Are you daydreaming of beautiful beaches lined with palm trees, tropical islands, and lush rainforests? If so, then Mission Beach should be your next holiday destination. This little gem is a two-hour drive south from Cairns and is a fabulous place to visit if you’re keen to relax by the beach while you soak up some amazing scenery. It’s also well suited to the adrenaline junkies out there.
Mission Beach stretches for fourteen kilometres and is divided into four small townships. There’s Bingil Bay to the North, Mission Beach, Wongaling Beach and South Mission Beach.
Mission Beach is at its most popular in the Australian “Winter” (May to September) when the days are dry and sunny, the humidity is low and (being Queensland) the temperatures are still warm! However, Mission Beach is never overly crowded like some places in Queensland. Even at its busiest, you will still find a quiet spot to kick back in if that’s what you’re after.
There are plenty of activities to do in and around Mission Beach, so plan to stay there a few days to have time to enjoy it at its best.
What to do in Mission Beach?
Take a walk on the beach
A stretch of beach fourteen kilometres long is just made for long, barefoot walks, especially when it’s one of the nicest beaches in Northern Queensland. If you get too hot, no worries, take a dip in the ocean. But remember to swim within the stinger proof nets (found in all four villages) as, yes sadly like anywhere else in Northern Queensland, stingers and crocs are a reality.
Go Cassowary spotting
Mission Beach is located on the Cassowary Coast, which makes it your best spot to try your luck at finding one of these dinosaur birds! There are a few places around Mission Beach where they like to hang out, but Etty Bay is the place we’d recommend starting.
We visited Etty Bay twice and, jackpot, every time we saw one or more Cassowaries there. On our first visit, we even saw daddy Cassowary out for a walk with his two chicks. So cute! The caravan park in Etty Bay seems to be a good spot to see them, as well as all the forestry areas by the beach.
Other popular spots to see Cassowaries near Mission Beach are Gardner’s Beach, the streets of South Mission Beach, the Mission Beach Transfer Station, and the Licuala Fan Palm Walk. However, you might just spot them anywhere so please observe speed limits and try to keep an eye out for them. They don’t have great road sense! Sadly, there aren’t many left in the world, so we need to be extremely careful to ensure they don’t become extinct.
Also, don’t feed them and don’t try to touch them or get close to them. They are wild animals and can become dangerous when threatened.
Visit the old Paronella Park
As one of Tropical North Queensland’s major tourist attractions, Paronella Park is a sight to see and a must visit while in Mission Beach.
Paronella Park is only a short drive away and covers five hectares of land next to Mena Creek Falls. The Park was Jose Paronella’s dream and a bit like the Taj Mahal, Paronella Park was built for the one he loved! Some ladies are so lucky, no?
You could spend a few hours exploring this five-hectare mystical wonderland, complete with a Spanish-style castle, a waterfall and over 7000 tropical trees and palms. The entrance fee includes a 45-minute guided walk where you’ll learn all about José and the history of the park. You can then walk around the grounds at your own leisure, clicking away in this photogenic park.
There is a café onsite, along with a small museum. The ticket cost also includes a night tour where you can visit the park again to enjoy a sound and light display.
The best part is that the ticket is valid for 24 months so you don’t have to rush the experience and can enter the park as many times as you want during this period.
Admission: Adults: $50 – Children (5-15): $28
Take a water taxi to Dunk Island
As you walk along Mission beach, you’re bound to see the imposing Dunk Island on the horizon. You can head to Dunk Island to spend the day relaxing on the beach, snorkelling, or enjoying the hiking trails. Dunk Island was severely damaged by cyclone Yasi in 2011 and because there are no more resorts left or any restaurants, you’ll need to bring your own picnic and lots of water. There are however toilets on the island.
To book your water taxi click here.
Hike the Kennedy track
For some amazing coastal and island views, the Kennedy Track is a very beautiful coastal track starting from the southern end of South Mission beach, at the boat ramp.
