Northern Cassowary Coast

Northern Cassowary Coast

Fast Facts

Catchment Profile

Explore the natural and social characteristics of the Johnstone Catchment in this interactive story map.

Average Maximum Temperature: 27-28°

Average Minimum Temperature: 19-20°

Average Annual Rainfall: 3,405-3,533mm

Chart Northern Cassowary Land Use final


Population: 8,262

Elevation: 10 m

El Arish

Population: 442

Elevation: 20 m

South Johnstone

Population: 411

Elevation: 17 m

Diversity is the simplest way to describe the Northern Cassowary Coast!  Its people, animals, plants, landscapes, towns and rivers are almost too varied to describe.

The area’s Traditional Owners, the Mamu, were the first people to make their home here.  Since then, a strong history of immigration has resulted in a melting pot of cultures and nationalities, each contributing their own unique touch to the sights, sounds and tastes of the area.  At last count, there were 48 languages spoken and 46 different religions practiced!

Quiet, picturesque country villages are dotted throughout the landscape, but don’t be lulled by their peaceful air – this productive area is the heart of the nation’s banana industry.  In addition, smaller farms fill a niche market for exotic tropical produce, while the vast sugar cane and banana farms stretch across the fertile slopes and coastal plains.

Innisfail on the Johnstone River

Innisfail, the urban hub of this Local Landscape, is majestically located on the junction of the North and South Johnstone Rivers.  Along the coast, fishing villages have somehow escaped the bustling, hectic pace of most coastal tourist towns.  The beaches attract manta rays and turtles, but keen fishermen and women come here for the excellent beach, estuary and reef fishing.  The deep, natural harbour at Mourilyan provides safe access for freight ships, where loads of sugar, cattle and timber are exported to the world.

Natural Landscapes


Rugged, rainforest-clad mountain ranges to the west sit alongside flat, coastal floodplains stretching to sandy coastal dunes and beaches. Stunning National Parks hug the coastline, providing refuge for Southern Cassowaries, which can be seen foraging for fruits and even crabs on the rainforest edge.


From their headwaters in the mountain ranges, tranquil, trickling streams in the winter dry season become raging torrents in the wet, crashing in thundering cascades over waterfalls to the coastal plains.

The warm, tropical climate with its summer monsoonal rain then replenishes the landscape and its waterways, making this landscape ‘green like you’ve never seen!’

Communities and Culture

Regional community

Although only a couple of hours’ drive from the major centres of Cairns and Townsville, the Northern Cassowary Coast is far-removed from the traffic and noise of these major centres. Innisfail’s famous art deco architecture, enviable tropical lifestyle and spectacular natural beauty make this a very liveable place.

The small towns are home to friendly communities; many families find it a safe and inclusive place to bring up their children.  Active community groups provide opportunities to get involved in volunteer activities, giving a strong sense of belonging to the community.

Agriculture and tourism

With a long agricultural history, farming is still one of the major economic drivers of the region. Tourism, however, is an ever-increasing industry with visitors attracted to the many nature-based sights and activities.

Johnstone River landscape

Skydivers can land on pristine beaches while sea kayakers can explore the closer off-shore islands. Paronella Park, with its romantic Spanish-style castle ruins, and the Mamu Canopy Skywalk are also popular with tourists and locals.

Indigenous community

The Wet Tropics is home to a rich, vibrant and enduring Indigenous Rainforest Cultural Heritage, handed down since millennium within the many different Traditional Language Groups.

These comprise 20 Traditional Owner Tribal groupings with over 100 clans and family groupings. Over 80 legal entities represent Land People and Culture.

Click on the Local Cultural Connections link for more information on the Traditional Owner groups and history for this Local Landscape.