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About Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail

Getting there and getting around

The Whitsunday islands and the Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail are readily accessible by boat from Airlie Beach or Shute Harbour, east of Proserpine in central Queensland. By road the area is about 12 hours north of Brisbane and 8 hours south of Cairns. Follow signs on the Bruce Highway to Airlie Beach. Most roads in the region are suitable for conventional vehicles.

You can access the Whitsunday national park islands in several ways.

  • Private vessel. There are public boat ramps at Shute Harbour, Abel Point, Airlie Beach, Cannonvale, Dingo Beach, Conway Beach and Midge Point.
  • Commercial tours. Many commercial operators offer tours of the Whitsundays. See tourism information links below for further information.
  • Commercial boat transfers. Organise transfers at tourist booking agencies. Commercial operators depart from either Shute Harbour or Abel Point marina. Tides, group size, equipment and costs will determine the type of vessel required.
  • Commercial boat hire. See tourism information links for further information.

Kayakers

If you plan to access the islands by kayak, you need to develop an itinerary according to your fitness level and ability to carry water. You need to know and understand the effects of weather to cross various passages and channels, and know what to do when the weather prevents you from following your itinerary and camp bookings. Contact us to discuss your proposed itinerary before booking your campsites.

The Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail Trip Planner (PDF, 72K)* gives approximate paddling distances around the Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail's campgrounds and points of interest.

Walk highlights

Lofty peaks, sandy beaches, secluded forests and azure waters provide an unforgettable backdrop to the Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail. Photo: J Heitman.

Lofty peaks, sandy beaches, secluded forests and azure waters provide an unforgettable backdrop to the Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail. Photo: J Heitman.

Lofty peaks, sandy beaches, secluded forests and azure waters create an unforgettable backdrop to the Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail.

For a challenging walk, climb Whitsunday Peak and enjoy spectacular 360 degree views over the Whitsunday islands and mainland.

Gain an insight into Ngaro life and culture at Ngaro Cultural Site in Nara Inlet.

Choose a leisurely walk to Chance Bay or stretch out across South Molle Island’s 11.5km track network.

The Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail has something for everyone.

Camping and accommodation

Camping

The Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail has several camping areas that provide easy access to walking tracks.

Campgrounds are accessible by boat only. There are a number of commercial operators offering transfers to the national park islands if you do not have your own vessel. Ensure you book your transfer before obtaining your camping permit.

Camping permits are required and fees apply.

Short walks

View over Solway Passage, Whitsunday Island. Photo: J Heitman.

View over Solway Passage, Whitsunday Island. Photo: J Heitman.

The Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail offers a variety of enjoyable short walks. Take your time to uncover the true essence of the Whitsundays.

Short walks on Whitsunday Island

Solway circuit — 1.2km return (40 minutes) Grade: Moderate

Starting from Whitehaven Beach, this one-way circuit winds its way uphill to a natural rock platform — giving spectacular views over Solway Passage and surrounding islands. Trackside information gives walkers an insight into Whitehaven’s slowly changing landscape.

Hill Inlet lookout — 1.3km return (40 minutes) Grade: Easy to moderate

Take an uphill stroll to twin lookouts for spectacular vistas over Hill Inlet’s turquoise waters and white sweeping sands — a highly significant area to the Ngaro people.

Lookout Beach — 500m return (20 minutes) Grade: Easy to moderate

Branch off the Tongue Point Lookout track and head downhill to the ivory white sands of Lookout Beach. Situated at the mouth of Hill Inlet you can enjoy the sunshine or rest in the shade.

Dugong–Sawmill Track — 3km return (1 hour) Grade: Easy to moderate

Wind your way beneath towering hoop pines and shady rainforest. Closer to Dugong Beach, stands of giant rainforest trees and solitaire palms create a fairytale world populated by moss, lichens and fungi. The track starts from either Dugong or Sawmill beach. From Sawmill Beach, you will need to cross Sawmill Creek to reach the track — be prepared to get wet if the tide is high.

Short walks on Hook Island

Ngaro Cultural Site — 340m return (20 minutes) Grade: Moderate

The Ngaro people have walked this land for over 9000 years. Protected from the elements in a once-hidden cave, Ngaro artwork adorns the fragile rock surface. The track begins deep inside Nara Inlet — an excellent overnight anchorage. Short and initially steep, the stepped track leads up the side of the inlet to a viewing platform at the cave’s entrance. Allow at least an hour to immerse yourself in the stories of the site.

Long walks

Whitsunday Peak, Whitsunday Island. Photo: J Heitman.

Whitsunday Peak, Whitsunday Island. Photo: J Heitman.

The Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail on South Molle and Whitsunday islands provides half-day and full-day walks. Enjoy the rolling hills and grasslands of South Molle Island or climb to the craggy heights of Whitsunday Peak for an unforgettable view.

Long walks on Whitsunday Island

Chance Bay — 7.2km return (at least 2.5–3 hours) Grade: Moderate

Escape the sun and follow this track through some of Whitsunday Island’s more secluded forests to the peaceful Chance Bay. This enjoyable walk branches off Solway circuit.

Whitsunday Peak — 5km return (4 hours) Grade: Difficult

Stand at the top of the island and enjoy uninterrupted views of the Whitsundays. Accessed from Sawmill Beach in Cid Harbour, the Whitsunday Peak track offers a great getaway from the busy beaches. Climb through diverse vegetation, from rainforest gullies to windblown heaths, and be rewarded with spectacular vistas on the ‘roof of the Whitsundays’.

Walk safely: Remember, this track is steep and physically demanding—please consider your fitness and walking experience carefully before setting out.

