48 hours in Mission Beach and Tully
North Queensland has always been an environment of contrasts:
Dry season: Wet Season
Explore the yin to the rest of North Queensland’s yang aka the Cassowary Coast, with this 48-hour guide to Tully and Mission Beach.
First up: Get outta Town(sville)
Townsville might be Australia’s sunniest city, but Tully sure knows how to rain on its parade.
Aside from this weather contrast, the 208km-drive between the two T’s is best defined as delicious, with a stop in at Queensland’s answer to Little Italy, or more accurately JK’s Deli.
Fuelled with the power of vanilla-bean cannoli, arrive into Tully, whose success story is penned by the sugar-cane and banana industry.
There’s no point doing this drive in a rush, you’ll want to stop off at the #Instafamous Cardwell Blue Pools, which nearly broke the internet when pictures like this caught the attention of the Australian media.
To find this blue-oasis, follow signs to the Cardwell Lookout to spot this spa pool at the end of a 5km unsealed road (still suitable for two-wheel-drive cars).
AM: Tour the sugar mill
You can shelve “I quit sugar” for a trip to Tully.
Tully and refined sugar go together like icing on cupcakes. In fact, sugar is this town’s primary industry, growing 22,000 hectares of the stuff.
For crystals that would get Walter White’s attention, tour the sugar mill during processing season (June-November).
Hard hats and protective glasses are essential for the next 90 minutes as you watch cane transform into raw sugar crystals to a small group of onlookers.
AM: Visit the giant gumboot
There’s a trend in Australia – when you have a claim to fame you immortalise it in fibreglass. Don’t believe us? We have this list of big things to prove it.
So, when Tully has an average annual rainfall of 4.4m, rather than hide the fact it’s officially the wettest town in Australia, they built a 7.9m high fiberglass gumboot to celebrate its status. It’s not just large, it’s significantly large – built to the scale of the annual rainfall in 1950.
But just a giant boot this is not – it’s a lookout too – and you can climb to the top for sweet views over the Tully Sugar Mill.
Pssst! If you like photos with statues, you’ll also get to tick off the Big Cassowary later this trip.
PM: Tour the gorge
With such high rainfall, it’s no surprise Tully’s waterfall game is strong. The town’s curtain call is Tully Falls, a 300m waterfall, which impressively drops from the gorge to the river below.
A trip to Tully Gorge National Park reveals lush tropical vegetation and the turbulent Tully River, which generates so much water you can actually white-water raft down level 3 and 4 rapids all year round.
If that’s playing it too safe for your adrenal glands, book in for Raging Thunder’s Xtreme Rafting experience which will have you swimming in the rapids too.
Want to know more? We know you do!
Overnight: Tully Motel
The word ‘convenient’ is bandied around the tourism industry far too frequently. But when it comes to the Tully Motel, these owners aren’t exaggerating. This place is the definition of the word – sitting right on the Bruce Highway.
Let backtracking be bygone and choose to dine at their onsite restaurant, Plantations, which is open for dinner service Monday – Friday.
AM: Mission Beach Possible
In two shakes of a Cassowary’s tail, find yourself 30km north of Mission Beach.
For those not familiar with Mission Beach from this post, can expect a sleepy beach-side resort town, where your days are best counted by the passage of the sun over the palm trees outside your window.
Unlike other beach towns that are framed on one side by rainforest and the other by reef, this one is quiet and only overun by nature lovers.
Morning: Explore the awesome foursome by bike
Considering Mission Beach is made up of four villages (South Mission Beach, Wongaling Beach, North Mission Beach and Bingil Bay) and is perfectly flat – you have all the right ingredients for a self-guided cycling tour at your fingertips.
All that’s missing is the bike, but don’t worry, you can pick up your cruiser from the same guys that run Mission Beach Water Taxi for little more than $20.
It’s nothing but palm-fringed beach (and boardwalk) that connects these four small townships, guaranteeing there will be no huffy or puffy.
Prefer to explore on foot?
- Take a leisurely stroll along the Cutten Brothers Walking Track.
- Explore the Wet Tropics National Park with The Lacey Creek Circuit.
- For a hill climb, take the Bicton Hill Circuit Track which takes 2.5hours to reach the summit.
AM: Go from market to market
If you’re in search of floppy hats, kaftans and fisherman’s pants, Mission Beach has your sartorial needs sorted. Zephyr Coast boutique stocks the motherload and they happen to have beachy knick knacks, throw cushions and candles to boot.
For art lovers, make a beeline for the Helen Willshire Gallery for canvases defined by bright colours, local birdlife and the local environment.
PM: Get dunked
We suggest timing your visit for Friday, Saturday or Sunday to experience Dunk Island’s legendary Sunset Bar in full colour.
All it takes is a short 10-minute water taxi across the Coral Sea to the island for cocktails island-style.
On the menu you won’t just find icy-cold drinks but crowd-pleasing food that’s also easy on the eye. Think smoked salmon salad and lamb kebabs.
PM: Din Dins
If you haven’t filled up on bar snacks, we’d suggest you take your taste buds to Cafe Rustica.
You might be a long way from Rome, but it would seem Mission Beach has taken some cues from the big boot.
Catering for both Aussie and Italian palettes with pizzas like the Beach Special (tomato, mozzarella, ham, mushrooms and prawns) and Napoletana (tomato, mozzarella, anchovies), Cafe Rustica brings La Dolce Vita to this beach on a mission.
Overnight: Beachcomber Coconut Village
If camping ain’t your style, there are ensuite villas to have your own adventure in creature comforts.
Go Cassowary Spotting:
They don’t call it the Cassowary Coast for nothing. Keep your eyes peeled for their glossy black plumage, bright blue neck and red wattles as they forage around sunrise and sunset.
Since there are only 4000 left in the wild, you’ll want to read this post to shortcut your efforts to see these prehistoric birds.
AM: Continue North
As the crow flies it’s only 140km north from Mission Beach to the unofficial tropics capital, Cairns. That is, if you don’t get distracted by these waterfalls, secret lakes or places to graze on the Atherton Tablelands, which are worthy of their own bucket-list itinerary.
Feel like extending your stay in Mission Beach?
- We’ve got you covered with this 72-hour guide.
- Driving the other way? Don’t worry, watch us sit down, flip it and reverse it.
- For more information about the Wet Tropics, don’t miss this post.