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About Cedar Bay

Getting there and getting around

Cedar Bay is 40km south of Cooktown or 10km north of Ayton. The park lies between Cape Tribulation and Cooktown and is accessible only by boat or on foot via two walking tracks.

Map: Cedar Bay National Park map (PDF, 671K)*

Boat access

Boat access is difficult in most conditions, especially during prevailing south-east winds above 15 knots. A fringing reef along much of the bay prevents easy access by boat. The best entrance points are at the far northern and more southern ends of the bay where sand allows for safe, easy access. The closest sheltered anchorage is around the Hope Islands, about 10km away, where public moorings are available.

Walking tracks

There are two walking tracks that provide access into Cedar Bay National Park.

Home Rule track

The Home Rule track begins at Home Rule Rainforest Lodge, private property 3km off the Cooktown–Bloomfield Road from Rossville.

Gap Creek track

The Gap Creek track begins further south on the eastern side of the Cooktown–Bloomfield Road. If travelling north along the Cooktown–Bloomfield Road, drive to Ayton and set your odometer to zero at the Ayton supermarket (intersection of Third Street and the Cooktown–Bloomfield Road). Travel 14.5km along the Cooktown–Bloomfield Road to the start of the track. The track commences on the eastern side of the road, north of power pole 66/530/288 and south of pole 66/531/289. Look for a tree with an orange triangle marker.

If travelling south along the Cooktown–Bloomfield Road, drive to Rossville and set your odometer to zero at the Rossville telephone box. Travel a further 10.7km along the road to the start of the track, marked as above.

Until a formal parking area is developed, vehicles must be left on the roadside. Please park as far off the road as possible. The small roadside clearings near the start of the walk are used for storing road materials by Cook Shire Council.

Walking the track should not be attempted when heavy rain has fallen or is forecast. It crosses several creeks and steep sections can become slippery in wet weather.

Further details about both these tracks are provided below under things to do.

Weather forecasts are available from the Bureau of Meteorology.

Please be aware that entry to Rattlesnake Point is restricted to protect significant cultural resources—for details see the Restricted access area notice (PDF, 183K)*. A person, other than an acknowledged member of the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people, must not enter or remain in this area without a permit or written approval from the Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing (NPRSR). This is a joint initiative between the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people and NPRSR.

Wheelchair accessibility

There are no wheelchair-accessible facilities or tracks in Cedar Bay National Park.

Park features

Sandy beaches and fringing reefs are backed by dense tropical rainforest in this remote national park. The landscape is mountainous and the rainforest, which forms part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, is of great conservation importance. Much of this forest has never been logged or disturbed.

Cedar Bay is home to a wonderful variety of wildlife including the rare and elusive Bennett’s tree-kangaroo (Dendrolagus bennettianus) and endangered southern cassowary (Casuarius casuarius johnsonii) and beach stone-curlew (Esacus magnirostris).

Mangkalba (Cedar Bay) is the traditional country of the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people, whose country extends along the coast to Mossman. Cedar Bay National Park was a major ngawia (turtle) hunting area and contains important cultural sites including the murabaymba (canoe), ngawaia (turtle) and ngiwa (saltwater eel) story sites.

Camping and accommodation

Camping

Bush camping is available in coastal vegetation adjacent to the beach. No facilities are provided and campers must be self-sufficient.

Camping permits are required and fees apply. Permits are limited and it is recommended that you book at least two weeks in advance.

Camping outside the national park boundary is allowed without a permit at Slaty Creek, just north of the Slaty Creek and Granite Creek junction; and at the western crossing of Slaty Creek.

Other accommodation

Accommodation, including camping, is available at Home Rule Rainforest Lodge (07) 4060 3925. Accommodation is also available nearby at Ayton, Rossville and Helenvale.

Things to do

Walking

There are two walking tracks into Cedar Bay National Park — the 17km Home Rule track and the 6km Gap Creek track. Both are rough, steep and difficult tracks that should only be undertaken by fit and experienced walkers.

Both tracks can be undertaken as return trips or can be walked as a circuit starting at the beginning of either track. Just remember, if walking the circuit you will need to arrange for transport from your finishing point.

Map: Cedar Bay National Park map (PDF, 671K)*

Home Rule track (Grade: Difficult)

Distance: 17km one way

Time: 6–8 hours

Details: This track begins on the private property of the Home Rule Rainforest Lodge. The lodge managers allow access to their property and provide detailed advice to walkers. Overnight camping at the lodge is allowed by prior arrangement with the owners, allowing walkers an early morning start. Camping is also allowed at the western crossing of Slaty Creek and just north of the Slaty Creek and Granite Creek junciton for those walkers who don’t want to walk the whole 17km in one day.

