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About South Cumberland Islands

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Getting there and getting around

South Cumberland Islands National Park is 60km north-east of Mackay and 50km from Seaforth by boat. Access is by private or charter boat. The nearest boat launch facility is at Seaforth. Access is also possible from Mackay and Airlie Beach. Seaforth is 45km north of Mackay off the Bruce Highway. For information on charter boat operators in the area, see the tourism information links below.

Wheelchair accessibility

The islands are rugged and there are no wheelchair-accessible facilities or tracks on the islands.

Park features

The South Cumberland Islands National Park encompasses nine islands. Rocky, rugged, hoop pine-dominated headlands stand out from the open eucalypt woodland and extensive grasslands of the wind-exposed slopes. Protected coves shelter long, sandy beaches, while deep gullies hide remnants of dry rainforest.

Ringed by fringing reefs, many of the islands are important rookeries for flatback and green sea turtles.

Camping and accommodation

Camping

The South Cumberland Islands are a great place for camping. Refuge Bay, Scawfell Island has limited facilities and Cockermouth Island offers self-sufficient camping.

Camping permits are required for camping in the South Cumberland Islands National Park and fees apply. Visitor numbers are limited to ensure a quality experience. You will need to book your site and purchase your permit in advance. Display your camping permit tag prominently on your tent—there are fines for camping without it.

Other accommodation

There is no alternative accommodation on the South Cumberland Islands.

A range of holiday accommodation, including motels and caravan parks, is available in and around Seaforth.

Things to do

Boating and fishing

Boating around the South Cumberland Islands is a great way to explore the area. The islands boast many secluded beaches and bays that are well worth a visit.

  • To protect vulnerable reefs there are two no-anchoring areas in the South Cumberland Islands National Park: off St Bees’ northern point and Keswick Island’s southern tip. They are marked by white pyramid buoys and anchoring is prohibited on the shore side of a line through these buoys.

The waters surrounding the islands are part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and are subject to zoning regulations. Ensure you obtain and consult your zoning map before fishing.

For detailed zoning maps and information see the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority website.

For details of fish size and bag limits for popular fish species, see the Fisheries Queensland website.

Viewing wildlife

The islands provide habitat for an abundance of wildlife, including many vulnerable species. Beach stone-curlews nest in the dunes and white-bellied sea-eagles and osprey patrol the cliffs, headlands and reefs. A small population of koalas inhabit the eucalypt forests of St Bees Island, and can be seen dozing in the treetops. The warm waters of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which surround the South Cumberland Islands, support fringing reefs with a diverse array of corals and other sea life. Whales, dolphins and dugong frequent the area, and flatback and green sea turtles nest on the islands.

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

Although rangers visit the islands during regular marine park patrols, generally there are none on site. You must be responsible for your own safety. Remember to bring:

  • sufficient food and water, plus extra in case of emergency. None of the islands have fresh water available. Ensure you have enough water for drinking, cooking, washing and bathing. Allow at least five litres per person per day.
  • a first-aid kit, lots of vinegar and advice on recognising and treating dangerous marine stingers. Visit www.beachsafe.org.au for the latest safety advice.
  • reliable equipment such as torches, AM/FM radio and VHF radio.
  • dehydrated food and minimal packaging.
  • sturdy food containers and rubbish bags.
  • camping gear cleaned of seeds, insects and vermin.
  • tarpaulin, sunscreen and insect repellent.

Opening hours

South Cumberland Islands National Park is open 24 hours a day, all year round. However, parks may be closed if there are severe weather warnings.

Permits and fees

Camping permits

Camping permits are required for camping in the South Cumberland Islands National Park and fees apply. Visitor numbers are limited to ensure a quality experience. You will need to book your site and purchase your permit in advance. Display your camping permit tag prominently on your tent—there are fines for camping without it.

Other permits

Commercial photography permits are required if you intend to sell any photographs taken of national park islands in the South Cumberlands. Organised event permits are required for organised group activities that may interfere with general public use. Commercial activity permits are required for any commercial activities. Contact us for further information.

