Tropical Coast of Queensland

Cape Bowling Green

Cape Bowling Green is located to the south-east of Townsville in north Queensland. Bowling Green Bay National Park is the region's largest coastal park. Its coastal plains are dramatically set against a backdrop of rugged granite mountains rising abruptly in the distance. In this section of the park, Alligator Creek flows between two rocky mountain groups - Mount Elliot and Saddle Mountain.

Bowling Green Bay is one of tropical Australia's largest and most diverse coastal wetlands. The Bowling Green Bay wetlands are mostly coastal plain covered in tidal mudflats, mangrove forest and salt marshes. River channels and freshwater marshes also form part of this large wetland complex.

Home to a rich and varied birdlife - including migratory birds - the lowland section of Bowling Green Bay National Park is listed under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance. The wetlands are also a nursery for fish and crustaceans and a feeding ground for rare and threatened wildlife such as the green turtle, dugong, little tern and eastern curlew. This coastal wetland is highly varied, ranging from mangrove woodlands and highly saline saltpan communities on the coast to brackish and freshwater wetlands inland. The coastal plains are drained by the Haughton River and many creeks. The Haughton River flows into Bowling Green Bay five to six months of the year. Cocoa and Alligator Creeks discharge into Cleveland Bay to the north-west. Smaller creeks flow into Upstart Bay at the wetland's southern end.

Bowling Green Bay contains examples of the richest coastal habitats typical of north-east Australia's coastal wet-dry tropics. The wetlands are diverse and include intertidal seagrass beds, mangrove and saltpan communities and forested, brackish and freshwater swamps. Nine species of mangrove grow in the wetland, providing a nursery and shelter for fish, mud crabs and prawns. The Bay's mangrove communities trap tide-borne sediments and help control coastal erosion. The mangroves provide vital protection from strong winds, tidal surges and heavy rainfall associated with cyclones which occasionally affect this part of Queensland's coastline.

Intertidal and subtidal seagrass beds of Cleveland and Bowling Green Bays provide a home for the threatened dugong and green turtle and are also a nursery for prawns. Rare and threatened animals which live in or visit the wetlands include the endangered loggerhead turtle and little tern, the vulnerable green turtle, dugong, saltwater crocodile and painted snipe and the rare eastern curlew.

Cape Bowling Green itself is the longest spit in Australia, extending north for over 14 km as a narrow, low spit, to form the eastern boundary of Bowling Green Bay. The cape represents the northern terminus for sand delivered by the massive Burdekin River, 40 km to the south. The sand is gradually moved by southerly waves, via a series of spits and bars, along the coast and up the cape.

There is no vehicle access to the cape and access from the sea is difficult owing to the numerous shifting bars and usually moderate waves. The beach forms the eastern boundary of the cape and varies considerably along the cape. In places it is tens of metres wide and backed by active foredunes, while elsewhere it is nonexistent as waves cut into the backing mangroves. The beach width is largely dependent on the location of the migrating bars and their points of attachment to the shore.

Cape Bowling Green and Bowling Green Bay were named by British navigator James Cook during his voyage along the eastern seaboard of Australia in HMS Endeavour on 6th June 1770. No specific reason was given by Cook for the name, however the tip of the cape is low and sandy, and could have been seen as resembling the low, flat surface of a bowling green. Alternatively, it could refer to the way Turtle Bay looks at low tide.

The original Cape Bowling Green lighthouse is now on display on the North Wharf at Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney.

Location: Alligator Creek is 25 km south of Townsville; Cape Cleveland is 33 km south of Townsville; Bowling Green Bay is 64 km south of Townsville and 26 km north of Ayr. For directions from each location, visit the National Park's website (link below).

Alva Beach

Cape Cleveland, Cape Bowling Green National Park

Alligator Creek, Bowling Green Bay National Park