How to spend 72 hours in Mission Beach
No traffic lights, no chain stores, and no crowds. A tropical paradise filled to the brim with all the natural beauty and adventure you could ever hope for.
Mission Beach, you really are the stuff of holiday dreams.
You might be wondering where this mystical unicorn of a destination has been hiding all your life, but alas, you’ll find her off the beaten tourist track in Tropical North Queensland, two hours south of Cairns.
Made up of four coastal villages – Bingil Bay, North Mission, Wongaling Beach and South Mission – linked by 14 glorious kilometres of golden beach, it’s hard to imagine how this gem has stayed on the down low for so long. Nestled between two World Heritage-listed wonders, the Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics, Mission Beach is the cash cow of unspoilt natural experiences.
If you’ve only got 72 hours to spare, here’s how it should go down.
NOTE: Stinger season is between the months of October to June, so during those times swim only in the stinger nets.
8am: Brekky with Bay
Dive mouth first into a hearty breakfast at the family-run Bingil Bay Cafe. What was once a convenience store is now a cosy nook that’s become a local fave. And it’s not hard to see why. There’s the funky colours, sweet sounds of Jack Johnson and Bon Iver serenading you in the background, and delicious home-style meals.
Once you’ve ordered, nab yourself a cheap read from the second-hand book exchange and pull up at one of the tables outside under the motorised punkawallah fans to enjoy the tropical climate with some easy breezin’.
9am: Get stepping
Work off your morning feast with a trek to the summit of Bicton Hill in Clump Mountain National Park.
The 4km round-trip circuit takes about two hours. Starting at the car park, the track weaves its way up the moderately steep slope through undisturbed lowland rainforest to reward you with sweeping views of the mainland and Family Islands Group at the top lookout.
If you’re after more of a leisurely stroll, walk the line where rainforest meets the sea at the Cutten Brothers Walking Track.
Named after the first permanent settlers who came to the area in 1882, the track is an easy walk under the shaded protection of beautiful king ferns and a variety of rare fauna and flora (like the endangered arenga palms), with little beach pockets dotted along the way for you to stop and explore.
Start at the southern end (at the turn-off to the Eco Village on Clump Lookout Road) and follow the track until you reach the beach leading to Clump Point Jetty, where, if you’re lucky, you might spot turtles nibbling on some seagrass.
TIP: Don’t forget sunscreen, water and insect repellent on your walks. The tropical climate can be quite the unforgiving force if you don’t prepare yourself!
Head into North Mission for a bite to eat at Shanti Cafe. Using biodynamic dairy products from Mungalli Creek and locally sourced produce right down to their herbs, Shanti are on a mission to stuff you silly with their healthy goodies.
From the daily specials and scrumptious cakes to their traditional chai and fresh juices, expect pretty much everything you put into your mouth to be wholesome and rich in flavour.
After om nom nom-ing your way through lunch, check out the boutique shopping dotting both sides of Porter Promenade. (Boys, take this as your cue to head down to the patrolled beach outside Castaways for a swim).
Quality definitely trumps quantity here, with just a handful of stores stocked with coastal-only necessities: sea shells, beachy and tropical interiors, and bikinis and boardies.
1pm: Pedal on
Hit the road on a sweet set of two wheels courtesy of Mission Beach Bike Hire (the same guys that run Mission Beach Water Taxi) in Wongaling Beach. Hire will set you back only $20 and ends when the sun goes down.
Now choose your adventure for the afternoon: beach or rainforest.
Mountain bike rainforest circuit
Avid bike riders look no further than the Musgravea Trail in Djiru National Park. What was once an original logging track used to haul timber between South Mission Beach and El Arish is now a wide bike trail taking you through licuala palm forests and over small freshwater streams.
The track is suitable for beginner mountain bike riders, however, a moderate level of fitness is recommended (mountain biking on its own is enough to tire you out, but adding humidity on top of that makes it quite the challenge).
Starting at the Licuala day use area, a 10-minute bike ride from Wongaling Beach, follow the track until you come out to the road which will take you to Lacey Creek, where you can park your bike and have a swim in the fresh water.
After you’ve cooled down, it’s all downhill from here (in the best possible way). Follow El Airish Mission Beach Road as it winds back into the main village and pop into the Mission Beach Tavern to grab yourself a beer, because heck, you’ve earned it.
If you’d prefer to take it easy (and you can’t bear to be more than 20 metres from the gorgeous shoreline), cruise down to South Mission Beach – either by pavement or beach if it’s low tide – for a dip, before stopping in to explore the Kennedy Walking Track.
After finding a good parking spot for your bike, start at the boat ramp south of Kennedy Esplanade. The first half of the track follows an easy boardwalk stalking the coastline, weaving its way through rocky headlands and shady rainforests. You will soon be met with steps leading you to your own secluded paradise – Lover’s Beach at Lugger Bay.
