Cape Hillsborough National Park
I would give this a 12/10. Easily the most relaxing, tranquil, well located, pristine campground that we have stayed at so far. Smalleys Beach is booked out a week in advance and it’s not hard to see why. Located in the Cape Hillsborough National Park, Smalleys Beach is the state-run camping facility of the area. As such, it is managed by the local rangers and has your basics facilities, but no bells or whistles. This keep away a lot of the grey nomads in their epic motor homes with their loud TVs.
Address: I’m unsure what the exact address is but can give you pretty good directions. Take the Cape Hillsborough turnoff from Yakapari-Seaforth Rd (if you hit Seaforth you have gone too far). From here you will see a dirt road about 7 or 8kms that says Smalleys Beach Rd (or maybe just Smalleys Beach). Follow the dirt road, that is well graded and easy for a conventional vehicle to drive on, until you get to the camping grounds. Easy!
Location: Right on the beach. Literally. Each site has its own private beach access. Close to nothing else.
Cost for an unpowered campsite: $5.95 per person per night
How to book: Book online using the ParksQ system or on the phone via the Queensland-wide National Parks booking service on 13 74 68.
Nights we stayed for: 2, Sunday – Tuesday in August 2015. We wanted to stay for longer but booked too late and most places were taken, this place is popular peeps so plan in advance! We will be back though.
A little about Cape Hillsborough National Park
Located 40 minutes north of Mackay, this National park is a little slice of paradise. Full of wildlife, amazing views, rocky outcrops and empty beaches, Cape Hillsborough is a both a bush walkers and a beach lovers dream. We cannot recommend visiting here highly enough. If you had planned of skipping the Mackay region, change your plans. See our full article on Cape Hillsbourgh National Park for more and convincing info.
General campground and site comments
The campgrounds are made up on 11 sites which run parallel to the beach. Each site has it’s own private beach access. Let me repeat that. Each site, for which you are paying less than $6 per person per night, has it’s own private beach entrance. Bless you Queensland you magnificent beast. The beach is swim-able in the winter months however being North Queensland, stingers reside in the water in the summer months.
The sites are all great, no one is better than the other. We stayed in site 4 and were close (but not too close) to the bathrooms. Sites 4 and 5 both back onto the bathrooms, with sites 1 and 11 the furthest away, however this also makes them the most private. The sites are all large, very large in-fact, giving enough space to really spread yourself out, put up your clothes line, do yoga, have a dance party, whatever rings your bell.
The rangers check the grounds daily so be sure to hang your permit on the numbered pole at the from of your site when you’re setting up. The rangers also clean the bathrooms daily and put chemicals into the drop toilets. Special note, the best time to use the toilets is right after the ranger has been. They can get a little stinky.
Facilities and amenities
There are bathrooms, as mentioned above. They are a modern version of the drop toilet with the manual flush. They have no lights in them, so be sure to take your flashlight with you at night (ladies, a headtorch is always easiest for midnight trips to the facilities!).
The camping grounds, as I may have already mentioned, are right on the beach. In fact, this picture above, with the clear water, blue and green hills was the exact view from the beach in front of our campsite. The exact view! Smalleys Beach is not in the main part of the National Park, however it is only a short 10-15minute drive from all the walking tracks you could possibly dream of. We have written a full article about exploring Cape Hillsborough National Park, be sure to check that out for more info on the park, rather than duplicating it here, but to give you an idea and get you excited: besides the local kookaburras, it also involves millions of butterflies, a 1.2mt friendly monitor, and million of kangaroos.
In short. Go here. It is magical. We cannot wait to return.