Mission Beach is 110 km south-east of Cairns and 40 km south of Innisfail. It was named after the Hull River Mission, located at the area now known as South Mission, 12 km to the south.

The Hull River Mission was established in 1914 with the objects of regulating Aboriginal employment and isolating the Aborigines from opium. When the mission was destroyed by a cyclone and tidal wave in 1918 the inhabitants were moved to Palm Island and the mission was not rebuilt.

Modern day Mission Beach came about from European settlers selecting the name North Mission Beach. As tourist development took off the name was shortened.

By the 1980s Mission Beach was supplanting Bingil Bay as the region's chief seaside settlement, due in part to its active progress association. Much of its success lay in resort accommodation, visitation and proximity to Dunk Island which is reached by water taxi. It reputedly has the longest stretch of sand in north Queensland, and the Ulysses Link walking track runs along the foreshore. Mission Beach has a locally funded promotion and tourism bureau, the West Tropics Visitor Centre and a monthly open-air market. There are numerous motel and resort facilities, a visitors information centre, a progress hall, a community recreation centre, life-saving and sailing clubs, a medical centre, a supermarket and a primary school (1953). Real estate prices rose sharply in 2004. A three storey height limit applies to new buildings.

On 3 February 2011 the Category 5 Cyclone Yasi crossed the Queensland coast, centred on the area from Mission Beach to Cardwell. Wind gusts of 290 km/hour were recorded. Much of the rainforest vegetation was shredded and a storm surge reached 300 metres inland. Beach sand was lost and most buildings, including the Elandra resort, were damaged.

Mission Beach's census populations have been:

Census DatePopulation
193325
1961128
1976356
1986662
20011088
2006515
2011765
Further Reading: 

Constance Mackaness, Clump Point and district: an historical record of Tom O'Shanter, South Mission Beach, Mission Beach, Bingil Bay, Garner's Beach and Kurrimine, Cairns, G.K. Bolton, 1959, 1983