Skip links and keyboard navigation

About Three Islands Group

Getting there and getting around

Pisonia forest, Rocky Islets sub-group. Photo: NPRSR.

Pisonia forest, Rocky Islets sub-group. Photo: NPRSR.

Three Islands Group National Park consists of eight islands from three sub-groups—Three Islands, Two Islands and Rocky Islets.

Three Islands consists of islands (a), (b) and (c) and are about 15 km north-east of Cape Bedford and 44 km north-north-east of Cooktown. Two Islands is about 10 km east-south-east of Cape Flattery (the closest settlement) and about 54 km north-east of Cooktown and consists of islands (a) and (b). The most northern sub-group, Rocky Islets, has three islands (a), (b) and (c) and is about 17 km north-east of Cape Flattery and 72 km north-east of Cooktown.

Lying adjacent to the inner route of the Torres Strait–Cairns shipping channel, the islands are en route to Lizard Island if travelling from Cairns or Cooktown by boat.

Access by private boat to all the islands is from the boat ramp at Cooktown, or with a permitted commercial operator. See the tourism information links.

To protect nesting birds, access to Rocky Islet (a) is prohibited (PDF, 147K)*.         

Weather forecasts are available from the Bureau of Meteorology.

Wheelchair accessibility

No wheelchair-accessible facilities are provided on any of the islands within the national park.

Park features

Rocky Islets sub-group, Three Islands Group National Park. Photo: NPRSR.

Rocky Islets sub-group, Three Islands Group National Park. Photo: NPRSR.

Three Islands Group National Park protects natural, cultural and World Heritage values including coastal bird habitats that are regionally and nationally significant.

Shallow lagoons separate the islands within each of the Three and Two islands sub-groups—crystal blue water lapping against the islands’ sandy beaches. Mangroves, beach woodlands, grasslands, closed forest and casuarinas are some of the plant communities seen while island hopping. Varied vegetation can be found on the continental islands of the Rocky Islets sub-group. Significant pisonia forest, woodland and vine forests can be found on island (a), while island (b) is scattered with herbland and shrubland interspersed with sandy areas. In contrast, the steep, dark, granite boulders of island (c) appear to rise from the sea, highlighted against the skyline. Stark from a distance, closer viewing reveals the rocks are teeming with seabirds.

Camping and accommodation

Camping

Camping is permitted on Two Islands (a) between 1 April and 31 August only. Seabirds may be nesting outside these times. A maximum of 10 people for up to 14 days is permitted. Camping is not permitted on the other islands within Three Islands Group National Park.

Camping permits are required and fees apply.

Other accommodation

Lizard Island National Park offers camping and luxury resort accommodation.

Things to do

Three Islands Group National Park. Photo: NPRSR.

Three Islands Group National Park. Photo: NPRSR.

Wedge-tailed shearwater chick. Photo: Russell Best, NPRSR.

Wedge-tailed shearwater chick. Photo: Russell Best, NPRSR.

Walking

There are no walking tracks on the national park islands. Visitors may walk around the beaches of Two and Three islands sub-groups, between 1 April and 31 August. To protect nesting seabirds please refrain from accessing the beach outside of this time. Remember to watch your step—seabirds may be nesting in sand and vegetation outside this time. Nesting seabirds are easily disturbed leaving chicks vulnerable, and vegetation is easily damaged which can lead to erosion.

Boating and Fishing

The Three Islands Group National Park islands are a regular stop for cruising yachts travelling to and from Lizard Island. Two Islands also provides fair weather anchorages, close to the shipping channel, for private, tourist and commercial fishing vessels.

Be aware that crocodiles can turn up anywhere in croc country, including tidal reaches of rivers, along beaches, on offshore islands and cays in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait, and in freshwater lagoons, rivers and swamps. Crocodiles are dangerous and attacks can be fatal. Remember to be crocwise in croc country.

Boating

There are no public moorings in the waters around Three Islands Group National Park. Public moorings are provided around Lizard Island. 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.
  • 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 at anchor.

Fishing

Marine waters adjacent to Three Islands National 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.

A Marine National Park (Green) Zone encompasses the reef and waters surrounding Three Islands and Rocky Islets sub-groups. These ‘no-take’ areas prohibit extractive activities like fishing or collecting. Check zoning information and maps before entering or conducting any activities in the marine parks.

Fishing is allowed around the Two Islands sub-group. Take only enough fish for a meal—remember bag and size limits apply. See Fisheries Queensland for more information.

Spearfishing (snorkel only) is allowed in the waters surrounding the Two Islands sub-group. Spearguns must be dismantled and stowed before taken onto the national park.

