48 hours in Mission Beach
You’ve just performed that wonderful circus show of juggling the fishing rods, dog bowl, a camping chair and maybe a kid or two whilst pulling out the awning. You glance around to survey your kingdom of the next two days.
But wait! What’s that? You catch glimpses of a sparkling azure blue glinting through the trees, flickering and dazzling like the giant blue butterfly that just floated past on a gust of wind.
Mesmerised, you stumble over to an opening in the vegetation. You rub your eyes again as they adjust to the brilliance of the wide expanse of sand before you.
It’s at that moment you realise you are as good as camping ON the world famous Mission Beach - those shimmers of blue you saw through the trees coming from the warm, crystal clear water that stretches out to Dunk Island, The Reef and beyond.
Everyone around you can see your eyes widen, as if to scream “YOU LI’L RIPPA”. Yep, you are at Mission Beach Camping and Caravan Park and you have indeed made a wonderful choice for your holiday.
But what to do?
48 Hours in Mission Beach
The first evening
Well, first thing’s first, of course. You’ve finished this leg of your journey and are settling into a couple of days in paradise, so you deserve to celebrate.
There are many bars and restaurants in Mission Beach, but for that all important celebration you want the mood and setting just ‘so’.
Start by heading onto the beach and take a casual stroll South, down to Castaways. Sure, it might be a little pricier than the good ol’ sports bar on the main drag, but with that comes a lovely ambiance, coupled with delicious cocktails and top notch food.
Who’s one for tradition? Me neither. Start proceedings with dessert in a glass by ordering the “Ferrero Rocher”, before moving on to the delectable “Infinity Blue Barramundi”. And don’t worry, the kids are well catered for here, too, with tasty mocktails and a kids’ menu to suit.
Satiated and satisfied, you head back to camp to rest your weary head and build up energy for the day to come.
The morning after
Everyone seems to wake up hungry when camping - it’s some sort of natural reaction, like it instills the inner hunter gatherer within us. Shanti is a great spot to grab brekkie - catering for appetites big and small, vegan or carnivorous. The breakfast burritos are gloriously substantial, the home made cakes are delicious and the staff remain cheery and helpful when dealing with particularly fussy requests.
For a quick pick-me-up to cleanse mind and soul after last night’s beers and cocktails, hop across the road into Leny’s Tropical Fruit and Veg. Here you can score a freshly prepared juice, made from locally sourced fruits, all prepared to taste right in front of your very eyes. Let me just say, if it’s a zing you’re after, might I recommend the citrus blast - as sure to brighten your day as Leny herself.
The rest of the day
After sauntering back to camp it is time to prepare a quick picnic before grabbing the Aeroguard and heading out for some of the best short walks to be found.
Now the Cassowary Coast is not named as such because it’s famous for pigeons. So a good way to start the day is to undertake the mere 10km drive to the Licuala day use area and forest walk. Head out along the two short loop tracks, keeping your eyes peeled for evidence of cassowaries.
You’ll probably spot plenty of clues to suggest they are hiding somewhere whilst you walk, such as the piles of seeds they… ...um… ...expel to replenish the rainforest. If you’re lucky one or more of these amazing creatures will make itself known and prove to you that dinosaurs still exist in this, the most ancient of rainforests.
If not, you needn’t worry just yet, as cassowaries can appear, as if from nowhere, almost anywhere in the region.
Not far from Licuala is another beautiful short walk at Lacey Creek. The scenery here is on another level, even compared to Licuala, and cassowaries are joined by another illusive critter - the Peppermint Stick Insect. Living exclusively on Pandanus plants and only found in very small spots in tropical Far North Queensland, it goes without saying these little fellas aren’t a common sight. That said, Lacey Creek is one of the prime spots for finding them and offers kids another chance to get excited about some of the best that nature offers.
It’ll be getting hot by the time you’re finished, so relax by the water and eat your picnic at the day use area. A quick, refreshing, freshwater dip is on the cards here too, with one of the prettiest swimming spots in the area. Do keep something on your feet while in the water, though, as there could be some bullrouts about (freshwater stonefish).
Bingil Bay Cafe
“Let me rest, or at least give me a coffee!” I hear you cry. And I shall happily oblige. On the short drive to some of the lesser known, even more beautiful beaches, quickly stop off at the Bingil Bay Cafe. Known by the locals for making the best coffee in town, it is ripe for sorting a caffeine fix and maybe getting a healthy treat, too, in the form of a Feel Good Banana.
For you see, these tasty little popsicles are made by covering a local banana in rich dark chocolate, then flash freezing. Low in sugar, dairy free, suitable for vegans, organic and made in Mission Beach. GREAT!
You only have to make it round the corner from the cafe before you get to Garners Beach. From the car park at the very end of the track you have direct access onto one of the loveliest beaches along this part of the coast, with shade, wide expanses of sand and open views across the pristine waters and islands.
Another nearby option is Brookes Beach. Although very exposed during much of the day, in the afternoon the sun kindly relinquishes its hold, as shadows from the forested hills creep over the sand. From the waters edge there is little sign of civilisation. Perfect, then, for winding down and feeling like you really are in tropical heaven.
Tasty Home Cooked Exotic Food
Once you have freshened up, tonight’s dinner recommendation is Spicy Thai Hut in Wongaling. Don’t be fooled as you rock up to the address, the reason it looks like someone’s home is because it is! Yep, this is true, home cooked, original recipe thai food, served to you on a surprisingly atmospheric deck-cum-restaurant floor. Although I can’t say I have tried everything on the menu, what I have eaten here is so mesmerisingly moorish that I can only imagine you will feel a winner with any choice you make. Just be sure to book in advance, because everyone in the area knows of the delights of this gem.
The final half day
Use your final morning to maximum effect by taking things slowly. Roll out of bed, skip getting dressed for donning the swimmers and embark on the arduous journey of 50 metres or so to the glorious Mission Beach.
Obviously it goes without saying one must be cautious when approaching the water - we are in the land of jellies, salties and sharks after all - but within the designated swimming areas the water is nothing short of sublime. Not a chance of getting cold here, a dip is more akin to taking a bath.
Charley’s Chocolate Tour
This place is a small scale, privately owned cocoa farm, producing some of the worlds finest cocoa. And don’t just take my word for it, it has genuinely placed exceptionally highly in official world rankings. Australia’s only bean to bar experience tours run Thursdays and Sundays, offering a walk around of the facilities and the all important tasters - I know you were already thinking about them. You won’t have to worry about filling empty bellies with nothing but chocolate either (would anyone actually mind though?) since lunch is included. All this is finished off with the obligatory opportunity to purchase tantalisingly tasty chocolate in many a wondrous flavour.
So there you have it: 48 hours of fun in one of the world’s top destinations.
Where to stay
If you're looking for a base to #exploretnq you can't go past Mission Beach Camping & Caravan Park before setting off for Etty Bay Caravan Park & Cabins to spot the southern cassowary patrolling the beach.