- Getting there and getting around
- Park features
- Camping and accommodation
- Things to do
- Things to know before you go
- Staying safe
- Looking after the park
- Park management
- Tourism information links
- Further information
Cycle around the headland to the beginning of Under the Radar trail. Photo: Fiona O'Grady, Queensland Government.
Cape Pallarenda Conservation Park is at the end of Cape Pallarenda Road, 10 km north of the Townsville city centre. The park is accessible by conventional vehicle. The gates are open from 6.30 am to 6.30 pm daily.
The toilets and historic display are wheelchair-accessible.
The top WWII gun emplacement on the Cape Pallarenda headland. Photo: Fiona O'Grady, Queensland Government.
The park features the historic Quarantine Station—established in 1915, to quarantine passengers on incoming ships.
During World War II the American and Australian armies used this area. Camps were set up on nearby beaches and the Quarantine Station was used as a hospital. Visitors can discover more about the station's history at the historic display.
Set in a landscape of open woodland and rocky shores, the park protects a variety of animal and plant life and is a gateway to the recreational Cape Pallarenda Trails.
Camping is not permitted in Cape Pallarenda Conservation Park.
There is a range of holiday accommodation in and around Townsville. For more information, see the tourism information links below.
Picnic areas are a short stroll from the car park. Photo: Margaret Macindoe, NPSR.
Find a WWII gun pit on the Forts walk. Photo: Fiona O'Grady, Queensland Government.
Walk or cycle to Shelly Cove. Photo: Fiona O'Grady, Queensland Government.
Walking and mountain biking
The Cape Pallarenda Trails are a network of shared walking and mountain biking trails in the Cape Pallarenda and Townsville Town Common conservation parks.
The trails range from short easy walks to challenging hikes and cross country mountain bike rides. Consider your fitness level before undertaking the extended trails.
- Cape Pallarenda Trails map
- Cape Pallarenda Conservation Park map
- Townsville Town Common Conservation Park map
Key to trail standards
The classification system is based on Australia Standards. Please note that while each track is classified according to its most difficult section, other sections may be of an easier level.
Australian Walking Track Grading System
Grade 3: Suitable for most ages and fitness levels. Some bushwalking experience recommended. Tracks may have short steep hill sections, a rough surface and many steps.
International Mountain Bicycling Association, Australia
Intermediate: A trail with moderate gradients, variable surface and obstacles. May include steep sections. Suitable for skilled mountain bikers with a good standard of fitness and basic off-road riding skills.
Shelly Cove trail
Distance: 750 m one way
Time: allow 45 mins walking time
Walkers and bike riders share this trail.
Following an old access road created during World War II, this trail provides access to the beach at Shelly Cove on the northern side of the Cape Pallarenda headland. Large rock steps lead to the beach at the end of the trail. Trail users can return along the way they came or can continue along the Under the Radar trail.
Distance: 2 km return
Time: allow 1.5 hrs time
Starting 110 m along the Shelly Cove trail, this circuit winds through woodland and vine thicket behind the Quarantine Station before returning along the Forts walk. It passes a weir built in 1925 and the graves of 13 people who died from meningitis at the Quarantine Station in 1920. Trail users can return along the Forts walk and the Shelly Cove trail.
Distance: 500 m one way
Time: allow 45 mins time
This walk starts 290 m along the Shelly Cove trail and leads to a number of World War II gun emplacements and a searchlight station on Cape Pallarenda headland. The trail offers sweeping views of Townsville and Magnetic Island. Trail users can return the way they came.
Under the Radar trail (UTR)
Distance: 10.1 km one way
Time: allow 5 hrs walking time
This narrow, two-way trail is designed for cross country mountain biking. Walkers must be alert and considerate for mountain bike riders approaching from either direction.
At its eastern end, UTR begins 700 m along the Shelly Cove trail and crosses the northern and western slopes of Many Peak Range. It provides excellent views of the islands to the north and the Coral Sea beyond. There is a link 6.6 km along UTR that leads to Smedley's trail. At its western end, UTR begins 500 m along the Shelly Beach trail in Townsville Town Common Conservation Park. UTR has rough surfaces and some steep sections. Trail users can return the way they came or may use the other trails and internal park roads to return to their starting point (see Cape Pallarenda Trails map).
Picnic and day-use areas
The day-use area is located on the foreshore overlooking Magnetic Island. Picnic tables, toilets and parking are provided.
