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About Jardine Heathlands

Getting there and getting around

Eliot Falls. Photo: Adam Creed, Queensland Government.

Eliot Falls. Photo: Adam Creed, Queensland Government.

Headland near Captain Billy Landing. Photo: Queensland Government.

Headland near Captain Billy Landing. Photo: Queensland Government.

View from South Jardine River camping area. Photo: James Newman, Queensland Government.

View from South Jardine River camping area. Photo: James Newman, Queensland Government.

Coastal cliffs and fringing reef near Ussher Point camping area. Photo: Stuart Swanson.

Coastal cliffs and fringing reef near Ussher Point camping area. Photo: Stuart Swanson.

The parks are located in the remote north of Cape York Peninsula and the roads are accessible by four-wheel-drive vehicles only.

From Cairns, drive north-west to the Peninsula Developmental Road, the main road to Cape York Peninsula. Follow the Peninsula Developmental Road 50 km north from Coen and turn on to the Telegraph Road. Drive 40 km north of the Wenlock River to Bramwell Junction and cross on to the Southern Bypass Road.

To access Captain Billy Landing, drive 66 km from Bramwell Junction along the Southern Bypass Road to the signposted Captain Billy Landing turn-off and travel a further 27 km to the coast.

To access Eliot and Fruit Bat falls from Bramwell Junction, follow the Southern Bypass Road for 119 km and turn onto the Telegraph Road. Drive 3 km to Fruit Bat Falls and a further 7 km to Eliot Falls. An alternative (rougher) route to Eliot Falls follows the Telegraph Road from Bramwell Junction.

To access South Jardine River camping area, travel north on the Telegraph Road for 32 km from Eliot Falls. Alternatively, from the intersection of the Southern Bypass Road and the Telegraph Road, drive 38 km on the Northern Bypass Road then turn on to Nolans Brook Bypass Road. Travel 18 km to the camping area. To continue heading north visitors must back-track south on the Telegraph Road to access the Northern Bypass Road. There is no river crossing available at North or South Jardine River camping areas.

To access North Jardine River camping area, follow the Northern Bypass Road from the Southern Bypass Road and Telegraph Road intersection for 50 km to the Jardine River ferry crossing. Continue on the Northern Bypass Road for 11 km to the North Jardine River camping area turn-off. The camping area is a further 6 km from the turn-off.

To access Ussher Point camping area, turn east off Bamaga Road approximately 12 km north of the Jardine River ferry crossing. Follow this four-wheel-drive track for 60 km (4–5 hrs) to arrive at the camping area on the far-northern east coast of Cape York Peninsula. This track is not maintained and can be hazardous with deep ruts, washouts and fallen trees. Camper trailers are not recommended.

Visitors must be totally self-sufficient. It is advisable to travel with another vehicle and it is essential to carry adequate fuel, basic spare parts, four-wheel-drive recovery gear, food, water and first-aid equipment in case of unexpected delays or breakdown.

Wheelchair accessibility

Eliot Falls camping area has wheelchair-accessible toilets.

Park features

Twin Falls. Photo: Adam Creed, Queensland Government.

Twin Falls. Photo: Adam Creed, Queensland Government.

Coastal cliffs at Ussher Point. Photo: Stuart Swanson.

Coastal cliffs at Ussher Point. Photo: Stuart Swanson.

This vast, remote wilderness is an ancient sandstone landscape. Clear, fresh water is abundant, not only in the mighty west-flowing Jardine River—which dominates the landscape—but also in swamps, boggy gullies and numerous smaller streams. The area features a diversity of plant communities. Heathland, grassland, rainforest and woodland grow on low broad sandstone ridges separated by swamps, while shrublands and vine thickets cover massive coastal sand dunes. The animals that live in this area are an interesting mix of species. Some have been present since the ancient Gondwanan rainforests while other endemic species have evolved from Gondwanan times over long periods of isolation and climate change. More recent species, originating from New Guinea, arrived via ice-age land bridges.

