Sanctuary Retreat Mission Beach near Cairns
Terrace of Sanctuary Retreat Mission Beach

While cities like Cairns in Tropical North Queensland, Australia, offer great adventures for urbanite city travellers like ourselves, sometimes it’s good to get a break from the hustle and bustle of big cities. Offering total disconnection and relaxation, Sanctuary Retreat Mission Beach Ecolodge is one of those gems along Queensland’s coast you just don’t want to miss.

Sleeping in the middle of the Rainforest, listening to and watching curious and wonderful birds, or catching a hint of sea breeze as you turn around just one more time in your comfy Rainforest hut, there are many ways to experience Sanctuary at this very unique accommodation near the small town of Mission Beach.

You might even wake up to the steps of a cassowary looking for fruits below your Rainforest hut (which is built on stilts). And your delicious, healthy breakfast comes with a view some would die for.

Home away from home

Run by Australian-British couple Paul (manager) and Hazel (chef) and sometimes assisted by their little daughter, no wonder Sanctuary Retreat Mission Beach has this feeling of home away from home. Or perhaps it is that (familiar) combination of no-fuzz and slightly grumpy him in perfect balance with talkative, cordial her that makes this place feel so refreshingly non-intimidating.

Different budgets, different options

Not very often we see different budget options offered at the same accommodation, and we applaud the conscious decision to make this piece of paradise available to all kinds of budgets, ranging from backpacker (Rainforest huts start at AU$35/night) to the more exclusive Canopy Cabin (AU$165/night).


Food (prices) can be a concern when staying at remote locations over a couple of days. The Sanctuary Retreat has come up with the great idea to offer a self-catering kitchen downstairs where you can cook your own meal with (must bring ingredients), while upstairs you are being treated to some of the most delicious dishes in an enchanting atmosphere.

Tip: Bring your own food for a quick lunch, but have breakfast and/or dinner in the restaurant. That way you can enjoy some of those mouthwatering dishes despite their (for Australian standards still reasonable) eye watering prices.

Delicious organic food Sanctuary Retreat Mission Beach near Cairns

Conservation at Sanctuary Retreat Mission Beach

Sanctuary Retreat’s mission is twofold: to preserve an endangered habitat and its dwellers, and to share the Rainforest with visitors from around the world. Through the unique use of a Conservation Agreement over 95% of the land area, Sanctuary ensures the long-term preservation of a natural resource that would otherwise have been lost to more conventional land uses.

Why conserve? Tropical Rainforest which used to cover the entire Australian continent now amounts to less than 0.1% of the Australian land mass. And although it is protected in National Parks, Rainforest still continues to be cleared on private lands.

Cassowaries, whose numbers have fallen considerably, depend on the preservation of large tracts of rainforest in both public and private ownership. In fact, the survival of the cassowary birds and rainforest biodiversity more generally is interdependent, as the cassowary performs a unique role as a dispersion agent for many large fruited rainforest trees.

For us, being able to experience Cassowaries at Sanctuary Retreat in the wild was a rare treat and an experience we wouldn’t want to miss.

outside bathroom middle rainforest, Sanctuary Retreat Mission Beach near Cairns
Your open air bathroom if staying at the Rainforest hut

Things to do at Sanctuary Retreat

In one word: relax.

If that’s not an option (at least one of us always wants to do things…) then your choice is between practicing yoga, receiving a massage, chill-out in the pool or – and that’s what we did – go exploring along one of the well-maintained walking tracks.

Sooner or later you’ll likely find yourself walking down through the forest to the car park and across the road to the beach, where it will be just you, crisp clean water, tiny crabs, sand worms, coconuts and whatever the waves bring in.

Keep walking along the beach to the right and you’ll reach equally impressive but slightly more crowded (for Australian standards) Bingil Bay. From there a 2.5h track will lead you up a range with views which – according to Sanctuary Retreat’s Hazel – are very much worth the hike.

Forest walk to reception at Sanctuary Retreat in Mission Beach, near Cairns

What to bring to the Sanctuary Retreat Mission Beach:

  • Torches – Even if the pathways have low-level lighting, a proper torch will make it easier to walk around.
  • Proper sandals for the forest, to avoid being scratched or bitten by whatever you are about to step on. The Sanctuary Longhouse is shoe-free.
  • Reasonable level of fitness if staying in the Rainforest Huts. The pathway to the huts is quite steep. On the bright side, the exercise will make you feel a little less guilty eating all those delicious meals..

How to get there:

To our despair, public transport isn’t an option at a location that remote, which means that we had to call a taxi, which got us from our Mission Beach Greyhound Bus stop to the Sanctuary Retreat in about 15min at AU$50. The return trip was easier – just ask Paul or Hazel for a lift. Chances are either of them are heading to town for shopping.

If you arrive by (rental) car, remember to leave it at the car park. At no circumstances intend to drive up the hill. Call reception from the phone provided at the car park and someone will come pick you up and transport you and your luggage in their 4WD. Easy!

Check availability and rates at Sanctuary Retreat Mission Beach

Eco-smart travel with Greyhound Bus AustraliaTip: If traveling South to Brisbane, buy a Hop on Hop off Pass with Greyhound Bus, by far the most comfortable way to travel and to explore Queensland’s unique destinations along the way. Book through YHA front desk and save 5% off standard rate! Learn more.

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Cairns City Escape: Sanctuary Retreat Mission Beach
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