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About Barnard Islands

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Getting there and getting around

The Barnard Island Group comprises seven continental islands—Bresnahan, Hutchinson, Jessie, Kent and Lindquist (North Barnard islands) and Sisters and Stephens (South Barnard islands). The islands lie 5–10km offshore from Kurrimine Beach, which is approximately 130km south of Cairns and 240km north of Townsville. The islands can be reached by private boat or sea kayak from Mourilyan Harbour and Kurrimine Beach. To reach Mourilyan Harbour turn off the Bruce Highway at Mourilyan into Mourilyan Harbour Road (signposted to Etty Bay). To reach Kurrimine Beach turn off the Bruce Highway near Silkwood into Murdering Point Road.

Lindquist Island is a Commonwealth defence reserve. Access to the island is not permitted.

To protect nesting seabirds, access to Stephens and Sisters islands is restricted from 1 September to 31 March each year. During this time, access to Sisters Island (PDF, 103K) is totally prohibited and access to Stephens Island (PDF, 125K) is limited to the sand spit and camping area on the western side of the island.

Several commercial operators provide tours, mainly sea kayaking, to Hutchison, Jessie, Kent, Sisters and Stephens islands. For more information see tourism information links.

Wheelchair accessibility

There are no wheelchair-accessible facilities or tracks in the Barnard Island Group National Park.

Park features

Known as high continental islands, the forested slopes of the Barnard islands rise steeply from the sea. Heights of the islands vary from 19–95 m. The Barnard islands have a fascinating geological history dating back 420 million years. The older North Barnard islands are metamorphic rock outcrops while the younger South Barnard islands are layers of well-preserved volcanic tuff with steeply dipping basalt dykes cut through these layers.

The rocky slopes of the Barnard islands are densely cloaked in rainforest, with diversity increasing with the size of the island. Mangroves fringe parts of the islands and coastal plants border the shores. The South Barnard islands (Sister and Stephens islands) are an important breeding site for seabirds. Six species of terns have been recorded nesting there, mainly in the dense vegetation next to the shore. Twenty-three species of woodland birds have also been recorded on and around the Barnard islands.

The Barnard Island Group National Park is part of the 'sea country' of the local Mamu Aboriginal people.

In the late 1800s, a bech-de-mer fishing settlement was built on Sisters Island. Six boats and a large Aboriginal workforce occupied the island until the settlement was lost in a cyclone in 1890. A small lighthouse was built on Kent Island in 1897. It was staffed until a cyclone in 1918 forced the evacuation of the lighthouse keeper and his family, after which the lighthouse was automated. Jessie, Bresnahan, Hutchinson, Sisters and Stephens islands have been protected as national park since 1936. Kent and Lindquist islands are Commonwealth islands.

Camping and accommodation

Camping is permitted on Stephens and Kent islands only. Campers must be self-sufficient.

Camping permits are required and fees apply for Stephens Island. Kent Island is a Commonwealth island and no camping fees apply. To protect nesting seabirds, access to Stephens Island (PDF, 125K) is restricted to the sand spit and camping area on the western side of the island from 1 September to 31 March.

Other accommodation

There is a range of holiday accommodation in and around Mourilyan, Kurrimine Beach, Mission Beach and Innisfail. For more information see tourism information links.

Things to do

This scenic island group is suited to visitors seeking nature-based experiences such as birdwatching and snorkelling.

Walking

There are no walking tracks on the Barnard Island Group National Park. Short walks are possible on the few small access tracks around the camping areas and along the beaches.

Access to Sisters (PDF, 103K) and Stephens (PDF, 125K) islands is restricted from 1 September to 31 March each year to protect nesting seabirds.

Lindquist Island is a Commonwealth defence reserve and access is not permitted.

Guided tours and talks

Several commercial operators provide tours, mainly sea kayaking, to Hutchinson, Jessie, Kent, Sisters and Stephens islands. For further information see tourism information links.

Picnic and day use areas

There are picnic tables at the camp sites on Stephens Island, but no other picnic facilities on any of the islands.

Boating

There are no public moorings in the waters around the islands of the Barnard Island Group National Park. If you must anchor around these islands please follow these guidelines:

  • Anchor only on sand and away from coral reefs—corals are fragile and easily destroyed by anchors and chains dragging across the reef.
  • Use a reef pick if anchoring in coral is unavoidable. When hauling in, motor toward the anchor to prevent damage.
  • Do not throw rubbish overboard, especially when you are in anchorage.