The parks encompass the traditional country of several Aboriginal groups, including people from the Atambaya, Angkamuthi, Yadhaykenu, Gudang and Wuthathi language and social groups. The area is a living cultural landscape, with places and features named in Aboriginal languages, story-places and story-beings, and occupation and ceremony sites throughout. Today the Traditional Owners retain a strong and continuing interest in their land and are involved in the protection and management of the area.

The area also has links of early European travellers to Cape York Peninsula. In 1848, Edmund Kennedy was speared on the Escape River, at the northern end of the park. The Jardine brothers were involved in skirmishes with Aboriginal people during their overland expedition in 1865 and later during their settlement at Somerset. Geologist Robert Logan Jack encountered local Aboriginal people on the east coast in 1880, at a place known today as Captain Billy Landing. In 1887, a telegraph line was completed to provide communications with remote Cape York Peninsula—today this line forms the western boundary of the park and reserve.

  • Read more about the nature, culture and history of Jardine River National Park, Heathlands Regional Park and Jardine River Regional Park.

Camping and accommodation

A camp site at Eliot Falls camping area. Photo: Queensland Government.

A camp site at Eliot Falls camping area. Photo: Queensland Government.

Captain Billy Landing camping area. Photo: Queensland Government.

Captain Billy Landing camping area. Photo: Queensland Government.

Camp site 6 North Jardine River camping area. Photo: James Newman, Queensland Government.

Camp site 6 North Jardine River camping area. Photo: James Newman, Queensland Government.

Camping

Camping is permitted at Eliot Falls, North and South Jardine River, Captain Billy Landing and Ussher Point. Fires are allowed in existing fireplaces only. Do not collect firewood from the parks. Fuel stoves are recommended. Camping is not permitted at Fruit Bat Falls.

Eliot Falls camping area is on Eliot Creek at the northern boundary of Heathlands Regional Park. There are picnic tables, fireplaces, drinking water, toilets and sites suitable for tents and camper trailers.

North and South Jardine River camping areas are on the banks of the Jardine River on the western boundary of Jardine River National Park. They have no facilities.

Captain Billy Landing camping area is behind the beach on the eastern boundary of Heathlands Regional Park. Picnic tables, fireplaces, a shelter and a toilet are provided.

Ussher Point camping area is on the far-northern coast of the Peninsula, on the eastern boundary of Jardine River Regional Park. There are no facilities.

Camping permits are required and fees apply.

Campers must be self-sufficient in this remote area as fuel, supplies and first aid are not readily available.

Other accommodation

Other accommodation is available in Bamaga and Seisia, 80 km north of Eliot Falls. For more information, see the tourism information links.

Things to do

Boardwalk at Fruit Bat Falls. Photo: John DeCampo, Queensland Government.

Boardwalk at Fruit Bat Falls. Photo: John DeCampo, Queensland Government.

Pitcher plants can be seen along the boardwalks. Photo: John DeCampo, Queensland Government.

Pitcher plants can be seen along the boardwalks. Photo: John DeCampo, Queensland Government.

Sundews grow along the creek edges. Photo: Margot Warnett, Queensland Government.

Sundews grow along the creek edges. Photo: Margot Warnett, Queensland Government.

Bushman's clothes pegs. Photo: Margot Warnett, Queensland Government.

Bushman's clothes pegs. Photo: Margot Warnett, Queensland Government.

The mouth of Captain Billy Creek, a short walk from Captain Billy Landing camping area. Photo: James Newman, Queensland Government.

The mouth of Captain Billy Creek, a short walk from Captain Billy Landing camping area. Photo: James Newman, Queensland Government.

The parks offer many opportunities for visitors to explore and enjoy the natural surrounds.

Walking
Picnic and day-use areas
Fishing
Viewing wildlife 

Walking

There are formed walking tracks departing from Eliot Falls and Fruit Bat Falls, or explore the coastal area around Captain Billy Landing.

