Around two-thirds of the way up the Queensland coast, between Cairns and Brisbane, lies a beautiful stretch of coastline. Of course there are many beautiful beaches, wild forests and friendly towns in this area, but Mission Beach has a real small town feel, almost undisturbed by the hordes of tourists who visit year on year.
The beach itself is wide and stretches kilometres in both directions. Lined with coconut trees to one side and crystal waters to the other, the sand is pristine, soft, and great for lazing in the sun or building sand castles, but Mission Beach offers so much more than just a beach, read on to find out what lurks in this part of the world.
Mission Beach: When to Go
I have stayed in Mission Beach twice within a few weeks of each other in the month of August. The weather is still beautifully warm at this time of year, but there is little risk of cyclones (generally February to April) and extreme temperatures. Also, as many backpacker vans travel in the heat of summer, the area is less over crowded, leaving me to enjoy the beach without fighting for space.
I would recommend travelling in Queensland during the Australian winter; temperatures are generally in the mid-twenties, perfect for topping up a tan without worrying about heat stroke. When you consider the demographic of travellers at different times of the year it becomes obvious: Backpackers travel in summer, locals travel in winter.
Mission Beach: the Locals
Mission Beach is actually made up of four small villages which joined together as the urban environment expanded. These are; South Mission Beach, Wongaling Beach, Mission Beach and Bingil Bay. It’s easy to walk from the three Beach named towns without noticing you have crossed into another, there is also a rainforest boardwalk linking Mission Beach with Bingil Bay. It was at the end of this walk, in Bingil Bay, that I spotted two Green Turtles feeding by the shore. To me, turtles embody gracefulness and calmness. There is a real deepness in their eyes; one that fills my heart fills with a real joy.
Mission Beach: Rainforest Walks
Other notable locals can be easily found on a rainforest walk into the hills surrounding Bingil Bay. The trail is easily assessable and is only a ten minute drive from Mission Beach. It is a gentle climb along gravel tracks, but be sure to take plenty of water. Be careful where you tread and always wear sensible shoes as there are plenty of snakes, spiders and other creepy crawlies enjoying the sunshine.
Mission Beach: The Cassowary
The main attraction in these parts is the Cassowary, and although rare, these huge flightless birds can be seen around Mission Beach, in fact I almost bumped into one. Walking back down the trail, feeling disappointed at not spotting one, I turned a corner and there it was. Confronted with a brightly coloured female as tall as I am, staring me right in the face, my first reaction was to freeze. As it turned out this was the best thing to do as these birds have poor eyesight.
The Cassowary’s deep orange eyes, dazzling blue neck and jet black plumage are stunning to say the least, but this bird is no sparrow. The horn alone was around 6 inches and could deliver a real injury, not to mention the 5 inch claw these birds have in reserve for visitors they don’t take kindly to. Like Emus and other large birds, Cassowaries have very powerful legs and can run around 50 km/h, exceptionally fast for such a large animal. Although all these facts and figures make the Cassowary sound like a killing machine, the one I encountered simply wandered off, however it certainly earned the nickname Cassoscary, as this was one mean looking bird.
Top Tips for Surviving a Cassoscary Encounter:
- If a Cassowary has chicks keep well back, mothers are very protective and will not be intimidated by your presence. Their claws, legs and horn can cause serious damage.
- Slip behind a tree, as these birds have poor eyesight. If there is no tree to hand, stay very still.
- Never feed a Cassowary, they can easily become aggressive and have been known to chase and attack humans for food.
- Don’t be an idiot by antagonising a Cassowary in any way, this is no Emu.