White-Water Rafting on the Tully
A day's rafting through the rainforest on the Class III to IV Tully River is an adventure you won't soon forget. In raft-speak, Class IV means "exciting rafting on moderate rapids with a continuous need to maneuver rafts." On the Tully, that translates to regular hair-raising but manageable rapids punctuated by calming stretches that let you float downstream. You don't need experience, just a decent level of agility and an enthusiastic attitude. RnR Rafting (tel. 07/4041 9444) runs a daily trip that includes 5 hours on the river with fun, expert guides, a barbecue lunch in the rainforest, and a DVD screening of your adventure. With transfers, the day costs A$185 from Mission Beach; A$195 from Cairns and the northern beaches, plus A$30 for national park and other fees. You must be age 13 or over.
Wildlife Safety Tips
The endangered cassowary (a spectacular ostrichlike bird with a blue bony crown on its head) can kill with its enormous claws, so never approach one. If you disturb one, back off slowly and hide behind a tree.
Dangerous crocodiles inhabit the local waterways. Do not swim in, or stand on, the bank of any river or stream.
You will spend plenty of time lazing and strolling the area's 14km (8 3/4 miles) of beaches, but be careful about where you swim. Deadly marine stingers inhabit the sea from October through May; during these months, swim only in the stinger nets erected at Mission Beach and South Mission Beach.
Exploring the Rainforest & Coast
Walking, wildlife spotting, canoeing in the forest, and kayaking along the pristine coast are all worth doing. Hiking trails abound through national parks, in rainforests, through fan palm groves, and along the beach. There are several tracks for day walks in the Djiru National Park, including the Licuala Fan Palm track, which starts at the parking lot on the Mission Beach-Tully Road about 1.5km (1 mile) west of the turnoff to South Mission Beach. A shorter Rainforest Circuit leads from the parking lot at the start of the Licuala Fan Palm track and makes a 1km (less than a mile) loop incorporating a fan palm boardwalk. There's also a 10-minute "follow the cassowary footprints to the nest" children's walk.
If you would rather see the sea, take the 7km (4 1/2-mile) Edmund Kennedy track, which starts below the Horizon resort at the southern end of the Kennedy Esplanade in South Mission Beach. You get views of the ocean and the rainforest on this trail. The Mission Beach Visitor Centre has free trail maps.
Coral Sea Kayaking (tel. 07/4068 9154, or 0419/782 453 mobile; www.coralseakayaking.com) offers a range of sea-kayaking expeditions that interpret the rich environment around you. Groups are usually between five and eight people, so you get personal attention and time to ask questions. The half-day sea-kayak trip (A$83 per person) follows the coast near South Mission Beach. Between May and early November, owners David Tofler and Atalanta Willy also run a 3-day sea kayak camping trip to the nearby Family Islands. This costs A$595 including pickup from your accommodations, all meals, and equipment, including snorkeling gear. Extended 5- and 7-day paddles are also available.
Hitting the Beach
Relaxing on the uncrowded beach is why everyone comes to Mission Beach. From June through September, you can swim anywhere, and the water is warm; October through May, stick to areas with stinger nets at Mission Beach proper (behind Castaways resort) and South Mission Beach.