Around Eliot Falls

Several formed walking tracks depart from Eliot Falls camping area, allowing you to explore the area around Eliot and Canal creeks.

Twin Falls (Yaranjangu) (Grade: easy)

Distance: 480 m return
Time: Allow about 10 mins walking time  
Details: From the day-use area car park a sandy track meanders through woodland to a timber walkway in a shady grove of cypress pines, before reaching acacia woodland near Canal Creek. The walkway then leads to Twin Falls, near the junction of Eliot and Canal creeks.

Eliot Falls (Yaranjangu) (Grade: easy)

Distance: 550 m return
Time: Allow 15 mins walking time
Details: From Twin Falls trace your steps back 5 m to the turn-off to Eliot Falls. The timber walkway descends to a viewing platform overlooking the picturesque Eliot Creek. A shady boardwalk along the creek leads to a natural sandstone platform with views of Eliot Falls. More steps ascend to the woodland where the walkway rejoins the sandy track returning to the day-use area.

The Saucepan (Grade: easy)

Distance: 670 m return
Time: Allow 15 mins walking time
Details: From the day-use area car park a sandy track leads into an acacia and grevillea woodland and then descends towards Eliot Creek, through dry heath featuring casuarinas, banksias, grevilleas and leptospermums. At The Saucepan, the shallow creek gently tumbles between fingers of sandstone, flowing into a deeper sandstone-lined channel, which leads towards Eliot Falls.

Around Fruit Bat Falls

At Fruit Bat Falls find welcome relief in the clear, spring-fed waters of Eliot Creek after the hot and dusty journey.

Fruit Bat Falls (Grade: easy)

Distance: 400 m return
Time: Allow 10 mins walking time
Details: From the day-use area car park, a boardwalk leads to Fruit Bat Falls. From here, it follows Eliot Creek, providing access to the plunge pool and the top of the falls.

Around Captain Billy Landing

The coastal scenery of Captain Billy Landing lends itself to some of the best remote walking in Cape York Peninsula. The long white beach stretches north from the camping area for three kilometres to another headland. Walking along this beach will reveal a series of dune fields and sandstone shelves that can be explored on the lower parts of the tide.

The Captain Billy headland is immediately south of the camping area and is an excellent place to discover the marine environment. The rock pools and clear water make nature study a must for visitors on the lower tides. Behind the rock pools of the sandstone shelf, caves have formed in the fractures of sandstone to provide critical habitat for large bentwing and common sheathtail bats. On dusk visitors can witness a feeding frenzy as thousands of bats dart out of the caves to feed on insects. Do not enter the caves—disturbance will upset the bats, potentially causing the death of young as they drop from their mothers' undersides.

Picnic and day-use areas

Fruit Bat Falls day-use area

A day-use area with picnic tables, toilets and a timber walkway along Eliot Creek are provided at Fruit Bat Falls. Camping is not permitted here.

Eliot Falls day-use area

At the end of the Eliot Falls access track a spacious day-use area has picnic tables, an interpretation shelter and toilets. The area caters for large groups; however limited car parking for buses is provided. Please remove all rubbish.

Eliot Falls is a great place to visit but is also hazardous. Water levels can rise rapidly and care must be taken in and near the water because of slippery rocks and submerged objects. Heed all warning signs. Serious injuries and deaths have occurred here.

Fishing

Fishing and crabbing is prohibited in Eliot Creek and in the section of the Jardine River (and its tributaries) from the river mouth to a point 5 km upstream of the old Peninsula Developmental Road crossing. Fishing is allowed in other parts of the Jardine River.

Marine waters adjacent to Jardine River National Park, Heathlands Regional Park and Jardine River Regional 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.

Viewing wildlife

Take a moment to enjoy the variety of plants in this protected area. Unusual carnivorous plants thrive in moist habitats along the creek edges. Large pitcher plants, draped like vines over trees, line the creek banks and tiny, rosette-shaped sundews cling to the moist sandstone walls of the creeks. On the creek banks in the dry heath community, grevilleas, banksias, casuarinas and leptospermums flourish among a sparse understorey of sedges and grasses. One grevillea has distinct woody seed pods known as bushman’s clothes pegs.