If it’s low tide and you can access the beach, take a few Insta snaps and follow the track on to Tam O’Shanter Point. This second half swaps the boardwalk for a trek through the mangroves to the lookout point with magnificent views out to Hinchinbrook Island.
Feeling more adventurous? Follow the track extension on to Hull River, but keep in mind tide times and the fact it will be a 4km round trip.
6:30pm: Winner, winner, seafood dinner
You don’t have to be a seafood lover to enjoy the delights of Bibesia Restaurant and Cocktail Bar at Castaways. But if you are, you’re going to be in HEAVEN.
From purple sweet potato gnocchi and locally sourced sirloin to fresh coral trout and seafood linguini, you’d be hard done finding something you didn’t want to inhale ASAP.
8AM: Get (wet and) wild
Don’t be fooled by the easy-going exterior of Mission Beach, because this hub is sitting on an adrenalin-filled goldmine.
Just ask the blokes at Raging Thunder Adventures, who’ll be taking you behind the coastline to traverse the best of two worlds: whitewater and World Heritage-listed rainforest.
Driving from your Mission Beach accommodation, you’ll pass banana farms and green rolling hills before arriving at Tully Gorge National Park where your whitewater rafting adventure begins.
Broken up into sections of whitewater and calm river passages, the experience is both thrilling and peaceful at the same time; when you’re not battling rapids head-on, you’ll find yourself in awe of the beautiful rainforest surrounding you at the water’s edge.
Or, dive in.
Prefer diving beneath the surface over rafting on it? Spend the day on the water with Mission Beach Dive to explore the outer Great Barrier Reef.
This family-friendly team offers snorkelling and scuba diving experiences in some of Queensland’s most pristine reefs – and with their own moorings you’ll find secluded spots without another daytripper in sight.
Jump on board the Reef Goddess for a day-long adventure that’ll have you snorkelling at three awesome reef sites along with a BBQ lunch and gear hire.
6PM: When the chips are down
An action packed day calls for takeaway fish and chips from The Chippy for dinner, with a few sunset beers to boot.
8AM: Breakfast with a view
Rise and shine for brekky time at Bibesia Restaurant at Castaways Resort.
Named after the Roman goddess of beverages who, with Edesia, goddess of food, presided at feasts, you can expect divine meals and a heavenly-like caffeine hit to kick-start your day.
FYI, stunning beachfront views are on the house.
10AM: Island time
It wouldn’t be a trip to Mission Beach if you didn’t spend a day at ‘Dunk‘. Covered mostly in national park, the tropical island is a nature lover’s playground with beautiful walking trails and palm-fringed beaches.
Catch the Mission Beach Water Taxi from Wongaling Beach for $40-day return and arrive at your island paradise in under 15 minutes.
From the jetty, make a left and follow the beach until you reach the track signs leading to Muggy Muggy Beach and Mt Kootaloo.
If you’re up for a hike, set your sights on Mt Kootaloo first. The steep 7km-return track takes you through ancient fern forests and ironbark groves, past the rusty remains of a World War II radar station, to the island’s highest point with pinch-yourself panoramic views of the Family Group of Islands.
On the way back down, landlubbers can continue to explore the island’s core along the circuit track (a round trip takes about 3-4 hours), passing through the Palm Valley before coming out at Coconut Beach.
If the salty seas are calling your name, follow the track back down to the Muggy Muggy Beach turn-off for a dip and a snorkel.
Whether you choose to take it easy or explore more, the day is yours before heading back to the mainland at 3:30pm.
A few tips to remember when spending the day at Dunk Island:
- Bring a backpack with only the essentials: a towel, hat, water bottle, sunscreen and insect repellent, clothes, and a snorkel and mask.
- Up for a picnic? Bring an eskie with your snacks for the day. Dunk Island has picnic tables and free gas BBQs for day visitors and campers.
- Wear covered shoes for the walking tracks because thongs (flip flops) are not suitable.
- Don’t worry about bringing enough water because you can fill up your bottles with safe water straight from the island’s taps.
6pm: Gracias, Mission Beach
Sure, it’s your last night in town and it sucks, but that’s no excuse to be feeling down in the dumps. Why? Because there are pulled pork sliders, pizzas and delicious cocktails to be devoured!
With a modest menu packed full of flavours, The Garage Bar and Grill has taken bar food and raised it to the next level with their drool-inducing nibbles and tiki-inspired cocktails.
There’s no better way to top off a holiday in paradise than with a Pina Colada in one hand and a pizza in the other, right?
Have you been to Mission Beach? Share your experiences in the comments below!