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Etty Bay, Queensland, Australia: Cassowaries on the beach!

A guest article by Warren of The Nomad Hive.

Are you interested in visiting Etty Bay, one of the most beautiful beaches in Far North Queensland, and seeing cassowaries up close? Well, my guide to Etty Bay Beach, Queensland is for you!

Text: Etty Bay, Queensland: A great place for off-the-beaten-path relaxation and for spotting endangered cassowaries. Image: above, a cassowary; below, the beach.

Introduction to Etty Bay Beach, Queensland

Just 15 kilometers (9 miles) from Innisfail, Etty Bay is cherished by locals. Though small, Etty Bay Beach makes a peaceful impression with its beautiful 700-meter (2,300 feet) white-sand beach and an atmosphere of calm that’s rare to find.

The beach is home to a cozy little caravan park, a delightful restaurant known for serving great fish and chips, and a surf life-saving club. It’s the unassuming, laid-back vibe that makes Etty Bay truly special.

Drone view along a strip of almost-empty white sand edged by the sea and dense rainforest.

It also stands out as the best spot in Queensland to see the magnificent cassowaries in their natural habitat. During my three-day stay, I had the privilege of seeing these majestic birds multiple times each day.

Why visit Etty Bay Beach?

For the beautiful scenery: Etty Bay Beach is special due to its location where the lush rainforest meets the reef. The beach itself is bordered by a tree-shaded reserve, part of the Wet Tropics of Queensland UNESCO World Heritage site. The forest provides relief from the hot northern Queensland sun during the day. Framed by the greenery of the rainforest, it is truly a beautiful area to relax in, enjoy a beautiful sunset, or take a dip.

To see cassowaries: The star attraction of Etty Bay Beach is the regular sightings of the Southern Cassowary, making it an unparalleled destination for bird enthusiasts and nature lovers. Cassowaries are flightless birds endemic to this region, and this variety is the third largest after the ostrich and the emu. It is also a very endangered species, with only a few thousand individuals remaining. These impressive birds with their brightly-colored necks and wattles emerge from the forest daily, strolling along the beach, through the caravan park, and getting close and personal with the visitors. If you’re very lucky, you can even witness a cassowary going for a swim in the ocean! I have seen videos, but unfortunately, I wasn’t that lucky!

A cassowary walking on a beach.

You can see why Etty Bay’s fusion of rainforest and marine environments not only provides a serene swimming experience but also an exceptional chance to observe nature up-close, making it a great destination for anyone traveling to Far North Queensland.

How to see a cassowary in Etty Bay, Queensland

Right on Etty Bay Beach is the best location for spotting cassowaries, a highlight for many visitors to this stunning area. While sightings are frequent and you’re likely to see a cassowary almost every day, I recommend planning a stay of at least three days to truly increase your chances. This duration allows for multiple opportunities to catch a glimpse of these magnificent birds, especially since their appearances can vary in timing and location. Early morning and late afternoon are prime times to see cassowaries as they are most active during these cooler parts of the day. They are often found wandering onto the beach or walking through the caravan park.

To enhance your cassowary-watching experience, take walks along the beach or near the edges of the rainforest, keeping your eyes peeled. Speaking with local residents or caravan park staff can also help, as they often have the latest information on cassowary movements and favored spots. Being patient and spending time quietly exploring the natural beauty of Etty Bay increases your likelihood of spotting these rare birds in their natural habitat.

A cassowary walking next to a picnic table, campers and caravans visible behind it.

What to do when you see a cassowary

When you’re fortunate enough to spot a cassowary, it’s crucial to maintain a respectful distance. These are wild animals, and their space must be honored. It’s a good idea to remain quiet and observe them in their natural behavior. Photography enthusiasts should use a zoom lens for close-ups instead of approaching closer. Remember, the experience of seeing a cassowary in the wild is a rare privilege, and preserving their natural behavior and environment is key to a respectful and safe encounter.

What not to do when you see a cassowary!

It’s imperative not to feed cassowaries or attempt to attract their attention. Feeding them can alter their natural foraging habits and lead to dependency on human-provided food, which is detrimental to their health and well-being. 

Never chase or try to touch a cassowary, as they can be unpredictable and potentially dangerous if they feel threatened. They can deliver powerful kicks and cause serious injury with their long claws. Despite their apparent tameness and familiarity with humans in Etty Bay, it’s important to remember that cassowaries are still wild animals.

