What to expect at Cape Hillsborough
Cape Hillsborough National Park is one of the few places in Australia where you can meet kangaroos on the beach every morning.
The park offers rainforest, eucalypt forest, beaches, headlands with hoop pines, and volcanic rock formations. On top of it, the sunrises are just amazing.
Imagine yourself feeding a kangaroo at dusk while the orange sun is rising in distance.
This is a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with these iconic Australian animals and to witness their natural behaviour as they graze and play on the sand. If you like photography, you will get a chance to shoot amazing photos and videos of your sunrise encounters with kangaroos on the beach.
During the summer months, it is possible to witness the nesting and hatching of sea turtles on the beaches in and around Cape Hillsborough.
The sheltered waters of Casuarina Bay, adjacent to Cape Hillsborough, offer a unique opportunity to explore the area by paddleboard. This is a peaceful and environmentally-friendly way to see the coast and observe the wildlife.
Cape Hillsborough has a range of walking trails that offer visitors the chance to explore the park’s diverse terrain and natural beauty.
Sounds interesting? Great!
Where is Cape Hillsborough located?
Cape Hillsborough is located in Queensland, Australia, approximately 50 kilometres northwest of Mackay. The national park is situated on the coast, overlooking the Coral Sea, and covers an area of approximately 10.8 square kilometres. The nearest town to Cape Hillsborough is the small seaside community of Seaforth, which is located about 6 kilometres to the south of the park. The park is easily accessible by car, and several main roads lead to the area, including the Bruce Highway and Mackay-Bucasia Road.
The temperatures are very welcoming. Winter’s coldest nights will be 12 degrees, while in summer it hardly drops below 22 degrees at night.
Cape Hillsborough National Park Average Temperatures and Rainfall
Best Time to Visit
As the weather is always welcoming you can visit Cape Hillsborough any time of the year. However in the summer months, between December and March, you can get heavy rain for a few days so better to avoid these months.
The busiest times of year to visit Cape Hillsborough National Park are generally during the school holidays and over the Christmas and New Year periods. This is when many families and tourists from around Australia and overseas are travelling and looking for a holiday destination.
Additionally, the cooler months from June to August are also popular times to visit, particularly for visitors from southern Australia who are looking to escape the winter chill. During these months, the park can be quite busy, but there are still plenty of opportunities to enjoy the natural beauty and wildlife of the area.
If you are looking to avoid crowds, the shoulder seasons of March to May and September to November are generally quieter and can still offer great weather and wildlife sightings. However, it’s important to note that the weather and conditions in the park can be unpredictable, so it’s a good idea to check the forecast and be prepared for all possibilities when planning your trip.
Access & how to get there
Driving from Mackay is very easy. Drive north on the Bruce Highway and turn right after 21 km into Seaford Road. Then, travel another 19 km and turn right into Cape Hillsborough Rd. From there it is only a 10 km drive to the park entrance.
There is not much accommodation on offer in Cape Hillsborough but the two we list here are sufficient to enjoy your stay. We recommend staying at Cape Hillsborough Tourist Park for easy access to the beach and kangaroos in the morning. The park has a number of campsites, both powered and unpowered, which are suitable for tents, camper trailers, and caravans. The campsites are equipped with amenities such as barbecues, showers, and toilets.
Alternatively, you can stay in Mackay and go for a day trip to Cape Hillsborough.
Shady campground is located at the beach of Ball Bay – on the west side of Cape Hillsborough. If you want to avoid the crowds, go fishing, launch a boat and unwind for a few days Smalleys Beach is for you.
- Tent sites
- Camper trailer and caravan sites
- Picnic tables
Cape Hillsborough Tourist Park was always our first choice of stay. It is due it is conveniently located at the beach in the rainforest. Every morning it is just a 50-meter walk to meet the Cape Hillsborough kangaroos on the beach and enjoy the sunrise.
They offer various accommodations including beach, Queenslander and terrace huts, beach houses, cabins, and power and unpowered sites.
There is a swimming pool, many activities for kids (during the school holiday) and close access to all walks.
When you walk to the beach the scenery is amazing: you will see a beautiful wide beach with Wedge Island in distance. The morning sunrise with kangaroos is one of a kind event. In the evening the sandstone cliffs turn red and the beach is covered with long shadows making it perfect for running or any beach activities.
