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About The Franklands

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Getting there and getting around

Russell Island, Frankland Group. Photo: K. Swalling, copyright Commonwealth of Australia (GBRMPA).

Russell Island, Frankland Group. Photo: K. Swalling, copyright Commonwealth of Australia (GBRMPA).

The Frankland Islands—High, Normanby, Mabel, Round and Russell—lie about 10 km offshore from the mouth of the Russell and Mulgrave rivers at Russell Heads, about 45 km south-east of Cairns.

Access to the islands is by private boat from either the Mulgrave or Russell river boat ramps. Sandbars at the mouth of Mutchero Inlet at Russell Heads makes crossing the shallow river mouth tide-dependent—check tide times before you go.

Frankland Islands Cruises depart daily from the Deeral landing on the banks of the Mulgrave River to carry day passengers to Normanby Island. They operate a bus link from Cairns to Deeral. Contact Frankland Islands Cruises for further information or bookings

Campers can arrange to be dropped off and picked up from Russell Island by Frankland Islands Cruises. Campers can only reach High Island by private boat.

Wheelchair accessibility

There are no wheelchair-accessible facilities or tracks in the Frankland Group National Park.

Park features

Vegetation communities at Russell Island. Photo: Nicole Harman, Queensland Government

Vegetation communities at Russell Island. Photo: Nicole Harman, Queensland Government

Featuring outcrops of weathered and eroded green and white metamorphic rock, the islands are part of the coastal mountain range which was separated from the mainland by a rise in sea level 6000 years ago. The vegetation on the islands is varied and includes patches of lush rainforest, coastal plant communities and mangrove swamps.

The islands support a large array of bird life including numerous seabirds as well as pied imperial-pigeons, fruit doves, varied honeyeaters and white-breasted woodswallows. The fringing reefs surrounding the islands are home to a diversity of reef life including both hard and soft corals.

The Frankland Islands have special significance for the Mandingalby Yidinji and Gungandji Aboriginal people who fished, hunted and gathered food on these islands and the adjacent sea country. Lieutenant James Cook named the islands in 1770 in honour of two 18th century sailors—a Lord of the Admiralty and his nephew, both named Sir Thomas Frankland. Early in the 20th century, the Frankland Islands became a popular fishing and boating destination for local people. A lighthouse was built on Russell Island in 1929 and the island became a Commonwealth island. High, Normanby, Mabel and Round islands were declared national park in 1936. The surrounding waters were included in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in 1983.

Camping and accommodation

Camping area at High Island. Photo: Nicole Harma, Queensland Government

Camping area at High Island. Photo: Nicole Harma, Queensland Government

Camping

Camping is permitted on Russell and High islands only. Campers must be self-sufficient and only use the sites delineated by tarp posts and seats.

Camping permits are required and fees apply for High Island.

Russell Island is a Commonwealth island and a camping permit must be obtained in advance. No camping fees apply.

Other accommodation

There is a range of holiday accommodation in and around Cairns and Innisfail. For more information see tourism information links.

Things to do

Waters of the Frankland Islands. Photo: Nicole Harman, Queensland Government

Waters of the Frankland Islands. Photo: Nicole Harman, Queensland Government

Lagoon area at Russell Island. Photo: Nicole Harman, Queensland Government

Lagoon area at Russell Island. Photo: Nicole Harman, Queensland Government

Walking

Normanby Island has a short walking track and visitors are welcome to walk along the beaches of all the islands. To protect nesting seabirds, the sand spits on Normanby and Russell islands may be fenced off from 1 September to 31 March. Please do not enter fenced areas.

Normanby Island circuit track—1 km return (20 mins) Grade: easy

This circuit walking track passes through a range of environments, including rocky outcrops, dense rainforest, coastal vegetation and mangrove communities. The track gives walkers the opportunity to see a variety of plants and animals including seabirds.

Guided tours and talks

Frankland Islands Cruises offers their passengers a guided island walking and snorkelling tour at Normanby Island.

