Mission Beach

Sejala Beach House

The drive from Cairns airport to Mission Beach is not bad for a three hour stint. Cairns itself is a shiny bright town with more than a touch of the 80’s about it, but it’s soon left behind for vast sugar cane fields, often on fire, the impressive jungle spire of Mount Bartle Frere and the impossibly green rainforest leading to the township of Mission Beach, probably most famous now for being ground zero for Cyclone Yasi.

However the bruises from its meteorological battering have faded and Mission Beach remains a beautiful part of the world. The beach is long and pristine and shaded with gently bowed palm trees. It’s the archetypal Queensland beach image, although the promotional posters seem to have photoshopped out the signs warning of crocodile attacks and jellyfish stings. Don’t worry, the stingers are only out between November and March and the beach is well equipped with emergency vinegar dispensers should you be unlucky. There are no crocs at Mission Beach itself (venture a little further north or south though and you might spot a couple. Hopefully before they spot you).

There are a couple of kilometres of holiday houses fronting the beach, a higgledy piggledy mix of designer weekenders and fibro shacks.

Sejala is a short walk from the main drag and is beautifully positioned on the beach only a few steps through the scrub from the sand. Its near neighbours are a newly built house on one side and the beach cottages, also owned by Sejala, on the other. The beach cottages are small, neat little tiki style huts suitable for young couples with more dash than cash. The Beach House however is entirely separate and quite private within its walled compound. A large wooden Balinese gate opens to lush lawn and an open downstairs area for such humdrum activities as parking, gardening and laundering, mostly attended to by the non-resident and largely invisible staff.

Upstairs is the house proper, and it’s lovely. A 1960’s Balinese style villa, it has been very simply designed with a glass walled pool to the rear of the house and an open sala and staircase leading down to the lawn and beach at the front. The living areas are an open breezeway for the warm tropical air, with three airconditioned bedrooms attached. The bedrooms are adorned with timber floors, French linens and Balinese style furniture. The kitchen is fantastic with a huge industrial oven and cooktop and is without doubt the most well equipped kitchen of any property I’ve stayed in.

We did have a resident green tree frog living near the pool, which was a charming touch. However I was deeply disturbed one night to find a charred frog under the grill plate and there was much wringing of hands at the thought that I had accidentally barbecued my little rainforest friend. He reappeared later so his number obviously wasn’t up, but I was left contemplating the equally sad scenario that he was waiting anxiously for his mate to reappear. I digress.

If you really are too lazy to cook, there are a few laid back places to eat in keeping with the beachside vibe. There is also a local fishmonger who sells newspaper cones of fresh cooked prawns to eat sitting on your verandah. Venturing further afield, about an hour south of Mission Beach at Cardwell is a row of ancient crab shacks. We stopped at the most dilapidated of these for the advertised crab sandwich and were served by an equally ancient and dilapidated woman with more hairs growing out of the mole on her face than she had teeth. The sandwich was sensational, soft white bread stuffed to bursting with fresh crabmeat and a little white pepper. We ate it at a pretty linear park along the beach, away from the signs warning of crocodile attacks.

So what else do you do in Mission Beach? Not much. That’s why you go. Sunset walks, forest trails, swimming holes (‘ware the crocs), beautiful national parks, quaint sugar towns and mills and cassowary watching are about as exciting as it gets. There are mass market day trips out to the Barrier Reef if you feel you must, but personally I think there are better ways to experience the reef.

Mission Beach is all about doing very little and discovering how much you like it. The surrounding beauty and slow pace give rise to a deep sense of wellbeing which is hard to find nowadays.

Mission beach holidays has a range of accommodation and the girls there are fantastic. One other house which took our fancy was Windjana, a cool looking 70’s timber construct on the beachfront not far from Sejala. There is a resort there, the Elandra, which is mod-tropical in style but a little cookie-cutter for all that. Newlyweds in kaftans and large sunglasses hang out by the pool, the staff are friendly and attractive but seem to be paying for their backpacking trips. The food is good but not polished. In all not badly done, but I much preferred the tranquility of Sejala.