Kangaroo Encounter – Our Tips
One of the main reasons tourists come to Cape Hillsborough is to have a kangaroo encounter on the beach. Indeed, it is amazing to see them every morning in one place, just in front of the caravan park on the beach.
The best time to see the kangaroos at Cape Hillsborough is during sunrise, which is typically between 5:30 am and 6:30 am depending on the time of year. This is when the kangaroos are most active and can often be seen hopping along the beach or grazing on the grassy areas near the beach. They actually come to the beach to also feed on seed pods that have been washed onto the shore.
While the kangaroos and wallabies at Cape Hillsborough are wild, they have become accustomed to the presence of humans due to the park’s popularity as a tourist destination. However, it’s important to remember that these animals are still wild and their behaviour can be unpredictable.
It’s important to note that the exact timing of the kangaroo sightings can vary depending on the season and weather conditions, so it’s a good idea to check with the Nature Tourist Park staff for the most up-to-date information.
If you want to take some unique photos, make sure to be on the beach at dusk before other tourists arrive. Once the place is crowded, it is difficult to take a good photo.
To have a safe kangaroo encounter make sure to follow some basic rules.
- Stay well back from the animals
- Never feed kangaroos
When visiting Cape Hillsborough to see the kangaroos, it’s important to be prepared with the right gear. Here are some things you may want to bring:
- Comfortable walking shoes: The beach at Cape Hillsborough can be rocky and uneven in some areas, so it’s important to wear comfortable, sturdy shoes.
- Warm clothing: Even in the warmer months, the early morning beach air can be cool and breezy, so it’s a good idea to bring a warm jacket or layers that can be easily removed as the day warms up.
- Insect repellent: Mosquitoes and sandflies can be a common annoyance in the area, so it’s a good idea to bring insect repellent to keep them at bay.
- Camera or binoculars: To get the best view of the kangaroos and other wildlife, it’s recommended to bring a camera or binoculars to get a closer look.
- Water and snacks: Depending on how long you plan to spend at the beach, it’s a good idea to bring water and snacks.
What facilities are available at Cape Hillsborough
Cape Hillsborough offers a range of facilities for visitors to enjoy during their stay.
- Camping and accommodation: Cape Hillsborough has a number of accommodation options including cabins, villas, and campsites with both powered and unpowered sites available.
- BBQ areas: There are several picnic areas and BBQ facilities available for visitors to use throughout the park.
- Beach access: Cape Hillsborough has a beautiful beach that is easily accessible for visitors. There are also several walking tracks throughout the park which provide access to stunning coastal vistas.
- Visitor information: The park has a visitor information centre with staff on hand to provide information and advice to visitors.
- Toilets and shower facilities: Clean and well-maintained toilet and shower facilities are available throughout the park.
- Guided tours: Visitors can also take part in guided tours to learn more about the park’s unique flora and fauna, including the famous sunrise kangaroo sightings.
Cape Hillsborough’s other attractions
- Whale watching: From June to November, visitors to Cape Hillsborough have the opportunity to see humpback whales as they migrate along the coast.
- Fishing: The park offers excellent fishing opportunities, with plenty of fish species to catch, including barramundi, bream, and whiting.
- Walking trails: There are several walking trails throughout the park, ranging from easy strolls to more challenging hikes. The Andrews Point Track is a must-do, offering stunning coastal views. Please read below our details description of the walks.
- Snorkelling and diving: The waters around Cape Hillsborough are home to a diverse range of marine life, including turtles, coral, and colourful fish, making it an excellent spot for snorkelling and diving.
- Birdwatching: With over 150 bird species in the area, Cape Hillsborough is a birdwatcher’s paradise.
- Rockpooling: Several rock pools along the beach are great for exploring, with a variety of sea creatures to discover.
- Cultural experiences: Visitors can learn about the local culture and history of the area through guided tours and experiences, including visits to traditional Indigenous sites and storytelling sessions.
Cape Hillsborough Walks
It is a 5.2 km return walk that takes you to the amazing lookout. Enjoy the breathtaking ocean, island, and coastal views from the top of the hill. The walk is marked as difficult as often you have to step on big stones, but it is nothing extraordinary if you are a fit hiker.
If the tide is low and still incoming you can proceed to Wedge Island, but make sure you come back on time to not get stuck there for the night!