Pets

Leave dogs, cats and other animals at home. Domestic animals are not permitted in national parks.

Dogs are not permitted on beaches and intertidal areas within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and adjacent to an island national park, or areas prohibited under a regulatory notice.

Climate and weather

South Cumberland Islands National Park has a tropical climate. In summer, daytime temperatures can exceed 35°C. The cooler months of the year, from April to September, are the best times to visit.

Daytime temperatures and humidity can be high at any time of the year and nights can be cool. Please carry suitable clothing to accommodate all temperature extremes.

The South Cumberland Islands lie within the Queensland tropical storm (cyclone) zone. Cyclones commonly occur between November and April, but can develop outside these times.

Fuel and supplies

Visitors should be well prepared and self-sufficient before setting off from the mainland. Fuel and supplies are available at Mackay and Seaforth. For more information see the tourism information links below.

Staying safe

Parts of the islands can be isolated. To enjoy a safe visit, read more about staying safe in national parks of the Whitsundays.

Be prepared for emergencies

  • Carry emergency food, water, AM/FM radio, spare batteries and medical supplies—particularly an iodine-based antiseptic for cuts (though be sure no-one in your group is allergic to iodine). First-aid training is desirable.
  • Mobile phones are useful but not reliable.
  • Monitor weather forecasts and radio messages about changing weather conditions.
  • Leave your itinerary with a reliable friend or family member and keep them informed.

Communication

Mobile phones are unreliable on the islands. Satellite phones are best and a marine VHF radio is very useful. In emergencies you can contact other vessels in the vicinity on VHF marine channel 16 (emergency channel) or VHF channel 81.

The Whitsundays receive good broadcast radio reception and weather forecasts are available on most channels hourly. Weather forecasts are also available from the Bureau of Meteorology or by calling 1300 360 426.

Evacuation procedures

The South Cumberland Islands lie within the Queensland tropical storm (cyclone) zone. The department has developed a cyclone and tsunami contingency plan and will work with camper transfer companies and local authorities to try to inform campers of impending cyclones and possible evacuation.

Looking after the park

Please appreciate, respect and help care for the outstanding natural and cultural values of these parks. National parks, including heritage sites and artifacts, are protected areas under the Nature Conservation Act 1992. Penalties apply for breaching the Act.

Please follow these guidelines to help conserve these very special places.

Leave no trace

  • Take all rubbish, including food scraps and fishing tackle, back to the mainland. Bins are not provided. Remove excess food packaging before your trip to minimise the rubbish you bring home.
  • Use a fuel stove. Open fires are prohibited.
  • Do not bury or burn anything. Even small fragments of line and string can become entangled around birds’ legs with agonising and fatal results.

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.

Look out for wildlife

Watching wildlife is rewarding but visitors need to follow some guidelines to ensure habitats are not disturbed. All wildlife in national parks is protected.

  • Allow native animals to find their own food. Do not leave food or scraps around your camp site. Feeding wildlife is prohibited as it can affect their health, alter the natural population balance, and wildlife may also pester other visitors after you.
  • Keep your food and scraps safe from wildlife in secure containers, not in plastic bags hanging from trees.
  • Avoid disturbing sea turtles and nesting sea and shorebirds. Using strong lights, making loud noises or moving suddenly can disrupt nesting behaviour.
  • Observe any closures and activity restrictions. Closures and restrictions may apply in certain areas to protect vulnerable wildlife.

Park management

Each park in the Whitsundays region has unique attributes and all are managed to conserve their natural condition and protect their cultural resources and values. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) is responsible for the island national parks in the region, and jointly manages the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Tourism information links

Mackay Visitor Information Centre
www.mackayregion.com
The Mill, 320 Nebo Road,
Mackay QLD 4740
Phone: 1300 130 001
Fax: (07) 4952 2034
Email:

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

Further information

Contact us

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
www.gbrmpa.gov.au
Phone: (07) 4750 0700 or 1800 990 177

Last updated
6 December 2017