Capricornia Cays National Park Gladstone

North West Island shark research project

The Capricornia Cays is abundant with wildlife — including sharks. We are currently conducting research into the prevalence, movements and behaviour of sharks around North West Island. Photo credit: © Queensland Government

The exceptional beauty of the islands within Capricornia Cays National Park will leave a lasting impression. Photo credit: Collette Bagnato © Queensland Government

Be inspired: Snorkelling, seabirds and sightseeing—3 sensational reasons to visit the southern Great Barrier Reef!

The southern Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most iconic travel destinations… and little wonder why! Here you can snorkel amongst delicate corals and colourful fish, share your island ‘solitude’ with thousands of seabirds, and enjoy sightseeing on a scale second to none! Photo credit: © Tourism and Events Queensland

Frequently asked questions


    Can I buy fresh food on the islands?

    No. The islands in Capricornia Cays National Park are remote and you need to be self-sufficient. The nearest supplies are available in Gladstone, Agnes Water or Bundaberg.

    How often do boats service the islands?

    • North West and Mast Head islands do not receive regular services. Vessels transferring campers and rangers completing general maintenance do visit at times.
    • Lady Musgrave Island usually receives a commercial service daily. All services are weather dependent and visitors should check with operators for timetables.

    Will I have mobile phone reception?

    Reliable mobile phone service is not available. VHF marine band radios are recommended.

    Can I hire a marine radio before I leave?

    Campers to North West or Mast Head islands can hire a portable VHF marine band radio from Volunteer Marine Rescue Gladstone (VMR446 Gladstone). VMR Gladstone allocates one radio to each island. If you are in possession of this radio please make yourself known to other campers upon their arrival. An emergency VHF marine band radio is located in the toilet block at Lady Musgrave Island.

    For further information contact:

    VMR Gladstone, phone (07) 4972 3333

    VMR Round Hill, phone (07) 4974 9250

    VMR 488 Bundaberg, phone (07) 4159 4349


    Can I have a fire?

    No. Fires are prohibited (open and closed). Gas or liquid fuelled stoves for cooking purposes are permitted. Past traditions of lighting campfires caused unacceptable environmental damage. Trees were destroyed for firewood, multiple fire rings scarred the beachfront, and birds and turtle hatchlings were attracted to fires. Charcoal darkened some areas of sand, influencing turtle egg development.

    What happens in the event of a cyclone?

    QPWS will attempt to inform campers of impending severe weather conditions and possible evacuation. During evacuation, all camping permits will be cancelled with campers required to leave the cays. The decision to evacuate may be made well in advance of a cyclone, while sea conditions are still moderate.

    Commercial charter vessels involved in camper drop-offs will attempt to collect you during the evacuation. On board, a QPWS officer, and possibly a police officer, will assist in the evacuation.

    Sea conditions may prevent the evacuation of camping equipment and private boats. In these circumstances you may be able to store equipment in toilet blocks. Where no structures are available, you will need to secure and store your equipment as best you can. No responsibility will be accepted for items or boats left on the island. You will need to negotiate directly with charter vessel operators if wishing to collect belongings left behind during the evacuation.

    When delivered to the mainland, you will be responsible for your own accommodation.

    The unpredictable nature of cyclones can mean campers are evacuated, but no cyclone eventuates. In such situations, you will need to negotiate directly with the charter vessel operator if wishing to return.

    QPWS will offer alternative camping or reimburse camping fees for lost days.


    How can I anchor my boat during my visit?

    Always anchor with care and, where possible, in sand away from coral. Where coral anchoring is unavoidable, a reef pick should be used and retrieved by slowly motoring towards the anchor. Conduct regular checks of your vessel at anchor and stay informed about weather conditions. Learn more about caring for the reef.

    Visitors are reminded that anchoring with chain around coral bommies and tying ropes to trees is dangerous and damages the environment. The installation of any mooring, temporary or otherwise, requires a marine park permit and a permit from the Queensland Department of Transport.

    Where can I go fishing?

    Reefs and reef flats at high tide are popular, but you must observe Great Barrier Reef Marine Park zoning restrictions and fishing regulations. Ensure you obtain and consult your marine park zoning map. Free online marine park zoning maps are available from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA). You may also be able to collect a printed marine park zoning map by visiting an over-the-counter booking office or they are available from many bait and tackle outlets.

    For more information:

    Where can I dump my fish cleaning scraps?

    Dispose of fish scraps responsibly! Only clean fish on land well above the high tide mark. Keep your fish scraps out of the water and take them with you when you leave. Offenders dumping fish scraps in a way other than this advice may be subject to penalties.

    Why do you have closures on the islands?

    Seasonal closures help protect the islands. Turtle hatchlings, nesting seabirds and island vegetation are particularly susceptible to disturbance. Further temporary closures may apply in case of cyclones, nature conservation and park management activities.


    Where is the best place to snorkel?

    The reef edge adjacent to the camping areas on Mast Head, North West and Lady Musgrave islands are popular. Mast Head Island’s north-western corner has well developed bommies and gutters.

    Lady Musgrave Island lagoon has excellent and protected snorkelling—you must be aware of boat users at all times. Stay safe when snorkelling.

    Are there ticks or centipedes on the island?

    Yes. Bird ticks are common, particularly during the seabird breeding season from October to May. Wear insect repellent to deter ticks. If bitten carefully lever out with tweezers, then disinfect the area around the bite.

    Large centipedes are active at night, especially in wet weather. Bites usually result in local pain and some swelling, lasting only a short time. Treat with ice (if possible). To avoid bites, shake out dive gear, shoes and clothing before wearing and keep tents zipped up.

    Will I see introduced plants and animals?

    Island communities are fragile, isolated and particularly susceptible to pests. Follow the island Be pest-free! guidelines below to help reduce the spread of introduced ants and other unwanted plants and animals.

    • Check all camping equipment and supplies for soil, ants and insects (and their eggs), rats, mice, cane toads, Asian house geckos and plant seeds before departing for the islands or travelling between islands.
    • Clean or brush off anything that may be contaminated, especially footwear, tents and sand pegs.

    On both Lady Musgrave and North West islands, weed seed receptacles are provided. It only takes a minute to make a difference.

    Also see: Be pest-free! brochure (PDF, 573.6KB) .

    Can I collect shells and take them home?

    Beachcombing can be great fun, but remember others can’t enjoy what you take away, and many shells are the future home for a marine animal. Some marine park zones allow limited collecting—generally no more that five of any one species in a 28 day period. All hard corals, clams, helmet shells and giant triton shells (alive or dead) are protected.

    '…The delicate shells lay on the shore;

    The bubbles of the latest wave

    Fresh pearls to their enamel gave,

    And the bellowing of the savage sea

    Greeted their safe escape to me.

    I wiped away the weeds and foam,

    I fetched my sea-born treasures home;

    But the ugly, unsightly, noisome things

    Had left their beauty on the shore

    With the sun and the sand and the wild uproar…'

    From Each and All — Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)