Josephine falls

Where to go

Mission Beach & The Cassowary Coast

The Charms of the Cassowary Coast

This quiet stretch of the Tropical North Queensland coast is the closest point to the Great Barrier Reef on the mainland. Flanked by lush rainforest, the dreamy beachside enclave of Mission Beach is at its heart.

Mission Beach is uncommercialised and full of genuine locals who will let you in on their secret swimming holes or have a chat in the bar

Nancy Lowe – Mission Beach Dive

Mission beach from above

A PATCH OF PARADISE

Running from Cairns to Townsville, the Cassowary Coast is one of the undiscovered gems of Queensland, a quiet stretch of coastline bordered by the Wet Tropics Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. Mission Beach (actually four separate towns spread along a 14km stretch of palm-fringed beach) is at its heart. Despite its popularity, the town has retained a dreamy, laid-back vibe and the welcoming locals are never outnumbered by tourists.

snorkelling on reef near mission beach

WHAT LIES BENEATH

Mission Beach was the birthplace of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and is the closest access point for the reef, less than 40km offshore. It’s a quiet, uncrowded area of the reef and you’re unlikely to have to share your snorkelling or diving spot with any other boats.

Dunk island from the air

TO THE ISLANDS

The Family Group of Islands are just a few kilometres off the coast from Mission Beach. Camp overnight on uninhabited Coombe and Wheeler islands, hike through the rainforest on Dunk Island, or indulge in a luxurious resort stay on Bedarra Island. The islands are easily accessible via a water taxi or charter boat from Mission Beach.

Cassowaries on beach

RARE BIRDS

The area around Mission Beach is home to one of the highest concentrations of the endangered cassowary in Australia. These large flightless birds can be spotted walking through fields and gardens, and even occasionally swimming across rivers.

canefields with mountains in background

LIFE IS SWEET

About 90km south of Cairns, Innisfail is a colourful town at the confluence of the North and South Johnstone rivers. The picturesque spot is surrounded by green sugar plantations, fruit fields and wild rainforest. Innisfail is the art deco capital of Australia and there are free weekly walking tours that take in the significant buildings of the city centre.

Skydiving over mission beach

THE AIR UP THERE

There’s plenty for the more adventurous at heart, too: Mission Beach is the access point to white-water rafting down the Tully River (about 50km inland), and offers skydiving over the reef and rainforest.

Tips

  • You’ll see lots of roadside fruit stalls around the region. Take what you like and leave your money in the honesty box. This region is the banana capital of Australia, so delicious bananas are usually plentiful.

  • Soak in a natural spa pool. The 26km Cardwell Forest Drive loops through the Girringun National Park, known for its spectacular waterfalls and secluded swimming holes. Be sure to have a soak in the Spa Pool, a rock pool with a natural depression that causes the water to bubble like a Jacuzzi.

  • The Mission Beach Markets are held on the first and third Sunday of the month right beside the beach, which has fantastic views of the offshore islands. You’ll find everything from local produce and plants to second-hand clothes, crafts, books and jewellery.

  • Be aware of the environment around you. From October to June, dangerous marine stingers (including box jellyfish) are found in the ocean off Mission Beach. During this time, swim only within netted areas.

Discover More

There are plenty of hidden treasures tucked away along the Cassowary Coast, from secret beaches and snorkelling spots to secluded waterfalls and laid-back villages.

Person next to palm tree on mission beach

Getting here

  • car driving in mission beach

    By car

    Self-drive or hire a car to uncover the secrets of the Cassowary Coast. The road is completely sealed and is two-wheel drive accessible.

  • Greyhound bus

    By coach

    Greyhound Australia and Premier Motor Service operate daily departures from Brisbane to Cairns, via Cardwell, Tully, Mission Beach and Innisfail. Additional fare options are available into Brisbane from major and regional centres around the country with forward travel to Tropical North Queensland a popular option.

  • mission beach water taxi

    By ferry

    Take the Dunk Island Water Taxi to Dunk and Bedarra Islands. Transfer services operate between Cardwell and Hinchinbrook Island.

  • train in countryside

    By rail

    Queensland Railway’s Spirit of Queensland and Tilt Train operate to Tully; then take a coach to Mission Beach.

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