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A Mission Beach Fairy Tale

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The Blondies visit Tropical North Queensland

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Once upon a time there was a beautiful, little blonde princess who loved to travel the lands far and wide with her Nomad family. Together they shared amazing adventures and on this particular journey they stumbled upon the most amazing castle they had ever seen. At every turn the little princess came across stunning moss covered stairways, rainforest fairy gardens and dreamy waterfalls. It was as if she had stepped inside her storybooks and they had all come to life!

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However, this is no fairytale – this is a real life adventure! This dreamy location is called Paronella Park which is just a 30 minute drive from Mission Beach in Tropical North Queensland. We are lucky enough to be visiting this region for 5 days ’where the rainforest meets the reef’ thanks to our supporters, Jetstar Airways.

Built by José Paronella, a Spanish sugar cane farmer back in the 1930’s, Paronella Park has won many tourism awards including Eco Tourism. Housing their own hydro-electric plant the park generates its own power (with the help of an impressive waterfall) and even feeds back some of the excess electricity into the local grid!

Meeting the locals as Paronella Park

Meeting the locals as Paronella Park

On seeing this place for the first time we could not wipe the smiles off our kids faces! This place is truly enchanting, and secretly Rob and I feel just as excited, as we take our time to explore this stunning property. Wandering deeper into the lush gardens we explore an avenue of tall Kauri Pines, find a family of fruit bats nesting in a tree above us and to the kid’s delight, a water hole full of fish, turtles and slimy eels that are all eager to have some of the fish food we throw to them!! This place is magic, we don’t want to leave and it is definitely one to put on your ‘must-visit’ list.

Spotting Turtles, Fish and Eels at Paronella Park

Spotting Turtles, Fish and Eels at Paronella Park

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Tall Kauri Pines at Paronella Park

After flying into Cairns airport a few days earlier, we began our adventure by hiring a car and driving 2 hours south to Mission Beach. Cruising along the main road we passed huge banana farms and an abundance of sugar cane fields in various stages of growth. Along with the warm tropical air there is something special about seeing sugar cane fields that makes me feel like we are on holidays. Having purposely packed our swimmers on top of our bags we knew where our first stop would be – to find one of the many pristine swimming waterholes that this region is famous for!

Babinda Boulders

Babinda Boulders

Situated midway between Townsville and Cairns, Mission Beach is made up of four small beach villages linked by 14 kilometres of flat golden sands lined with beautiful palm trees. Our accommodation, Castaways Resort and Spa is stunning and situated right on the beach. We are woken each morning by our excited mini Blondies, Marli and Ziggy at 4am but this is made a lot easier by the fact that it’s only a few steps out of our room and onto the sand, so we enjoyed the magical sunrise over the ocean each day. It was amazing to have the beach to ourselves at that time (no one else is silly enough to be awake that early!) and share this magical moment together to start each day. We all loved running along the sand, jumping in the waves and spotting new shells and beach treasure washed ashore overnight.

Jumping into the cool waters at Babinda Boulders is definitely an exhilarating experience. Surrounded by lush rainforest we instantly relaxed as we took in the tranquil surroundings. Wandering along the walking trails we listened out as the birds called to each other and we stopped to spot beautiful butterflies fluttering amongst the vibrant rainforest vegetation. Just behind us is Mt Bartle Frere, Queensland’s tallest mountain. At an elevation of 1,622 metres (5,322 ft) it is known as a challenging steep hike to the summit, but we just enjoyed it from afar!

Sunrise on Mission Beach with Dunk Island in the background

Sunrise on Mission Beach with Dunk Island in the background

Situated midway between Townsville and Cairns, Mission Beach is made up of four small beach villages linked by 14 kilometres of flat golden sands lined with beautiful palm trees. Our accommodation, Castaways Resort and Spa is stunning and situated right on the beach. We are woken each morning by our excited mini Blondies, Marli and Ziggy at 4am but this is made a lot easier by the fact that it’s only a few steps out of our room and onto the sand, so we enjoyed the magical sunrise over the ocean each day. It was amazing to have the beach to ourselves at that time (no one else is silly enough to be awake that early!) and share this magical moment together to start each day. We all loved running along the sand, jumping in the waves and spotting new shells and beach treasure washed ashore overnight.

