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 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
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
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
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