Picnic and day use areas

Russell Island has a hybrid toilet (no toilet paper is supplied). Russell, Normanby and High islands have bench seats and picnic tables. There are no facilities on Mabel and Round islands.

Boating and fishing

Frankland Group National Park and the surrounding marine waters are internationally significant and are protected in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Marine Parks Zoning provides 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.

Five public moorings are provided in the Frankland Islands area:

  • Russell Island—two A class moorings and one B class mooring
  • Normanby Island—one A class mooring
  • High Island—one A class mooring.

Public moorings are available for overnight use and may only be used by one vessel at a time. Other conditions of use, such as vessel length, time limits and maximum wind strength limits, are displayed on the mooring buoy.

A class moorings have a yellow pick-up tag and yellow band on the buoy. Monohulls up to a maximum length of 10 m and multihulls up to a length of 9 m can use an A class mooring. B class moorings have a green coloured pick-up tag and green band on the buoy. Monohulls up to a maximum length of 20 m and multihulls up to a maximum length of 18 m can use B class moorings. Read more about public moorings and anchoring.

If you must anchor around these islands please follow these guidelines:

  • Anchor only on sand and away from coral reefs—corals are fragile and easily destroyed by anchors and chains dragging across the reef.
  • Do not throw rubbish overboard, especially when you are in anchorage.

Visitors should check weather conditions and obtain updated forecasts before venturing out in recreational vessels. Weather forecasts are available from the Bureau of Meteorology.

Please note that there are group size limits and other restrictions for commercial operators under the Cairns Area Plan of Management.

Motorised water sports

Motorised water sports, such as jet skiing, are prohibited around the Frankland Islands. For more information refer to the Cairns Area Plan of Management.

Swimming, snorkelling and diving

The fringing reefs surrounding the Frankland Islands are a great place to enjoy swimming, snorkelling and diving. The best snorkelling is on the north and south-west sides of Normanby Reef and on the north and west edges of Russell Island. Take care not to kick or stand on corals.

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.

Be aware that crocodiles can occur in the waters around island national parks in North and Central Queensland. Crocodiles are potentially dangerous and attacks can be fatal.

Viewing wildlife

The Frankland Group National Park supports diverse biological communities and offers excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing.

Keep in mind that small populations of breeding seabirds may be present from 1 September to 31 March and the sand spits on Normanby and Russell Islands may be fenced off during this time. Please stay out of any fenced areas.

Things to know before you go

Essentials to bring

Preparation is the key to a safe and enjoyable visit. Make sure that you bring:

  • food, water and first-aid supplies
  • rubbish bags to take your rubbish away with you—bins are not provided
  • sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, toilet paper, suitable clothing and sturdy footwear
  • insect repellant, a screened tent or mosquito net for protection from insects
  • fuel stoves for cooking
  • tarpaulin for shade.

Opening hours

The Frankland Group National Park is open all year round. Visitors should check weather conditions and obtain updated forecasts before venturing out in recreational vessels. Weather forecasts are available from the Bureau of Meteorology.

Permits and fees

Camping is permitted on Russell and High islands only. Camping permits are required and a tag with your permit number must be displayed at your camp site. Fees apply on High Island. Russell Island is a Commonwealth island and no camping fees apply.

  • Book your Russell Island and High Island camp site online.
  • If you cannot book online, see camping bookings for other options.

Permits are required for commercial or organised events. Contact us for further information.

Pets

Domestic animals are not permitted in the Frankland Group National Park or on tidal lands adjacent to the national park within the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park. Tidal areas include beaches, rocks and mangroves.

Climate and weather

The Frankland Islands have a tropical climate. In summer, the daytime temperatures average 30 °C with high humidity and rainfall. Storms are not uncommon. The cooler months (May to September) are the best times to visit, although strong south-easterly winds can blow for extended periods, hampering small vessel movements. The islands may be inaccessible to all boats if there are strong wind warnings or cyclonic activity. Visitors should check weather conditions before setting out. Weather forecasts are available from the Bureau of Meteorology.

