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About Marpa National Park (CYPAL)

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Getting there and getting around

Located in Princess Charlotte Bay, off the east coast of Cape York Peninsula, the three pristine continental islands, known as Ronganhu (to the north), Errewerrpinha (to the west) and Olilu (to the south), form Marpa National Park (CYPAL).

Access is by private boat only. A boat ramp is located about 20km (10 nautical miles) from Marpa National Park (CYPAL) at Port Stewart—approximately 229km north of Cooktown.

There are no roads, walking tracks or public facilities provided on these islands.

Access to Ronganhu Island is prohibited (PDF, 266K) to protect the significant cultural resources.

Wheelchair accessibility

There are no wheelchair-accessible facilities on Marpa National Park (CYPAL).

Park features

Beach stone-curlew. Photo: Andrew MacDougall, Queensland Government

Beach stone-curlew. Photo: Andrew MacDougall, Queensland Government

Marpa National Park (CYPAL) is comprised of three, sandstone continental islands known as Ronganhu, Errewerpinha and Olilu.

The island foreshores are a combination of small, sandy mangrove beaches and rocky sandstone and are subject to varying amounts of both natural erosion and growth. Along the exposed south-east foreshore, large sandstone boulders lie discarded from the cliff faces above.

The grassed summit of Ronganhu is windswept with few shrubs and large rocky areas. Olilu has similar vegetation, mainly grassland or herbland between its many bare, rocky areas. Wind-sheared shrubs are scattered in sheltered spots.

The islands have remained pristine, providing an important home for many plants and animals. Vulnerable beach stone-curlews Esacus magnirostris, near threatened (rare) eastern curlews Numenius madagascariensis and sooty oystercatchers Haematopus fuliginosus can be seen along the shore while white-bellied sea-eagles Haliaeetus leucogaster, peregrine falcons Falco peregrinus and eastern ospreys Pandion cristatus fly overhead.

During the day, terns leave the colony to feed at sea. See their swift and graceful flights to and from the island and watch as they hover over the water, dipping and plunging to feed on small fish. At night they return to the island and gather in large groups, roosting on the ground and in low bushes.

Terrestrial birds such as pied currawongs Strepera graculina and rose-crowned fruit-doves Ptilinopus regina can be found on the islands. Look for varied honeyeaters Lichenostomus versicolor and dusky honeyeaters Myzomela obscura feeding on the nectar of grevilleas. The profusely flowering bushman’s clothes peg trees produce large amounts of nectar, attracting a variety of birds. However, it is the woody fruits, that were once used as clothes pegs, that gives the tree its name.

Wandering about the rocky outcrops, discover black-tailed monitor lizards Varanus tristis scampering into crevices. Along the foreshore near threatened rusty monitors Varanus semiremex live in holes in mangrove trees. Fish, crabs and insects are their favoured meal. Witness the evening exodus of black flying-foxes as they fly from their roosts in the mangroves in search of native blossoms and fruits.

Surrounding the islands, fringing reefs and seagrass beds provide food and shelter to animals such as dolphins, dugongs, turtles and estuarine crocodiles Crocodylus porosus. During the breeding season vulnerable green turtles Chelonia mydas may be seen nesting on the beaches of Ronganhu and Olilu islands. Seagrass beds are also a significant nursery for commercial prawn species.

Camping and accommodation

Camping

Camping is not permitted on any of the islands within Marpa National Park (CYPAL). The nearest boat-based camping is available on Flinders Island in the Flinders Group National Park. Camping is also possible on the mainland in nearby Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL).

Other accommodation

Camping is available in Port Stewart, approximately 20km north-west of the islands on the east coast of Cape York Peninsula. Coen, a further 90km north-west of Port Stewart, has camping, hotel/motel and homestead stay accommodation. For more information see the tourism information links.

Things to do

White-bellied sea-eagle. Photo: Andrew McDougall, Queensland Government

White-bellied sea-eagle. Photo: Andrew McDougall, Queensland Government

Boating

The islands provide a sheltered anchorage in prevailing south-easterly conditions, normally between April and October. There are no public moorings in waters surrounding Marpa National Park (CYPAL).

When boating help protect the fringing reefs by following these guidelines.

  • Anchor in sand away from coral reefs.
  • Use a reef pick if anchoring in coral is unavoidable. When hauling in, motor toward the anchor to prevent damage.
  • Avoid landing on islands where seabirds are roosting or nesting on the beach—they are easily disturbed.

Marpa National Park (CYPAL) 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.

A Marine National Park (Green) Zone encompasses the reef and waters surrounding Marpa National Park (CYPAL). These ‘no-take’ areas prohibit extractive activities like fishing or collecting.