This walk is an 8-kilometre return journey, featuring a boardwalk, a rainforest track and a beach. It’s not a difficult track and you can always turn back if you don’t want to do the whole distance. There are a couple of very nice lookouts along the way. Keep an eye out for wildlife; Cassowaries, Turtles, Dugongs and Dolphins have been spotted from this track.
Bear in mind that if you want to do the entire length, you’ll need to do this hike near or at low tide. Otherwise, you won’t be able to go further than kilometre two.
Take a stroll in the rainforest
Mission Beach is home to some amazing old rainforests and the rainforest is the perfect place to head for a bushwalk. There are many walking trails to choose from, in and around Mission Beach. The Lacey’s Creek track is a popular one where you can wander through the rainforest down to the creek, looking out for cassowaries.
Another great rainforest walk to tackle is the Licuala Fan Palm Walk. The Licuala Fan Palm Walk is a short drive out of Mission Beach towards Tully.
This is an easy 45-minute circuit which is surrounded by Licuala Palms, a beautiful big, round leaf palm that is found only in certain rainforests. Be sure to bring your camera as you never know what wildlife might be around the corner. We spotted the biggest Golden Orb spider ever, as big as Simon face! I almost walked straight into its web; scary. Cassowaries are also often seen on this track.
Enjoy the view on top of Bicton Hill
This four-kilometre walk is a little steep and takes you through some amazing rainforest, zig zagging up the mountain face until you reach the Bicton Hill Viewpoint. The view from the top is worth the hike, with views of Dunk Island extending all the way to the Hinchinbrook islands.
Start the hike early, especially in summer.
If you are a dare devil, then you’ll love skydiving off Mission Beach. I wanted to do it the first time I visited Mission Beach in my 20s. I couldn’t afford it though, then Simon kindly offered to pay for me to do it. Funnily enough, as soon as he offered, I chickened out, lol!
Walk along the Ulysses Track
The Ulysses Track is a lovely path that runs the length of Mission Beach. It will take you past some gorgeous beachfront properties and swinging coconut palm trees. Keep an eye out for the Ulysses butterfly from which the track takes its name.
Take a day trip to the Atherton Tablelands
Less than an hour away from Mission Beach, is the wonderful Atherton Tablelands. The Atherton Tablelands change from agricultural land, to scrub forest, to ancient rainforests. It is a natural wonder with several must-see places such as multiple waterfalls, spectacular national parks, the Manu Tropical Skywalk, and coffee plantations. If you love cheese, enjoying a cheese platter at the Mungalli Creek Dairy is an absolute must!
Read more on the Atherton Tablelands here.
Where to stay?
Castaways Resort and Spa
Castaways Resort and Spa is located right on the beach, it has the perfect location. Get a beachfront room to enjoy the sea breezes and amazing views. The resort has a spa and two pools to cool off in from the Queensland heat. Check their prices here.
Dunk Island View Caravan Park
Just 50 metres from Wongaling Beach, Dunk Island View Caravan Park boasts an outdoor pool, a cafe and barbecue facilities. It offers self-contained villas with a private patio and free Wi-Fi. Check their prices here.
If none of those take your fancy, use the search box below to look across all major accommodation providers using HotelsCombined.
Where to eat?
This place was just amazing. I had the nicest seafood chowder ever! They also make freshly made pizzas from the pizza oven and lovely pastas. Be sure to book to get in as they are often fully booked and for good reason.
For cocktails and dinner right on the beach head to Buko. The food is tasty and fresh and it’s certainly nice to enjoy the sound of the waves as you have lunch or dinner.
Bingil Bay Café
Great service and food. Very friendly and welcoming staff. The meals were delicious and well-priced. Great atmosphere. Do not go past this hidden gem.
Nana Thai Café
Nana Thai is in Wongaling Beach and serves delicious Thai food with friendly service and views of Dunk Island. Open for dine in or take away.