Why Cape Hillsborough Needs to be on Your Australia Bucket List

Cape Hillsborough National Park


“Cape Hillsborough?” I hear you cry, “Struth sheila, where on earth is that?’’

Well, good question my friends, but don’t worry I’m about to share with you exactly where this great place in Australia is and why this magical spot needs to be on your Down Under bucket list.

Tucked away just north of Mackay in Tropical Queensland, Cape Hillsborough is (as you’d expect from the name!) a coastal outcrop of land that thrusts towards the Great Barrier Reef.

A mix of rocky headlands, rich rainforests, white sandy beaches and eucalyptus forests that plunge down to the brilliant blue ocean below, Cape Hillsborough has largely been designated a National Park.

As such, the preserved landscape and incredible views this places showcases are almost second to none.

Unbelievably, I only found this delightful National Park myself a few weeks ago when, as part of the great budget 4WD adventure around Australia, we passed it on our way north up the Queensland coast.

And what a relief we stopped!

I really think this is one of the best spots I’ve visited in the land Down Under, so here are a few reasons as to why Cape Hillsborough needs to be on your Australia bucket list too.

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Kangaroos on the Beach

Wallabies on Beach

Ok, so this is probably the number one motive that draws most people to visit Cape Hillsborough, but it’s at the top for a reason – because it’s a truly stunning spectacle!

If you’ve ever seen a photo of a kangaroo on the beach it’s likely that it was taken at Cape Hillsborough.

Very few other parts of Australia boast the sight of these magnificent creatures right on the shoreline – far more often they are spotted in the bush or along road side where they can nibble at their favourite grassy tucker.

The roos of Cape Hillsborough however prefer a different sort of breakfast! Every morning at dawn, they hop down onto the sand of Casuarina Beach to nibble on the mangrove seed pods that get washed up by the large tidal movements here.

And they’re not alone.

Often joined by mobs of wallabies, the views of the rising sun and the colours of the morning sky silhouette these marsupials in stunning ways.

Set against the ebbing tide and the picturesque volcanic rock formations of the surrounding cliffs, this really is a photographer’s and nature lover’s dream.

And it’s definitely one reason to get Cape Hillsborough on your Aussie bucket list!

TOP TIP: Make sure you set the alarm early here as the kangaroos and wallabies really are only on the beach at dawn. Hanging around for less than hour, you can’t be late if you want to catch these awesome creatures.



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Awesome Walking

Cape Hillsborough Walk

After enjoying the kangaroos and wallabies on the beach at Cape Hillsborough, you really should take the opportunity to see another side of this gorgeous National Park.

One of the best ways to do this is via some of the area’s wonderful walking tracks.

With a heap to choose from, the gorgeous hiking available in Cape Hillsborough is definitely one of the top reasons why this National Park should be on your Australia bucket list.

Choose from steep headland walks that offer exceptional views of remote offshore islands, or stroll the more sedate lowland forest tracks that showcase some of the ways the traditional Yulbera people here used to live.

At the same time, keep your eyes peeled for one or more of the 140 bird species that call this National Park home, or surround yourself with the hundreds of blue tiger butterflies that populate Cape Hillsborough during certain times of the year.

Whichever walk you choose in Cape Hillsborough, you’re bound to enjoy some wonderful encounters with wildlife and to glimpse some truly breathtaking views – strong Aussie bucket list material I reckon!

TOP TIP: Head up to Andrew’s Point, right after seeing the kangaroos at dawn, to enjoy some of the best lookouts and to spot turtles feeding on the seagrass below.


Great Camping


Because it’s such an awesome place, I definitely recommend spending more than a day at Cape Hillsborough, in which case, you’ll need somewhere to sleep a night or two as well.

That’s kind of perfect however, as this National Park offers some wonderful camp spots, making the opportunity to sleep under the stars here another reason why Cape Hillsborough needs to be on your Australia bucket list.

The excellently-located Cape Hillsborough Tourist Park sits right in the heart of the action with several walking tracks starting within minutes of its doors.

