Cape Hillsborough National Park is located on a peninsula north of Mackay and about 1,025 kilometers north of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. It was a must-do on our Queensland road trip as it’s known for its beach where you can spot kangaroos and wallabies at sunrise.
But that’s not all you can do at Cape Hillsborough National Park. Below you can read how we spent our time there.
Things to do at Cape Hillsborough National Park
Go hiking at Cape Hillsborough National Park
There are four different Cape Hillsborough walking tracks:
- the Beachcomber Cove Track
- the Diversity Boardwalk
- the Andrews Point Track
- the Yuibera Plant Trail
1. Beachcomber Cove Track
The Beachcomber Cove Track was closed for maintenance when we were there but if you’re interested in checking it out on your trip, you can find the start of it at the northern end of the Cape Hillsborough picnic area. From there, it supposedly goes through eucalypt forest and rainforest before reaching a lookout point at Beachcomber Cove.
At low tide, you can return to the picnic area via the beach but at high tide, you need to walk the same way back. The hike is 2.2 km return and should take you about 1.5 hours.
The Diversity Boardwalk is the first hike we did when we got to Cape Hillsborough Park as we came across it while driving toward the beach. It’s a quick 1.2 km round track and easily doable in 40 minutes or less.
The Diversity Boardwalk got its name from the wide variety of plants and (mostly small) wildlife you can see when walking it. The first part is the most fun, as it takes you over a wooden boardwalk from where you can see small crabs crawling through the mud below.
This part (only about 300 meters) is wheelchair accessible but then after that, the boardwalk goes over into a dirt track. Along the way, signs indicate the meaning of certain plants for the native Yuibera people.
Good to know:
There’s a free parking lot at the start of the track, which is to your right if you’re driving into the park. Keep your eyes open for signs pointing to it.
Yuibera Plant Trail
The Yuibera Plan Trail itself is only a 1.2 km return hike but to get there, you need to either walk or drive (only with regular cars) another 1.2 km along the Hidden Valley Road behind the Nature Tourist Park. We didn’t know and thought the road behind the campsite was already the start of the trail.
So while the official time to do this hike in is 40 minutes, it’s best to count an hour or even a bit more. The track is easy to walk and aside from the road to get there, which is a bit hilly, it’s not tiring either.
We found this hike to be a bit disappointing. It does give insight into the use of plants by the Yuibera people via information panels along the way but we’d hope to get better views of the ocean as the track runs close to it.
Ah well, they can’t all be mind-blowing :-) I’m still glad we did it as otherwise I would’ve probably wondered if I missed out on something.
Andrews Point Track and Wedge Island
The Andrews Point Track is the longest and coolest hike at Cape Hillsborough. It starts right behind the Nature Tourist Park where we spent the night (more on that later) but you can also access it from Cape Hillsborough beach.
The track climbs up quite a bit to then reward you with beautiful views of the ocean from several lookout points, of which Andrews Point is one. Once you’ve reached the end, you can turn back the same way to make it a 5.2 km return walk or go down to the beach to walk back from there, which will total just 2.8 km return.
Attention: the latter is only possible at low tide.
We hadn’t timed it so we got lucky to reach the end of the track at low tide. As came down at the beach, we noticed that you can also walk from the end of the track to Wedge Island.
Some people were fishing there and Wedge Island also offers a nice view of Cape Hillsborough beach.
It’s best to check Cape Hillsborough tide times at the Nature Tourist Park as you won’t have phone reception there, but to give you an idea: we started this walk in the early afternoon. It was our favorite because of the changing scenery, the lookouts, and the animals we saw along the way.
In just the first 30 minutes or so, we spotted a rock wallaby and a massive spider! On, and then there was Molly the kangaroo.
If you don’t want to worry about tide times, it’s also possible to kayak to Wedge Island.
Say hi to Molly, the resident kangaroo
Molly is a kangaroo that somehow ended up alone when she was still very little, right by the Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park. She quickly figured out she could get food at the campsite and so she stuck around.
We spotted Molly lazing at the beach right by the start of the Andrews Point Track. She clearly wasn’t bothered by us taking photos of her but we made sure to keep a safe distance, both for ourselves and to not disturb her.
Later that day, we saw her grazing on a patch of grass at the campsite. So cool!
Spot wallabies at sunrise
Cape Hillsborough beach is also known as “Cape Hillsborough kangaroos beach” but you’re actually a bit more likely to see wallabies there than kangaroos – although they sometimes come and visit too. Both species come to feed on the seaweed and other things that wash ashore during the night.
