Imagine climbing around the volcanic red rocks laying lazily on the beach as the kangaroos join you for sunrise over the bay. As the heat of the day kicks in, the butterflies wake up and surround you in clouds of blues, blacks and white. You stop for a coffee (made in the boot of your car) in the National Park picnic area and a dozen kangaroos come out to see what’s going on. This is Cape Hillsborough, and it is impossibly beautiful.
Cape Hillsborough National Park in is in Central/North Queensland and as such it is dangerous to swim from October – May due to the stingers and jellyfish that populate the area. The National Park has no stinger nets. However is you visit outside of these times, you are fine to swim. We were there is August and whilst it was hot hot hot, we decided not to go into the water past out knees as it is a little murky and we are Victorians with a healthy fear of crocodiles. Maybe we’re a little too cautious as there were families swimming at the beach every day we were there. We were bested by 10-year-old kids. It’s not the first time and it certainly not be the last, especially when it comes to a fear of crocodiles.
It did not matter though, we were more than happy to laze on the beach with our books and watch the butterflies pass us by. It was like living in a magical fairyland. We watched streams of blue butterflies fly around and over us as we lay on the beach. The blue in their wings was the same as the blue of the sky, making them look transparent. If your jaw is not hitting the floor then I’m not describing it properly. Actually everything about Cape Hillsborough left is with our jaws hitting the floor.
Do Not Leave The Park Without Doing These Things!
Only 35-40 minutes north of Mackay, Cape Hillsborough is a nature lovers delight. You can feel completely secluded yet always be close to a few of the more necessary creature comforts. An absolute must-do when visiting the National Park is a sunrise experience with the kangaroos on the main beach of Cape Hillsborough. This beach is right in front of the camping ‘resort’ and only a ten minute drive from the National Park camping at Smalleys Beach (see below for more info about camping n the area). Be sure to get there well before sunrise and pick a good spot. The roos will travel along the beach as the sun rises and are not afraid to get close to you, so feel free to space yourself out along the beach and away from the main crowd. Also be sure to walk along the beach past the rocky outcrop (will make sense once you’re there) as some of the smaller roos hide away from the camera flashes in between these rocks.
The other must-do is the Andrews Point walking trail. From memory it is only a few kilometres however the views are spectacular. The indescribable blues of the water meet rich red rocks, the water is only interrupted by the islands and the greens of the National Park. Its stunning. Make sure you take the walking trail at, or around, low tide also as there is the option to come back via the beach. You want to do this. The walk back from the end of Andrews Point walking trail to the car park is just as impressive as the walk itself. It is not difficult to imagine dinosaurs walking this part of the world. If you think that the tide maybe too high to walk back by the time you reach the end of the trail, then you can start you walk via the beach until you find the markings for the trail and walk it backwards. This is not a bad idea actually as then you would hit the most spectacular lookout right at the end of your hike (spoiler alert, sorry). The trail is not overly challenging, however you do need good knees as there are a few steps involved. We would recommend taking water (obviously) and a snack to enjoy at one of the lookouts or the beach, just to really let your surroundings sink in.
Camping options at Cape Hillsborough
If you do not mind leaving behind electricity and a hot shower, we highly recommend camping at Smalleys Beach. It is a National park campsite with drop toilets and only 12 campsites. Each site has it’s own private beach access and million dollar views. This campsite is located down a dirt road, find to access in any vehicle including 2WD, and away from the day use are of the National Park, giving you the illusion that you really are the last person left on the edge of the world. Be sure to pre-book as these sites fill up fast, and it’s not hard to see why. Price is $5.75 per person per night.
If you need your creature comforts, you can stay at the Cape Hillsborough Nature Resort. The resort is located right on the mainbeach and next to the National Park day use area. With powered sites available the resort also has hot showers. The resort is right on the beach however it is quite large and the foreshore sites seem to be given to cabins over tent sites. The price is $29 per night for an unpowered site or $34 per night with power.
Another option is to stay at the nearby Seaforth Camping Reserve. This is a Council run camping grounds and costs only $25 per night, however the sites are large and you have access to power at the BBQ pavilions as well as hot showers for only 20cents. Perfect for those on the budget but who still need access to power and can’t live without a hot shower. These camping grounds are located right on the beach also and Cape Hillsborough is a short 15 minute drive away. See our review for more about Seaforth Camping Reserve.
We cannot emphasis enough how beautiful Cape Hillsborough is. We tried to recommend it to our neighbours in the next camping grounds that we stayed in. They were elderly and I think that our enthusiasm for the place scared them a little. Either that or we look much worse then what we think we do (we have been living without a mirror for a while now, so it’s possible). Please be sure to let us know your stories from Cape Hillsborough below and any tips you have for visiting the area.