miss all the signs reminding you to slow down for them. They are an endangered species, and with planned further development they will probably soon disappear from Mission Beach and their other remaining habitats in Australia.

Mission Beach, Queensland

Mission Beach boasts a 14 kilometer long unbroken stretch of wide beautiful golden sand. It's a flat and relatively hard beach, perfect for walking, jogging or even bicycle riding. With superb views of Dunk Island, and the rest of the Family Islands lying just 4 km from the beach and tropical rainforest lining the sand, you're surrounded by an idyllic 360 degree panorama. There's so much beach in the area, even in peak season, Mission Beach feels uncrowded, and nearly empty in the off-season.

The area called Mission Beach is actually three townships, South Mission Beach, Wongaling Beach, and Mission Beach. The towns are spread out along the 14km beach, with separate access roads to each. Mission Beach has the most services including post office, liquor store, health food store, fresh fish store, several campgrounds and hotels. There's a selection of restaurants, serving a good range of tasty international cuisine. There's a variety of shops catering to tourist needs.

The main attractions in the area are the local beaches, Dunk Island, rainforest walks, the Great Barrier Reef, Tully Gorge, excellent fishing, river rafting, even skydiving! There are so many great activities around Mission Beach, most visitors stay a week or more to sample them.

It's a relatively inexpensive place, with many young travelers opting to camp or stay at the youth hostel several km from town (not too convenient to town or the beach unless you have a car). But I've heard two of the campgrounds have just been sold, with plans to add almost 300 apartment units on the land. Another proposal to put a 200 berth marina next door in Bingil Bay was passed, but rightly terminated by the federal government.

Dunk Island

Dunk Island is a beautiful place to visit, and only a 20 minute ferry ride from Clump Point. There are a wide range of activities there including nice hiking trails around the island, kayaking, catamarans, snorkeling, scuba diving, day trips to the other Family Islands, and more. There is an excellent resort that covers a good part of the island. For day trippers there's a restaurant and bar with a great view back towards Mission Beach.

Trips to the Great Barrier Reef also leave from Clump Point, taking you to less visited sections of the reef. This is a more intimate experience, on a smaller boat than a reef trip from Cairns. At Clump Point you can also launch a boat, or take in the beautiful views to the north and south.

You can fish for mackerel, coral trout, trevally, barramundi, and many other tasty fish. Along the beach, you can pickup tiny, tasty clams, and mud crabs can be found in other areas.

Fine beaches in the area include Bingil Bay, just north of Mission Beach with soft sand, a picnic area, a council campground (around $10 a nite), and sunshine later in the afternoon than other beaches.

Just north of Bingil Bay is Sanctuary Beach, with a couple of interesting low-key resorts hidden behind the beach. Just north of Sanctuary is Garners Beach which has a cool sandbar where you can walk a long way parallel to the beach during low tide. Garners Beach is surrounded by particularly beautiful rainforest.

Wongaling Beach has a supermarket, Indian restaurant, Italian restaurant, Thai restaurant, Irish pub, Scotty's Bar and Grill, DVD rental, butcher, newsagent, liquor store, casino (the only place in the M.B. area where you can take out more than $200 from an ATM), the Mission Beach information station where you can book skydiving, reef trips, hotels and even get high speed internet access.

South Mission Beach is mostly residential with many very nice beach homes for rent by the day, week and month. At the far south end of the beach on a hill is The Horizon, a 4 star resort with the excellent Ulysses restaurant (great view!) serving three meals a day, seven days a week.

Tully Gorge is a great day trip inland past the town of Tully up a beautiful gorge. There are several spots where you can take in the view or go for a swim in the refreshing river water. It's also a great place to go whitewater rafting, as the river has nice rapids to navigate.

Will you see a cassowary during your stay in Mission Beach? Well it depends. If you go hiking on the local trails you're more likely to see some. I encountered a whole group on a hike up Bicton Hill. But most sighting are right on the road, so do drive carefully in this area and be alert to the big birds. If you do see cassowaries, don't approach them or feed them, as they can be very dangerous! One kick from their big feet can disembowel you!

I urge anyone visiting Far North Queensland to stop in Mission Beach to enjoy this little slice of heaven before it gets developed and the cassowaries are gone. It's only a matter of time.

When to visit: In winter, Mission Beach has an ideal climate, warm and sunny with occasional showers. You can swim in winter without having to worry about jellyfish stings. In summer it can get very hot, humid and rainy. You can't swim outside of the stinger nets, and the ocean gets so warm, it's not that much of a relief (but it helps).

Where to stay:
Castaways is the biggest resort, right on the beach with a good restaurant, and reasonable rates. (4068-7444)
Mission Beach Backpackers Lodge (1 800 688-316)
Coconut Village Caravan Park (4068-8129)
Eco Village (4068-7534)
Sanctuary Retreat (4088-6064)
Hideaway Holiday Village (4068-7104)

Recommended Mission Beach restaurants:
On the Porter Esplanade include Coconuts, Toba and Piccolos. There's even a Chinese takeaway, pizzeria and several fish and chip shops for those on a tight budget.

More info:
Quickcat Cruises to Dunk Island $22 return, $34 with lunch.
Barrier Reef Trips $88 per person

Note: http://www.missionbeachdunkconnections.com.au/time.html

Mission Beach
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