As people became aware of this, the word spread and the wallabies became Cape Hillsborough’s main attraction. To ensure the safety of the animals, a ranger now oversees their breakfast ritual every morning.
When we arrived at the beach, the ranger had marked off a line we needed to stay behind while watching the wallabies. She gave us some guidelines on how to keep the animals safe and provided information about them.
She was also the only one who could feed the wallabies. I was a bit surprised that she did this because, while she explained she was only giving them things that are part of their natural diet, it conflicted a bit with her saying that they want to keep these animals wild.
Turns out it’s a way to keep the tourists happy while making sure the animals are safe, well-fed, and returning every morning at the same time.
We spent a little less than an hour on the beach. My photos of the experience aren’t the best as I only had my phone with me and also wanted to savor the moment more than capture it.
Good to know:
When we checked in at the Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park, the lady at the reception told us what time we’d have to get up to see the wallabies. Of course, the animals don’t set their clock but they tend to get to the beach as soon as there’s a little bit of light. In June, that was at 6 a.m.
If you really can’t get up that early – but I highly recommend you do – you can also see the wallabies at the campsite or at the picnic area. We spotted them several times and were there for less than 24 hours. It’s not quite the same as seeing them with the sun rising in the background, though :-)
It’s also possible to book a “sunrise with the wallabies tour”. The only difference between the tour and going to the beach on your own that I noticed is that the our people get a headset in which they receive information. I’m not sure there was a tour going on the morning we were there as the ranger present just talked alout from everyone.
Plus, you can simply access the beach from the Nature Tourist Park if you’ve spent the night there..
Relax at the beach
I already mentioned the beach a few times. Well, aside from spotting wallabies there at sunset, it’s also a great place to go for a relaxing stroll or to put your towel down and relax a bit.
When you do, make sure to keep an eye on the sand. When we were there, the entire beach was dotted with tiny holes made by some kind of crab. Sometimes, you’d suddenly see one running sideways along the beach. it was pretty funny.
Apparently, you can sometimes also spot coral when the tide is low but we didn’t read about that until after our visit and so we didn’t look for it.
You can even go fishing Cape Hillsborough beach! We saw some people doing just that from the rocky outcrops at Wedge Island when we came back from our hike to Andrews Point. You can also fish from the beach.
Have tea at the Old Station Tea House
This is the only thing I had planned at Cape Hillsborough that we didn’t end up doing simply because we weren’t really in the mood for food and drinks when we left the campsite – I know, it’s rare, but it does happen :D
As I did the research anyway, I thought I’d share it here with you.
The Old Station Tea House is literally that: a tea house inside an old train station that the owners Michelle and Dwayne moved from the town of Marion to Cape Hillsborough now 20 years ago. It’s a popular spot to go for morning tea, coffee and cake, or lunch.
Cape Hillsborough accommodation
1. Cape Hillsborough National Park camping area
There are two places where you can stay at Cape Hillsborough. One is the Smalleys Beach Camping Area, one of the many official Queensland park camps. To stay there, you have to pay the small fee of 6.65 AUD per night.
Good to know is that there’s practically no phone reception at Cape Hillsborough and so you’ll need to book a spot online beforehand or at an office or self-serve kiosk. You can find more information about booking camping spots at Queensland’s nature parks here.
Your other options, is where we stayed: Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park.
2. Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park
The Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park is a spacious campsite right by the beach. It has spots for motorhomes, camper vans, and caravans as well as different kinds of cabins and studio rooms for rent.
There are five bbq areas, two camp kitchens, three amenity blocks, a laundry area, a massage area, a meeting room, and an outdoor pool. There’s also a cafe where you can get drinks, snacks, and quick meals depending on the time of the day.
When the cafe is closed for service, you can still grab a seat inside or on the terrace. There are things like board games, books and puzzles to keep you entertained.
The cafe is also where the regular outdoor movie screening takes place.
While it has a lot to offer, the Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park isn’t a massive campsite. We found it to be a good size: big enough to have ample room and small enough to walk from one side to the other in less than five minutes.
Plus, you can’t beat its direct access to two of Cape Hillsborough’s hiking trails as well as the beach, not to mention Molly the kangaroo and wallabies roaming the grounds!
Upon arrival at the Cape Hillsborough Tourist Park, they didn’t just show us our spot for the night but also gave us information about the Cape Hillsborough walking trails and the sunrise wallaby experience. We also got a handy information brochure with information on things to do in the surroundings.
We loved our night there. If you don’t mind that there’s not much else to do aside from the things that I mentioned above, it would also be a good place to spend a few nights to just hang and relax.
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