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Etty Bay is The Best Place to Spot Cassowaries in Queensland

Etty Bay is The Best Place to Spot Cassowaries in Queensland

Discover Etty Bay, a secluded beach near Innisfail offering an almost guaranteed chance of spotting wild cassowaries in Queensland, Australia.

Tucked on the Cassowary Coast’s rugged and wild coastline, just north of Mission Beach is a small natural bay known as Etty Bay.

Mostly known only by locals, this small beach seems on the surface like any other in Far North Queensland. You’ll find a small car park, a surf life-saving club and a caravan park.

However, Etty Bay has become a hotspot for southern cassowary activity, and offers one of the best places in Queensland, if not Australia, to spot one of these endangered creatures in the wild!

Olly gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, traveler, travel blogger & photographer for 5+ years with 600+ published travel guides. I visit every place I write about & share real tips from what I learn.

About the Cassowaries at Etty Bay

The Cassowary Coast region of Far North Queensland is one of Australia's best destinations for nature and wildlife enthusiasts. The cassowaries who frequent Etty Bay do so daily, wandering free through the beach at the edge of the rainforest.

If you want to spot Cassowaries in Etty Bay, you simply need to go down to the beach, preferably in the early morning or late afternoon, when the large birds usually walk on the sandy shores.

It's not clear why the Etty Bay Cassowary population has chosen to call Etty Bay home.

However, it could be that much of the surrounding land has been cleared for rural properties. This forces the Cassowaries into the small pockets of virgin rainforest between Coquette Point and Mourilyan Harbour.

Cassowary at etty beach
Cassowary in the rainforest of queensland
Cassowary on the beach at etty bay

How to Get to Etty Bay

Etty Bay is located approximately 40 minutes north of Mission Beach and 1.5 hours south of Cairns on the Cassowary Coast.

The closest major town to Etty Bay is Innisfail on the Bruce Highway. To get to Etty Bay, head south on the Bruce Highway from Innisfail until you see a left turn with signs to Mourilyan Harbour on Mourilyan Harbour Road.

Follow this road for approximately 3 km then turn left onto Etty Bay Road.

  • Google Maps Pin: "Etty Bay"

Next, follow Etty Bay Road past the conservation park and down to the beach. You will see signs on the side of the road pointing to Etty Bay. Remember, this is a cassowary habitat and you need to drive slowly. Cassowaries often wander onto the road and rural properties.

Once you arrive, there is adequate parking along the beach.

Car in the rainforest near cairns

Car Rentals in Far North Queensland

Cairns is one of the most popular travel destinations in Australia and car rentals quickly book out!

I've missed out on cars before & recommend booking well in advance. I always use DiscoverCars as they compare the widest range of rentals across dealerships in the Far North.

Etty bay beach queensland
Etty Bay beach

What is the Best Time To Spot A Wild Cassowary at Etty Bay?

The best time to see the Etty Bay cassowaries is during the early morning and late afternoon.

If you are heading to Etty Bay in the morning, try to get here just after sunrise, between 7:00 to 9:00 am. For afternoon visits, you'll get the best chance of getting an Etty Bay cassowary sighting between 4:00 and 6:00 pm.

During my recent visit, there were three cassowaries casually patrolling the beach at 4:30 pm, but they all headed for the shelter of the forest before sunset.

Update: I've visited Etty Bay several times since and have spotted at least two cassowaries on each occasion.

Cassowary portrait

How to Observe and Photograph Cassowaries Safely

The Etty Bay cassowary population is probably the "tamest" population in Queensland. This is due to their regular interaction with humans on the beach and at the caravan park. In saying that, they are NOT zoo animals.

They are wild, prehistoric creatures who have the means to cause serious injury to disrespectful tourists - don't be one of those.

Cassowary at etty bay

To observe cassowaries at Etty Bay safely, make sure to keep your distance and don't follow them around. They will wander up and down the beach, so pick a spot and wait, rather than stalking them.

Since the Cassowaries at the Etty Bay beach are used to people, they'll also often walk up to cars on the road and the car park. Just try to remain calm, don't move your vehicle and wait for them to pass.

Remember also, to NEVER feed wild cassowaries. We need the remaining population to be self-sufficient gatherers to ensure a future for them. Furthermore, feeding cassowaries results in an unnatural interaction between humans and the prehistoric flightless bird, which could result in aggressive behaviour.

