Michaelmas and Upolu Cays National Park Tropical North Queensland

Photo credit: Maxime Coquard © Tourism and Events Queensland

Visiting Michaelmas and Upolu safely

    Image of Michaelmas Cay, Queensland.

    Michaelmas Cay, Queensland.

    Photo credit: Peter Lik © Tourism and Events Queensland

    Image of Upolu Cay at low tide.

    Upolu Cay at low tide.

    Photo credit: Leila Trott © Ocean Freedom

    Image of a dangerous stinging box jellyfish (stinger) which swimmers need to be aware of.

    Be aware of dangerous stinging box jellyfish (stingers)

    Photo credit: Jamie Seymour © James Cook University

    Image of a green turtle underwater which are often seen on Michaelmas and Upolu reefs.

    Green turtles are often seen on Michaelmas and Upolu reefs.

    Photo credit: K.Hoppen © Commonwealth of Australia (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority)

    Getting there and getting around

    Michaelmas and Upolu cays are small, low, sand cays. Surrounded by clear water and a healthy reef, they are easily accessible from Cairns. Access to Upolu Cay (32.5km north-east of Cairns) and Michaelmas Cay (41.3km north-east of Cairns) is by commercial or private vessels. For further information, see the tourism information links.

    Three public moorings (two at Michaelmas Cay and one at Upolu Cay) are provided for private vessels—vessel length, wind speed and time restrictions apply. See boating information for further details.

    Vessels should access Michaelmas Cay via the northern channel which provides all tide access and a clear passage through the reef. Access onto Michaelmas Cay is permitted within the roped-off area between 9.30am and 3pm only. Access to all other areas of the cay is prohibited to protect nesting seabirds (PDF, 2.3MB) .

    Activities that may disturb seabirds are also prohibited on Michaelmas Cay including the operation of horns, loudspeakers, public address systems and sirens, and the use of umbrellas and kites.

    Upolo Cay may be inundated at high tide—check tide times before departing. Weather forecasts are available from the Bureau of Meteorology.

    Wheelchair accessibility

    No wheelchair-accessible tracks or facilities are provided on either Michaelmas or Upolu cays.

    Staying safe

    • Look for swimmers, snorkellers and divers as you approach both cays and keep to the 6 knot speed limit when approaching Michaelmas Cay.
    • Be sun smart—to avoid sunburn wear a hat, sunglasses, long-sleeve shirt and sunscreen, even on overcast days.
    • Ensure you carry plenty of drinking water and drink frequently to avoid dehydration.
    • Know your own health limitations for safe snorkelling and diving—do not put yourself and others at risk, and always snorkel and dive with a buddy so that help is at hand.
    • Be aware of wind, current direction and tides when snorkelling or boating.
    • Birds and their faeces carry diseases. Use proper hygiene before eating and do not handle wildlife.
    • Dangerous stinging jellyfish (‘stingers’) may be present in the coastal waters at any time, but occur more frequently in the warmer months. A full-body lycra suit or equivalent may provide a good measure of protection against stinging jellyfish and sunburn. Visit tropical stingers for the latest safety and first-aid information.
    • Be aware that crocodiles can turn up anywhere in croc country, including tidal reaches of rivers, along beaches, on offshore islands and cays in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait, and in freshwater lagoons, rivers and swamps. Crocodiles are dangerous and attacks can be fatal.

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

    Before you visit

    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.

    Essentials to bring

    Preparation is the key to a safe and enjoyable visit to Michaelmas and Upolu Cays National Park. Ensure that you bring:

    • drinking water
    • rubbish bags
    • protective clothing, sunscreen, hat and sunglasses
    • a comprehensive first-aid kit.

    Opening hours

    Access onto Michaelmas Cay is only permitted between 9.30am and 3pm in the roped-off area. Access to all other areas of the cay is prohibited to protect nesting seabirds. See the restricted access area notice (PDF, 2.3MB) for more details. Upolu Cay is accessible 24hrs a day although it may be inundated at high tide.

    Permits and fees

    No permits are required to visit Michaelmas and Upolu Cays National Park.

    If you intend conducting a commercial tour, wedding, school excursion or scientific research, a permit may be required. See park permits and policies for further information.


    Domestic animals are not permitted on Michaelmas or Upolu cays or on tidal lands adjacent to Michaelmas or Upolu cays within the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park. Tidal areas include beaches.

    Climate and weather

    Michaelmas and Upolu Cays National Park has a monsoonal, tropical climate. In summer the daytime temperatures average 30°C, and humidity and rainfall are high. From April to September, the days are cooler and less humid, with steady south-easterly trade winds. This is the best time to visit. Weather forecasts are available from the Bureau of Meteorology.

    Fuel and supplies

    There is no fuel or other supplies available at either of the cays. Limited supplies are available on Green Island, 17.3km south of Michaelmas Cay and 10.5km south of Upolu Cay.

    • There are currently no park alerts for this park.