Read more about public moorings and anchoring.

There are strict regulations regarding the discharge of waste in the marine park. For current regulations see GBRMPA.

Access to Sisters (PDF, 103K) and Stephens (PDF, 125K) islands is restricted during the period 1 September to 31 March each year to protect nesting seabirds.

Motorised Watersports

Motorised water sports, such as jet skiing, are prohibited around the Barnard islands.

Fishing

Island parks and the surrounding marine waters are internationally significant and are protected in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Zones in the two marine parks—the Great Barrier Reef Coast and Great Barrier Reef—provide a balanced approach to protecting the marine and intertidal environments while allowing recreational and commercial use. Check zoning information and maps before entering or conducting any activities in the marine parks.

Fisheries regulations apply—information on bag and size limits, restricted species and seasonal closures is available from Fisheries Queensland, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

The Australian Government Department of Defence sometimes conducts non-live fire exercises in the vicinity of the Barnard islands.

Viewing wildlife

The Barnard islands are excellent for birdwatching. Twenty-two species of seabirds and 23 species of woodland birds have been recorded on and around the island group.

Seabirds nest on the ground, on rocky outcrops and in vegetation. Please avoid disturbing nesting seabirds. Chicks and eggs are easily destroyed by heat, cold and predators if left unprotected. Access to Sisters (PDF, 103K) and Stephens (PDF, 125K) islands is restricted from 1 September to 31 March each year to protect nesting seabirds.

See natural environment for more details about the Barnard islands' diverse wildlife.

Swimming and snorkelling

The extensive reefs connecting Sisters and Stephens islands in the South Barnard islands and fringing reefs surrounding the North Barnard islands provide opportunities for snorkelling. Composed of both coral and rock, these reefs provide habitat for a variety of fish and invertebrates. Turtles and dugongs are also seen occasionally. Water visibility may be reduced due to sediments from Mourilyan Harbour and nearby creeks.

Dangerous stinging jellyfish (‘stingers’) may be present in the coastal waters at any time, but occur more frequently in the warmer months. A full-body lycra suit or equivalent may provide a good measure of protection against stinging jellyfish and sunburn. Visit marine stingers for the latest safety and first-aid information.

Snorkel safely at all times. See staying safe for more information.

Things to know before you go

Our precious Great Barrier Reef World Heritage islands are among the most pest-free islands in the world. They need your help to stay this way. Please Be pest-free! (PDF, 574K) before your visit.

Essentials to bring

Preparation is the key to a safe and enjoyable visit. Make sure that you bring:

  • food, water and first-aid supplies
  • rubbish bags to take your rubbish away with you—bins are not provided
  • sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, suitable clothing and sturdy footwear
  • insect repellent, a screened tent or mosquito nets for protection from insects
  • fuel stoves for cooking
  • a tarpaulin as there will be limited shade in the camping areas until the canopy recovers from the effects of Cyclone Yasi. Poles are provided for erecting tarpaulins.

Opening hours

The Barnard Island Group is open 24hrs a day all year round, except for the restrictions on Sisters and Stephens islands from 1 September to 31 March. To protect nesting seabirds, access to all of Sisters Island (PDF, 103K) is prohibited during this time and access to Stephens Island (PDF, 125K) is limited to the sand spit and camping area on the western side of the island.

Visitors should check weather conditions and obtain updated forecasts before venturing out in recreational vessels. Weather forecasts are available from the Bureau of Meteorology.

Permits and fees

Camping is only permitted on Stephens and Kent islands. Camping permits are required and a camping tag must be displayed at your camp site. Fees apply on Stephens Island. Kent Island is a Commonwealth island and no camping fees apply.

  • Book your Kent Island and Stephens Island camp site online.
  • If you cannot book online, see camping bookings for other options.

Permits are required for commercial or organised events. Contact us for further information.

Pets

Domestic animals are not permitted in the Barnard Island Group National Park or on tidal lands adjacent to the national park within the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park. Tidal areas include beaches, rocks and mangroves.

Climate and weather

The Barnard Island Group National Park has a tropical climate. In summer, the daytime temperatures average 30°C with high humidity and rainfall. From April to September the days are cooler and less humid. Despite the steady south-easterly trade winds, this is usually the best time to visit. For more information see tourism information links.

Visitors should check weather conditions and obtain updated forecasts before venturing out in recreational vessels. Weather forecasts are available from the Bureau of Meteorology.

