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About Cape Hillsborough

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Getting there and getting around

Cape Hillsborough National Park is about 50 km north-west of Mackay by road.

From Mackay, travel north on the Bruce Highway for 20 km and turn right into Seaforth Road. Travel a further 20 km and turn right into Cape Hillsborough Road. It is then 10 km to the main park entrance.

From Proserpine, take the Bruce Highway south and travel 79 km to Mount Ossa. Turn left into the partly unsealed Mount Ossa Road and travel 15 km towards Seaforth. Turn right into Seaforth Road then left into Cape Hillsborough Road. Drive another 10 km to the main park entrance. Please note, the Mount Ossa road is not suitable for caravans. Caravan owners travelling from the north should continue to the sealed Seaforth Road, 20 km north of Mackay.

Please note: a gravel road to Smalleys Beach camping area is signposted about 6 km along Cape Hillsborough Road. Turn here if you are camping at Smalleys Beach or continue along Cape Hillsborough Road to reach the main park entrance, picnic area and walking tracks.

Wheelchair accessibility

The Diversity Boardwalk is wheelchair-accessible for the first 300 m.

Park features

Diverse habitats are protected in the 1012 ha Cape Hillsborough National Park, one of the most ruggedly beautiful parks on the Central Queensland coast. Lowland rainforest and vine forest grow along creeks, valleys and hillside gullies. Rocky hills and headlands support open eucalypt forest and a grassy understorey, while patches of low heath survive on exposed slopes. West of the main picnic area, a large mangrove community is an important breeding ground for marine animals.

On the broad beaches, sand bubbler crabs leave intricate patterns at low tide, and many sea creatures shelter in tidal rock pools. Surrounding waters are part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Large rhyolite boulders scattered over the headlands and beaches are a reminder of volcanic activity millions of years ago, as are volcanic plugs and other striking rock formations found in the park.

The Yuibera people lived in this area for thousands of years and signs of their special connection to the area are still present. Explorer James Cook named Cape Hillsborough during his voyage up the Queensland coast in 1770.

Read more about the nature, culture and history of Cape Hillsborough National Park.

Camping and accommodation


Basic camping is available at Smalleys Beach camping area, which can be reached via a signposted gravel road off Cape Hillsborough Road. This small camping area has picnic tables, toilets, town water and some sites suitable for caravans.

Fires are permitted only in off-ground fire containers and within the camping area. Bring your own clean, milled timber. Fuel stoves are preferred and recommended. Fires are not permitted anywhere else in the park, including on the beaches. All campers must carry sturdy rubbish bags to remove all rubbish from the park. Generators are not permitted anywhere in the park.

Camping permits are required and fees apply.

Other accommodation

You can also stay in commercial camping areas or cabin-style accommodation at Cape Hillsborough, or private accommodation at Seaforth. For more information see the tourism information links below.

Things to do


For all walks, wear insect repellent, a hat and sunscreen, and carry drinking water.

The Diversity Boardwalk (Grade: Easy)

Distance: 1.2 km return

Time: 40 minutes

Details: This track meanders through melaleuca woodland, a mangrove community, open eucalypt forest and vine thicket. Appreciate the diverse plant communities and their unique wildlife. This walk also highlights the importance of such diversity for the Yuibera people and their culture. The first 300 m of the walk is accessible to wheelchairs.

Beachcomber Cove Track (Grade: Moderate)

Distance: 2.2 km return

Time: 1.5 hours 

Details: This track starts from the northern end of the Cape Hillsborough picnic area, and then passes through open eucalypt forest and remnant rainforest with hoop pines, ferns and vines. The track ends in Beachcomber Cove, where walkers can enjoy pleasant views from a lookout on top of the ridge. At low tide, you can return to Cape Hillsborough picnic area along the beach. At high tide, you will need to retrace your steps along the track. Check tide times before setting out.

Yuibera Plant Trail (Grade: Easy)

Distance: 1.2 km return

Time: 40 minutes

Details: This track starts from Hidden Valley. To reach Hidden Valley, walk or drive 1.2 km along the gravel road that starts from the southern end of the picnic area beside the resort. Once there, take this self-guiding trail to learn more about the Yuibera people’s traditional use of plants in the area. Please note, the gravel road to Hidden Valley is not suitable for buses or caravans.

Andrews Point Track (Grade: Moderate to difficult)

Distance: 5.2 km return or 2.8 km return via the beach

Time: Allow 2 hours along the track (return trip) or 1 hour return via the beach

Details: Follow the beach from the boat ramp to reach the start of this track. After climbing numerous steps at the beginning of the track, you will be rewarded with spectacular views from several lookouts. Cool, remnant rainforest in the track’s early stages opens out to more exposed eucalypt forest along the top of the ridge.

