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Mission Beach: From extreme to relaxed<

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Blue ocean, white beaches, secluded tropical islands and rainforest hideaways less than two hours from Cairns

My skydiving instructor’s name is Wildman. It brings me little comfort.

We’re harnessed together at the open door of a small plane and we’re soaring to some obscure point about 12,000 feet into a huge expanse of sky that will be host to my D-Day.

Or that’s how it feels right now, hours after tentatively signing up for a tandem skydive back at a relaxed beach shack between the palm trees at Mission Beach. It seemed like a great idea back then, a chance to conquer one of my fears, which was a New Year’s resolution of sorts.

Now I’m kneeling at an open plane door, arms crossed as the countdown begins, my body rocking gently while my mind lurches. Three, two – it’s too late to even think it’s too late – one.

We’re tumbling, almost somersaulting – then flying.

And it’s all exhilaration from here on in. The only sound is rushing air as a clear blue ocean, reefs, islands, beach and rainforest emerge below clouds and we hurtle into 40 seconds of freefall.

It feels like precious minutes.

When the parachute finally opens with 4,000 feet still below us we cruise slowly down to the palm-tree lined beach, legs dangling and mind blown.

I’m invincible. A ridiculous grin is plastered across my face all day and I feel like I’m on the best high possible.

My instructor, Wildman, laughs and heads up for another jump. That’s Mission Beach for you. There’s levels of extreme and, on the other hand, plenty of latitude for simple indulgences.

Skydiving is Day One in an "extreme package" that includes sea kayaking to tropical Dunk Island and white water rafting through World Heritage rainforest on the nearby Tully River. Adventure junkies can also dive or snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef about one hour offshore, jet ski around much closer islands and hike in rainforested mountains.

The beauty of Mission Beach is its diversity, nestled between rainforest and palm-tree beaches, and its relatively untouched wilderness that brings the endangered southern cassowary into residents’ backyards and the rainforest right to the beaches in many spots.

Two hours south of Cairns – Australia’s international gateway to tropical Far North Queensland and the renowned Great Barrier Reef – Mission Beach remains one of the region’s best-kept secrets despite its close proximity and the escalating tourism in the small beachside town. While tourists spot celebrities in Cairns’s popular northern destination of Port Douglas, they’re more likely to see cassowaries and double-plugger thong-wearing locals in Mission Beach.

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