Fuel and supplies

Fuel and supplies are not available in the Barnard Island Group National Park but can be obtained from Kurrimine, Mourilyan, Mission Beach and Innisfail before departure. For more information see tourism information links.

Staying safe

Walking

  • Take care on loose and uneven surfaces, particularly in wet conditions.
  • Always carry water, wear a hat and sturdy footwear and walk in the cooler part of the day.
  • Be aware of tidal movements on the beach and take care on slippery rocks.
  • Carry a comprehensive first-aid kit.

Swimming and snorkelling

  • Wear sunscreen and adequate clothing. Always cover up to avoid sunburn as you float above the coral reefs.
  • Know your own health limitations for safe swimming and snorkelling—do not put yourself or others at risk and always snorkel with a buddy so help is at hand.
  • Be aware of wind, current direction and tides.
  • Dangerous stinging jellyfish (‘stingers’) may be present in the coastal waters at any time, but occur more frequently in the warmer months. A full-body lycra suit, or equivalent, may provide a good measure of protection against stinging jellyfish and sunburn. Visit marine stingers for the latest safety and first-aid information.
  • Avoid touching coral or other animals as they may inflict a painful sting or bite.
  • Be aware that estuarine crocodiles can occur in waters around island national parks. Crocodiles are dangerous and attacks can be fatal.

For more information, please read the guidelines on safety in parks and forests.

Looking after the park

  • Everything in the park, living or dead, is protected. Please leave everything as you found it.
  • Camp only in designated camp sites and use the tarp poles provided—disturbance to vegetation can cause erosion and spread weeds.
  • Do not feed wildlife including birds and fish—it is harmful to their health.
  • Leave your pets at home. Domestic animals are not permitted in the Barnard Island Group National Park or on tidal lands adjacent to the national park within the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park. Tidal areas include beaches, rocks and mangroves.
  • Use fuel stoves only—fires are not allowed.
  • Rubbish bins are not provided. Do not bury rubbish—take it with you when you leave.
  • Avoid kicking, standing on or touching corals as they are easily damaged and try to avoid stirring up sand with your fins as it can smother corals and other reef animals.
  • Please note cultural heritage sites are protected and must not be disturbed.
  • Please avoid disturbing nesting seabirds and respect restricted access areas on Sisters (PDF, 103K) and Stephens (PDF, 125K) islands.

Be pest-free!

Our precious Great Barrier Reef World Heritage islands are among the most pest-free islands in the world. They need your help to stay this way. Please Be pest-free! (PDF, 574K) before your visit.

Before you visit, please check that your boat, clothing, footwear and gear are free of soil, seeds, parts of plants, eggs, ants and insects (and their eggs), spiders, lizards, toads, rats and mice.

Be sure to:

  • Unpack your camping gear and equipment and check it carefully as pests love to hide in stored camping gear.
  • Clean soil from footwear and gear as invisible killers such as viruses, bacteria and fungi are carried in soil.
  • Check for seeds in pockets, cuffs and hook and loop fastening strips, such as Velcro.

While you are on the islands, remove soil, weeds, seeds and pests from your boat, gear and clothes before moving to a new site. Wrap seeds and plant material, and place them in your rubbish.

Everyone in Queensland has a General Biosecurity Obligation to minimise the biosecurity risk posed by their activities. This includes the risk of introducing and spreading weeds and pests to island national parks.

See the guidelines on caring for parks for more information about protecting our environment and heritage in parks.

Park management

The Barnard Island Group National Park is managed by Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) for the enjoyment of visitors and the conservation of nature.

The national park is managed in accordance with the Barnard Island Group National Park Management Plan (PDF, 955K).

Kent Island is a Commonwealth island. It is managed in a complementary manner with the national park islands of the Barnard Island Group National Park under agreement with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Lindquist Island is Commonwealth defence reserve and is managed under Commonwealth legislation.

The reef and waters surrounding the Barnard islands are protected within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park and the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Tourism information links

Rainforest and Reef Information Centre
www.greatgreenwaytourism.com
142 Victoria Street
Cardwell QLD 4849
ph: (07) 4066 8601
email:
A partnership between QPWS and the Cassowary Coast Regional Council, managed by Great Green Way Tourism Incorporated.

For tourism information for all regions in Queensland see www.queensland.com.

Further information

Contact us

Last updated
28 November 2016