Dog-Friendly Mission Beach, QLD: Visiting with a Dog

About two hours south of Cairns, the Mission Beach area contains gorgeous tropical beaches and lush rainforest, the perfect destination for relaxation in Queensland. But is there much to do with a dog? Find out about dog-friendly walks to do in the area and some sightseeing options nearby, plus dog-friendly accommodation and dining in Mission Beach. 

Dog-Friendly Mission Beach

Dog-Friendly Sightseeing in Mission Beach

If your plans for a holiday at Mission Beach don’t extend past relaxing and strolling on the beach, you’re in luck if you’re travelling with a dog, as the dog-friendly sightseeing options in the area aren’t that extensive. However, there are some additional dog-friendly day trips available.

1. Stroll along the Beach

The top dog-friendly sightseeing option at Mission Beach is simply strolling along the beach with your dog. And with such beautiful beaches as Mission Beach, South Mission Beach, Wongaling Beach and Bingil Bay, is it any surprise?

Palm-lined Mission Beach
Gorgeous palm-lined Mission Beach

At the time of our visit, dogs needed to stay on a leash on the beach. However, as of 2023, two dog-friendly beach areas are being trialled in the area. The initial three month trial has been extended until the next Ordinary Council Meeting when the areas will be voted upon.

The first off-leash beach area is at the southern end of Mission Beach, in between Pacific Parade and Miter Street with access from the Esplanade. The second is between the Kennedy Esplanade boat ramp and the beach access point 100m north of Jackey Jackey Street at South Mission Beach.

Dog Walks on South Missiong Beach
On leash strolls at South Mission Beach, where an off-leash area is being trialled

At the northern end of Mission Beach, it’s possible to walk one way along the beach and then return through the forest behind the beach along the Ulysses Link Walking Track. Alternatively, make use of the many picnic areas and tables scattered along the beaches.

Ulysses Link Walking Track
The Ulysses Link Walking Track meanders through the forest behind Mission Beach
South Mission Beach Picnic Table
A picnic table with a beach view

2. Walk Along the Kennedy Walking Track

At the southern end of South Mission Beach is the start of a wonderful walking trail, the Kennedy Walking Trail. The walking trail is 4km long, leading to Kennedy Bay Entrance, but the most popular section is the initial 300m of boardwalk leading to Lover’s Beach, a picturesque spot.

Kennedy Walking Track with Dog
The boardwalk section of Kennedy Walking Track
Lovers Beach with Dog
Checking out Lover’s Beach, with views of Dunk Island

We turned around after Lover’s Beach, when the trail begins to climb up steps and becomes a bush trail, just missing out on the lookout towards Dunk Island. The second half of the walk has more stairs and clambering, but is still not difficult. Allow two hours to walk one-way to Kennedy Bay.

It’s also possible to extend the walk by walking along the beach to Hull Heads, accessible by road from Tully. Remember to keep your dog on a leash on the trail.

The carpark for the walking track is next to the South Mission Beach boat ramp, with a trial currently in place to allow dogs off-leash north of the boat ramp.

3. Or Follow the Cutten Brothers Walking Track

While many of the rainforest walks around Mission Beach are located in national parks, with dogs not allowed to join you, for a dog-friendly (but on-leash) option instead head just past the northern end of Mission Beach to the Cutten Brothers Walking Track.

Cutten Brothers Walking Track
The northern end of the Cutten Brothers Walking Track

This 1.2km long bush trail leads through a remnant patch of coastal rainforest in between the Clump Point Boat Ramp and the Perry Harvey Public Jetty. Parking is available at both ends of the walk, or else reach the track from the Ulysses Link Walking Track along Mission Beach.

4. Visit Paronella Park & Mena Creek Falls

About a 40-minute drive inland from Mission Beach are the romantic ruins of Paronella Park. First developed into a tourist spot around the pretty Mena Creek Falls during the 1930s, in recent decades the remains of the Spanish “castle” have been preserved for a new generation of visitors.

Paronella Park with Mena Creek Falls
Paronella Park and Mena Creek Falls

Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed inside Paronella Park itself, although they are welcome in the adjacent caravan park and the cafe. However, what makes it dog-friendly is that the staff members will look after your dog while he or she is tethered on the verandah, during daytime hours, at no additional cost.

Included in your ticket is a tour of the gardens, although you’re also free to wander and take plenty of photos at your own leisure. I also highly recommend returning for the included night time tour, when the castle is beautifully lit up, although dog-sitting is not available in the evening. 

