Great Green Getaways: Sanctuary Retreat, Mission Beach
As a hot spot for nature-based tourism and cassowary conservation, Mission Beach is a popular eco getaway for people seeking refuge in nature. And, you won’t find anywhere more secluded than Sanctuary Retreat.
“Bring walking shoes and a small torch,” it said. “Sanctuary is in the middle of 50 acres of hilly rainforest and there are a couple of kilometers of walking trails to explore.”
For anybody with a sense of adventure who loves to get off the beaten track and go somewhere a bit different, this introduction immediately gets you hooked.
huffing and puffing
Because the Sanctuary Retreat is so tucked away, it can only be accessed via a steep 600-metre walking trail or a 4WD pick up.
When we arrived at the car park we were faced with a choice – walk up to reception via the rainforest track or use the phone to call for a pick up.
The sign towards the rainforest track was so appealing that we decided to set off along the forest path.
Although note to self: always read the sign properly.
Somehow in our eagerness to get going we missed the word ‘steep’ but luckily there are a few tactfully placed bench seats along the way where we could put down our luggage for a rest stop.
Since this property is also an important cassowary habitat, it is heaven for nature and bird enthusiasts.
In fact, this is probably one of the best places in Mission Beach to catch a glimpse of this very unique and endangered bird.
Unfortunately we didn’t see any on our walk but we certainly saw lots of evidence that they were around – piles of freshly laid poo containing blue qandong berries.
The Longhouse is the focal point of the retreat with a large timber deck offering elevated views across the rainforest and ocean.
It houses the reception, restaurant, bar and lounge area and on the lower floor it also has a communal kitchen (for self-catering) and bathrooms.
Sanctuary Retreat basically offers two types of accommodation depending on how much you want to spend and how immersed in the rainforest experience you want to feel.
The difference basically comes down to whether or not you want solid walls!
The rainforest huts offer simple ‘glamping style’ accommodation with mosquito screens and protective curtains, which allow you to absorb the sights and sounds of the rainforest while protecting you from the weather and ‘creatures’.
While we would normally thoroughly recommend immersing yourself in the rainforest experience, it was pretty chilly and windy when we stayed (August) so we were glad to be staying in a double cabin with walls.
Accessed by a little pathway through a private patch of rainforest, our cabin was quite small but very comfortable with a bathroom and deck looking out over the forest.
Just to add to the experience the shower has a full length window so you can enjoy feeling like a naturist without scaring the other guests ! Some of the huts have al fresco bathrooms too.
We also had tea and coffee-making facilities and a small bar fridge but no TV.
This is the kind of place where you come to connect with nature rather than technology but if you can’t live without it there is free wifi.
Given how isolated the retreat is, this was a major bonus and meant we didn’t have to think too hard about where we were going to eat.
The menu is quite small but it changes every day and they can cater for vegetarian and gluten-free meals.
We chose eye fillet steak and coconut encrusted barramundi, both of which turned out to be really delicious. And our breakfast the following morning was also just as good.
Sanctuary Retreat has a yoga and meditation centre on the premises so it is a popular venue for yoga retreats. These are organised by visiting yoga teachers rather than the retreat itself.
travel nq fast facts:
- Sanctuary Retreat is located near Brooks Beach, Bingil Bay. The northern end is unofficially a nudist beach.
- It is a 10 minute drive to the cafes, shops and restaurants at Mission Beach
- Guests are advised to arrive in daytime to get their bearings
- Rainforest experiences normally involve mosquitoes so take insect repellent with you (although we didn’t notice any on our visit)
- There is a swimming pool for hot days
- Sanctuary Retreat is an accredited WWOOF host (Willing Workers on Organic Farms). Volunteers can stay with free board and lodging in exchange for 5 hours a day of work 6 days a week.