Michaelmas and Upolu Cays National Park Tropical North Queensland

Photo credit: Maxime Coquard © Tourism and Events Queensland

About Michaelmas and Upolu

    Park features

    With clear water, healthy reefs and easy access from Cairns, Michaelmas and Upolu cays are popular boating, snorkelling and diving locations. What really makes the park special though is its seabirds—Michaelmas Cay is one of the most important seabird nesting sites in the Great Barrier Reef Word Heritage Area. Visitors can experience sights and sounds like no other with a chorus of thousands of seabirds attending to their young.

    With up to 20,000 breeding pairs on the island at one time, Michaelmas Cay is a significant breeding site for four ground nesting species—brown noddies, sooty terns, crested terns and lesser crested terns. It is home to one of the largest breeding colonies of sooty terns in Queensland. Nowhere else are sooty terns, common noddies and crested terns found breeding together in such vast numbers and in such an accessible location.

    Michaelmas and Upolo cays and the surrounding marine waters are internationally significant and are protected in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

    Looking after the park

    Many people visit Michaelmas and Upolu Cays National Park each year so it is important to minimise your impact.

    • Never feed wildlife including birds and fish—it is harmful to their health.
    • Domestic animals are not permitted on Michaelmas and Upolu Cays National Park or on tidal lands adjacent to the park. Tidal areas include beaches.
    • Rubbish bins are not provided. Do not bury rubbish—take it with you when you leave. This includes cigarette butts, which do not decompose.
    • Anchor only in sand—corals are fragile and easily damaged. Use public moorings where possible.
    • Avoid touching, kicking or standing on living coral when snorkelling or wading ashore.
    • All marine life is protected. Do not collect corals, clams or shells.
    • Remember this is a national park—everything is protected.

    The seabird rookery on Michaelmas Cay is special, but the adult birds are very sensitive to disturbance. Once disturbed, adult birds can abandon their nests leaving eggs and chicks vulnerable to heat, cold and predators such as silver gulls.

    • Always stay within the roped-off area (PDF, 2.3MB) .
    • Never attempt to touch birds, chicks or eggs.
    • Avoid sudden movements or loud noises and back away if birds appear disturbed.
    • Do not operate horns, loud speakers, public address systems or sirens.
    • Never fly kites, use beach umbrellas or carry out any other activities that might disturb seabirds.

    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 and clean out your backpack and hand, beach or camera bags and check them carefully before your visit, as pests love to hide in stored 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

    Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) manages Michaelmas and Upolu Cays National Park to preserve the area’s natural, cultural and scenic values particularly the seabird rookery on Michaelmas Cay. Only nature-based, ecologically sustainable recreation is allowed.

    The national park will be managed in accordance with the Michaelmas and Upolu Cays National Park Management Plan (PDF, 500.3KB) .

    Michaelmas and Upolu Cays National Park lies within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The reef and intertidal area surrounding the islands are managed under the provisions of the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Complementary management of waters adjacent to these cays is vital and continued close cooperation between the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) is essential.

    To protect Michaelmas Cay, special regulations apply to the Michaelmas Cay Locality—an area extending one nautical mile around the cay. These regulations are outlined in the Cairns Area Plan of Management.

    A code of conduct for reef tourism operators has been developed. This code provides guidelines for best environmental practices. They complement government regulations to preserve the unique values of the cays and their surrounding reefs, while still permitting visitors to enjoy the cays. This code was developed through a collaborative process involving QPWS, GBRMPA and tourism operators.

    Tourism information links

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

    • There are currently no park alerts for this park.