It’s crucial to supervise children closely during such encounters and keep a safe distance at all times. Remember, the best way to enjoy wildlife is to observe it without interfering with its natural behavior.

Other things to do in Etty Bay Beach, Queensland

Although the main thing you want to be doing in Etty Bay is just relaxing, it offers more than just its pretty beach and cassowary sightings. This picturesque destination has activities for all ages and interests.

Explore the rainforest: Etty Bay is surrounded by lush rainforests, home to diverse flora and fauna. Take a walk along the trails into the rainforest. It’s a perfect opportunity for bird-watching and discovering exotic plants and wildlife.

Relax on the beach: The beach at Etty Bay, with its soft white sand and clear water, is ideal for relaxation. Sunbathe, read a book, or just enjoy the peaceful sounds of the waves and the occasional call of a cassowary in the distance.

A view from the edge of the water looking along the beach.

Go for a swim: The calm waters of Etty Bay are great for swimming, especially in the stinger-netted areas during summer. You can also try snorkeling to explore the vibrant marine life or rent a kayak to paddle along the coastline.

Picnics and barbecues: The beach has several spots that are perfect for a family picnic or a barbecue. The caravan park also provides portable BBQs upon request, allowing you to enjoy a meal with a view.

Visit nearby attractions: The location of Etty Bay makes it a great base for exploring nearby attractions. Take a day trip to the famous Paronella Park, the historic town of Innisfail, or venture further to the Great Barrier Reef.

Photography: With its breathtaking scenery, Etty Bay is a photographer’s playground. Capture the sunrises and sunsets, the wildlife, or the picturesque landscape.

If your time in Etty Bay is part of a longer road trip in Queensland, make sure to read Brisbane to Cairns: A Queensland coast road trip. If you’ll continue north of Cairns, it’s not far to Palm Cove, a charming little beach town.

Practical information for Etty Bay in Queensland

How to get to Etty Bay Beach 

Reaching Etty Bay is a part of the adventure. The drive there showcases the beauty of Queensland’s coastline. Embarking from Cairns, it is a delightful hour-long drive. Head south on the Bruce Highway, and about 15 minutes after cruising past the town of Innisfail, keep an eye out for the signposted turnoff to Etty Bay. This route winds through charming suburban landscapes before ascending into a rainforest terrain. There is a steep descent towards Etty Bay as the dense green canopy parts, revealing the blue water and the white sand of the beach.

Compare rental car prices here.

For travelers without a car, local bus services from both Cairns and Innisfail offer an alternative, though they lack the flexibility of a private vehicle. Check out up-to-date times and prices here. 

Accommodations options

Campsites

The only accommodation in Etty Bay is the Etty Bay Caravan Park, right next to the picturesque beach. It provides camping enthusiasts with both unpowered and powered sites. These sites offer a delightful camping experience with the rainforest on one side and the ocean on the other. Expect a cassowary wandering through your campsite at some point during your stay.

Unpowered sites at the caravan park are available for $37 per night, while powered sites are priced at $47 per night. These sites are ideal for budget-conscious travelers looking to enjoy the natural surroundings. 

A camping caravan, side tent extended, lots of various chairs and such under its shade.

Come prepared for mosquitoes. While they’re generally not a major concern here, camping near the edge of the rainforest will increase your chances of encountering them during the night. For those sleeping outdoors, I suggest bringing portable mosquito netting for protection and/or plenty of insect repellent.

Cabins

For those seeking more comfort, Etty Bay Caravan Park also features cabins. These cabins are well-equipped with amenities such as air conditioning, ensuite bathrooms, and kitchenettes, perfect for families or anyone looking for a convenient and comfortable stay. An outdoor portable BBQ is available upon request. The cabins start at $175 per night.

Etty Bay offers attractive deals for extended stays such as “Stay 7, pay for 6”, “Stay 10, pay for 8”, and “Stay 14, pay for 11.” Check out the caravan park’s official website for up-to-date prices.

Other accommodations

Besides the caravan park, the nearest other accommodations are in the town of Innisfail. They won’t be as central or convenient to Etty Bay, but, assuming you have a car, it would be easy enough to drive down to Etty Bay in the early morning to see the cassowaries and spend time on the beach. Zoom and drag the map below to see possibilities for accommodations in the region.