Fuel and supplies

Fuel and supplies are not available on any of the Frankland Islands. Limited supplies can be obtained from Deeral on the mainland and all supplies are available in the nearby town of Babinda. For more information see tourism information links.

Staying safe

Box jellyfish. Photo: Jamie Seymour, James Cook University.

Box jellyfish. Photo: Jamie Seymour, James Cook University.

Walking

  • Take care on loose and uneven surfaces, particularly in wet conditions.
  • Always carry water, wear a hat and sturdy footwear and walk in the cooler part of the day.
  • Be aware of tidal movements on the beach and take care on slippery rocks.
  • Carry a comprehensive first-aid kit.

Swimming and snorkelling

  • Wear sunscreen and adequate clothing.
  • Know your own health limitations—do not put yourself or others at risk.
  • Always snorkel with a buddy so help is at hand.
  • Be aware of wind, current direction and tides.
  • 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.
  • Avoid touching coral or other animals as they may inflict a painful sting or bite.
  • Be aware that estuarine crocodiles can occur in waters around island national parks in Central and North Queensland. Crocodiles are potentially dangerous and attacks can be fatal.

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

Looking after the park

  • Everything in the park, living or dead, is protected. Please leave everything as you found it.
  • Camp only in designated camp sites and use the tarpaulin poles provided—disturbance to vegetation can cause erosion and spread weeds.
  • To protect nesting seabirds, the sand spits on Normanby and Russell islands may be fenced off from 1 September to 31 March. Please stay out of any fenced areas.
  • Do not feed wildlife including birds and fish—it is harmful to their health.
  • Domestic animals are not permitted in the Franklands Group National Park or on tidal lands adjacent to the national park within the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park. Tidal areas include beaches, rocks and mangroves.
  • Use fuel stoves only—fires are not allowed.
  • Keep on walking tracks at all times.
  • Avoid damaging coral—never stand on or touch coral.
  • Rubbish bins are not provided. Do not bury rubbish—take it with you when you leave.
  • Where toilets are not provided, bury human waste and toilet paper at least 15 cm deep and 100 m from camp sites and tracks. Take nappies and sanitary products home with your rubbish.

Be pest-free!      

Our precious Great Barrier Reef world heritage islands are among the most pest free islands in the world. They need your help to stay this way.

Before you visit, please check that your boat, clothing, footwear and gear are free of soil, seeds, parts of plants, eggs, insects, spiders, lizards, toads, rats and mice.

Be sure to:

  • Unpack your camping gear and equipment and check it carefully as pests love to hide in stored camping gear.
  • Clean soil from footwear and gear as invisible killers such as viruses, bacteria and fungi are carried in soil.
  • Check pockets, cuffs and Velcro for seeds.

While you are on the islands, remove soil, weeds, seeds and pests from your boat, gear and clothes before moving to a new site. Wrap seeds and plant material, and place them in your rubbish.

Everyone in Queensland has a General Biosecurity Obligation to minimise the biosecurity risk posed by their activities. This includes the risk of introducing and spreading weeds and pests to island national parks.

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

Park management

The Frankland Group National Park is managed by Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) for the enjoyment of visitors and the conservation of nature.

The park is managed in accordance with the Frankland Group National Park Management Plan (PDF, 489K) and the Cairns Area Plan of Management.

Russell Island is Commonwealth island. It is managed in a complementary manner with the national park islands of the Frankland Group National Park under agreement with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

The reef and waters surrounding the Frankland Islands are protected within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park and the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Tourism information links

Rainforest and Reef Information Centre
142 Victoria Street
Cardwell QLD 4849
ph: (07) 4066 8601
email:
A partnership between QPWS and the Cassowary Coast Regional Council, managed by Great Green Way Tourism Incorporated.

Cairns and Tropical North Visitor Information Centre
www.cairnsgreatbarrierreef.org.au
51 The Esplanade
Cairns QLD 4870
ph: (07) 4051 3588

email

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

Further information

Contact us

Last updated
15 September 2016