Be aware that crocodiles can turn up anywhere in croc country, including tidal reaches of rivers, along beaches, on offshore islands and cays in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait, and in freshwater lagoons, rivers and swamps. Crocodiles are dangerous and attacks can be fatal. Be aware that estuarine crocodiles can occur in waters around island national parks. Remember to be crocwise in croc country.

Viewing wildlife

Marpa National Park (CYPAL) offers opportunities to see wildlife in a natural environment. Those who enjoy birdwatching may see vulnerable beach stone-curlews, brown boobies, spangled drongos and white-bellied sea-eagles.

Fringing reefs and seagrass beds provide food and shelter for dolphins, dugongs, turtles and sometimes estuarine crocodiles. Visitors to Marpa National Park (CYPAL) are sure to experience an encounter of a natural kind. See the description of the park’s natural environment for more details about its diverse wildlife.

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 to Marpa National Park (CYPAL). Make sure you bring:

  • drinking water
  • rubbish bags
  • protective clothing, sunscreen, hat and sunglasses
  • suitable shoes for walking on rough surfaces
  • a comprehensive first-aid kit
  • insect repellent
  • communication equipment.

Opening hours

Marpa National Park (CYPAL) is open 24 hours a day. Access to Ronganhu Island is prohibited (PDF, 266K) to protect the significant cultural resources.

Permits and fees

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

Pets

Domestic animals are not permitted on Marpa Island National Park (CYPAL) or on tidal lands adjacent to Marpa Island National Park (CYPAL) within the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park. Tidal areas include beaches, rocks and dunes.

Climate and weather

Marpa National Park (CYPAL) has a tropical climate with the wetter months usually between December and April when maximum temperatures can soar above 30°C. The best time to visit the island group is between May and October when rain is unlikely and temperatures are cooler.

Fuel and supplies

There are no facilities on Marpa National Park (CYPAL), all fuel and supplies need to be brought with you.

The nearest fuel and supplies are available on the mainland at Coen, approximately 90km north-west of Port Stewart which is 20km (10 nautical miles) from Marpa National Park (CYPAL).

For more information see the tourism information links.

Staying safe

Marpa National Park (CYPAL) is a remote national park. Visitors must be well prepared.

  • Tell friends or family where you are going and when you expect to return.
  • Carry at least one form of emergency communication equipment. Personal locator beacons (PLBs) are the most effective.
  • Wear sunscreen and cover up when you are boating.
  • Be aware that crocodiles can turn up anywhere in croc country, including tidal reaches of rivers, along beaches, on offshore islands and cays in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait, and in freshwater lagoons, rivers and swamps. Crocodiles are dangerous and attacks can be fatal. Remember to be crocwise in croc country.
  • 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.
  • Always carry drinking water and wear a hat.
  • Bring insect repellent.

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

Looking after the park

  • Access to Ronganhu Island is prohibited (PDF, 266K) to protect the significant cultural resources.
  • Be careful not to damage coral with anchors.
  • Respect Aboriginal culture. Cultural sites in the park represent thousands of years of living culture with special significance to the Lama Lama Traditional Owners. These sites are easily damaged and are irreplaceable.
  • Everything in the park, living or dead, is protected. Please leave everything as you found it.
  • Do not feed the wildlife as it can affect their health and alter the natural population balance.
  • Avoid nesting seabirds. If parent birds are disturbed, chicks and eggs can become vulnerable—they are easily destroyed by heat, cold and predators if left unprotected. Stay clear of roosting birds.
  • Domestic animals are not permitted.
  • Lighting of fires is not allowed—bring a fuel or gas stove for cooking.
  • Please take your rubbish with you when you leave.

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 and clean out your backpack and hand, beach or camera bags and check them carefully before your visit, as pests love to hide in stored 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

Marpa National Park (CYPAL) is Queensland’s first island national park (CYPAL) and is jointly managed by the Lama Lama Land Trust and the Queensland Government in accordance with an Indigenous Management Agreement and other land management arrangements. Read more about Joint management of Cape York Peninsula national parks.

The reef and waters surrounding the islands are protected within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. They also form part of the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park (State) and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Commonwealth).

Complementary management of waters adjacent to these islands is vital and continued close co-operation between Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) is essential.

Tourism information links

Nature’s Powerhouse
www.cooktownandcapeyork.com
Cooktown Botanic Gardens
Walker Street, Cooktown Qld 4895
Phone: (07) 4069 5763
email:

For tourism information for all regions in Queensland see Queensland Holidays.

Further information

Contact us

Last updated
28 November 2016