The track traverses attractive rainforest, ascending and descending steeply before arriving at the northern end of Cedar Bay. The early part of the walk follows an old road and involves several creek crossings. The road narrows to a track before Slaty Creek, then ascends to Black Snake Rocks where red-bellied black snakes may be encountered. Remember these snakes are venomous and should be avoided, but are protected.

The track enters the national park on a ridge that affords a glimpse of the sea and descends steeply along an old tin mining track that leads to the beach. A walk south along the beach will take you to the camping area.

When returning to Home Rule, remember that the first part of the walk will involve a walk north along the beach then a very steep climb off the beach to the ridge.

Gap Creek track (Grade: Difficult)

Distance: 6km one way

Time: 4–6 hours 

Details: This track begins on the eastern side of the Cooktown–Bloomfield Road and heads straight into the national park. Be prepared for a strenuous hike, involving a steep climb and descent with an elevation change of approximately 500m. The track should not be attempted when heavy rain has fallen or is forecast. It crosses several creeks and steep sections can become slippery in wet weather.

Follow the orange flagging tape and track markers from the eastern side of the road into the rainforest. Initially the track runs parallel to the road before descending to cross Gap Creek. Use caution crossing Gap Creek — unbuckle packs before crossing and do not cross when the current is too strong. Slippery boulders in Gap Creek make rock hopping dangerous.

From Gap Creek, climb a spur in a north-east and then south-east direction for about 1.5km to the summit. Once the summit is reached turn sharply north. Follow the ridge north for about 200m, then veer north-east and descend the spur in an easterly direction for just over a kilometre. Beware of thick stands of wait-a-while (Calamus spp.).

Near the base of the spur, above a large fig tree, veer north-east. Descend the north-eastern slope and cross an intermittently flowing gully (marked as Flowing Stone Creek crossing on the map). Take care here as the rocks are slippery, particularly when wet. Follow the triangle markers out of the gully and continue in a north-east direction.

The track descends gradually over the next kilometre, crossing several minor spurs and gullies, to reach “Fig Tree Junction”. Here a large fig tree stands at the junction of the northern and southern branches of Centre Garden Creek.

From Fig Tree Junction, follow Centre Garden Creek downstream for just over a kilometre. “Centre Garden” is located on the south side of Centre Garden Creek, just west of the camping area located at the southern end of Cedar Bay beach. Be aware that estuarine crocodiles may be present in lower Centre Garden Creek and along the coast.

Guided tours and talks

There are no guided tours in Cedar Bay National Park.

Picnic and day-use areas

There is no picnic or day-use area in Cedar Bay National Park.

Boating

The marine waters of Cedar Bay are protected within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park. These waters are zoned marine national park (green) and this zoning extends from the high tide mark out to the fringing reef and then a further 500m seaward from the reef edge. This is a “no-take” area and activities such as fishing and collecting are not allowed. Refer to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park zoning maps (see MPZ5—Cooktown) for further details about limitations in this zone.

The closest sheltered anchorage is at Hope Isles. One B and one C class mooring are provided at East Hope Island. Please contact the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) for detailed information on the location and conditions of use of public moorings. If you are not using public moorings make sure to follow the guidelines below.

  • Anchor only on sand and away from coral reefs. Corals are destroyed by anchors and chains dragging across the reef.
  • Use a reef pick if anchoring in coral is unavoidable. When hauling in, motor toward the anchor to prevent damage.
  • Do not throw rubbish overboard, especially when you are in anchorage.

Be aware that estuarine crocodiles can occur in the waters in and around coastal national parks. Remember, your safety is our concern but your responsibility — always be croc wise in croc country.

Motorised water sports

Motorised water sports, such as jet skiing, are prohibited in Cedar Bay National Park and the marine waters adjacent to the park.

Viewing wildlife

Cedar Bay National Park is home to a variety of wildlife. Keen observers may see southern cassowaries, Bennett’s tree-kangaroos, lace monitors and many colourful birds. Several snakes, including venomous species, inhabit the park. Care should be taken to avoid disturbing all snakes.

See the description of the park’s natural environment for more details about the diverse wildlife of Cedar Bay National Park.

Things to know before you go

Essentials to bring

  • lightweight food and drinking water
  • a fuel stove and fuel
  • rubbish bags
  • insect repellent and a mosquito net
  • first-aid kit
  • map and compass.

