Cassowary Spotting at Etty Bay
Tucked on the Cassowary Coast’s rugged and wild coastline about 1.5 hours south of Cairns and 3 hours north of Townsville, is a small natural bay mostly known to locals. Rather than a major tourist attraction, Etty Bay is a local secret. This peaceful hideaway is also a hotspot for spotting the southern cassowary in the wild.
Image Credit: TEQ
The cassowaries who frequent Etty Bay wander freely through the Caravan Park and along the beach at the edge of the rainforest. To observe the cassowaries at Etty Bay safely, make sure to keep your distance. They will wander up and down the beach, so pick a spot and wait, rather than following them. If a cassowary approaches you, try to remain calm and wait for them to pass. The cassowary population at Etty Bay has regular interaction with humans on the beach and at the Caravan Park but they are still wild animals with the means to cause serious injury if threatened. Their muscular legs can pack a powerful kick and their three claw-tipped toes can reach lengths of up to 12cm. Yikes!
It’s also important to dispose of your food scraps appropriately. People who feed cassowaries often have good intentions; however, they are introducing potential dangers to themselves and the birds. In fact, it's illegal to feed cassowaries (and other native wildlife in Queensland) without a permit. It also interferes with their job in the rainforest, which is to distribute native seeds through their droppings. Cassowaries are one of only a few frugivores (fruit eaters) that can disperse large rainforest fruits, and the only species that can carry large seeded fruits over long distances.
Cassowaries are fascinating and charismatic creatures, whose inter-dependence with the rainforest, and cultural connections to indigenous people of the region, make them a wonderful means for learning more about the Wet Tropics of Queensland and what makes it so special.
One of Australia’s best destinations for nature and wildlife enthusiasts, the Cassowary Coast region is often overlooked by travellers heading for Cairns or the Whitsundays. The truth is, there’s so much to see and do along this tropical coastline. It’s worth the detour!
Etty Bay is 90mins South of Cairns, 40 mins north of Mission Beach, and only 15 mins from the Art Deco town of Innisfail. If you’re road-tripping the Queensland coast, it's an easy 10-minute detour off the Bruce Highway to this tropical hideaway.
To get to Etty Bay, head south on the Bruce Highway from Innisfail until you see a left-turn on Mourilyan Harbour Road. Approx 3km up the road is a left turn onto Etty Bay Road. Follow the winding roads over the Moresby Range, enjoying the spectacular views as you mount the peak. Remember, this is a cassowary habitat so please take it easy on the roads. Cassowaries often wander along the road so keep your eyes peeled.
Where to stay
Etty Bay Cabins and Caravan Park
If you want to take your cassowary spotting at a slower pace (and we’d recommend it) then staying in Etty Bay might be the best option. There’s nothing worse than seeing travellers chasing the cassowaries along the beach for the perfect snap because they need to jet off to their next destination. Etty Bay offers Cabins, caravan and tent sites for overnight and extended stays. There’s also a small take-away with seasonal hours.
Mission Beach Camping & Caravan Park
This pet-friendly Park is only 40 minutes to Etty Bay. It claims an absolute beachfront position and sits at the heart of the Cassowary Coast region, providing easy access to all of the many attractions. The magnificent Southern Cassowary is also present in Mission Beach but you might not get the chance to see these notoriously hard-to-spot birds roaming the beachfront.