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Nature, culture and history

Natural environment

Geology and landform

With a total area of 174 hectares and an average height of nine metres, East and West Hope islands are separate cays on two separate reefs, with a deep channel between them.

West Hope Island is a solitary vegetated shingle cay. It has developed from piles of loose shingle (coral debris) thrown onto the windward side of the reef during storms. The shingle built up into ridges and 'cemented' to form rampart rock, which served to stabilise this cay.

East Hope Island is a heavily vegetated sand cay, accompanied on the reef top by a small shingle bank rising 1.5 metres above the reef flat on its windward margin. It developed when currents and waves deposited fine reef sediments on the leeward side of the reef, which were then stabilised by colonising vegetation.

Plants and animals

Because the coarse sediments of shingle cays cannot retain fresh water, 'salt-tolerant' mangroves are often the predominant vegetation type. This is the case with West Hope Island where mangroves thrive on the northern and western sections of the island. Sea purslane grows on the south-eastern rampart, and red coondoo and native Chinese lantern, draped with nickernut, dominate the eastern side.

Fresh water is retained in the finer (sandy) sediments of sand cays such as East Hope Island, so many types of vegetation are able to colonise these cays. East Hope Island is dominated by beach almond and the red coondoo in the centre, with sea trumpet, silver bush and nickernut around the edges. On the foreshore, colonising plants include the goat's foot convolvulus and coastal jack bean. Many vines can be seen in this area of the island, including native moon flower.

Twenty-five species of seabirds and numerous woodland birds have been recorded on the Hope Islands. The seabirds include the Australian pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus), eastern reef egret (Egretta sacra), the rare sooty oystercatcher (Haematopus fuliginosus), pacific golden plover (Pluvialis fulva), ruddy turnstone (Arenaria interpres), sharp-tailed sandpiper (Calidris acuminata), whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus), bar-tailed godwit (Limosa lapponica), grey-tailed tattler (Heteroscelus brevipes), bridled tern (Sterna anaethetus), sooty tern (Sterna fuscata), the endangered little tern (Sterna albifrons), lesser crested tern (Sterna bengalensis), common noddy (Anous stolidus), the vulnerable beach stone-curlew (Esacus neglectus), brown booby (Sula leucogaster), great frigatebird (Fregata minor), osprey (Pandion haliaetus) and white-bellied sea-eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster). The woodland birds include the sacred kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus), forest kingfisher (Todiramphus macleayii), varied honeyeater (Lichenostomus versicolor), white-breasted woodswallow (Artamus leucorynchus), buff-banded rail (Gallirallus philippensis), figbird (Sphecotheres viridis), brahminy kite (Haliastur indus), bar-shouldered dove (Geopelia humeralis), northern fantail (Rhipidura rufiventris), rose-crowned fruit-dove (Ptilinopus regina), superb fruit-dove (Ptilinopus superbus) and pied imperial-pigeon (Ducula bicolor).

East Hope Island is also home to a colony of black flying-foxes (Pteropus alecto).

The reefs that surround both islands support a variety of coral, marine invertebrate and fish species.

Culture and history

Indigenous culture and history

The islands are part of the traditional sea country of the Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people, who still use the area for hunting, fishing and collecting. Today many of the people traditionally associated with the Hope Islands live at Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Community on the Bloomfield River.

Non-Indigenous culture and history

In 1770 Lieutenant James Cook, aboard the Endeavour, struck the reef that now bears the same name, and started taking in water. They passed 'two small low islands' earlier and Cook wrote of them ' I have named them Hope Islands, because we were always in hope of being able to reach these islands'.

In 1871 the Black Dog (a two-masted schooner) sank off the Hope Islands, en route from Sydney to Sweers Island. Another wooden schooner, the Analgista, sank off the Hope Islands in 1875.

The Hope Islands were gazetted as a national park in 1939.

Last updated
24 January 2018