Drive one hour south of Cairns and you’ll enter the region known as the Cassowary Coast. It’s an area that embodies all that people love about Tropical North Queensland…no crowds, no rush and definitely no stress!! Here’s adventures in Mission Beach & the Cassowary Coast that the whole family will enjoy.
Bordered by World Heritage Rainforest and boasting beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see, it’s absolutely worth exploring as a family. If not for the chance of spotting the elusive cassowary, after all there’s a reason this region is named after this primaeval looking bird.
Mamu Tropical Skywalk
Mamu Tropical Skywalk is a 30 minute drive west of Innisfail and allows a birds eye view of the World Heritage Rainforest that this area is renowned for. Meander through Wooroonooran National Park rainforest and travel back in time with their self-guided app. You may find that the kids slow down a bit to take it all in. Watch their jaws drop when they walk out onto the elevated walkway that takes you into the rainforest canopy. Seeking better views? Then brave the Observation Tower (37m above ground-level) where you can check out the North Johnstone River winding through the gorge below.
Imagine a fairy-tale castle entwined in surrounding rainforest. Paronella Park is like a magical story that has stepped off the pages and into reality – a love story like no other. José Paronella created this castle in the rainforest as a symbol of his love to his wife Margarita.
Explore and you’ll find a swing bridge perched high above Mena Creek Falls, a grand staircase that leads to a pool brimming with fish, turtles and eels just waiting to be fed, a magnificent avenue bordered by towering Kauri pines, a castle-like pavilion with a fountain as centre stage, and pathways, stairs and tunnels all set within a mini botanical garden. Sleep on-site and you can explore the park at night, adding another fairylike dimension to your stay.
Let’s face it – you can’t come to Tropical North Queensland without giving the kids an opportunity to spot a croc and Snapping Tours is guaranteed to get your kids excited, if not just for its name. Cruise down Innisfail’s Johnstone River and soon you’ll find that it’s not all about the crocs. This tour is packed full of local history, environmental information plus the odd educational activity to keep the kids entertained. Plus the local guides will help you spot a whole lot more of the river’s wildlife along the way.
Between Innisfail and Mission Beach lies a popular holiday spot frequented mainly by locals and dedicated fishing enthusiasts. With a population of less than 100 it’s here that you’ll find the motto “no crowds, no rush and no stress” fully embraced. For a tiny hamlet there’s plenty of kid-friendly caravan parks and holiday accommodation to coax a family to stay. Plus Kurrimine Beach can also boast that it’s one of the closest beaches to the Great Barrier Reef. So close in fact, that during very low tides it’s possible to walk out and enjoy it on foot, free of charge.
Often viewed as the gem of the Cassowary Coast, Mission Beach is a 2 hour drive south of Cairns. If you’re seeking a palm lined beach that literally stretches for miles then this should factor high on your journey. It’s 14 km of golden sandy beach that links together small townships known for their laid-back hippy vibe. It’s so wide that it’s easy to explore it on bike, where you can enjoy views of Dunk Island to one side and lush tropical rainforest to the other. And keep your eyes peeled for a cassowary because the ratio of spotting one here is high.
Charley's Chocolate Factory
What kid doesn’t want to miss out on exploring a real live chocolate factory? Tucked away in the foothills of Mission Beach (a 10 minute drive from its main village) is a cocoa Farm where you can experience the little-known journey from the seed of a cocoa tree to the decadent chocolate bar. Tours include a yummy lunch and of course chocolate tasting, which is probably the real reason the kids are keen to come.
Tully River Rafting
One thing you won’t want to miss is the beauty and power of the wild rivers that connect the World Heritage Rainforest to the Great Barrier Reef and exploring them via a raft is a real treat for any adventurous family. The mighty Tully River has long been recognised as a World Class rafting experience.
Head high up into the Tully Gorge National Park where Raging Thunder operates and enjoy grade 3-4 rapids which are not for the faint hearted. If the kids are under 13 then try Wildside Adventures, they have smaller self-manned rafts that explore a stretch of the Tully River graded 2-3, enough rapid action to keep your kids fully entertained.
Tully Golden Gumboot
It will probably come as no surprise, Tully is renowned as being one of the wettest towns in Australia. You won’t want to miss Tully’s quirky Golden Gumboot which stands over 7m tall and comes complete with a giant 3D green tree frog climbing it. The Gumboot represents the amount of rain that fell in one year alone on Tully. Climb the stairwell inside and you’ll find photos of the flooding that Tully has endured over the years. From the top kids will enjoy views over the nearby sugar mill, the town’s main livelihood.
At the southern end of the Cassowary Coast – a 2 ½ hour drive south of Cairns – is the coastal town of Cardwell. A must is the Cardwell Rainforest and Reef Visitor Information Centre where families can discover through the history of the region, its wildlife, its people and its unique landscape. And let’s not forget the talking eel at the end and Gomek the 5.4m fibreglass crocodile – unmissable.
Cardwell’s foreshore boasts a collection of memorials, sculptures, and sand blasted images along a 4km walkway, plus playgrounds and barbeques and stunning views of nearby Hinchinbrook Island to boot. And don’t miss walking out onto the pier – you’ll be surprised to find it’s a great place to spot turtles grazing on algae below.
Cardwell Spa Pool
Perhaps one of the most Instagrammable spots in the Tropical North, the Cardwell Spa Pool has been breaking social media channels for a while now. Why all the fuss? Well, its major drawcard is the milky blue waters that is caused from minerals seeping out from its surrounding rocks. It helps to make stunning photos, #nofilter required. It’s just a great swimming hole to dive into if you want to escape the heat of the day and it’s only a 10 minute drive out of Cardwell.
Hinchinbrook Island Lookout
Just 30 minutes south of Cardwell, at the southernmost tip of the Cassowary Coast is the Hinchinbrook Island Lookout, which offers views of the Jurassic Park-like Hinchinbrook Island. It’s a great reminder of the rugged, tropical and primaeval beauty of this region.