The Mission Beach brochure suggests: “Imagine More”. OK, so I did.
I imagined there’d be sightings of Cassowaries; there wasn’t. I imagined there’d be more sun; struck out there too. I imagined there’d be more balmy sunsets as I strolled along the beach, gazing out to Dunk Island. Nada, zip, rien!
What we did get however was a welcoming caravan park , right across the road from a windswept beach with a well utilised camp kitchen. We turned it into a temporary school and games room as we waited out yet more tropical downpours and gazed through mist towards Dunk Island.
I hadn’t imagined that.
The birthplace of an Aussie natural icon
Where the Mission Beach Tourist Board had failed to capture our imagination was in its oversight in boasting about it as the birthplace of an Australian national icon. It was in the 1960’s that some of the world’s more ardent and visionary conservationists, along with then Aussie PM Harold Holt (Hmm …now there’s a campaign suggestion… “Imagine More…Imagine finding missing Aussie PM living in island paradise”) changed the perception of Australians and global leaders with regards to environmental management. An ongoing campaign to save the reef bordering Mission Beach from mining eventually resulted in the protection of the entire Australian Great Barrier Reef.
We’ve got a lot to credit Mission Beach for than hunting for elusive cassowary hunting and being just a snorkel spit away from Dunk Island (which is just 4km away and one of more than 20 tropical islands offshore.)
Where Mission Beach didn’t disappoint was the butterflies.
Given its proximity to World Heritage Rainforests of the Wet Tropics, over 60% of gthe country’s butterflies are found here – I was chuffed to see quite a few Birdwings and Ulysses fellas flitting by.
Cleaning up from stormy times
Many Aussies probably are more familiar with Mission Beach from recent times, as it felt the full force of Cyclone Yasi in 2011. Much of its 14km long picturesque palm-fringed coastline has been damaged – but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time (and lack of tropical winds) before the coastline repairs itself.
We used Dunk Island View Caravan Park for a few days, as we explored the World Heritage Rainforest and National Parks of Mission Beach. We were on a mission of our own – to sight a rather peculiar bird.
We no-see Cassowary’s but we did feel the no-see-ums
The drive into Mission Beach and the surrounding townships of Bingil Bay, South Mission Beach and Wangaling Beach featured cartoon-like signs warning us to “Drive Carefully, Cassowaries Live Here!”
These rare, flightless birds stand well over 1 metre high, and though often seen with their chicks on the roadside and many of the tropical tracks … they carefully eluded us. This ‘desperately endangered species’ was probably best staying hidden for mankind, as their fatality numbers have been high.
The Southern Cassowary (causarius casuarius if you want to get all technical about it) is native to the tropical rainforests of this coastal region. It’s dependant on the rainforests for its food, shelter and continual existence.
We did however enjoy cassowary poo spotting – a sloppy excrement contributed to by much of the exotic fruits they feast on in the rainforest. With the real thing at large, we had to be content with straddling concrete statues of the giant birds in picnic spots and along boardwalk around the area.
The Squids gained some Cassowary insight on the “Children’s Rainforest Walk”. The short 350 metre track invited them to follow in the footsteps of Cassowaries which were cast into ceramic tiles along the track, concluding at a cement cassowary egg nest.
This walk and 3 others like it in the area wove factual (The Great Cassowary Game), folklore (Djiru Dreaming) and artistic tales (The Entwinement sculpture) of the cassowary, further fuelling our impatience to sight one. The Great Cassowary Game, glazed tiles designed by local school kids was set in the ground as a giant interpretive boardgame.
There’s also plenty of no-see-um biting bugs up here at this time of year at Mission Beach.
They don’t write about THAT in the “Imagine More” marketing paraphenalia.