Etty bay cassowary

Nearby: Cardwell Spa Pools, Queensland


Things to Know about Etty Bay Cassowary Spotting

Here are some more things you should know before heading out to find the wild cassowaries at Etty Bay.

Etty bay cassowary

Don't Bring Your Dog

Dogs are one of the biggest risks to the wild cassowary population in Far North Queensland. Dogs often attack chicks and even adult cassowaries. For this reason, it's strictly forbidden for anyone to bring dogs to Etty Bay.

Etty bay cassowary

What to do if a Cassowary Becomes Aggressive

I've been told that the Etty Bay cassowaries are very tame and used to humans. However, irresponsible wildlife viewing either by feeding, getting too close or stalking cassowaries and their chicks can cause them to get aggressive. These birds have huge claws that are powerful enough to do serious damage. There have been several recorded attacks by cassowaries and even deaths.

Again, while attacks are extremely rare at Etty Bay, if a cassowary shows signs of aggression, or walk towards you, slowly retreat. You can also use trees, cars or walls as a barrier.

Australian southern cassowary on the road

Biggest Threats to the Southern Cassowary Population in Etty Bay

After some research on the topic, it seems that land clearing and habitat loss is the number one problem for southern cassowary populations.

It's sad to see that much of the coast between. However, the majority of this damage occurred in the early 1900s with extensive land clearing for sugar cane plantations.

Unfortunately, it's a sad reality when faced with the fact that best estimates indicate that only 4,400 southern cassowaries remain in the wild. However, after receiving an endangered listing and being recognised in the Australian "back on track" framework, there's hope for the future of the southern cassowary.

As a reference, when I first wrote this blog post in 2020, there were only an estimated 1,500 cassowaries left. The good news is that this number has grown significantly!

Cassowary at the beach

These days, QLD Parks and other conservation bodies are doing a great job of rebuilding the cassowary populations in Far North Queensland. However, the biggest risks that currently face them are dog attacks, habitat destruction by wild pigs and road vehicles.

To do our part, we should drive slowly, keep dogs on leads and support programs that aim to control wild pig populations.

Another one of the biggest things an individual can do to help the southern cassowary is to get behind initiatives that limit further habitat destruction. Below, I've linked several great causes and bodies to get behind, so check them out, share and donate.

Cassowary on the beach queensland

Best Accommodation Options Near Etty Bay

Planning a trip to Mission Beach? Here are the top-rated accommodation options and places to stay whether you're a backpacker, luxury traveler, or couple on a weekend getaway chasing something close to the beach with easy access to Dunk Island!

Eco village pool at mission beach, queensland

1. Eco Village Mission Beach Luxury

An amazing resort set in tropical rainforest right on the edge of the Coral Sea.

Pool at a boutique bungalow accommodation retreat at mission beach, queensland

2. Boutique Bungalows Mid-Range

Great bungalow accommodation close to the town of Mission Beach.

Classic accommodation in mission beach

3. Jackaroo Treehouse Rainforest Retreat Budget

The best backpacker hostel in Mission Beach if you want to meet like-minded travelers.

Mission beach far north queensland

Etty Bay Caravan Park

If you'd like to camp at Etty Bay, you can book a campsite for tents and caravans at Etty Bay Caravan Park.

This caravan park is tucked in at the northern end of Etty Bay beach and features amenities, including cooking facilities and powered/non-powered sites.

More Far North Queensland Travel Blogs

I hope you enjoyed this short guide to visiting the Etty Bay cassowary population. If you have any questions, updates or even suggestions for this blog post, please let me and other travelers know by leaving a comment.

In the meantime, why not check out some more travel and adventure ideas for Far North Queensland in the blog posts below?

Etty bay cassowaries
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure travel blogger & photographer. Traveling non-stop since 2018, I've published over 600 travel guides on We Seek Travel. These draw on my personal experience to share unique itineraries, accommodation tips, & fun adventure guides covering hikes, viewpoints, beaches, waterfalls, & tours. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.

Your feedback & updates are crucial to keep my guides factual & current. Got new info or updates? Drop a comment below or contact me directly.

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I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you.

Margie McGregor

Sunday 8th of August 2021

I feel I prefer the photographer to the bird.

From a very cheeky British bird aged 80 years!