Casuarina Beach, where the wallabies and kangaroos graze at dawn, also sits at the foot of this Caravan Park and is, therefore, very handy for the non-morning folk amongst you!

All you need to do if you want to see the marsupials from here is literally roll out of your tent at Cape Hillsborough Tourist Park and you’ll be at the foot of a roo!

The other great camping site in Cape Hillsborough, and the one we choose to stay at, is the one located at Smalleys Beach.

About 8km from Casuarina Beach where the wallabies appear at dawn, Smalleys Beach Camping Area is a National Park administered campsite, rather than a private one, and is therefore wonderfully cheap.

I’ve written much about how Australian National Parks are a budget traveller’s dream Down Under, and Smalley’s is no exception.

In fact, I think it probably ranks up there in my top 10 favs!

With only 11 camp spots, set out along the fabulous coastline, Smalleys campground is wonderfully secluded and quiet.

Because each site has its own private pathway to the beach, which is only metres away, camping here really does feel like you have a patch of paradise to yourself. And best of all? Smalley’s Campground costs only $6pppn. Ridiculous!

TOP TIP: It’s a fairly long walk to get to Casuarina Beach for a dawn kangaroo sighting from Smalleys, but it is possible. We set off at about 4:30am and made it in plenty of time! If you’re less hardcore however, perhaps set up an independent tent at Smalleys so that you have easy use of your vehicle in the early hours instead!


Wonderful Beaches

Cape Hillsborough Sun

I’ve already spoken a lot about the stunning setting of Cape Hillsborough, as well as about 2 of its best beaches, but the golden stretches of sand here really one of the top reasons why Cape Hillsborough needs to be on your Australia bucket list.

From my favourite, Smalleys, to the kangaroos’ favourite Casuarina, there’s also the lovely Halliday Bay and Ball Bay nearby to explore too.

With dense rainforest coming right down to meet the ocean here, palm trees swaying on the shore and almost no one around (at least when we visited!) it’s peaceful paradise perfection!



#1 Good Camera – You will be pretty much snapping non-stop in Australia and will need a good camera to do this gorgeous country justice. I highly recommend the Sony A6000, which I use for all my travels and love, not least because it’s light, compact and robust!

#2 Good Walking Shoes – There will be a lot of walking in Australia – from cities to national park! Make sure your feet are comfortable therefore with a pair of New Balance Trainers. Perfect for stylish strollling, I love mine.

#3 Good Guidebook – I’m still a massive fan of the Lonely Planet Guidebooks and do think their Australia edition is well put together.

#4 Good Water Bottle – Travelling in hot old Australia can be thirsty work, so make sure you have a metal water bottle that you can refill as you go, because tap water is drinkable… and free!

#5 Good Sun Hat – And there’s no denying you’ll need a good sun hat for protection in Australia too. In my opinion you can’t go past this Hello Sunshine one, which is both gorgeous and ideal for keeping the rays off your face.


Excellent Surrounds

Cape Hillsborough Sign

Another of the real beauties of Cape Hillsborough – and why it should be on your Australia bucket list – is that it is very accessible and easy to enjoy.

Unlike many of Australia’s other best National Parks, Cape Hillsborough is simple to get to; with sealed roads and clear signs it’s certainly 2wd and family-friendly.

There’s also plenty of other stuff around Cape Hillsborough to discover too.

For example, the nearby town of Seaforth is well worth exploring and the popular Whitsundays destination of Airlie Beach, and all it has to offer, is only an hour’s drive away.

There’s also the city of Mackay, only 50km down the Bruce Highway from Cape Hillsborough, which has all the amenities and services you could need.

As a hugely up and coming tourist area, there’s a ton of free things to do in Mackay, making it the perfect place for the budget traveller.

If it’s more National Parks and /or wildlife spotting you’re after, then the nearby Eungella National Park, set in the stunning Pioneer Valley is also well worth a visit, not least because it’s the best place to see a platypus in the wild.

With so much around, Cape Hillsborough really is the perfect destination, either as a stopover on a longer Australian road trip, like ours, or as part of a shorter break to this part of Queensland.

Either way, just ensure Cape Hillsborough makes its way onto your Australia bucket list!



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