If you are looking for a picture-perfect tropical paradise on the Australian mainland, the trendy hideaway township of Mission Beach fits the bill perfectly. Mission Beach, midway between Cairns and Townsville, could well appear on any postcard requiring a long sandy beach lined with palm trees. The impressive Dunk and Bedarra Islands sit off the coast just to make the picture even more perfect.
Mission Beach is surrounded by a lush backdrop of World Heritage Listed wet tropical rainforest, endless white sandy beaches and the silvery shimmering blues of the Coral Sea and Great Barrier Reef. Located between Townsville and Cairns, it is spread over a 14km coastal stretch and encompasses a number of beachside communities including Bingil Bay, Wongaling Beach, South Mission Beach and Garners Beach. There is no real centre to the region however Mission Beach itself has a few shops, restaurants and a travel agency, all tucked away in a strip of tropical bushland between the main road and the ribbon of beach.
The surrounding forests are home to the endangered cassowary, and 60 percent of Australia’s butterflies.
There are numerous walking tracks from which to explore the beautiful rainforest, mountain streams, waterfalls and coastline. These tracks range in length from 1.5km to 7km and are suitable for all ages.
There are many activities available to cater for all levels of energy. Go scuba diving, snorkelling, fishing, sailing, tandem ski-diving, beach combing, birdwatching, golf, rainforest walks, white water rafting. Or just lay back and take in the natural beauty that abounds.
Brief history: On 21st May 1948 the sailing ship HMS Rattlesnake landed at Tam O’Shanter Point on the Southern side of Mission Beach. Explorer Edmund Kennedy and his party then started their disastrous trek to Cape York. All but three members of the 13 man party were killed and Kennedy himself was speared to death at the base of Cape York. In 1914 the Queensland Government established an Aboriginal Mission to house local people, hence the locality’s name. Tourism rapidly become the main industry following the development of Dunk Island as an international tourist destination after World War II.
Daily trips to the Great Barrier Reef from Clump Point enable visitors to experience this natural wonder of the world by glass bottom boat, snorkelling and scuba diving.
As well, gamefishing, sport fishing and reef fishing are all available by charter, or better still bring your own boat and make Mission Beach your base to explore this magical fishing destination. For the more adventurous there is white water rafting on the nearby Tully River or tandem skydiving from 10,000 feet onto the Beach.
Djiru National Park, which is situated 8km west of the town, protects some of the last remaining lowland forest in the Wet Tropics. The Park is quite unusual as it is rainforest predominantly filled with Fan Palms. It is also home to the endangered southern cassowary. If there is a chance of seeing a Cassowary, Mission Beach is the place where it will happen. They are regularly seen crossing the roads and are often seen wandering through the township. Since Europeans began to settle North Queensland, over 80 per cent of the lowland rainforest in the Wet Tropics has been cleared for agriculture and housing. Much of the forest in Mission Beach was selectively harvested up until the 1970s. This forest type is now preserved as national park.
Djiru National Park has two day-use areas Licuala and Lacey Creek have been developed for visitor use within Djiru National Park. To get to the Licuala day-use area and car park, turn north off the Tully Mission Beach Road onto the signposted unsealed road, about 8km east of the town of Mission Beach. The day-use area and car park are 1.6km along this unsealed road. It is accessible by conventional vehicles. Lacey Creek day-use area is beside the El Arish Mission Beach road, 8km from the junction with the Bruce Highway and 7.5km from Mission Beach township.
Dunk Island, which sits of the coast to the south of Mission Beach, is one of Queensland’s longest established resort islands. The island lies 4 km off the Australian east coast, opposite the town of Mission Beach. The island forms part of the Family Islands National Park and is in the larger Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
The island is surrounded by reefs and has a diverse population of birds. Aborigines once used the island as a source of food. Europeans first settled on the island in 1897. Dunk Island was used by the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II. In recent years the island and its resort facilities were affected by both Cyclone Larry and Cyclone Yasi. There is also a camping ground available for visitors as part of the national park, although a permit is required for its use.
The Family Islands are a chain of stunningly scenic continental islands, close to the Wet Tropics coast near Mission Beach, clad in lush rainforest and woodlands and surrounded by coral reefs, tidal flats and sandy beaches. The islands have been given National Park status. The islands support many species of birds, insects, reptiles and mammals. Over time, the brilliant blue Ulysses butterfly has become a symbol for Dunk Island. The fringing reefs surrounding each of the islands are home to a diversity of reef life. Extensive seagrass beds lie between the islands and are important feeding grounds for sea turtles and dugong.
The lush, green, gently-rising hills of the Family Islands contrast greatly with the jagged and lofty profile of Hinchinbrook Island which dominates the southern horizon. Dunk Island, like the other Family Islands, is cloaked in a mosaic of dense rainforest in protected gullies and wet slopes, and eucalypt forest with an understorey of palms and looping lianas on drier more exposed ridges. The Family Islands lie within the traditional sea country of the Bandjin and Djiru Aboriginal peoples, who for tens of thousands of years have collected, gathered and hunted the bountiful marine and island resources for food and materials. Today they retain a strong connection to these islands.