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Camping closures

All camping areas in Queensland national parks, state forests and recreation areas are closed from 26 March 2020 until further notice. Check Park Alerts for more information.

About Cape Palmerston

Getting there and getting around

Mangroves in Cape Palmerston National Park. Photo courtesy of Querida Hutchinson.

Mangroves in Cape Palmerston National Park. Photo courtesy of Querida Hutchinson.

You need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to visit Cape Palmerston National Park.

Cape Palmerston National Park is 115 km south-east of Mackay. Turn off the Bruce Highway at Ilbilbie and drive east towards Greenhill. Before Greenhill, turn left into Cape Palmerston Road. The park boundary is about 6 km further along this road.

Once you enter the park allow another hour to get to the Windmill Bay camping area, along the beach in the park’s northern section. A track then follows the coastline to the cape itself. A second track from Windmill Bay heads inland to the west, then leads to the sandy spit where Cape Creek camping area and boat ramp are located. Please note that these tracks are not signposted and you should consult the park map (PDF, 146K) for details.

The park is rugged and during periods of heavy rain tracks can become impassable. When travelling along the beach, be prepared for soft sand and extreme tides of up to 6m. For your own safety, please follow these guidelines:

  • Carry suitable recovery gear and sufficient fuel for your vehicle (nearest fuel is at Ilbilbie).
  • Check tide times before you travel. Beach driving is safest on a falling tide.
  • Lower tyre pressure to make soft sand driving easier and reduce track damage. If you choose to deflate your tyres, follow manufacturer specifications and drive with caution.
  • Re-inflate tyres to drive on hard surfaces.
  • Pack a pressure gauge and pump.

Be aware that shorebirds also use the beach. Drive with caution around them.

Wheelchair accessibility

There are no wheelchair-accessible facilities or tracks in Cape Palmerston National Park.

Park features

A paperbark gully in Cape Palmerston National Park. Photo courtesy of John Augusteyn.

A paperbark gully in Cape Palmerston National Park. Photo courtesy of John Augusteyn.

Windswept rocky headlands, mangroves, swamps, rainforest and sand dunes are all part of Cape Palmerston National Park’s rugged beauty. Open eucalypt woodland with ironbark and poplar gum grows on the ridges, and paperbarks grow in gullies. The distinctive 344m Mount Funnel towers over the park.

Mangroves provide habitat for water mice (a threatened species) and melaleuca wetlands are home to frogs and numerous other wetland species. Threatened beach stone-curlews nest and feed along the foreshores. Pied imperial-pigeons, which visit in late winter and in spring, are close to the southern limit of their range.

The cape provides a vantage point to view humpback whales passing by during cooler months and turtles are often visible in the water below. These adjacent seawaters and the Cape Creek system are protected marine parks, with Ince Bay zoned a Dugong Protection Area.

Middens are a reminder of the special connection Aboriginal people have with this place.

Read more about the nature, culture and history of Cape Palmerston National Park.

Camping and accommodation


Basic camping facilities are available at Windmill Bay and Cape Creek camping areas. Bush camping is also permitted in the fore dunes of the eastern beach.

Camping permits are required and fees apply.

Other accommodation

Caravan parks, hotels and motels are located in centres such as Carmilla, Koumala, Armstrongs Beach and Sarina. See tourism information links for details.

Things to do


Cape Palmerston’s beaches and inland roads are accessible only by four-wheel-drive vehicles. Check tide times before setting out as the beach is not passable at high tide. Trailers and caravans are not recommended. Be aware that road conditions can vary. During times of extended dry or wet weather, drivers can expect difficulties in traversing Cape Palmerston’s roads.

Boating and fishing

The adjacent waters of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park offer boating and fishing opportunities. A boat ramp is provided at Cape Creek and there is a sand ladder to the beach at Windmill Bay. Beware of estuarine crocodiles and marine stingers year round.

Marine park zoning regulations protect the intertidal zone and waters surrounding Cape Palmerston National Park, including the Cape Creek system. Ince Bay has been zoned a Dugong Protection Area.

Zoning regulations specify how you can use particular sites and the permits you may require. For detailed information on activities such as fishing and crabbing, consult the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority map, available from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Licences for harvesting oysters in coastal areas adjacent to the national park are issued by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Licence holders can harvest these oysters from nominated locations.

Viewing wildlife

Cape Palmerston offers good birdwatching opportunities. You may see ospreys and sea eagles soaring overhead, and white-breasted woodswallows in flowering grasstrees. Other bird species can often be seen around the swamp on the road to the camping areas. A guide to birds common to the area is available from the Mackay office.

The beaches around the park are a vital resting area for international migratory shorebirds and an important habitat for resident shorebirds such as beach stone-curlews. These significant species can often be seen feeding and resting at the water’s edge. Please take care not to disturb them, especially when driving along the beach.

Climb the cape to view marine life below, including various turtle species. From May to September you may also see humpback whales on their way to and from birthing areas further north.

Other things to do

Relax and enjoy nature in this undeveloped, remote park. Photograph the spectacular scenery. Some visitors consider swimming, but beware of estuarine crocodiles and marine stingers all year round.

Things to know before you go

Essentials to bring

  • 4WD recovery gear and fuel
  • water
  • fuel stove and cooking fuel
  • rubbish bags
  • insect repellent
  • first-aid kit (including vinegar for box jellyfish).

Opening hours

Cape Palmerston National Park is open 24 hours a day.

Permits and fees

Camping permits are required and fees apply. A camping tag with your booking number must be displayed at your camp site.

Commercial photography permits may be required if you intend to sell any photographs taken of Cape Palmerston National Park. Organised event permits may be required for organised group activities that may interfere with general public use. Contact NPSR Mackay for further information.


Domestic animals are not permitted in the park.

Climate and weather

Winters are mild (10–25°C) while summers are warm to hot (22–32°C). Expect heavy rain from December to March.

Fuel and supplies

There is a shop just after the Cape Palmerston Road turn-off on the road to Greenhill. Fuel and supplies are also available at Ilbilbie.

Staying safe

  • Sun protection is needed all year. Bring a hat and sunscreen.
  • Bring insect repellent as sandflies and mosquitoes can be prolific.
  • Wear stinger suits when swimming or wading. Dangerous marine stingers are most common from October to March but can occur throughout the year. Check for the latest safety advice.
  • Beware of estuarine crocodiles. Be crocwise.
  • Drive carefully, check tide times, and carry 4WD recovery gear and spare fuel.
  • Pack a first-aid kit and know how to use it.
  • Bring sufficient drinking water. No drinking water is available in the park.
  • Carry a mobile phone and dial Triple Zero (000) in an emergency or try dialling 112 if this fails.

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

Looking after the park

  • Bring your own above-ground fire container and clean, milled timber for fires. On-ground campfires are prohibited. Fuel stoves are recommended.
  • Pack sturdy rubbish bags and take all rubbish home with you. Carry a container for cigarette butts.
  • Drive carefully, especially around shorebirds on beaches.
  • Follow the boating and fishing regulations that apply in the adjoining marine park.

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

Park management

Cape Palmerston National Park was gazetted in 1976. The 7,160ha park is managed primarily to conserve its natural values, particularly its diverse vegetation communities and coastal landscapes.

A draft management plan has been prepared for the park.

The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, part of the Department of Environment and Science and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority are jointly responsible for managing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Tourism information links

Mackay Visitor Information Centre

320 Nebo Road, Mackay Qld 4740
ph: 1300 130 001
fax: (07) 4952 2034

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

Further information

Contact us

Last updated
5 December 2017