As Wedge Island is located 200 meters offshore of Cape Hillsborough, it is only accessible during the low tide. To make it safe make it 2 hours before the low tide and 2 hours after.
Make sure you take your time to enjoy Wedge Island. There is a small beach and up in rocks you can get to a cave and walk to the top of the island to enjoy the scenic views of the coastline and surrounding areas.
The 2.2 return walk starts on the north of the tourist park and leads through the open rainforest with hoop pines, ferns and vines to the top of the ridge where you can enjoy spectacular views of the area.
A short and easy 1.2 km return boardwalk that goes through mangroves, eucalypts, cool melaleucas and thick vines of Melaleuca woodland.
The walk is abundant with flora and fauna and you learn about the cultural significance of the Yuibera people. They collected shellfish from the mangroves, roasted them, ate and discarded the empty shells on the large pile or midden.
Yuibera Plant Trail
By walking this 1.2 circuit trail you learn more about the Yuibera people and their connection with the country.
The walk starts behind the Cape Hillsborough Tourist Park and leads through open woodland and shady pockets of rainforest. On the way, you can see Sandy Bay beach a few times.
During the walk, through various labels and information boards, you learn about plants that the Yuibera Aboriginal people used for food and medicine. You may even see an old fish trap if you are lucky.
Events and festivals around Cape Hillsborough
Throughout the year, the town hosts a variety of events and festivals that celebrate its unique culture and natural surroundings.
One of the most popular events in Cape Hillsborough is the annual Kangaroo Beach Boxing Day Run, which takes place every December 26th. This event sees participants from all over the country come together to run a 5km or 10km race along the beautiful Cape Hillsborough beach, with kangaroos often joining in on the fun.
Another popular event in the area is the Mackay Beach Horse Racing Festival, which takes place in August each year. This festival sees horses racing along the stunning Mackay beaches, with spectators enjoying live music, food and drink, and other activities.
For those who love food, the Taste of the Beaches Festival is a must-visit event. Held in September each year, this festival celebrates the diverse culinary offerings of the region, with food stalls, cooking demonstrations, and plenty of opportunities to sample the best local cuisine.
Finally, the Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park also hosts a variety of events and activities throughout the year, including guided bushwalks, bird-watching tours, and stargazing sessions.
Can I take my dog to Cape Hillsborough?
Unfortunately, dogs and other pets are not allowed within the Cape Hillsborough National Park or on the beach within the park. This is to protect the park’s native wildlife and their habitats.
However, there are some pet-friendly accommodation options available outside of the park, so you can still enjoy the area with your furry friend. Just make sure to check with the specific accommodation provider before booking to confirm their pet policy and any restrictions that may apply.
Our Experience & Tips
We came to Cape Hillsborough Tourist Park two times during our adventures. The first time was when we were doing our Queensland loop by Eungella National Park to see platypus, and the second time was on our way to Cape York.
Both times we enjoyed kangaroos on the beach and Kasha even caught two flatheads that we enjoyed for dinner.
The beach at Cape Hillsborough is stunning and definitely one of the best in Australia.
During our stay, we did all the walks and learned a lot about Cape Hillsborough and its traditional owners. It is a great place to stay with your family for at least a week.
The place gets busy during the school holidays, so make sure you book your spot early enough.
What other attractions would we recommend close to Cape Hillsborough?
There are plenty of other attractions and activities to explore in the region surrounding Cape Hillsborough. Here are our top recommendations:
- Eungella National Park: Just a short drive from Cape Hillsborough, Eungella National Park is home to lush rainforests, beautiful waterfalls, and a diverse range of wildlife, including the elusive platypus.
- Mackay: The city of Mackay is a great place to explore, with plenty of shops, cafes, and restaurants to visit. There are also several museums and galleries to check out, including the Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens.
- Brampton Island: Located just off the coast of Cape Hillsborough, Brampton Island is a beautiful tropical island that offers snorkelling, diving, and other water activities.
- Finch Hatton Gorge: This stunning gorge features hiking trails, swimming holes, and waterfalls, making it a great spot for a day trip.
- Pioneer Valley: A scenic drive through the Pioneer Valley is a must-do, with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and several picturesque towns to visit along the way.
- Whitsunday Islands: The famous Whitsunday Islands are located just a short distance from Cape Hillsborough and are known for their stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and world-class snorkelling and diving.
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