Tropical Coast of Queensland


A tropical township through which visitors enter and exit Hinchinbrook Island. Cardwell is the only coastal town on the Bruce Highway between Townsville and Cairns.

Location: 1,533 km north of Brisbane.

Cardwell's Port Hinchinbrook provides state of the art public boat ramp and repairs and maintenance facilities for anglers and boaties. It is widely acknowledged that Cardwell is ranked second to none when it comes to all weather and all tide boating & fishing.

For those who love fishing Cardwell is renowned for its rewarding recreational fishing. You can have a relaxing day fishing off the jetty or take a reef or estuary fishing charter. Fishing competitions are held throughout the year and the Barra Bonanza in October attracts 160 plus anglers.

The Bush Telegraph Office, Museum, Art Gallery and Visitor Information Centre are all a must see. Their interpretive displays provide fascinating information about the area and its history. Girringun Aboriginal cultural centre tells about the local aboriginal people, their past and customs. It was also created as a home for original local Aboriginal artifacts which had been dispersed throughout the world.

Brief history: explorer Edmund Kennedy passed close by the present townsite in 1848 during his tragic attempt to travel from Rockingham Bay to Cape York. Explorer, public servant and politician George Dalrymple (1826-1876) published proposals for the establishment of a new pastoral settlement in North Australia in 1859, and began to explore and open up the northern part of Queensland to bring it to fruition. In 1864, he established Cardwell on Rockingham Bay as a port for the inland pastoral stations. The locality's name was coined by George Dalrymple in 1864. It recalls Edward Cardwell (1813-1886), later Viscount Cardwell, Secretary of State for the Colonies April 1864 to July 1866.

Coral Sea Battle Memorial Park: commemorates an air and sea battle, some 800 km east, between Australian/US forces and Japanese, in May 1942. Cardwell played a major role in the battle, in the role of the home base for the Allied forces. This beachfront park is unique because of its close proximity to the site of the battle as well as being Australia's largest war memorial.

Natural features: Cardwell Range; Burdekin River; Hinchinbrook Island; Edmund Kennedy National Park (4 km north); Goold Island National Park; Brook Islands National Park; Cape Richards; Girringun National Park; Murray River Wetlands; Rockingham Bay; Dalrymple Gap; Broadwater State Forest.

Brief history: Explorer Edmund Kennedy passed close by the present townsite in 1848 during his tragic attempt to travel from Rockingham Bay to Cape York. George Dalrymple published proposals for the establishment of a new pastoral settlement in North Australia in 1859, and began to explore and open up the northern part of Queensland to bring it to fruition. In 1864, he established Cardwell on Rockingham Bay as a port for the inland pastoral stations. Origin of name: named by George Dalrymple (1826-1876), explorer, public servant and politician, in 1864, after Edward Cardwell (1813-1886), later Viscount Cardwell, Secretary of State for the Colonies April 1864 to July 1866.

Surrounding Area

Hinchinbrook Island channel from lookout near Cardwell

Hinchinbrook Island
With its lush rainforests, rugged, misty and heath-covered mountains, sweeping sandy beaches, rocky headlands, paperbark and palm wetlands, mangrove-fringed shores and extensive open forests and woodlands, Hinchinbrook Island National Park is one of the world s most outstanding island parks. Hinchinbrook, off the coast of north Queensland between Townsville and Cairns, is basically two large islands joined by a long sand isthmus which has developed so there is a narrow sandy beach facing south, then a few substantial dunes and a vast, impenetrable mangrove swamp cut by sinuous channels. From the air it is one of the true wonders of the Australian coastline.
Dalrymple Gap Walking Track
To follow in the footsteps of the early settlers, take the Dalrymple Gap Walking Track over the Cardwell range. The trail starts 15 klm south of Cardwell. Passing through the Girringun National park, the 10klm walking track is suitable for experienced walkers. The trail is comprised of open eucalypt forest with rainforest strips in the creek lines. At the gap, the historic stone-pitched bridge is the oldest surviving example of civil engineering work on mainland north Queensland. The bridge was in use 1864 to 1870.

Goold Island

Goold Island
A tropical island 17km offshore from the township of Cardwell, Goold Island is a tall, forested hill with granite outcrops, eucalypt woodlands and sandy beaches. Camping on the island and boating nearby are popular activities. Goold is an is an island of lush vegetation where today there are reminders of the special culture of the Bandjin and Girramay Aboriginal people, including middens and fish traps. A ferry service is available from Cardwell and times and services may vary. Advance bookings are required. For further information and bookings contact Rainforest and Reef Information Centre or Absolute North Charters.

Brook Islands

Brook Islands
Brook Islands National Park comprises three islands - North, Tween and Middle - which lie off the coast 7 km north-east of Cape Richards on Hinchinbrook Island and 30 km east of Cardwell, the nearest mainland town. The fourth island of the Brooks group, South Island, is not part of the national park but is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Public access to the three islands in the national park is prohibited in order to protect breeding birds, however there are public moorings in the waters around the National Park. Moorings reduce coral damage from anchors and provide safe and sustainable access to popular reefs and islands. Swimming and snorkelling is popular around the Brook Islands, especially on the western side of the islands., however dangerous stinging jellyfish (stingers) may be present in the coastal waters at any time, but occur more frequently in the warmer months. Be aware that crocodiles can turn up anywhere in croc country.