Historic quarantine display
A small display offers an insight into the quarantine history of the area. The display is open from 9 am to 3 pm, Monday to Friday.
Marine waters adjacent to Cape Pallarenda Conservation Park are internationally significant and are protected in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Zones in the two marine parks—the Great Barrier Reef Coast and Great Barrier Reef—provide a balanced approach to protecting the marine and intertidal environments while allowing recreational and commercial use. Check zoning information and maps before entering or conducting any activities in the marine parks
Fisheries regulations apply—information on bag and size limits, restricted species and seasonal closures is available from Fisheries Queensland.
The park is home to many types of birds, wallabies and lizards that are easily spotted in the open woodland environment.
Read more about the natural environment of Cape Pallarenda Conservation Park.
View to Castle Hill. Photo: Fiona O'Grady, Queensland Government.
Essentials to bring
Preparation is the key to a safe and enjoyable visit. Remember to bring:
- enough drinking water for your visit
- rubbish bags, as there are no bins
- appropriate clothing,sunscreen, hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun
- insect repellent to repel mosquitoes and sandflies.
Cape Pallarenda Conservation Park gates are open 6.30 am to 6.30 pm daily.
The historic quarantine display is open 9 am to 3 pm Monday to Friday.
Permits and fees
Permits are required for commercial or organised activities. Contact us for further information.
Domestic animals are not permitted in the conservation park.
Climate and weather
The Townsville region has a dry tropical climate, with distinct wet and dry seasons. During the wetter months, from December to April, there is significant rainfall and the average daily temperature range is 24 to 32°C, with high humidity. The cooler, drier months of May to September are the best time to visit. The weather is pleasantly warm during this time, with reduced humidity and an average daily temperature range of 13 to 25°C.
Fuel and supplies
Fuel and supplies are available in Townsville.
Shelly Cove searchlight station. Photo: Fiona O'Grady, Queensland Government.
- Historic fortifications are scattered throughout the park; they may be unstable. Do not climb on these structures.
- Be alert for mountain bike riders approaching from either direction and show care and consideration for other trail users.
- If riding, alert other trail users when approaching and slow down or stop to allow them to pass safely.
- Avoid riding in large groups— keep groups to fewer than 12.
- Avoid skidding and sliding around turns— this may result in collision with other trail users and damage to the trail surface.
- Take adequate water, wear sturdy footwear and protect yourself from the sun.
- Wear protective clothing and insect repellent for protection against stings, scratches and bites. If riding, wear appropriate safety gear.
- Take care on loose and uneven surfaces, as trail conditions are subject to change. Washouts may occur after heavy rain and trails may be covered by long grass.
- Be alert for snakes. Detour around them.
- Dangerous stinging jellyfish (‘stingers’) may be present in the coastal waters at any time, but occur more frequently in the warmer months. A full-body lycra suit, or equivalent, may provide a good measure of protection against stinging jellyfish and sunburn. Visit marine stingers for the latest safety and first aid information.
- Mobile phone coverage may not be reliable.
- Do not enter the RAAF Radar Station that shares a boundary with the park.
- Estuarine crocodiles live in the waterways of Cape Pallarenda Conservation Park and in surrounding coastal waters. Crocodiles are potentially dangerous. You are responsible for your own safety, so be crocwise in croc country.
For more information, please read the guidelines on safety in parks and forests.
Agile wallaby. Photo: Briony Masters, NPSR.
- Stay on marked trails and formed roads to prevent damage to native vegetation and erosion.
- Keep tracks in good condition and limit erosion by not riding during or immediately after wet weather.
- Rubbish facilities are not provided in the park. Please take your rubbish with you.
- Leave your pets at home. Domestic animals are not permitted in the park.
- Keep wild animals wild. Please do not feed them.
See the guidelines on caring for parks for more information about protecting our environment and heritage in parks.
Replica of the old Quarantine sign. Photo: Margaret Macindoe, NPSR.
In 1986, 44 hectares of land encompassing the former quarantine station was gazetted as an environmental park managed by Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. In 1990 and 1991, the remaining buildings were restored and became the then Regional Office of the Department of Environment and Heritage. It was regazetted as conservation park in 1994. As heritage listed buildings, their protection is ensured into the future.
The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service manages Cape Pallarenda Conservation Park for its natural and cultural values.