Ever wondered what it might be like to venture into Jurassic Park?
Seeing a cassowary break through the trees in the rainforest gave us exactly that feeling. Catching a glimpse of this prehistoric looking creature in the wild will definitely not disappoint.
Catching sight of the elusive cassowary was always top of our Aussie wildlife watching list. We tried but narrowly missed seeing them on our first trip to Far North Queensland, and when we decided to make a return visit we weren't going to let it happen again!
We sought out the very best places to spot cassowaries in the wild, and can almost guarentee you'll end up seeing them in at least one of the places we mention below. In the end on our second trip our tally was 11!
Cassowaries regularly cross the roads around Mission Beach and Etty Bay (the area is actually called the cassowary coast!) so please drive carefully.
Here are our favourite places to spot wild cassowaries in Queensland, Australia.
Where to spot cassowaries in the wild
1. Etty Bay
This is definitely our number one spot. We saw four here and only visited for a few hours. Park up by the beach and head to the small wooded area to your right. Quietly walk through this wood or along the beach looking in to the undergrowth and you will very likely spot your first cassowary.
If you visit late afternoon and hang around at the beach you will also likely see them wander along the sand itself. We saw two fighting on the beach which was a spectacular sight!
In the unlikely event you have been unlucky at the wood to the right of the beach, then head left to the more dense woodland up from the beach. We saw them here too but it is not as pleasant to wander as the other areas, so use this as a last resort.
A final tip for Etty Bay would be to make sure you keep your eyes peeled as you head out on the road towards Cairns or Mission Beach. We saw a gorgeous male wandering along the road on our journey.
Getting there - Etty Bay is just over 100km south of Cairns and takes about 1.5 hours to drive to. Alternatively, you can go from Mission Beach which is 50km away and takes 45 minutes to drive to.
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2. Licuala Fan Palm Walk
This easy 1.2km loop track is another great spot to see cassowary. You can see plenty of the vivid blue berries known as ‘cassowary plums’ scattered across the track.
It’s also a pretty little trail with plenty of the photogenic fan palms for which it is named. Whilst we didn’t spot a cassowary on the track itself, we did see one on the road just before arriving, and it’s known as a popular place to spot them.
Getting there - Licuala Fan Palm Walk is only accessible by car. It is a 15 minute drive from Mission Beach (7km). Otherwise it is a 137km drive (1 hour 50) from Cairns.
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3. A dump (we kid you not)
Whilst we were staying in Mission Beach a friendly local put us on to what is definitely the most unusual location on this list.
An adult male and two cassowary chicks had set up camp near the South Mission Beach Transfer Station. According to locals this is also not a one off but a regular occurrence.
Getting there - South Mission Beach is 11km south of Mission Beach, taking 13 minutes to drive to. Alternatively it takes 2 hours (147km) from Cairns.
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4. The roads around South Mission Beach
We based ourselves in South Mission Beach and saw no less than three cassowaries on the roads around town.
Make sure you drive slowly in this area as cassowaries tended to saunter slowly across the road and you would not want to knock one of these highly endangered creatures over. This is more about luck than exact spots, you are most likely to see them early in the morning or around dusk.
5. The Jindalba Boardwalk, Daintree
As we mentioned we didn’t get lucky finding a cassowary in the Daintree, even though it is a good spot. We missed one by just a few minutes on the Jindalba boardwalk, fellow walkers were treated to a close up encounter with a male and two chicks!
As well as being a great cassowary sighting location Jindalba is also a lovely place to explore the Daintree, with two pretty walking tracks. It’s free too. Watch out for wild pigs on the tracks though, we were charged by one which is actually far more terrifying than it sounds!
Cassowaries also often walk along Cape Tribulation beach and Daintree Discovery Centre too, but not during our visit.
Getting there - Daintree is a 3.5 hour drive north of Cairns (115km). The best way to get to the Jindalba Boardwalk is by car.
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Cassowaries can be dangerous (according to the Guinness Book of Records they are the most dangerous birds in the world), especially if they feel threatened, so we would advise keeping a good distance from them, particularly if you see a male with chicks. It’s a good idea to have a decent zoom lens with you to get great pictures without endangering yourself or disturbing the cassowaries.
When they do decide to run it can be quite fast and they have a lethal kick so it really is important to be alert when viewing these amazing creatures in the wild.
Tips for spotting Cassowary
As with all wildlife watching early morning and around dusk are the best times to see them, however we also saw many during the day and two at night.
Tread quietly, not only are you more likely not to disturb them and cause them to move off but you also won’t give them the idea that you are a threat which could be dangerous.
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Are you visiting Queensland? Have you seen a cassowary somewhere we haven’t mentioned? Let us know in the comments below!