Paronella Park at Night
Paronella Park is beautifully lit up during the night tour

For a glimpse of Paronella Park and the falls with your dog, it’s possible to visit the park opposite and walk across the suspension bridge. There’s also a zig-zagging concrete path down to a viewing deck below, although the best views of the falls are from within Paronella Park itself. 

Paronella Park with Dog
Glimpses of Paronella Park from the suspension bridge

5. Explore the Tropical Art Deco Buildings of Innisfail

Another sightseeing idea in the area that it’s possible to do with dogs is a walk around Innisfail, located 40 minutes north of Mission Beach. After being devastated by a tropical cyclone, the city was largely rebuilt in a local interpretation of Art Deco style, dubbed “Tropical Art Deco”. 

Innisfail Tropical Art Deco
Tropical art deco buildings in Innisfail

The art deco buildings are largely concentrated around Rankin Street and Edith Street, a fairly compact area. For a listing of buildings to see and details on each, either download the Tropical Art Deco app or pick up a brochure from the local visitor information centres. (A digital copy is also available through the link.)

Dog-Friendly Parks in Mission Beach

Until recently, there were no off-leash dog parks in the Mission Beach area. However, there are trials currently underway for four off-leash dog parks in the Cassowary Coast council area, in addition to two off-leash dog beaches at Mission Beach and South Mission Beach. A decision is expected imminently at the next ordinary council meeting on whether these will continue – I expect at least some will be retained!

Although none of the four off-leash dog parks are in the immediate area around Mission Beach, in the surrounding region check out:

  • Coral Sea Park (north of the shared path termination to Coral Sea Drive) at Cardwell
  • Wildsoet Park at Tully
  • Boustead Park at Kurrimine Beach
  • Wrights Park at Innisfail

Dog-Friendly Dining in Mission Beach

The Mission Beach area is home to plenty of cafes with outdoor dining areas, the majority that are happy for well-behaved dogs to join you, although it is a good idea to ask first.

One particularly dog-friendly cafe, plus an excellent place to search out for its good vibes, is the Bingil Bay Cafe. Tucked away up behind Bingil Bay Beach, the cafe is open from 7am to 8pm except on Mondays, with the bonus of live music on Friday nights and trivia on Tuesday nights. There’s plenty of outdoor seating, including sheltered tables, plus dog bowls outside. 

Bingil Bay Cafe
Bingil Bay Cafe is a great dog-friendly cafe
Smoothie Bowl at Bingil Bay Cafe
Breakfasting on a smoothie bowl at the outdoor tables

Dog-Friendly Accommodation in Mission Beach

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive commission if you make a purchase using the links. See my full disclaimer.

Nearly all the caravan parks in the Mission Beach area are dog-friendly, although when I last checked the sole caravan park at South Mission Beach doesn’t allow dogs. There’s also a small council-run camping ground at Bingil Bay that permits dogs, as long as they are on leash, although the campsite is only suitable for smaller set-ups. 

If you don’t have your own caravan or tent, it’s best to search the local holiday homes for pet-friendly options. One pet-friendly option is Litoria Mission Beach. Just 150m back from Wongaling Beach, pets are allowed inside (just not on furniture) and there’s a fully-fenced backyard. 

Keeping Your Dog Safe at Mission Beach

Known as the Cassowary Coast, the stretch of coastline including Mission Beach is home to a high concentration of wild cassowaries, although unfortunately (or fortunately?) we didn’t spot any during our visits to the area. 

It’s important to keep this in mind when visiting the area with a dog. Both domestic and wild dogs are a significant threat to cassowaries, particularly chicks, although dogs have also been killed by larger cassowaries, ripped open by their dagger-like middle claw. For this reason, dogs should be kept on leash in cassowary habitat. If you spot a cassowary, keep your distance and a firm grip on your dog’s leash, and retreat slowly.

Cassowaries Warning Sign
Tips on dealing with cassowaries

Unfortunately, cassowaries aren’t the only dangerous creature around Mission Beach. Crocodiles are also a risk along the beaches and in local waterways. During our visit, a sign at South Mission Beach warned of a recent sighting. For this reason, keep your dog well away from the water, ideally leashed on the beaches. 

Mission Beach Crocodile Warning
The sign warning of a recent crocodile sighting at South Mission Beach

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