Opening hours

Cedar Bay National Park is open 24 hours a day. Visitors hiking into the park should set out early in the morning in order to complete the tracks before dark.

Permits and fees

If you are planning to camp, camping permits are required and fees apply. A camping tag with your booking number must be displayed at your camp site.

Permits are required for all commercial activities or group functions within the park. 

Pets

Domestic animals are not allowed in Cedar Bay National Park.

Climate and weather

Cedar Bay National Park has a tropical climate. In summer the temperatures and humidity are high. From April to September the days are cooler and less humid. Visiting in the cooler winter months is recommended. Weather forecasts are available from the Bureau of Meteorology.

Fuel and supplies

Fuel and supplies are available at Ayton, Rossville, Helenvale and Cooktown.

Staying safe

You are responsible for your own safety. Follow the guidelines below for a safe and enjoyable visit.

  • Estuarine crocodiles may inhabit the sea and associated waterways in the area. For your safety remember to be croc wise in croc country!
  • Dangerous stinging jellyfish may be present in the coastal waters adjacent to Cedar Bay National Park at any time, but occur more frequently in the warmer months. A full body Lycra suit, or equivalent, provides a good measure of protection against stinging jellyfish and sunburn. For further information see the marine stingers website.
  • Be alert for snakes and take care to avoid disturbing them. Keep your distance if you do encounter a snake.
  • Inform a reliable person of your itinerary including starting and finishing times. Make sure to tell them when you return to avoid an unnecessary search.
  • Plan to complete your walk well before dark.
  • Never walk alone. Groups of four are recommended.
  • Carry at least one form of communication equipment. Satellite phones and emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) are the most effective. Mobile phone coverage is unreliable.
  • Stay on the track at all times and follow the trail markers.
  • Creek beds and rock surfaces can be slippery. Care is required when traversing these surfaces.
  • Always carry adequate drinking water with you as well as equipment for treating water — treated water is not available in the park. Remember to drink regularly to avoid heat stress.
  • Wear a hat, shirt and sunscreen, even on overcast days, to avoid sunburn.
  • Wear protective clothing (long sleeves and long pants) to protect yourself from lawyer vine, leeches, mosquitoes and sandflies.
  • Always carry a first-aid kit, map and compass, and know how to use them.
  • Pack lightly. Do not carry glass or other heavy, bulky food items.

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

Looking after the park

Please assist the Traditional Owners and rangers in preserving the natural and cultural values.

  • Everything in the park, living or dead, is protected. Please leave everything as you found it.
  • Please help to protect the sites of natural and cultural significance — stay on the walking tracks at all times.
  • Use the existing camping area. Keep your site small and compact. Never clear it, dig trenches or cut trees for tent poles.
  • Do not bring in any plants or plant material — they can become weeds and threaten native plants and animals.
  • Leave domestic animals at home — they are prohibited in national parks.
  • Littering is prohibited. Take all your rubbish with you when you leave — it is unsightly and can harm wildlife.
  • Toilets are not provided. Use a trowel to bury toilet waste and paper. Dig a 15cm hole at least 100m away from the camping area, walking tracks and all watercourses. Failure to do this leads to unsightliness, unpleasant odours, pollution of watercourses and potentially dangerous hygiene problems.
  • Avoid using soap, shampoo, toothpaste or detergent in or near waterways.

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

Park management

Cedar Bay National Park is managed by the Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing (NPRSR) to ensure that the natural and cultural values, which have led to its inclusion in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, remain for the enjoyment of present and future generations.

In March 2007 the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people signed a series of Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs) with the Queensland Government and other bodies, recognising Eastern Kuku Yalanji people’s rights to be custodians and managers of their traditional country. Under one of these ILUAs the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people will be more involved in managing Cedar Bay National Park.

A management plan for Cedar Bay will be prepared in the future.

Tourism information links

Cairns & Tropical North Visitor Information Centre
www.cairnsgreatbarrierreef.org.au
51 The Esplanade, Cairns Qld 4870
ph: (07) 4051 3588
fax: (07) 4051 7509
email info@tnq.org.au 

Nature’s PowerHouse
www.naturespowerhouse.com.au
Cooktown Botanic Gardens
PO Box 3, Cooktown Qld 4895
ph (07) 4069 6004
email info@cooktowns.com

For tourism information for all regions in Queensland see www.queenslandholidays.com.au.

Further information

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Last updated
17 September 2013