Romantic getaway or fun for the whole family
Mission Beach is about an hour and a half's drive south of Cairns and offers a great spot for a romantic weekend getaway or a fun-filled family holiday. Just off the coast are the tropical islands of Dunk -- good for families -- and Bedarra -- the perfect exclusive honeymoon spot. Near by are lush rainforests, the fascination Paronella Park and Tully's exciting white water rafting adventures.
Exclusive luxury: Bedarra Island is an exclusive hideaway for the rich, famous or those simply looking to completely relax. The perfect spot for a honeymoon, Bedarra Island doesn't cater for children. Image supplied by Bedarra Island.
Family fun or time for two: Dunk Island offers a choice of family activities or more romantic luxury villas for couples. The rainforest and Artists Colony adds another dimension to this tropical getaway.
Rainforest castle: The historic Paronella Park is a unique spot to experience the wet tropics rainforest with its man-made structures, romantic walks and water features dotted throughout the lush rainforest of the area.
Mission Beach offers the best of both worlds; it is secluded but still has a range of accommodation, restaurants and shopping. About one and a half hours’ drive south of Cairns, Mission Beach has 14km of sandy beaches backed by rainforest, and the Family Group of islands – including Dunk and Bedarra islands – are just off the coast.
Mission Beach is made up of four smaller villages – Bingil Bay, North Mission Beach, South Mission Beach and Wongaling Beach. The four sections are held together by the length of the beach itself with Garners Beach in the north and the Edmund Kennedy walking track to the south acting as boundaries.
Despite a proliferation of restaurants and activities, the township is quiet and secluded, making it the perfect getaway. Both the iridescent blue Ulysses butterfly and the colourful endangered cassowary are likely to be seen around Mission Beach. A number of creeks that run into Mission Beach ensure that there is a lot of quality fishing available, both estuary and river fishing.
There is a wide variety of Mission Beach accommodation but can be busy during school holidays and over the Christmas period so it is worth booking beforehand. There are great restaurants, pubs and cafes, general shopping, a medical centre and a regular market day on the last Sunday of every month (April to November).
Mission Beach is also home to plenty of artists and galleries offering local and Australian works. A number of major national artists have based themselves in the Mission Beach area.
Less then 4km offshore, Dunk and the Family Group of islands make up Mission Beach’s aquatic playground. Day trips to Dunk Island from Mission Beach can be enjoyed with minimum effort.
Dunk and Bedarra islands are just a short boat journey from Mission Beach and both have resort accommodation. Day trippers are welcome at family-friendly Dunk where there is a range of water sports, golf and rainforest walks.
The rainforest on Dunk Island is a unique experience in the Great Barrier Reef area, matched only by Hinchinbrook Island further south.
Dunk is a popular spot for family holidays offering a range of activities to keep the entire family entertained including horse-riding, tennis, all watersports, squash, an artists’ colony and a children’s program with its own meal times and structured activities. There is a variety of Dunk Island accommodation available with configurations for families or more romantic beachfront spots.
Bedarra Island, on the other hand, is for the exclusive use of guests who can help themselves to French champagne from the 24-hour self-service bar. Children under 12 years are not catered for on Bedarra Island and as only 32 guests allowed at any one time, this is the spot for complete relaxation and exclusivity. Bedarra is a popular spot for celebrities from Australia and around the world.
The accommodation villas are hidden from each other and have their own lounge rooms and balconies. The cuisine is particularly enticing and the five-star menus are changed daily with emphasis on locally produced tropical foods and seafood.
Hinchinbrook Island, just 5km from Cardwell, is the largest national park island in the world and is uninhabited except for one low-key environmental resort. It attracts thousands of bushwalkers each year with bookings taken a year in advance for the world-class 32km Thorsborne Trail.
The Hinchinbrook Island Wilderness Lodge caters to a limited number of guests and although children are welcome, there are no child-minding facilities or scheduled activities.
The lodge is an eco-friendly operation with a rustic, natural feel but service is complete with excellent dining options. Likewise, guests are expected to make their own entertainment but if visitors are interested in pristine nature, tropical rainforest walks, empty beaches and great fishing, Hinchinbrook is the perfect spot.
The world-famous Thorsborne Trail was named after naturalists Margaret and Arthur Thorsborne. Only limited numbers of people can walk the trail at any one time and it must be booked at least 12 months in advance.
>> Go to the Environmental Protection Agency website for more information on booking.
Visitors can camp on Hinchinbrook Island at the Macushla or The Haven campsites which offer toilets, picnic tables and barbecues but water is not available. Camping permits are necessary and need to be booked in advance.
Bushwalking tracks for the serious include the world-class Misty Mountains Trails which are centred around Tully and Mission Beach, and Hinchinbrook Island’s 32km Thorsborne Trail. The challenging Mt Bartle Frere trail takes walkers to the 1622m summit of Queensland’s highest peak.
Although the definition of ‘Wet Tropics’ covers the whole of north Queensland’s rainforest, including the Daintree area, it has come to define the area of rainforest south of Cairns in the Mission Beach, Tully and Cardwell areas.
World heritage listed rainforest covers about 900,000 hectares but the surrounding national parks are just as interesting. Inside the world heritage areas are Queensland’s highest mountains, Mount Bartle Frere and Bellenden Ker and Australia’s longest single-drop waterfall, the 305 metre (1,000 foot) Wallaman Falls west of Ingham.
The area includes about 600km of scenic drives and a huge number of walks – everything from gentle strolls to up-hill all day hikes.
The Wet Tropics Great Walk surrounds the Wallaman Falls and extends for 110km to Blencoe Falls. The Wallaman Falls are part of the Lumhotz National Park with a wide variety of flora and fauna for visitors to enjoy.
In the same area is the Licuala State Forest with amazing walks through the rare fan palm forests near Mission Beach. These are about half of all fan palm forests in Australia. Throughout the area are a number of interesting and well sign-posted walks including a specific Children’s Walk as part of the Licuala Rainforest Circuit Walk. There are a number of brochures available including ones on the Cassowary.
Cassowaries are large flightless birds native to the area. The Southern Cassowary which is found in the Mission Beach area is the second largest flightless bird in Australia. Cassowaries are frugivorous, eating mainly fruit, but they’ll also eat insects, frogs and snakes. In recent years as humans have begun to encroach on their habitat, cassowaries have been known to attack people in ‘self-defence’ particularly during the mating season or when breeding.
The Southern and Northern Cassowaries are a threatened species due to the loss of their native habitat and estimates put their population at around 1,500 to 10,000 individuals. There are about 40 birds in captivity in Australia. The Southern Cassowary is listed as endangered under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999.
The area around Mission Beach is a popular spot for cassowary watching with a number of tours and activities designed around these fascinating birds. The Mission Beach Visitor Information Centre & Cassowary Information Centre offers a heap of information from historical to environmental aspects.
Visitors should ensure they take a lot of mosquito repellent as the Wet Tropics are home to an abundant supply. Walkers are asked not to share their food with the cassowaries as some birds have been known to accost visitors.
Another interesting highlight of the area is Paronella Park, a collection of quirky buildings set in lush rainforest grounds. Created in the 1930s by a Spanish immigrant Jose Paronella, the park is difficult to describe. Rising out of the gardens that surround them are castles, battlements, paths, terraces and waterways that decorate the landscape. Visitors can dine, experience Aboriginal culture and learn the amazing history of one man and his dream to build a legacy.