Snuggly tucked along the Cassowary Coast, Mission Beach and its 14 kms of golden beaches are one of Australia’s best-kept secrets. Here are all the reasons why.
Lying at the heart of two World Heritage areas – the Great Barrier Reef and the lush rainforests of the Wet Tropics – Mission Beach, remarkably, lies off the well-worn tourist trail. It’s where lush rainforest – inhabited by the rare cassowary (slow down when driving and keep an eye out for these magnificent birds) and the magnificent Ulysses butterfly – tumbles down to meet the Coral Sea. Welcome to low-key tropical luxury at its very best.
1. Island hop
Mission Beach is the jumping-off point for idyllic islands including Dunk and Bedarra, and lesser-known atolls in the Family Islands. Dunk Island’s most famous resident was the naturalist and journalist Edmund Banfield, author of Confessions of a Beachcomber. These secluded islands have a special way of helping travellers disconnect. You can access them on the Dunk Island Water Taxi, who also run an island-hopping tour, or you can charter a private boat and make your way over at your own speed. Alternatively, check into the luxurious Bedarra Island Resort and experience the pinnacle of barefoot luxury.
2. Tumble down rapids
Beyond the palm-fringed cerulean sea, lush farmland and rolling hills lies the mighty Tully River – regarded as one of Australia’s best rafting spots. Paddle down some 45 rapids as the river tumbles and swirls its way through the magnificent Tully Gorge National Park, impenetrable rainforest either side. Tour operator Raging Thunder employs trained river guides who share the history and wonder of this magnificent landscape.
3. Swim in a natural spa
A series of irresistible Instagram images have travellers flocking to the stunning natural waterhole that is Cardwell Spa Pool. Known for its refreshing cool water the colour of turquoise, the pool is a natural depression in a creek bed that causes the water to bubble and swirl like a Jacuzzi at one end. If waterfall chasing is more your thing, head to neighbouring Attie Creek Falls for a show-stopping waterfall that drops into a shimmering azure-coloured pool. Pack a picnic and make the most of this magical natural oasis, an hour’s drive south of Mission Beach.
4. Find a secret beach
Just north of Mission Beach itself you’ll find the little-known Bingil Bay, a picturesque rainforest-fringed inlet with views to Dunk Island and Bingil Bay Café, arguably the best café on the Cassowary Coast. In the early 1960s, Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt and his wife Zara retreated from political life at the private Bingil Retreat. And at Lugger Bay in South Mission Beach you’ll find Lovers Beach, another out-of-the-way slice of paradise fringed by pandanas and paperbark trees. Mission Beach boasts 14 kilometres of golden beaches, so you’re sure to find one with your name on it.
5. Dive deep into the Great Barrier Reef
Mission Beach is the one of the closest departure points to the Great Barrier Reef, making for easy access to pristine snorkel and dive sites bursting with coral and marine life. Explore a variety of shallow and deep reef sites with Mission Beach Dive, where you’ll snorkel colourful coral gardens home to turtles, lionfish and reef sharks. On the surface, Coral Sea Kayaking offers an easy day trip to beautiful Dunk Island taking in the fringing reef, sandy and coral beaches, and (if you’re lucky) the chance to see dolphins, turtles and rays.
6. Charley’s Chocolate Factory
The one thing the rainforest does better than almost anything else is growing tropical plants and fruits and that includes Mission Beach’s own cocoa plantation at Charley’s Chocolate Factory. Here you can see freshly harvested cocoa beans turned into gloriously creamy chocolate bars right before your eyes. Touch, smell, taste and see the process “from tree to chocolate bar”.