Brook Island, the largest in the group, was in 1944 the venue for a series of British and American tests on the military uses of mustard gas. A documentary film Keen as Mustard, relating to these and other tests, was released by Film Australia in 1989. Access to this island is prohibited from 1 October to 31 March each year to protect breeding birds. The fringing reefs are accessible by boat or sea kayak from Cardwell, Mission Beach or Lucinda.

Spa Pool

Cardwell Forest Drive
A 26 km scenic drive, starting at the town centre and covering lookouts, fresh water swimming holes and idyllic picnic spots. Easy to follow signs mark the way and you ll discover delights such as Cardwell Lookout, Attie Creek Falls, Dead Horse Creek and Spa Pool along the way. Its beautiful water holes, natural spa pool and picnic facilities provide an enjoyable drive for all with wonderful bird watching and bush walking opportunities.

Edmund Kennedy Reserve
Edmund Kennedy is an reserve within Girramay National Park, 5km north of Cardwell. Wetlands, mangroves and coastal environments provide opportunities for birdwatching, a picnic by the sea or a walk through forest and mangroves to the beach. Edmund Kennedy boasts natural beauty combined with a diverse range of landscapes. The low-lying area has a wonderful variety of vegetation including lowland rainforest, open eucalypt forest, paperbark woodland, sedge swamps and extensive mangrove forests that include most of the mangrove species found in Australia.

During the wet season a deluge of rain flows from adjacent ranges to flood the creeks and swamps. As the floodwaters subside, the swamps become a tranquil setting, the water stained with tannin from the tea-trees. During cooler, drier months the swamps dry out. Turn off the Bruce Highway 4km north of Cardwell and drive 1km along Clift Road to the park entrance. From here the unsealed road is often narrow and winding. Caravans should be left outside the park. The road continues another 3km to the beach.
West of Cardwell the coastal escarpment is covered in rainforest which transitions to the west to eucalypt woodland and tropical savannah. The rugged topography of the Cardwell Range intercepts the trade winds resulting in high rainfall. This combination has made the area home to some of Australia's most picturesque and spectacular waterfalls, including Wallaman Falls, which is Australia's highest sheer drop waterfall.

Wallaman Falls: The highest (305 metres), permanent, single-drop waterfall in Australia, Wallaman Falls is part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, home to some of the oldest rainforests on earth and many endangered plants and animals. It boasts spectacular scenery and an array of plant and animal life. The creeks and rivers are home to platypus, eastern water dragons and saw-shelled turtles. If you are lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a musky rat-kangaroo or an endangered southern cassowary.

Wallaman Falls is located 51 km south-west of Ingham, about 1 hr drive through rural properties. Travel west from Ingham along Abergowrie Road to Trebonne. From here, the route is well signposted. While part of the road is unsealed, it can still be accessed using a conventional vehicle. Care is required on the range, which is slippery when wet. Towing caravans is not recommended.
Attie Creek Falls

Attie Creek Falls: Attie creek drops 25m into an excellent swimming hole - big, deep and cold! A steep 500m walk to the Falls is well worth the effort. There are excellent picnic facilities and barbecues at the car park. Close by is a small, shady swimming hole, suitable for younger children and the less agile.

Murray Falls

Murray Falls: On the Bruce Highway between the towns of Cardwell and Tully is the turnoff to the town of Jumgun and Girramay National Park. Here the rainforest-clad mountains meet tropical lowlands in the scenic foothills of the Kirrama Range, and the clear waters of the Murray River cascade over boulders into rock pools. Murray Falls is one of the prettiest waterfalls in north Queensland, with spectacular water-sculpted rocks and crystal clear pools. The day-use area is a great location for a picnic. The falls can be viewed from the boardwalk and viewing platform. For the more adventurous, a walking track through the rainforest will take you to a lookout, with views of the falls and the Murray Valley. Camping is permitted at Murray Falls, Girramay National Park. Permits are required and fees apply. Murray Falls is 41km north-west of Cardwell or 36km south-west of Tully.
Blencoe Falls

Blencoe Falls: these spectacular 91m falls are in a remote area behind Cardwell on Blencoe creek and can be reached on a dry-weather-only road, which takes you to the top of the falls, and provides spectacular views of the Herbert River Gorge. The 83km trip takes about 2 hours each way so take a picnic lunch. A walking track to the top of the falls, or, by car, cross Blencoe Creek and continue on to the lookout.

Herbert River Falls

Herbert River Falls: The Herbert River Falls is a plunge waterfall on the Herbert River. The falls are located on the northern boundary of the Girringun National Park, west of Cardwell. The waterfall plunges from the Atherton Tableland at an elevation of 505 metres and falls between 56 75 metres into the Herbert River Gorge below. Blencoe Falls are also in the Herbert River Gorge.

With its headwaters forming at an elevation of 1,070 metres on the Atherton Tableland, part of the Great Dividing Range west of Herberton and north of Ravenshoe, the Herbert River is formed by the confluence of the Millstream and the Wild River. The Herbert River flows in a generally southeastern direction through the Lumholtz National Park joined by fifteen tributaries including the Stone River and flowing past the town of Ingham. The Herbert River reaches its mouth where it enters the Coral Sea near Lucinda, at the southern end of the Hinchinbrook Channel.

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Port Hinchinbrook

Zoe Bay, Hinchinbrook Island

Dalrymple Gap Walking Track

Dead Horse Gap pool, Cardwell Range

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