At low tide, a causeway links the end of this track to Wedge Island. Check tide times before you start the walk, and only attempt to cross the causeway on a falling tide. 

Also at low tide, you can return to Cape Hillsborough picnic area along the beach. At high tide, you will need to retrace your steps along the track.

Picnic and day-use areas

Visitors can enjoy the Cape Hillsborough picnic area on the foreshore at the end of the main access road. Gas barbecues, picnic tables, toilets and water are provided. Picnickers often see kangaroos on the beach in the late afternoon, or brush-turkeys strutting around the picnic area. Please do not feed these animals as they can become aggressive. 

Boating and fishing

The adjacent waters of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park offer boating and fishing opportunities. A boat ramp is provided at the southern end of the beach in front of the Cape Hillsborough picnic area. Boat-users need to beware of estuarine crocodiles, box jellyfish and other marine stingers year round (though stingers are most common from October to May). Wear a stinger suit when wading.

Marine park zoning regulations protect the inter-tidal zone and waters surrounding Cape Hillsborough National Park. Zoning regulations specify how you can use particular sites and the permits you might require. For detailed information on activities such as fishing and crabbing, consult the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority zoning map. Maps are available from Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol offices, bait and tackle shops, Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing (NPSR) offices and online at

Viewing wildlife

Around the picnic area, you can quietly observe wildlife such as agile wallabies, orange-footed scrubfowl and Australian brush-turkeys. The park contains a wide variety of habitats and bird species, making birdwatching a rewarding activity.

Please do not feed any native animals in the park. Feeding can make them sick or aggressive, and can also increase the population of some species, with negative effects on vegetation and other animals.

Other things to do

Explore the tidal rock pools. Relax and enjoy nature, or spend time photographing the park’s spectacular scenery.

Things to know before you go

Essentials to bring

  • hat and sunscreen
  • fuel stove and cooking fuel
  • sturdy rubbish bags
  • toilet paper
  • insect repellent
  • stinger suit if planning to enter the water
  • first-aid kit (including vinegar for box jellyfish).

Opening hours

Cape Hillsborough National Park is open 24 hours a day.

Permits and fees

Camping permits are required and fees apply. A camping tag with your booking number must be displayed at your camp site.

Commercial photography permits may be required if you intend to sell any photographs taken of Cape Hillsborough National Park. Organised event permits may be required for organised group activities that may interfere with general public use. Contact us for further information.


Domestic animals are not permitted in the park.

Climate and weather

Winters are mild (13°C to 25°C) while summers are warm to hot (23°C to 30°C). Expect heavy rain from December to March.

Fuel and supplies

Fuel and supplies are available at Mackay and Seaforth.

Staying safe

  • Sun protection is needed all year. Bring a hat and sunscreen.
  • Bring insect repellent, as sandflies and mosquitoes can be prolific.
  • Wear stinger suits when swimming or wading. Marine stingers are most common from October to May but can occur throughout the year. Check for the latest safety advice.
  • Beware of estuarine crocodiles, be croc wise.
  • Pack a first aid kit and know how to use it.
  • Carry a mobile phone and call Triple Zero (000) in an emergency (try 112 if this fails).

For more information, please read the guidelines on safety in parks and forests.

Looking after the park

  • Use a fuel stove or light fires only in an off-ground fire container.
  • Pack sturdy rubbish bags and take all rubbish home with you. Carry a container for cigarette butts.
  • Leave pets at home—you will protect your pet and native animals in the park.
  • Do not feed any native animals. Feeding can make them sick or aggressive.
  • Follow the boating and fishing regulations that apply in the adjoining marine park.

See the guidelines on caring for parks and forests for more information about protecting our environment and heritage in parks.

Park management

Cape Hillsborough National Park was first gazetted in 1985. The 1012 ha park is managed to conserve its landscapes, naturally occurring species and natural ecological processes, and to protect its cultural resources and heritage values. Park management aims to provide a destination for a wide range of nature-based recreation opportunities, managed in a way that maintains natural and cultural values.

A management plan for Cape Hillsborough National Park which includes, Pioneer Peaks, Mount Ossa, Mount Martin, Reliance Creek and adjoining State waters, was revised in 2011 and remains in force today.

Protected waters adjoining the park are managed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Tourism information links

Mackay Visitor Information Centre
320 Nebo Road, Mackay QLD 4741
ph (07) 4944 5888 or 1300 130 001
fax (07) 4952 2034

For tourism information for all regions in Queensland see Queensland Holidays.

Further information

Contact us

Last updated
15 May 2012