Resort Spotlight: It’s Safari Meets the Sea at The Elandra Mission Beach in North Queensland

”Chris, we need you to fly up to Cairns and travel to a private resort near Mission Beach where you’ll stay the weekend”. Never have I heard a sentence so sweet.

A unique blend of safari and suave, The Elandra, Mission Beach sits pretty in the middle of a tropical rainforest, approximately two-hours drive from Cairns airport. The Cassowary Coast region makes up the surrounds of this dreamy getaway, in addition to the world famous Great Barrier Reef and its islands – which are visible from various lookouts around the resort.

A thing of beauty

I was requested to travel up here and spend 2 nights taking in the private resort’s ineffable energy, relishing in the vibrant ‘Taste of the Tropics’ event which not only offered this beautiful environment on a platter, but tasked respected celebrity chef Miguel Maestre – from Channel Ten’s The Living Room – to take care of our palettes all weekend with a fiery cooking demonstration, a casual cocktail party, and a lavish gala dinner.

The two-hour drive up was a blur of country scenery: banana trees, lazing cows, narrow roads, and eerily cut-off farmhouses. All visions which sped by as our car climbed up to The Elandra. Wallabies hopped around casually in the front yards of the houses which sit below the secluded resort, just some of the many wildlife who wander around the area undisturbed and nonchalant.

The Elandra’s driveway opens straight into the reception area

Lined with palm trees, the driveway leads straight to the small reception area which opens into the pool deck – the centrepiece of The Elandra and a postcard-worthy display of day-beds, worldly decor, plush lounges, and a very pristine white bar. I had never seen anything like it in Australia.

A warm welcome from resort manager Sharon Muir set the tone for the weekend. Staff here really make the resort what it is; treating each and every guest like members of an extended family, as if, just by standing looking bemused on the pool deck, I had joined an exclusive club – a club I soon found out included celebrities by the likes of Grace Jones, Pink, Manu Fieldel, and of course, Miguel Maestre.

a long, winding boardwalk connects most guest rooms

Rust adds to the charm

Hospitable owners Katrina Knowles and Adam Karras have restored the grounds after the fury of Cyclone Yasi tore through in 2011. There are still small hints of cyclone damage if you navigate the timber boardwalks which connect most of the 50-plus guest rooms, but the majority of the grounds seem to have returned to the charm of when the resort first opened in 2008.

A few shots of my room

Shot of the African Queen Rooms, taken from The Elandra Mission Beach Facebook page

The chic African Queen Room was my home for the next two nights, elegantly laid out with a massive bed in the centre, small bathroom to the side, antique furniture, two uniquely designed wooden chairs, and a bean bag. I immediately stepped out onto the small balcony, which overlooked the coral sea, and took in the fresh rainforest air before heading back inside to unpack; I closed only the screen door so I could hear the serene crashing of waves in the background as I unpacked and prepared for the weekend’s first event – a cocktail party hosted by Maestre.

View from my balcony

Lobster sliders, king prawns, cured salmon, one of the best batches of sangria I’ve ever tasted, and much more. The sumptuous feast which Maestre prepared for the cocktail party was a perfect complement to the luxurious walls which surrounded us as we ate, drank, and socialised on the breaktaking pool deck. The fiery Spanish chef was undoubtedly the life of the party as well, charming guests with his big personality and warm, welcoming approach.

Gorgeous white and orange

Heading down the stairs from the pool deck to my room

I took this time to learn more about The Elandra and it’s focus on privacy. When the resort was relaunched, it was done so as an ‘exclusive private resort,’ meaning that the fulcrum of business here lies with private functions: weddings, large business gatherings – you name it; if you have need for a large group and don’t want to deal with any other tourists in the process, then The Elandra is your rent-a-home for as long as you need. This gives the place a unique air about it, and makes it all the more special when events like ‘Taste of the Tropics’ has the resort open to the general public.

Breakfast (Mushroom & Fetta) and lunch (Morton Bay Bugs)

The Elandra Head Chef Tomasz Kornacki also provided food throughout the weekend, curating the a la carte breakfast and lunch menus. Portion size differs with what item you choose, so one would be best served asking about the dish before they order. Everything is made with quality produce, presented in a delicate style and focusing on delicious, satisfying flavours.

Gorgeous log chair that I didn’t sit on because I suspected a large spider would eat me

Weather was a big burden on this particular weekend, with it sporadically pouring with rain several times throughout the day, dampening my plans for R&R on one of the stunning day-beds and making me hesitant about trudging through the rainforest (the path can get unbelievably slippery). Rather, a combination of the rain and perhaps the most comfortable linen in the world had me spend most of the weekend splitting events up with time in the gorgeous room, looking out over to the expansive sea and trying to figure out a way to make time move slower.

Exploring on the last day – I picked lovers beach

Walking through the quiet, beautiful rainforest, trying not to run into a spider

Overcast on lovers beach

The crisp North Queensland humidity often cut through the rain, placing the very efficient air-conditioners in each room as saviors, always keeping the room at a very nice and comfortable temperature.

A longer stay there would be well advised, as staff can easily design bespoke itineraries based on your interests and inclinations – from crocodile spotting to scuba diving.

A delicious gala dinner capped off our last night at The Elandra, with approximately 100 guests purchasing tickets to the event, keen to partake in some Spanish salsa dancing and enjoy a decadent four-course meal from Maestre. From raw seafood to authentic churros, the menu gave guests a nice range and depth of flavour rich enough to complement the surrounds.

My favourite decoration in the reception area

The small library near reception area

After the Gala dinner, my remaining time was spent admiring the detail around the resort. The ‘safari meets the sea’ aesthetic really rings true with deco inspired by Africa, Morocco, and India all blending together to make every corner of this magnificent resort as charming as anything I’ve seen on the many dream-destination blog posts which pop up on the internet daily.

Hosting events like Taste of the Tropics gives everyone the opportunity to experience the wondrous venue, and with them holding these events several times throughout the year, I’d highly recommend making the effort to travel along and experience the truly therapeutic and settling atmosphere which wraps around The Elandra like a harmonious slice of heaven.

A weekend package for 10 guests over two nights includes 5 twin share rooms, private transfers, daily a la carte breakfast, dinner packages and unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Prices vary and are quoted upon application. For a package quote contact The Elandra Mission Beach on 07 4068 8154

The next Taste of the Tropics event is set for the weekend of August 8-9 and will feature guest Chef Adam D’Sylva of Tonka and Coda fame. Contact The Elandra for bookings

The Elandra, Mission Beach:

Contact: 07 4068 8154

Chris Singh stayed 3 days courtesy of The Elandra Mission Beach

Headline image provided by The Elandra Mission Beach. This article was originally published in June 2014. All information was correct at the time of printing.