Frankland Group National Park Tropical North Queensland

Photo credit: © Queensland Government

About The Franklands

    Park features

    Featuring outcrops of weathered and eroded green and white metamorphic rock, the islands are part of the coastal mountain range which was separated from the mainland by a rise in sea level 6,000 years ago. The vegetation on the islands is varied and includes patches of lush rainforest, coastal plant communities and mangrove swamps.

    The islands support a large array of bird life including numerous seabirds as well as pied imperial-pigeons, fruit doves, varied honeyeaters and white-breasted woodswallows. The fringing reefs surrounding the islands are home to a diversity of reef life including both hard and soft corals.

    The Frankland Islands have special significance for the Mandingalby Yindinji and Gungandji Aboriginal people who fished, hunted and gathered food on these islands and the adjacent sea country. Lieutenant (later Captain) James Cook named the islands in 1770 in honour of two 18th century sailors—a Lord of the Admiralty and his nephew, both named Sir Thomas Frankland. Early in the 20th century, the Frankland Islands became a popular fishing and boating destination for local people. A lighthouse was built on Russell Island in 1929 and the island became a Commonwealth island. High, Normanby, Mabel and Round islands were declared national park in 1936. The surrounding waters were included in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in 1983.

    Ranger interview

    Hear Ranger Tayce Cook chat about planning a tropical island getaway to Russell Island (Courtesy ABC Radio).

    Audio transcript

    Let's go for a little bit of a trip around this great state of ours. Queensland, right now is your oyster. So where's good to go? Well, how about a visit to one of Queensland's 250 national parks. Park Ranger Tayce Cook would like to help you plan your next adventure. Tayce, great to have you on the program. Where are you taking us this afternoon?

    Thank you very much for having me. We are going to a locally-known beautiful tropical destination. It's called Russell Island and it's part of the Frankland Island Group of islands, just south of Cairns.

    So Frankland Islands, not Falkland Islands, and Russell Island up north, not Russell Island off the coast of Brisbane. We're talking about 10 kilometres offshore of Cairns, right?

    No, it's a little bit further south. It's 10 kilometres offshore from the Russell and the Mulgrave rivers. It's a bit more remote than just straight offshore from Cairns.

    OK, so tell me about Russell Island. Set the scene, Tayce. What does it look like?

    Well, I guess if you can imagine that you're camping on a beautiful tropical island, you open up your tent and you look outside and you're looking at a beautiful white beach. And beautiful clear turquoise waters. Then you'd be pretty much spot-on for the kind of experience you would be looking at getting while camping on Russell Island.

    Sounds like heaven. The top three unique features or special features of Russell Island. What would they be?

    There are quite a lot of options, there’s so much to do in the area. But I guess if you have your own boat, it's an excellent point to get further out to the reef, for fishing, diving, snorkelling, really great access to those areas. If you go for a walk around the island, it's absolutely spectacular. You can see some rainforest, some beautiful beaches and at low tide you can actually walk over to a second island that's connected by a little narrow sandspit. And that's beautiful for exploring. And then there's this little secret spot that a few of the locals know about. There's like a beautiful lagoon, and when it's filled with water, it's full of sea cucumbers and sea stars, and if you're lucky, little baby reef shark, so it's absolutely spectacular.

    Oh wow. Amazing, it sounds like a great place for a family holiday. Does anyone live on Russell Island?

    The beauty of Russell Island, and all of the islands in that group, is that nobody lives on any of them. So, when you are camping there, the numbers are kept quite low, so you could end up being there by yourself or with a small group. But no one lives there, so it's absolutely super-remote and a really unique experience.

    You're on Russell Island right now. If you’ve just joined in, you're on Russell Island, part of the Frankland Group National Park. You're with Tayce Cook, who's a Park Ranger. And this is part of our effort to help you get to know a little bit more about the great state of Queensland. Queensland's your oyster at the moment. So why not get out and enjoy it where you can? Let's talk about access, Tayce. How do you go about getting to Russell island as you have mentioned if you have your own boat a couple of times so I'm thinking it's a little hard to get to?

