Today, Mission Beach covers not just one beach but a string of beaches including Bingil Bay, Garners Beach, Mission Beach, Wongaling Beach and South Mission Beach and the eight kilometre stretch of sand between the beaches is fringed with coconut palms.
The Dyiru speaking Aboriginal people who inhabited the area were linguistically, culturally and socially related to the Dyirbal, Girramay and Gulngay groups of the Tully and Murray River districts. Hunters, fishers and gatherers of the rainforest and coast, they utilized the rich plant and animal resources to provide their needs. They excelled in making and using canoes and rafts and were expert fishermen of both fresh and marine waters.
The first Europeans to explore the area was Edmund Kennedy and his party, who landed just to the south of Mission Beach in 1848 at the start of their disastrous trek to Cape York, where Kennedy was speared to death by Aborigines.
Movement in the area was very difficult for white settlers and it wasn’t until the late 1880’s that the first white people settled in the area when the Cutten family found a tropical plantation in Bingil Bay. Using Aboriginal labour, they cleared rainforests and developed a timber mill and planted coffee, tea, mangoes, coconuts, bananas and a host of other crops.
In the early 1900’s there were numerous Chinese banana growers along the Tully River. They employed Aboriginal labourers who loaded the fruit and took it to the steamers at the river mouth to send to the southern cities. Problems for the Aborigines arose with opium addiction and inevitable conflict with white settlers. In 1914 the Queensland government established the Hull River Aboriginal Settlement at the north end of what is now South Mission Beach in an effort to combat these problems. There was never an actual mission at the site, however, the local people always referred to the settlement as ‘the mission’ and the beach became known at ‘Mission Beach’.
On 10 March, 1918 a devastating cyclone with over 3 metre tidal waves destroyed the site and the lives of many white settlers and indigenous people and no attempt was made to reconstruct the aboriginal settlement.
In the early days of the settlement of Mission Beach coastal communications were vital. Mail and supplies were brought in by sea and produce was sent to market by sea also. The first road was completed in 1936 from El Arish to Bingil Bay and during this year, the bridle track from Mission Beach to Tully was also upgraded. Canecutters who worked in the Tully district often camped at Mission Beach during the slack season. In 1939, the township was formerly surveyed and the first blocks of land went on sale at the Tully Court House.
Improved roads and communications ensure further development at both South Mission Beach and Mission Beach and in 1947, the first regular store opened in Mission Beach and a post office was added a couple of years later. In 1951 the first official telephone line came in from El Arish/Granadilla. Mission Beach State School was established in 1953 and in 1964 there were 15 students.
Today, Mission Beach, with a population of 3,500, is a thriving tourist haven luring visitors from Australia and abroad, yet it still manages to preserve a quiet unique village atmosphere.
Known by the local indigenous people as Coonanglebah, Dunk Island was renamed by James Cook when he sailed past on 9 June 1770.
Edmund Banfield, the famous Beachcomber, leased 360 acres on Dunk Island and lived there with his wife, Bertha, from 1897 until his death in 1923. During that time, Banfield wrote four books and developed an enormous international following of readers. He also popularized the whole notion of breaking away from the pressures of city living and going to live on a tropical island.
"If man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears."
The Banfield’s original lease was eventually converted to freehold in 1935 and is now a well known resort, however, the majority of the island, as Banfield wished, remains a National Park, allowing its natural beauty to be fully appreciated.
Inland 26 kms from Mission Beach lies Tully, which has a reputation for being the wettest place in Australia with an average rainfall of 4.27 metres. Lush with rainforests and turbulent waterways, the area offers visitors excellent opportunities for white water rafting and tropical rainforest bush walking.
Tully was first settled by Europeans in the early 1870’s when they arrived in the area to grow sugar cane and raise cattle. The settlement really didn’t grow until the Queensland government decided to build a mill in Tully, which when completed in 1925 was the largest mill in Australia. In 1935, the Tully River was dammed for hydro-electricity and it is now a major supplier of electricity to Cairns and Townsville.
Today, Tully is one of the main sugar growing regions of Queensland with more than 22,000 ha of sugar cane extending south from the Kennedy Valley to Feluga in the north. During harvest season from June to November, the Tully Mill employs close to 220 full time staff and 80 seasonal staff. Another major industry in the district is bananas, with about 5,000 ha of land in the area devoted to the crop. It is, in fact, the largest local and regional employer with many seasonal positions filled by young people on working holidays. About 8.5 million cartons or $200 million are exported out of the district each year.
Tully has added it’s own icon to the list of Australia’s biggest things – it takes the form of a giant gumboot! The height of the gumboot is 7.9 metres, the record amount of rain Tully received in 1950. Inside the gumboot is a spiral staircase leading to a viewing platform with views of the main street and the sugar mill.
At the mouth of the Tully River you will find beautiful Tully Heads with its beachside reserve, picnic facilities and golden beach with a spectacular view from Dunk to Hinchinbrook Islands with more islands dotted in between.
Access to estuary and reef fishing from an all weather boat ramp and pontoon makes Hull Heads a popular spot for boating and fishing enthusiasts. Tully Coastguard operates from the mouth of the river.
Kurrimine Beach is a picturesque fishing hamlet with the Great Barrier Reef on its doorstep. Midway between the bustling, highly developed cities of Townsville and Cairns, and close to Mission Beach, Kurrimine Beach has become one of North Queensland's most jealously-guarded secrets.
With lovely views of Dunk Island on your doorstep, you can also explore the many local sights such as Paronella Park, beautiful waterfalls, experience whitewater rafting and venture to hinterland destinations.
MISSION BEACH HINTERLAND
The hinterland of Mission Beach is made up of numerous small villages including Carmoo, East Feluga, Merryburn, Feluga, El Arish, Midgenoo, Silkwood and Japoonvale.
El Arish was named after the town which was located on the Sinai Peninsula in Palestine and nowadays is in Egypt. During WW1 it was the site of a strategically important battle, the winning of which enabled the Allied Forces to push forward into Damascus. The streets in El Arish are all but one named after well known leaders in the war.
Land ballots were granted for returned soldiers and the Maria Creek Soldiers' Settlement was established in 1920 with a cottage costing £260. El Arish has retained it's quaint village atmosphere where you'll still find the original school, tavern and many of the original Queenslander styled homes.
Silkwood is small sugar farming community about 20 minutes north of Mission Beach, where you'll find a couple of primary schools, hotels and convenience shops.