From the moment you turn off the highway, away from the never-ending cane fields and through the twists and turns of the Djiru National Park, you’ll be captured. Get set for your perfect mountain biking getaway in Mission Beach.
Whether it’s the diverse and dense forest your mind is encapsulated with, spotting the birds and vines dangling overhead, or the cassowary warning signs that trigger both curiosity and fear (at least for the non-locals), the landscape is captivating.
The short drive through the rainforest lands you in the quiet, quaint township of Mission Beach, where your mind quickly switches to holiday mode. The palm-clad shores and gentle sea breeze begin to speak to you in this calming manner, and you immediately begin to fall in love with the beachside town.
No matter where in the town you stay, it is all but a short walk or fence hop to the beach, while town lies a mere 10 or so more steps away. Here, you can trawl through the knick-knacks and funny hats or eat your way into a food coma at one of the many great cafes, bars or restaurants. For us though, this fire in our belly and unrest means the joys of the slow pace only entrain us so long before we need to up the ante and seek out thrills within the bush. Fortunately, the setting of Mission Beach is such that the long, golden coastline is matched in equal parts by the dense, rugged bush which is part of the greater Wet Tropic Rainforest.
Unlike the busier centres such as Cairns, the rainforest and National Parks on the Cassowary Coast remain seemingly untouched, presenting themselves as a haven for the regions wildest of creatures. Unironically, the name Cassowary Coast does hint to its inhabitants.
It wasn’t long before the calling had to be answered and cocktails were left poolside and riding attire donned. A hop, skip and jump across a few neighbouring fences landed us on the hard-packed sands of the beach, which we proceeded to race down en route to South Mission Beach before venturing into the Musgravea Trail.
Some may use the Licuala Palms Day Use area as a picnic spot or not-to-far-out camping zone, but for us this was the gateway to our first trail in town. Other literature had noted that Cassowaries have often been sited along the Musgravea Trail, so us ‘green’ inexperienced to wildlife visitors were on high alert.
It was only some 500 meters down the trail that our hearts leaped out our chests. A gentle rustling in the trees quickly turned into a thundering and before we knew it a six-foot figure emerged out of the vines. The laughter that followed was half humour and half relief once realising we weren’t about to face off with a feathery friend. The friendly local, however, did recommend we disembark our bikes and check out the remote, vividly blue swimming hole only 15m off the edge of the trail. A quick, albeit refreshing dip later and we were on our way back down the Musgravea Trail and buzzing beneath the huge Licuala Palm leaves.
The 10km long trail spat us back out on the highway and within arms-reach of Castaways Mission Beach and much-needed food. I often find that after a good ride all I want to do is crash out and relax in the shade, but the nightlife was calling. We’d seen earlier a little alley off the promenade that seemed to be the place to be, so we ventured over (on foot of course) in search of refreshments and food. The Garage Bar and Grill has a fantastic, small beach town vibe about it so naturally was where we began to re-hydrate.
Across the road lay Joey’s Café which looked to be the breakfast spot in town (mental notes made for tomorrow morning) but for our then present needs, Peppervine had us covered. The outback shack had a strong Italian style menu, but the woodfire Pizza’s couldn’t be looked past.
Whilst it’s tempting to want to sleep in and watch the sunrise across the pool of Castaways Resort, a 6:30am start sees you on the shores of the beach with waves crashing over your tyres as you watch the sunrise from a front row seat. With a breeze in your hair, you can get the blood pumping early with a swift spin down the sand and the best bit is that you can loop back to Joey’s for your morning caffeine fix.
One cannot say they have ridden in Mission Beach without a visit and rip around the famous Mission Beach Bike Park. Situated on the outer edges of South Mission Beach, in a pocket of gently rolling hills surrounded by rainforest, the park is quite unique. It may not have a wide variety of trails on offer, but the 3.5km loop rolls through well-built trail deep in long grass and patches of sheltered shrub. It is a family-friendly facility that caters for those of all abilities. The skills park will help progress one’s riding ability or keep the kids busy in a safe environment while the parents go play.
Whilst in Mission Beach, it is well worth a trip out to Charley’s Chocolate Factory where you can go on tours, drink coffee and even make your own chocolate. Those seeking even more extreme thrills can so skydive above the rainforest and land on the beach with the team at Skydive Mission Beach.
Mission Beach is just one of many townships on the Cassowary Coast that is great for riding, so be sure to leave the comforts of beach on occasion and venture out further afield to sample different styles of riding and terrain. My tips for enjoying Mission Beach as much as possible: relax lots, eat plenty, swim whenever you can, explore off the beaten tracks where possible and appreciate your unique surroundings.