Mission Beach in far north Queensland has been hit by cyclones Larry and Yasi over the past few years, but the resilient locals have worked hard to return it to its original tropical ambience. The rainforest has regrown, new tourism ventures have commenced, a new tavern has been built, and the shops have new tenants.
The area is made up of a couple of small townships. The small village of North Mission Beach consists of the Hideaway Holiday Village and various other accommodation units, the new tavern, the post office, a liquor outlet, small supermarket and several tourist shops, restaurants and cafes. A great tourist information centre is found almost opposite the caravan park and the town has around 14km of beachfront to explore.
Exploring ON FOOT
If, like us, you enjoy exploring on foot, then Mission Beach has plenty to offer. We love long beach walks and there are several beaches in the area to enjoy. We also find rainforest walks very appealing and there are some excellent rainforest walking tracks of varying difficulty and length. The Kennedy Track at South Mission Beach meanders through several different ecological zones and is very interesting, though it can be a hot walk in the middle of the day. The Bicton Hill Walk is steep and a hard climb, but you are rewarded with a fabulous panorama at the top.
One of our favourite walks is the Licuala Fan Palm Walk which is on the Tully-Mission Beach Road, about 8km from the Hideaway Holiday Village. The 1.5km loop walk passes through fan palms (Licuala ramsayi) and rainforest, where we have seen endangered southern cassowaries. These birds are very important in the rainforest ecology as they eat fruit from the native trees and disperse viable seeds throughout the forest. Look for their droppings on the track.
Another great walk is to Clump Point Jetty which can be started from the Hideaway Holiday Park. It traverses various ecosystems, including some rainforest, and there are glimpses of the water at several points. Clouds of blue triangle butterflies were present in the shady sections when we did the track early one morning.
ON THE WATER
We enjoyed a great value, three-island trip by water taxi ($50 when we were there) to Dunk, Timana and Bedarra islands. We departed from Wongaling Beach at 12.30pm, dropped off guests at the very exclusive Bedarra Island Resort and cruised past Timana Island.
We were entertained by skipper Stuart’s mix of historical information and light-hearted banter. He landed on an isolated beach for a little over an hour, allowing us time for swimming, snorkelling, beachcombing and relaxing under the coconut palms.
The same company recently purchased the Reef Goddess, a purpose-built reef boat surveyed for 75 passengers. It has a large platform and steps at the stern, making it easy for people of all ages to enter the water and climb back on to the boat. Mission Beach is said to be the closest point on the coast to the outer Barrier Reef, and the weather was perfect with low tide in the middle of the day, so we jumped at the opportunity to see this section of the reef.
We boarded the water taxi at Wongaling Beach for the 10 minute cruise to Dunk Island, then moved aboard the Reef Goddess for the 1.5 hour cruise to the reef, while coffee, tea and muffins were served. Cold, bottled spring water and sunscreen were available at no charge throughout the day. There were only around 30 people on board, which was very comfortable for the four crew members.
Our first anchorage was at Beaver Cay with the coral very close to the boat. Our arrival coincided with low tide: perfect for viewing the reef. Some opted to have an introductory dive (extra charge) while the rest of us snorkelled. We were given a full briefing on the snorkelling gear and fitted with fins, mask and snorkel, while a rope was floated out the back for those who were beginners.
After an hour or so, lunch was served while we cruised to the next reef. The skipper barbecued meat patties and chicken skewers, which were delicious. There was also a selection of cold meats, salads, bread rolls and fresh local prawns.
On the way home, a fresh tropical fruit platter was served for afternoon tea and the bar was open as well. This really was one of the best reef trips we’ve been on; with a purpose-built boat, lots of live coral and reef creatures to see, and the weather was perfect.
Click here to find accommodation options near Mission Beach
The full feature appeared in Caravan World #544 December 2015.