Viewing wildlife

Three Islands Group National Park is an ideal birdwatching location with over 63 bird species recorded. Of these, 27 species are recognised in international agreements/conventions. Endangered little terns, vulnerable beach stone-curlews and near threatened (rare) eastern curlews and sooty oystercatchers have all been seen within the park.

Large roosting populations of bridled terns and large breeding colonies of pied imperial-pigeons are found on the Two and Three islands sub-groups with up to 10,000 pairs of the latter found in the closed forests of Two Islands (a).

Wedge-tailed shearwater burrows cover much of the ground on Rocky Islet (a), which is the only breeding site for these birds in the Cairns section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Like their close relatives the albatross, shearwaters spend all of their life at sea (except when breeding) diving for fish, squid, crustaceans or plankton. Clumsy on the ground, they often crash land when returning to their nest and require a runway such as a log or uphill slope to take off. Rocky Islet (a) also has one of the largest breeding populations of bridled terns. Vulnerable hawksbill turtles also nest on the island.

Avoid nesting seabirds at all times. If parent birds are disturbed chicks and eggs can become vulnerable—easily destroyed by heat, cold and predators if left unprotected. Remember, to protect nesting birds, access to Rocky Islet (a) is prohibited (PDF, 147K)*—birds on this island can only be viewed by boat. Please only access Two and Three islands sub-groups between 1 April and 31 August.

Things to know before you go

Essentials to bring

Preparation is the key to a safe and enjoyable visit to the Three Islands Group National Park. Make sure to bring:

  • drinking water
  • a fuel or gas stove for cooking
  • protective clothing, sunscreen, hat and sunglasses
  • suitable shoes for walking on rough surfaces
  • a comprehensive first-aid kit
  • insect repellent.

Opening hours

Three Islands Group National Park is open 24 hrs a day, all year round. To protect nesting birds, access to Rocky Islet (a) is prohibited (PDF, 147K)*.

Permits and fees

Camping is permitted on Two Islands (a) between 1 April and 31 August only. A maximum of 10 people for up to 14 days is permitted. Camping is not permitted on the other islands within Three Islands Group National Park.

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

Pets

Domestic animals are not permitted on all islands within the Three Islands Group National Park or on tidal lands adjacent to the national park within the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park. Tidal areas include beaches and rocks.

Climate and weather

Three Islands Group National Park has a tropical climate. In summer the temperatures and humidity are high. Rainfall is at its heaviest between January and March. From April to September the days are cooler and less humid. Visiting in the cooler winter months is recommended. For more information see the tourism information links.

Fuel and supplies

Fuel and supplies are available on the mainland at Cooktown about 44–72 km south-west of the Three Islands Group National Park.

Staying safe

  • Carry drinking water when walking or out in your boat.
  • Be aware of tidal movements and take care on slippery rocks.
  • Know your own health limitations for safe snorkelling—do not put yourself and others at risk, and always snorkel with a buddy.
  • Wear sunscreen and cover up when you are walking and out on the water.
  • 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 turn up anywhere in croc country, including tidal reaches of rivers, along beaches, on offshore islands and cays in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait, and in freshwater lagoons, rivers and swamps. Crocodiles are dangerous and attacks can be fatal. Remember to be crocwise in croc country.

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

Looking after the park

We need your help to protect this national park.

  • Leave everything as you found it—everything in the park is protected.
  • Avoid nesting seabirds at all times. If parent birds are disturbed chicks and eggs can become vulnerable—easily destroyed by heat, cold and predators if left unprotected. Stay clear of roosting birds also.
  • Never feed birds, fish or other wildlife—it can affect the health of wild animals.
  • Leave your pets at home—domestic animals are not permitted in the national park; including between low and high tide marks.
  • Avoid touching, kicking or standing on coral.
  • Use fuel stoves only—fires are not allowed.
  • Take away everything brought onto the islands, including rubbish. Disposing of garbage in the marine parks is prohibited.
  • Minimise the use of soaps and detergents as they can affect water quality.
  • Avoid the spread of weeds—check your clothing and equipment for seeds before landing on the islands. Remove, wrap and carry seeds off the island.

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

Park management

Three Islands Group National Park is managed by Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) in accordance with the Three Islands Group National Park Management Plan (PDF, 1.7M)* to preserve the highly significant natural and cultural values of the islands, while also providing and managing a range of visitor settings.

The reef and waters surrounding the islands are protected within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. They also form part of the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park (State) and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Commonwealth).

Complementary management of waters adjacent to these islands is vital and continued close cooperation between QPWS and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is essential.

Tourism information links

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

Nature’s Powerhouse
www.naturespowerhouse.com.au
Cooktown Botanic Gardens
PO Box 3, Cooktown Qld 4895
Phone: (07) 4069 6004
Email: info@cooktown.com

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

Further information

Contact us

* Requires Adobe Reader

Last updated
20 February 2013