Mission completed

This is a trip that will take you from the familiar to the unknown, a trip geared to open your eyes to the beauty hiding around the corner (or around the kauri pine as the case may be). Hopping around North Queensland via a plethora of deserted beaches, vibrant tropical wetland, lava pipes, lakes and waterfalls.

your mission should you accept

After a night at the luxurious Sebel Cairns, pick up your car and travel south to the tree-fringed white sands of Mission Beach. It’s not often you hear a beach described as ‘undercrowded’, but Mission Beach really is. With its sleepy palms, untouched white sand and water that catches the sun like liquid opal, this stretch of shoreline should be as thronged as a Christmas Eve on Oxford Street. Unbelievably, it isn’t.

En route make a quick (or protracted) stop off at the deep water port of Innisfail. A town skirted by tea, papaya and rambutan plantations, Innisfail is located just south of the sky-scraping Mt. Bartle Frere, Queensland’s tallest peak.

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stopping off in innisfail

Situated on the Cassowary Coast (named after the eponymous native bird), Innisfail offers an opportunity for adventure on your second day in North Queensland. Now recognised as one of Queensland’s top angling spots, Innisfail is the place to try your hand at chasing down the elusive barramundi. If you’re feeling intrepid that is.

Whilst here, don’t miss the chance to go on a rainforest walk to Mena Creek and Teresa Falls where you’ll also get the opportunity to explore the majestic ruins of Paronella Park, a vibrant Spanish-style castle built by migrant Jose Paronella. With its moss-topped stone, vivid columns and brightly colored window dressings, you almost feel as though a long-lost shard of Machu Picchu has dropped from the sky via a Havana palette makeover. A magical place, Paronella Park is definitely somewhere to head before everyone else does.

sweet solitude and old colonial luxe

Finally arriving at your much awaited destination – the gorgeous golden stretch that is Mission Beach, you’ll be staying at the chic and stylish Elandra Resort. Marrying old colonial and tribal chic, the Elandra is a boutique hotel that effortlessly encapsulates the singular cultural mosaic of the region.

Despite being a skimmed stone (just over an hour) from Cairns and the Barrier Reef, you’ll have this empyrean sea spot all to yourself. So spend your days here with your snorkel on and sand in between your toes or carry on exploring the 14 kms of pristine coastline, beach towns, vineyards and excellent eating that make up Mission Beach.

from beach to bayou

After the sun, sea and sand of Mission Beach, drive north to the Rose Gums Wilderness retreat. Two nights at the Rose Gums will prove the ideal base camp from which to explore the beautiful waterfalls of Millaa Millaa, the lakes of Yunguburra, and Atherton. ‘Capital’ of the Tropical Tablelands, Atherton is where canyons of rock and rich red soil meet a myriad maze of mangroves and bayous head on. Drink in the slow pace of the region’s small towns and spend a day absorbing the sheer otherworldliness of the raw nature on show. We fell for the picturesque pull of Lake Barrine, Lake Eacham and the Curtain Fig Tree, whose branches hang like the carpentered pipes of some long-lost jungle organ.

a lavally view

If you want to go slightly further afield and experience something truly unique, just hop in the car and head East to Undara. The site of a massive volcanic eruption, the land below Undara is a network of cave-like tunnels and passages hollowed out by a series of lava flows that spanned 300,000 years.

Like a Lilliputian in an old sequoia log, you’ll be dwarfed within the colossal lava pipes, hollow stone tentacles formed after one of the longest lava flows in history. Undara means ‘long-way’ in Aboriginal language and we won’t argue with the nomenclature.

From the lush green backdrop of Rose Gums back to The Sebel Cairns, where you can kick back at the poolside or indulge yourself at the sumptuous spa before resting your head and setting off for home. A day of comfort and relaxation that will have you wondering if the mountains, waterfalls and wetlands of North Queensland were nothing more than an impossible daydream.

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