    So I guess the thing that makes it really beautiful is that it is a bit more remote and a little bit harder to get to. But I assure you that all the effort is totally worth it. So there are two options. If you do have your own boat, you have to be completely self-sufficient, but you can access from Deeral boat ramp. You cruise down the river and out the front and you head out a bit further and you'll find yourselves at those beautiful islands. Or the other option is you can go with Frankland Island Reef Cruises and they actually visit one of the other islands for day trips, but they will happily drop you off to Russell Island, making sure you've got all your camping gear and all the things you need to for your stay there.

    Let's talk about what kind of gear you might need to bring. Pretty basic amenities, are there loos there? A place to tie your boat up? What sort of stuff is there to help with the camping?

    The beauty of Russell is there is a really simple basic toilet, and there are some moorings located nearby to there. But there are some nice sandy areas you can put an anchor down for your own boat if you need to, but that's it. We've kept it as remote as possible to create that really beautiful wild experience on the islands.

    And what's the maximum number of people allowed on the island?

    For Russell Island, in terms of the camping, its maximum 16 people and there are four campsites there, so we do recommend getting in and booking as soon as possible. It is actually free on Russell Island, which is a bit of a unique feature. It's really, really nice, you know, but you do have to book ahead and, like I said, the locals know all about it, so make sure you plan well in advance, if you want to book and camp there.

    And you book via the national parks website? I suppose you just look for Russell Island or Frankland Island Group. How do you find the booking site?

    Yeah, that's correct. If you put that in your Google search, it will come up straight away. It should be one of your top searches. It will take you straight to the booking site, and it's great because there's heaps of information on the website that will tell you all of the things that you need to bring, all of the factors you need to consider for this remote location.

    Leave your pets at home, obviously. And Tayce, before I let you go, as Ranger, have you got a Ranger’s pick? Your favourite thing to do on Russell Island?

    Look, I think it goes without saying when you're on the Great Barrier Reef that it's well worth packing a mask and snorkel and some fins. Definitely don't forget your stinger suit. Because it's what's not just on the islands; it's what's around them as well. There is a spectacular coral ledge on the south western side. Beautiful big plate corals, heaps of reef fish, and if you're really lucky you might actually get to see some manta rays, some dolphins and turtles. And in the right season you might hear or see some humpback whales heading past the island while you're in the water.

    Oh, amazing, start my engine and get going. Tayce, thank you so much.

    No worries. Thanks for having me.

    What do you reckon? Worth the trip? That's Tayce Cook. She's a Park Ranger out at Russell Island, which is part of the Frankland Group National Park.

    Looking after the park

    • Everything in the park, living or dead, is protected. Please leave everything as you found it.
    • Camp only in designated camp sites and use the tarpaulin poles provided—disturbance to vegetation can cause erosion and spread weeds.
    • To protect nesting seabirds, the sand spits on Normanby and Russell islands may be fenced off from 1 September to 31 March. Please stay out of any fenced areas.
    • Do not feed wildlife including birds and fish—it is harmful to their health.
    • Domestic animals are not permitted in the Franklands Group National Park or on tidal lands adjacent to the national park within the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park. Tidal areas include beaches, rocks and mangroves.
    • Use fuel stoves only—fires are not allowed.
    • Keep on walking tracks at all times.
    • Avoid damaging coral—never stand on or touch coral.
    • Rubbish bins are not provided. Do not bury rubbish—take it with you when you leave.
    • Where toilets are not provided, bury human waste and toilet paper at least 15cm deep and 100m from camp sites and tracks. Take nappies and sanitary products home with your rubbish.

    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, 573.6KB) 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.

    Park management

    The Frankland Group National Park is managed by Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) for the enjoyment of visitors and the conservation of nature.

    The park is managed in accordance with the Frankland Group National Park Management Plan (PDF, 387.7KB) and the Cairns Area Plan of Management.

    Russell Island is Commonwealth island. It is managed in a complementary manner with the national park islands of the Frankland Group National Park under agreement with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

    The reef and waters surrounding the Frankland Islands are protected within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park and the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

    Tourism information links

    Rainforest and Reef Information Centre
    142 Victoria Street
    Cardwell QLD 4849
    ph: (07) 4066 8601
    A partnership between QPWS and the Cassowary Coast Regional Council, managed by Great Green Way Tourism Incorporated.

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

    • There are currently no park alerts for this park.