Mission Beach

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Mission Beach

Mission Beach

Eager to explore some more, we jump onto a water taxi from Wongaling Beach (cost: $35 return) and head out for a day of island adventures on nearby Dunk Island. Taking only 15 minutes the boat ride was a highlight for the kids and this was just the start. Covered mostly in national park, this tropical island features beautiful walking trails and  palm fringed beaches.

Once home to a beautiful resort it is now open only for day visits and camping adventures. Following its destruction by Cyclone Yasi back in 2006 the resort is still being repaired. Walking past this ghost town of a resort it was a bit eerie to see all the broken glass and ruins of what would hold so many happy memories for many past visitors. Keeping clear of the debris we enjoyed searching for beach treasures, spotting stingrays in the water and picnicking on the sand. In the heat of the day we found shade under the main jetty, enjoyed a relaxing swim and sat at the cafe which is now open only on the weekends for day trippers.

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Alligators Nest swimming hole

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Back on the mainland we enjoyed some rainforest walks and hoped to spot a Cassowary. This impressive flightless bird is the third-tallest and second-heaviest living bird (smaller only to the ostrich and emu). Unfortunately, as much as we tried to keep our little adventurers quiet in hope we would spot one we had no chance!! With loud baby babble and an excited 3 year old pointing out everything she spotted we definitely made our presence heard!! We did well to spot a few lizards, bush turkeys and small rainforest birds. Rob and I were lucky to have spotted a Cassowary  when last travelling in this area so we have some great photos to show the kids and what they look like up close.

Taking a drive south, we also visited Tully Gorge National Park and enjoyed another cool dip in the pristine waters at Alligators Nest swimming hole. Although Tropical North Queensland is ‘crocodile country’ we were happy to know this particular freshwater creek has no ‘Crocs’ or ‘Gators’ and took its name from a local Scout group!

Alligators Nest swimming hole

Alligators Nest swimming hole

Mission Beach

Mission Beach

From the rainforest to beach adventures we really enjoyed spending time exploring the shops and cafes in the sleepy town at Mission Beach and of course swimming in our resort pool Castaways Resort and Spa! This was definitely a magical holiday for all, especially the little blonde princess who can’t stop talking about her fairytale adventure to the ‘magical castles in the gardens’ …where the fairies live happily ever after!! The End.

Banana Crop

Banana Crop

Paronella Park

Paronella Park

The Golden Hole

The Golden Hole

Mission Beach

Mission Beach

Castaways Resort

Castaways Resort

Interesting Facts about this tropical region

  • With an area of 1,727,000 square kilometres, Queensland is the second largest state in Australia. The biggest is Western Australia. Queensland is nearly five times the size of Japan, seven times the size of Great Britain, and two and a half times the size of Texas.
  • Category five Cyclone Yasi crossed the far north Queensland coast near Mission Beach, between Cairns and Townsville, in the early hours of February 3, 2011, bringing peak wind gusts estimated at 290 kilometres per hour.
  • Buildings, trees and power cables in coastal towns including Cardwell and Tully suffered massive destruction following Cyclone Yasi. No deaths or injuries were reported after forecasters had warned it was the most life-threatening cyclone in generations.
  • The Cassowary is a member of a group of large, flightless birds called ratites. There are three species of cassowary that can be found in New Guinea and north eastern parts of Australia. Cassowaries live in wet tropical rainforests and lowland and highland dense forests.
  • The Color of the head and neck can change depending on the mood of a cassowary. It can survive 12-19 years in the wild and between 40 and 50 years in captivity.
  • A lot of the oxygen supply that we have throughout the world is supplied by the tropical rainforests.
  • Trees in tropical rainforests are so dense that it takes approximately 10 minutes for the rainfall to reach the ground from canopy.
Dunk Island Resort following Cyclone Yasi

Dunk Island Resort following Cyclone Yasi

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A Cassowary – spoted on our last trip to this region

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Dunk Island Cafe

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Ziggy enjoying Dunk Island

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Finding beach treasure on Mission Beach

Watch our highlights video:

The Blonde Nomads visit Tropical North Queensland 2016 from The Blonde Nomads on Vimeo.

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