As you cross the sand of what feels like a prehistoric beach, huge oyster covered rocks and ancient pine trees sprout from the earth. Heading into the jungle, twisting vines and ferns block the light, the air thick with swarming bright blue butterflies.
For the east coast traveler there is a little known treasure of a place where you’ll find some exceptional landscape and wildlife—without the crowds. Cape Hillsborough National Park is a beautiful and rugged piece of coast about 40 minutes drive North of Mackay.
Anyone keen to explore this area has two main options for staying: Smalley’s Beach campsite and the nature resort at Cape Hillsborough. I stayed at the former, and you can read about it here.
My experience of the hike here was around 6km in length, and that it took just under two hours—this is allowing a fair amount of time for looking around and admiring the wildlife.
We set out from the Nature resort car park, which has direct beach access. from here you can either head west along the beach first, or east toward Wedge Island and the main part of this hike. As apparently there are often huge numbers of a particular kind of wallaby to the west, I had hoped to finish here, to time it around sunset when the animals would be moving around (this was not the case for us, at least, the wallabies did not visit the beach this time).
Heading east along the beach, you will see a track heading into the forest. If the tide is still too high (as it was here), you’ll need to take this track first as the beach is impassable all the way through at high tide.
Once on the forest track it rises very quickly, and continues until you’re up top. We saw a snake here, but don’t let that get in the way of checking out some of the great caves and so on. The track then takes you along the south side of the cape where you get some excellent views, before dropping you back to the north beach. Now, if the tide is out far enough, you can cross to Wedge Island.
the second part of this hike, in which you can walk across a natural bridge to wedge island, is certainly tidal, and so it is crucial to check the tides and plan ahead.
I was still a little early, and had to change plans. I had originally intended to follow the beach out to wedge island first, but the tide was still too high. However, we decided to head around the bush track, and by this time the ocean had retreated enough to head across to Wedge Island. Just be sure that the tide’s on the way out when you leave, or you might be spending the night out there, which may, at least, be a bit of fun I guess!
Wedge Island is a fun island, and great to explore, with coral sands, majestic mangroves, and water worn caves. When the rugged rock meets green vegetation and pine trees, this place feel prehistoric.
Cape Hillsborough is on the way to the Whitsundays when heading north, and so is a great place to stop for a couple of nights if you’re on your way to the islands.
It may seem like a strange choice, but for this part of the trip I was feeling a bit of…:
BOXER | THE NATIONAL
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