There are excellent opportunities for viewing birds including yellow-billed kingfishers, fawn-breasted bowerbirds (species restricted to the remote north of Cape York Peninsula and New Guinea) and spectacular palm cockatoos. Around the camping areas visitors will see and hear sulphur-crested cockatoos and rainbow lorikeets. The northern race of the Australian brush-turkey, which has a purple, instead of yellow, wattle can also be seen. From the shore, white-bellied sea-eagles soar overhead while silver gulls, pied and sooty oystercatchers, crested terns and vulnerable beach stone-curlews paddle in the lapping waves. Endangered little terns breed on the beaches near the Captain Billy Landing camping area, laying several dark blotchy eggs in a scrape on the sand. Stay clear of any nesting seabirds—chicks and eggs are easily destroyed by heat, cold and predators if left unprotected.

Spotlighting at night may reveal unusual species, such as the common spotted cuscus and spiny knob-tailed gecko, as well as possums and native rodents.

If planning a spotlighting trip, here are a few things that will make your experience memorable.

  • Keep bulb wattage to 30 or less. This will increase the chance of finding animals (by not warning them of your arrival) and will extend viewing time.
  • Bring binoculars to get a good view.
  • Use your senses to find wildlife. Look for eye shine, listen for leaves rustling and inhale the smells.
  • Use a white light to explore the forest then add a red or orange filter to view wildlife. Cellophane is useful.
  • Remember that loud voices and sounds will scare away the wildlife.
  • Lights should never be trained on nesting birds—this can cause them great distress.

Be aware that estuarine crocodiles inhabit the park and reserve—remember to be croc wise in croc country.

  • See the description of the park's natural environment for more details about the area's diverse wildlife.

Things to know before you go

Coastline near Ussher Point camping area. Photo: Stuart Swanson.

Coastline near Ussher Point camping area. Photo: Stuart Swanson.

Essentials to bring

  • Always carry adequate food, water, first-aid equipment, fuel and basic vehicle repair equipment. The nearest fuel, repairs and supplies are in Bamaga, 45 km north from the Jardine River ferry crossing.
  • Always carry adequate drinking water as well as equipment for treating water.
  • Carry plenty of fuel—driving on rough roads in low gear uses more fuel than normal driving conditions.
  • Bring a screened tent or mosquito nets for protection from insects at night.
  • Carry rubbish bags to take your rubbish away with you—bins are not provided.

Opening hours

The parks are open throughout the dry season, usually from June until November. At other times the area is inaccessible due to flooding. Check park alerts for any park closures and with Department of Transport and Main Roads to enquire about local road conditions.

Permits and fees

All camping areas require a camping permit and fees apply. A camping tag with your booking number must be displayed at your camp site.

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

Pets

Domestic animals are not permitted in the park or reserves.

Climate and weather

Far northern Cape York Peninsula has a tropical climate with the wetter months usually from December to May. Flooding caused by heavy rain prevents access to the area during much of this time.

Visiting this area is only possible during the drier months. Although rain can also be experienced during this time, conditions are much more suitable for travellers. Nonetheless, nights can be cool while daytime temperatures can reach 40°C. For more information, see the tourism information links.

Fuel and supplies

The nearest fuel and supplies are available at Bamaga, 80 km north of Eliot Falls. For more information, see the tourism information links.

Staying safe

A practical working knowledge of basic first aid is highly important when travelling in remote areas. Be familiar with first-aid procedures for heat exhaustion, snakebite and sprained or twisted ankles. Ideally, at least one person in your party should have an up-to-date first-aid qualification. You should carry a well-stocked first-aid kit, and make sure that other members of your party know where it is located. Other important guidelines are:

  • Ensure your vehicle is in good mechanical condition. Carry adequate spare parts and fuel.
  • Drive slowly and carefully and keep on the tracks within the park.
  • Observe directions about road closures or other restrictions to avoid road damage and vehicle problems.
  • Some waterfalls contain natural hazards—please obey management and safety signs.
  • Dangerous stinging jellyfish (stingers) may be present in the coastal waters at any time, but occur more frequently in the warmer months. If you do enter the water, 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.

