The rainforest meets the Coral Sea at Mission Beach, a tropical enclave of beach hamlets that has long threatened to take the Australian getaway circuit by storm. Yet this Coral Sea bolt-hole has maintained a beautiful balance between yoga living, backpacker bravado and eco-escape, plus it has Australia's highest density of cassowaries. Hidden among World Heritage rainforest, a short 30km detour from the Bruce Hwy, this 14km-long palm-fringed stretch of secluded inlets and wide, empty beaches is one of the closest access points to the Great Barrier Reef, and is the gateway to Dunk Island.
There are plenty of opportunities for exploring on foot here: walking tracks fan out around Mission Beach. While Mission's coastline seems to scream 'toe dip!', don't just fling yourself into the water any old where: stick to the swimming enclosures, lest you have a nasty encounter with a marine stinger…or croc.