Where is the best place in Australia to see wild cassowaries? Etty Bay Cassowary spotting isn’t exactly a major tourist attraction but more so a local secret! Here’s a quick guide that answers all your questions about visiting the cassowaries in Etty Bay and how to do so safely and sustainably.
Tucked on the Cassowary Coast’s rugged and wild coastline, just north of Mission Beach is a small natural bay mostly known to locals. While only being large enough to fit a small car park, a surf life-saving club and a caravan park, Etty Bay has become a hotspot for southern cassowary activity.
Related: 50 Things to do in Cairns
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. Unfortunately, backpackers and even the grey nomads often overlook this incredible destination. Instead, many often rush past this beautiful spot en route to Cairns or the Whitsundays.
The truth is, there’s so much to do on this coast. From Mission Beach, seeing Australia’s largest waterfall and visiting the last frontier, Hinchinbrook Island. If you’ve found your way to this blog post, then you’ll already know that it’s also home to Australia’s greatest cassowary population.
The cassowaries who frequent Etty Bay do so daily, wondering free through the beach at the edge of the rainforest. It’s not clear why the Etty Bay Cassowary population has chosen to call it 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.
Unfortunately, it’s a sad reality when faced with the fact that best estimates indicate that only 1500 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.
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 Ett 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.
Next, follow Etty Bay Road all the way 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 cassowary habitat and you need to drive slowly. Cassowaries often wander onto the road and rural properties.
Once you arrive, there is adequate parking all the way along the 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 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.
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.
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.
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Things to Know about Etty Bay Cassowary Spotting
Here are some more things you should know before going checking out the wild cassowaries at Etty Bay.
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.
Biggest Threats to the Southern Cassowary Population
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.
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.
Kuranda Conservation – conservation for cassowaries and the other unique fauna and flora of the Kuranda region
Wet Tropics Management Authority – body dedicated to protecting the World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics Region
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.
Etty Bay Accommodation: 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.
Best Accommodation Options Near Etty Bay
If you’re traveling on the coast, or just looking for a place to stay in the region, then there are a couple of options available at nearby Innisfail and Mission Beach.
Best Hostel: Jackaroo Treehouse Mission Beach
Best budget room: Black Marlin Motel in Innisfail
More: Far North Queensland “Must-Dos”
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 myself 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?
More Photos of the Carrowaries at Etty Bay
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