Whitsunday Cairn — 4km return (at least 3 hours) Grade: Difficult

Steep and challenging, the track to Whitsunday Cairn leads off Cairn Beach, the most northern beach on Whitsunday Island. A demanding ascent takes you through hoop pines and dry rainforest. Stick carefully to the ridge line as you walk through drier open woodland where giant grasstrees dominate. Emerge onto a wind-exposed rock outcrop below the towering Whitsunday Cairn for breathtaking views.

Walk safely: There is no defined track. Triangular track markers intermittently mark the way. This walk is for fit and experienced walkers only.

Long walks on South Molle Island

Sandy Bay to Spion Kop — 8.4km return (4 hours) Grade: Moderate

Prepare for a gradual, gentle climb from Sandy Bay to the popular Spion Kop lookout. Signs along the last 1.2km will guide you through South Molle’s long history of travel and trade.

Extension to Mt Jeffreys — 2.6km return (at least 1 hour) Grade: Moderate

The 1.3km extension to South Molle Island’s highest point branches off the track to Spion Kop. Rest on the rocky peak and absorb 360 degree views to the surrounding islands and mainland.

Note: There are more walking opportunities beyond the Ngaro Sea Trail on South Molle Island.

Planning your walk

Plan your walk well. Even though some Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail walks are short, natural hazards still exist — be aware of what to expect and how to respond in an emergency.

When planning your walk, think about the abilities and limits of the walkers in your group. Bushwalking experience, fitness levels and track conditions are important factors. Bad weather (such as periods of high rainfall or very hot conditions) can make walking more difficult and challenging. Know how much food and water you can carry and match this with the trip’s length. Carry extra food and water in case of emergency.

Essentials to bring

  • Sturdy ankle-supporting footwear.
  • Drinking water—make sure you take enough for a full day’s walk.
  • Nourishing lightweight food and high-energy snacks—take extra food in case the walk takes longer than expected.
  • Hat, sunscreen and insect repellent.

Permits and fees

Camping permits

Camping permits are required for camping on the Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail and fees apply. Visitor numbers are limited to ensure a quality experience. You will need to book your site and purchase your permit in advance. Display your camping permit prominently on your tent — there are fines for camping without it.

Climate and weather

Pleasant conditions occur throughout the year.

  • April–September daytime temperatures are mild to warm (21–26 degrees Celsius) with cool nights (16–22 degrees Celsius) particularly when prevailing south-easterly winds blow. Water temperatures on the reef flat vary from 22 degrees Celsius in July to 27 degrees Celsius in January.
  • October–January days are hotter (26-31 degrees Celsius) and more humid. Balmy nights follow strong but cooling north-easterly afternoon sea breezes.
  • January–April is the wet season though showers may fall in any month. Cyclones are more likely between November and March. See staying safe for further information

The Whitsundays receive good broadcast radio reception and weather forecasts are available on most channels hourly. Weather forecasts are available from the Bureau of Meteorology website, or by phoning 1300 360 426.

See tourism information links for further information.

Fuel and supplies

The nearest fuel and supplies can be found in Proserpine and Airlie Beach. See tourism information links for further information.

Walk safely

  • Choose your walks carefully — some longer walks are difficult and are suited to fit and experienced walkers only. Be well prepared before departing and leave enough time for your return journey. You don’t want to be walking in the dark.
  • Keep to the track. The islands are rugged and densely vegetated — they are not places to explore off-track. Also, new tracks erode easily, damaging the landscape and the reef as increased sediment run-off smothers coral.
  • Respect sign directions. Access to some areas is restricted and some walking tracks may be closed due to maintenance, fires, cyclone damage or other safety reasons. Signs are there for your safety.
  • Wear suitable footwear. Sturdy boots or shoes will ensure you have a safe and comfortable walk.
  • Avoid stinging trees. Their heart-shaped leaves have fine hairs, which can be extremely painful if touched.
  • Take water and wear a hat and sunscreen.
  • Carry a first aid kit and prepare for emergencies as below.
  • Leave your itinerary with a reliable friend and keep them informed.

For more things to do and island safety information visit the Parks of the Whitsundays page.

Walk softly

Never leave anything but your footprints behind. Photo: J Heitman.

Never leave anything but your footprints behind. Photo: J Heitman.

Leave no trace

  • Take all rubbish, including food scraps and fishing tackle, back to the mainland.  Bins are not provided. Remove excess food packaging before your trip to minimise the rubbish you bring home.
  • Do not bury or burn anything. Even small fragments of line and string can become entangled around birds’ legs with agonising and fatal results.
  • Ensure your camping gear, clothes and shoes are not contaminated by seeds, soil, insects, toads or mice before visiting an island. New introductions might spread or displace resident species and alter island ecology. If island hopping, avoid carrying pests between islands.

For more information about looking after parks visit the Whitsunday national park islands page.

Tourism information links

Whitsunday Information Centre
www.tourismwhitsundays.com.au 
Bruce Highway, Proserpine Qld 4800
ph (07) 4945 3711
fax (07) 4945 3182
email info@tourismwhitsundays.com.au 

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

Further information

Contact us

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
www.gbrmpa.gov.au
ph 1800 990 177

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
www.daff.qld.gov.au
Shingley Drive, Able Point Marina
AIRLIE BEACH QLD 4802
ph (07) 4946 7003

Volunteer Marine Rescue Whitsunday

PO Box 298 CANNONVALE QLD 4802
ph (07) 4948 0994
fax (07) 4946 5200
email Whitsunday@vmraq.org.au
Monitors marine VHF channels 16, 22, 81 and 82 and HF channel 2524
In an emergency phone (07) 4946 7207.

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Last updated
25 March 2011