Arriving at Mission Beach around 2 pm, we checked into Absolute Backpackers, a beautiful hostel of white buildings, with blue trimmings. On the way into town, the rainforest became thicker, the air dense and moist, with thunderstorms on the way. This area is a cassowary protected zone, though we didn’t see any of these endangered birds while we were here. I will look out for them as we head further North though.
Mission Beach is separated into four small towns – South Mission Beach, Wongaling Beach, Mission Beach and Bingil Bay. Out hostel is actually situated at Wongaling Beach. This is an ideal location for backpackers, as it has all that you need right on its doorstep: a supermarket, bottle shop, the water taxi, a sky diving company, a surf shop, bakery, bus stop and so on. We enjoyed a great pizza shop right next door and had fun playing some guitar on the beach.
Our second day here coincided with Australia Day. I always feel guilty celebrating on this day, as it marks the time when the First Fleet arrived in Australia and the Aboriginal people were treated horrifically and pushed off their land, changing their lives forever. It should be a day of commemoration and, if it were up to me, I would change Australia Day to a different date, so that all Australians can celebrate our country equally. However, being at a hostel, we were caught up in the events of the day and, after a few drinks, we were drawn out of a raffle, that led to jumping out of a plane a couple of days later (I will cover this sky-diving adventure in my next post but here’s a quick preview)!
At the end of the evening, we took a shuttle bus to Mission Beach to watch the fire works, before heading to Zenbah, where the multi-talented Scotty served us drinks, made our kebabs and kept the tunes rolling, not to mention providing us with a free bus home at the end of the night!
Mission Beach is a beautiful area for bush walking. On my last visit (during dry season), I did the Lacey Creek walk, which was great for birds and wild life. However, this time round, we found the extreme temperatures unappealing for walking, and after our trek on Dunk Island, which left us dripping with sweat, we certainly didn’t feel the need to do any more! Perhaps when the weather gets cooler, we will come back.
From Mission Beach, you can take a water taxi for $35 return to Dunk Island. We were going to spend our first day on the island there. However, we awoke early to loud thunderstorms and pouring rain, which didn’t stop the entire next day. You can tell it is wet season up here! I really love thunderstorms, but it’s not ideal weather for a boat. Luckily, it fined up by our last day here and we made it over at last.
Dunk Island is in a beautiful location, situated 4km off the mainland from Mission Beach and originally home to the Bandjin and Djiru people, who lived here for tens of thousands of years. It forms part of the Family Islands National Park, as well as being situated within two World Heritage Areas – Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics Rainforest. These islands used to be part of the mainland until sea levels rose around 8,000 years ago.
I’m very fond of Dunk Island, despite the fact that it has suffered a lot of wreck and ruin since the 2011 Cyclone Yasi, which wiped out the resort and destroyed a lot of the natural vegetation. Since then, the forest has developed again, but sadly, the resort remains in ruins. The ferry took us over to the island at 11 am and returned us to the mainland at 3.30 pm that afternoon.
There are a few beautiful walks you can do on Dunk Island. On arrival, we took the walk up Mount Kootaloo, which took around two hours return. In the midday heat, we were sweating intensely all the way and were very happy to have brought two big water bottles with us. The walk takes you through the forest and is shaded most of the way, however the humidity is a killer in this part of the world and, by the top, we were absolutely exhausted.
Nonetheless, it was worth the hike, as we were treated to spectacular views of the Family Islands. They are featured, in fact, on my home page (a photo I took three years ago)! This lookout point was used as a Radar station during World War II, when the threat of a Japanese Invasion was looming. The Royal Australian Air Force also built an airstrip on the island in 1941.
After our long, sweaty walk, which involved being caught in thorny rainforest plants and sometimes, crawling on our hands and knees to get through parts which hadn’t been trimmed in while, we ended up back on the beach!
We made our way to the shop, which was actually closed, despite being informed that it was open Fridays! Luckily, a couple of other visitors had the phone number of the shop owner, who kindly went out of the way to come down to make us some hot chips and dipping sauce.
Reading in the shade of the palm trees on sun lounges, slurping ice creams and enjoying the ocean views, time passed quickly. If you feel like a swim, you might be wise to put a stinger suit on, even though they say the stingers are not as bad as on the mainland. We were given some suits for free with the ferry ride.
In no time at all, it was time to get back on the water taxi for a bumpy ride home (the wind had picked up a lot since the morning). As we exited the ferry, we were greeted to large waves, drenching us from head to foot! It was a lovely day trip and I would definitely recommend it, despite the sleepy atmosphere of the place. You can even camp here if you like, but come well-prepared food-wise. Perhaps go on a weekend, when the shop is open. It may be a bit more lively then too!
Back to Mission Beach, we relaxed in our favourite air-conditioned room at the hostel, watching movies. It has really been a wonderful stay, with some unexpected surprises thrown in too! Look forward to sharing more with you as we continue our adventure.