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

Be croc wise

Crocodiles live in the rivers, creeks, swamps, wetlands and waterholes, along the coast and offshore of Jardine River National Park, Heathlands Regional Park and Jardine River Regional Park. Crocodiles are potentially dangerous to people. Never take unnecessary risks in crocodile habitat. Visitors are responsible for their own safety, so please follow these guidelines and be croc wise in croc country.

  • Obey crocodile warning signs—they are there for your safety and protection.
  • Never swim in water where crocodiles may live, even if there is no warning sign present.
  • Swimming or standing in water above knee-height near a crocodile warning sign, or where estuarine crocodiles are frequently seen, is illegal in protected areas (water can still be entered if there is a reasonable excuse to do so, e.g. launching a boat).
  • When fishing, always stand a few metres back from the water's edge and never stand on logs or branches overhanging the water.
  • Never clean fish or discard fish scraps near the water's edge, around camp sites or at boat ramps.
  • Stay well back from any crocodile slide marks. Crocodiles may be close by and may approach people and boats.
  • Boats and vehicles must never be brought within 10 m of an estuarine crocodile in the wild—it is illegal unless part of a commercial crocodile viewing tour or there is a reasonable excuse, e.g. where a creek is less than 10 m wide.
  • Never dangle arms or legs over the side of a boat. If a person falls out of a boat, they should get out of the water as quickly as possible.
  • Never provoke, harass or interfere with crocodiles, even small ones.
  • Never feed crocodiles—it is illegal and dangerous.
  • Camp at least 2 m above the high water mark and at least 50 m from the water's edge. Avoid places where native animals and domestic stock drink.
  • Never leave food scraps, fish frames or bait at a camp site. Always check that previous campers have not left these behind.
  • Never prepare food, wash dishes or pursue any other activities near the water's edge or adjacent sloping banks.
  • Be more aware of crocodiles at night and during the breeding season, September to April.

Looking after the park

View from camp site 3, Ussher Point camping area. Photo: Stuart Swanson.

View from camp site 3, Ussher Point camping area. Photo: Stuart Swanson.

Help preserve this natural area by following the guidelines below:

  • Domestic animals are not permitted in parks.
  • Do not remove or disturb plant material, living or dead.
  • Do not interfere with or feed native animals.
  • The use of firearms is prohibited in parks.
  • Generators and chainsaws are prohibited in these parks.
  • Do not use soap or detergent in streams, rivers or waterholes.
  • Camp only in designated camp sites—camping is not permitted in other parts of the parks or on adjacent Aboriginal land.
  • Light camp fires responsibly and only in existing fireplaces. Never collect firewood from within the parks. Where possible, use gas stoves.
  • Keep your camp site clean and free from food scraps.

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

Park management

Jardine River National Park, Heathlands Regional Park and Jardine River Regional Park are managed to preserve the area’s natural and cultural values.

The parks total an area of 384,200 ha. They are managed by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, in collaboration with the Aboriginal Traditional Owners from the Atambaya, Angkamuthi, Yadhaykenu, Gudang and Wuthathi language and social groups.

Tourism information links

Natures Powerhouse Visitor Information Centre
www.naturespowerhouse.com.au
10 Furneaux Street, Cooktown QLD 4895
Phone: 07 4069 5444
Email: info@naturespowerhouse.com.au

Cairns and Tropical North Visitor Information Centre
www.cairnsgreatbarrierreef.org.au 
51 The Esplanade, Cairns QLD 4870
Phone: (07) 4051 3588
Email: info@ttnq.org.au

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

Further information

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Last updated
23 July 2014