Tropical Coast of Queensland

South Cumberland Islands National Park

Off the central Queensland coast lies the Cumberland group protected in South Cumberland Islands National Park. The islands and surrounding waters are part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and are protected. This is part of the sea country of the Ngaro people.

In 1879, Staff Commander E. P. Bedwell, RN, SS Llewellyn, gave many names from the then English county of Cumberland to The Whitsundays following James Cook's 1770 designation of the group as 'The Cumberland Isles'. The county of Cumberland was absorbed into Cumbria in 1974. The name 'Cumberland Islands', which includes the Lindeman Group in the north, the Lindeman Group in the centre and the Sir James smith Group in the south, is seldon used today, being replaced by the more popular name, The Whitsundays.

Scawfell Island

Scawfell Island is the largest island in the group. Granite cliffs line this hilly continental island s rocky, indented coastline. Open eucalypt woodland covers most of the island and hoop pine-dotted rainforest grows on steep, sheltered slopes. Scawfell is an important turtle rookery. The island, lying 60 kilometres off the Australian mainland, is a large horseshoe shape.

Granite cliffs line its coast, Scawfell being the largest national park island in the South Cumberland group. Large areas of rainforest perch on steep mountain slopes. Access to the island is via Refuge Bay, a tree lined 1.3 km white sandy beach. The bay is a wide sheltered bay facing north with all tidal access. The bay has clear blue water, an excellent coral fringing reef, ideal for snorkelling.

Cockermouth Island

Cockermouth Island is hilly and covered mainly in open grassland. The only sign of human habitation was a National Parks sign advertising the location of a camping area. This is your quintessential Robinson Crusoe Island and one of the Whitsundays' best kept secrets. The western side has sandy beaches and a sheltered anchorage.

A remnant ancient Pleistocene reef is exposed at low tide in the shallow lagoon on the island s western side. Cockermouth is one of the prettiest islands in the Whitsundays, and one of the least visited. in the the lagoon you can watch the turtles and sting rays enter for their daily feasting. The ebb tide exposes a sand spit, popular with oyster catchers seeking a fresh morsel of mollusc, crab, star fish or sea urchin. The town of Cockermouth after which the island is named, is noted as the place where poet William Wordsworth and his wife lived and the birthplace of Fletcher Christian, who led the mutiny on HMS Bounty in 1789.

Keswick Island

Keswick Island is picturesque and is inhabited by a small number of residents. It is a semi-popular tourist destination set to expand with planned development. Visitors can stay in a small number of catered and self catered accommodation. The island has its own airstrip and is accessible from Mackay Airport by a short plane flight or by private boat. Identified as part of the Cumberland Isles Group by Captain James Cook in 1770.

Basil Bay, Keswick Island

Keswick Island and neighbouring St Bees Island were first designated together as 'L1 Island' by Lieutenant Matthew Flinders, RN, in HMS Investigator in 1802. Keswick Island was later individually named in 1879 after the town of Keswick in England's Cumbria Lake District by Staff Commander E. P. Bedwell, RN, in SS Llewellyn. Keswick Island is separated from its nearest neighbour, St Bees Island by only a few hundred meters by the Egremont Passage.

St Bees Island

St Bees Island is largely composed of steep, volcanic hills reaching 370m above sea level. A small number of koalas were introduced to St Bees Island from the adjacent mainland in the 1930s. Later koalas were taken from St Bees Island to nearby Brampton and possibly Newry Islands. On St Bees Island, at least, the koala population has persisted and it is currently estimated that the island supports a population of between 200 and 300 animals. Elsewhere in Australia introduced populations and isolated mainland populations have grown rapidly and outstripped their habitat. A small team of researchers from the University of Queensland and Central Queensland University) supported by the Central Queensland Koala Volunteers established a study of the koala population of the island in 1998, and have found the colony to be thriving, without any problems.

Things to do

Bush camp on Scawfell Island. A shelter shed and toilets are provided. Take fresh water, a fuel stove for cooking and insect repellent. Open fires and generators are prohibited. Remove all rubbish to the mainland. Bookings are essential in holidays.

Refuge Bay on the northern side of Scawfell Island is a popular anchorage. Fishing is allowed only here. Beware of marine stingers and cyclones during the warmer months.

Getting there

Scawfell Island is 60km north-east of Mackay. Access is by private boat or water taxi. Further information: QPWS, DPI Building, 30 Tennyson Street, Mackay. Ph (07) 4944 7800. fax (07) 4944 7811

Keswick Island

Keswick Island