Food at Etty Bay Beach

Etty Bay Beach is secluded, but the local beachside cafe still offers delightful fish and chips and other options. It’s a casual dining experience with a stunning view of the ocean, making it a perfect spot to relax and enjoy a meal. In addition to seafood, the cafe serves a variety of other typical Australian pub dishes and beverages.

For a classic Australian experience, why not try a barbecue? The caravan park at Etty Bay offers portable BBQs, allowing you to cook your own meal while enjoying the beach atmosphere. This is a great option for families or groups looking to share a meal together. 

A plate of fried fish and chips.

Groceries

If you prefer to prepare your own meals or need supplies for your stay, the town of Innisfail has several grocery stores. You can stock up on supplies to bring back to your accommodation, whether you’re staying in a cabin, camping, or in a caravan. 

Wifi in Etty Bay Beach

For those wondering about connectivity in this tranquil locale, it’s important to note that mobile reception is virtually non-existent in Etty Bay, regardless of your service provider. You’ll be lucky to register even one bar. This lack of cellular reception means making traditional phone calls or using mobile data can be challenging.

However, there’s good news for visitors looking to stay connected. The caravan park at Etty Bay Beach offers a reliable and solid Wifi connection. As someone who works online every day, I found the Wifi at the caravan park to be surprisingly dependable, ensuring that my digital nomad lifestyle remained uninterrupted even in such a secluded spot. For those interested in more information about how we digital nomads travel and work online, check out how we have been doing it in Mexico.

Inside a camper, a desk with a laptop open on it. Beyond, the back of the camper is open on a view of the ocean.

No dogs on Etty Bay Beach

Etty Bay Beach is known for its tranquil beauty and wildlife, particularly the Southern Cassowary, and has a strict policy of no dogs allowed on the beach. This rule is in place to protect the delicate ecosystem of the area, ensuring the safety and preservation of the local wildlife, including the cassowaries, which are a major attraction for visitors.

For dog owners, this means leaving your pets at home when you plan a visit to Etty Bay Beach. There are other pet-friendly destinations in the region where you can enjoy a beach day with your dog, but Etty Bay is meant as a sanctuary for its native wildlife and a peaceful retreat for visitors. By respecting this rule, visitors contribute to these conservation efforts, ensuring that Etty Bay remains a haven for wildlife.

About the author: Warren and Natasha’s adventure began seven years ago in Thailand, where a chance meeting sparked a shared global journey of exploration. They have recently embraced the van life in places like California and around Australia as full-time digital nomads. This has allowed them to spend extended periods traversing the diverse landscapes of Australia, discovering hidden gems like Etty Bay. You can see more of their story on their travel blog, The Nomad Hive.

My travel recommendations

Planning travel

  • Skyscanner is where I always start my flight searches.
  • Booking.com is the company I use most for finding accommodations. If you prefer, Expedia offers more or less the same.
  • Discover Cars offers an easy way to compare prices from all of the major car-rental companies in one place.
  • Use Viator or GetYourGuide to find walking tours, day tours, airport pickups, city cards, tickets and whatever else you need at your destination.
  • Bookmundi is great when you’re looking for a longer tour of a few days to a few weeks, private or with a group, pretty much anywhere in the world. Lots of different tour companies list their tours here, so you can comparison shop.
  • Get a Priority Pass if you fly a lot so that you can use airport lounges while you wait for flights. Plan your visits around meals and/or drink times and it’s definitely worth the investment!
  • I’m a fan of SCOTTeVEST’s jackets and vests because when I wear one, I don’t have to carry a handbag. I feel like all my stuff is safer when I travel because it’s in inside pockets close to my body.
  • Airalo is an e-sim card. You buy it through an app and activate it when you need it. I tried it on my trip to Thailand and it worked just like any other sim card, but without my having to fuss with physical cards.
  • I use ExpressVPN on my phone and laptop when I travel. It keeps me safe from hackers when I use public or hotel wifi.

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about Rachel

Hi, I’m Rachel!

Rachel’s Ruminations is a travel blog focused on independent travel with an emphasis on cultural and historical sites/sights. I also occasionally write about life as an expatriate. I hope you enjoy what I post here; feel free to leave comments! Read more…
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