The Cassowary Coast region provides a stunning gateway to the Atherton Tablelands with beautiful beaches, offshore islands, rainforest-fringed freshwater streams, majestic mountain ranges and rich seas and agricultural land producing food from fish and shellfish to vegetables, sugar cane, beef and ultratropical fruit. Where better than the Cassowary Coast to see the endangered Southern Cassowary – a two metre tall flightless bird and a key disperser of rainforest seeds? In a quirk of nature, it is the male cassowary that incubates the eggs and raises the chicks. TULLY is home to the iconic giant ‘golden gumboot’, sugar mill tours during the cane crushing season and white-water rafting. CARDWELL is the stepping off point for Hinchinbrook Island, the largest island national park in the southern hemisphere. It is also home to the Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre, representing artists from nine traditional owner groups.
INNISFAIL, the regional centre, is a pretty
town built on the confluence of the North and South Johnstone rivers. In the wake of the 1918 cyclone, the town was rebuilt in the Art Deco style. The town centre is worth a visit, boasting Australia’s largest concentration of Art Deco buildings, with examples of Spanish, Sicilian, Moroccan, Italian and Anglo Saxon Art Deco design facades.
MISSION BEACH is one of the few places where the Wet Tropics and Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Areas meet. The reef is closer to Mission Beach than places further north and local firms offer reef fishing, snorkeling and diving trips, and sightseeing trips around the Family Islands, including famous Dunk Island. At Mission Beach you can “jump the beach”, taking in a birds-eye view of the reef with a skydive before landing on the sand. Perhaps a rainforest or beachside walk is more your style, or simply relaxing and enjoying a delicious meal at an excellent local eatery. CASSOWARY COAST is Australia’s
banana-growing hub and centre of a growing ultra-tropical fruit industry, with mangosteens (the ‘queen of tropical fruit’), lychees, rambutans, guanabana (sour sop) and now cocoa, with a chocolate factory at Mission Beach. It encompasses the larger towns of Innisfail, Tully, Cardwell and Mission Beach.
CANECUTTER WAY is a major highlight of this region and is a 52km scenic drive between Kurrimine Beach and Innisfail. Billed as the ‘Greatest Detour in North Queensland’, the scenic drive provides plenty of reasons to leave the Bruce Highway to catch a glimpse of the sweet life in the tropics.
Named for the men who laboured hard, cutting the sugar cane by hand with cane knives in the days before mechanised harvesters, the Canecutter Way meanders from the Coral Sea-lapped shores of laidback Kurrimine Beach, past cane land and papaya and banana plantations, through picturesque towns with old country pubs and World Heritage listed rainforest to Innisfail and the southern access to the Atherton Tablelands via the Palmerston Highway.