With World Heritage rainforest on one side and the Great Barrier Reef on the other, in this aquatic playground you can be as relaxed or adventurous as you wish.
By Stephanie Williams
Mission Beach is a relaxed beachfront town between Cairns and Townsville on the Queensland coast. Here two World Heritage areas, the Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics Rainforest, form a natural environment like nowhere else on earth. Mission Beach is a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and a perfect base for visiting nearby Dunk, Bedarra and Hinchinbrook islands.
Mission Beach is made up of four villages: South Mission Beach, Wongaling Beach, North Mission Beach and Bingil Bay. The palm-fringed beach connects these four small townships, from Kennedy Bay in the south to Garners Beach in the north.
At Mission Beach you can find adventure and indulgence in equal measure. There's a vibrant arts, food and culture scene. Accommodation includes luxury resorts and quality holiday homes, as well as secluded rainforest retreats and charming bed and breakfasts. There are no chain stores or traffic lights in Mission Beach – you'll slow down and enjoy the simple life here. Take note, though: October to June is stinger season. Marine stingers such as the box jellyfish have toxic stings that can be fatal, so only swim inside the stinger nets during these months.
- Take a day trip to Dunk or Bedarra Island to swim and snorkel in a secluded paradise
- Go whitewater rafting on the Tully River
- Spot cassowaries and other amazing birdlife
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Top things to do in Mission Beach
Get adventurous with whitewater rafting and more
There's plenty of adventure to be had in Mission Beach. Try skydiving and landing on the beach. Experience the pumping Tully River, 45 minutes from Mission Beach, on a whitewater rafting tour with Raging Thunder Adventures. Mission Beach is home to some excellent reef and estuary fishing, rainforest hikes and even crocodile spotting. Try a fishing or spearfishing charter, or fish close to shore, where there's a shallow reef running from Porters Creek at the south end of North Mission Beach, almost to Clump Point, at the north end of the beach. The inside tip? Locals love fishing at Clump Point jetty and the rock wall at Clump Point boat ramp.
Visit the Great Barrier Reef
Mission Beach is one of the closest mainland access points to the Great Barrier Reef, which is about an hour away by boat. A number of boats depart Mission Beach for the reef daily for snorkelling, sightseeing and diving. Mission Beach is the main gateway to Dunk Island, which is secluded and only four kilometres (2.5 miles) offshore, perfect for a day trip or to camp for a few blissful nights. Water taxis and ferries shuttle guests and day visitors to the island. Bedarra Island has luxury accommodation for just 14 guests and is only seven kilometres (4.3 miles) away. Nearby Hinchinbrook Island National Park, Australia's largest island national park, is one of the world's most diverse and beautiful wilderness areas.
Look out for cassowaries and other important birds
Mission Beach is home to many wildlife species, most notably the endangered cassowary. This large flightless bird can be found in the rainforest surrounding the area and is fascinating to watch. Much of the area is part of the Coastal Wet Tropics Important Bird Area, named by BirdLife International because of its importance in the conservation of tropical rainforest birds. You can even stay among the birds at the Lost Paradise retreat, a haven for serious twitchers (birdwatchers).
Dining and exploring in Mission Beach
Mission Beach has a great selection of restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries and boutiques, mostly along the main street of Porter Promenade. The family-run Bingil Bay Café is a great spot to start the day with breakfast. Shanti Café offers biodynamic and locally sourced produce. The Garage Bar and Grill at the Village Green in North Mission offers casual dining. Or dine alfresco at Millers Beach Bar and Grill at Wongaling Beach. Queensland is a tropical fruit paradise, and some of Australia’s earliest plantings of tea, coffee and tropical fruits were established in the late 1900s in Bingil Bay. You can join a tropical fruit tour, or try Murdering Point Winery, one of Australia’s best tropical fruit wine producers, at nearby Kurrimine Beach.
How to get there
Mission Beach is a two hour drive south from Cairns and a three hour drive north of Townsville. You can fly to Cairns or Townsville from Brisbane, and to Cairns from other capital cities and some destinations in Asia. From Mission Beach you can travel north along the Pacific Coast Touring Route to Cairns or Port Douglas or south to the Whitsunday Islands.