Molle Islands National Park Whitsundays

Photo credit: © Tourism and Events Queensland

About Molle Islands

    Park features

    Open eucalypt forests clothe the hillsides, rainforest grows in sheltered gullies and grasslands cover the more exposed slopes. The Ngaro Aboriginal people lived on and visited these islands for thousands of years. They used fire to flush out game and maintain the natural grasslands. A stone quarry for making tools and weapons remains on South Molle Island.

    Once used for grazing, South Molle Island later became a national park and a resort was established in 1937. The islands and surrounding waters are protected in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

    Ranger interview

    Listen to Ranger Kay Kunze talk about camping, walking and biking on South Molle Island (Courtesy ABC Radio).

    Audio transcript

    You're with Cat Feeney on ABC Radio Brisbane in Queensland.

    Did you know there are more than 250 national parks in Queensland? But how much time have you spent amongst the 6.5 million hectares of park in your state? And what do you know about what is really out there? For the time being, Queensland is your oyster, so why not get out and explore the incredible natural wonders of this state? Kay Kunze is someone who'd like to get your journey going. Kay, g'day. Thanks for joining us today. You're a ranger with a national park in a pretty fabulous corner of Queensland. Tell me about the parks that you take care of.

    Well, I'm lucky enough that I am responsible for managing the Whitsunday Islands. Specifically, I want to talk about South Molle Island National Park, which is kind of one of our lesser known, lesser visited parks that's just absolutely amazing to see.

    Great. I'm so glad we get to talk about South Molle because I have seen these stunning posters from back in the day of South Molle Island that made it look like the place for fashionable holiday makers to go. I'm looking at like blond babes in bikinis but what is South Molle Island 2020 all about?

    Well, that's it. South Molle Island has been a resort and a tourist destination for a number of years. So I guess in its current state, it kind of got a bit of a touch-up during our Cyclone Debbie in 2017. So they're going undergoing a bit of a redevelopment of the site, but there's still so much of our national park there on South Molle Island to explore.

    Tell me about some of the particular highlights of a day trip to the national park at South Molle. What can you see there?

    Well, South Molle Island is just a ‘must see’ I guess for three really good reasons. First, its camping. So we have two campsites on South Molle Island directly, but then we have five additional in the surrounding islands that you can really choose and tailor your trip to whatever you want it to be. As well as 10 kilometres of hiking and mountain biking tracks. And then I guess just its accessibility to the mainland. South Molle Island is only five kilometres off that heart of Airlie Beach so it's really easy to get to South Molle in pretty much any kind of weather that you would find.

    Are there any particularly unique plants, special animals? What will we see or smell on a mountain biking or hiking expedition across South Molle?

    Well, South Molle is lovely. So you'll see heaps of tiny jewel and orb weaver spiders along the walking tracks and it's a fantastic place to go bird watching. You look out for sooty oyster-catchers, the white -faced herons, reef egrets around the shoreline and rocks. And you might also even see a brahminy kite or white-bellied sea-eagle flying above.

    That that sounds pretty impressive. I know next to nothing about birds. Are they particularly rare or unique kinds of birds?

    They're just unique birds to the Queensland coast, so all through the GBR you would find those kind of birds. This time of year I guess we'd also be getting those migratory birds into the Whitsundays. So all your kind of wading birds that come and nest around this part of the world.

    Kay Kunze with you. A ranger up in the Whitsunday's region who looks after, among others, South Molle Island National Park. So, Kay as you said one of the main features of this park is that you can camp there. Let's take a bit of time just to look through some of the basics there. Access you said is fairly easy, five clicks from the heart of Airlie Beach. How do you get there? Is it a transfer, private, is there a public transport? How do you get there?

    So look to get to the South Molle Island, you obviously need a vessel. Whether it's your own boat or your mate's boat or you use one of our commercial operators in town, or the water taxi services, there's several to choose from obviously in Airlie Beach. You just need to get yourself out to the island. To the campground itself, it is accessible at kind of mid to high tide, I would recommend, just to kind of make that shorter walk with your gear up to the beach area. But once you're on the campgrounds, we have I guess all the amenities that you would need. Nice lovely picnic tables, we have a small shelter to kind of get out of the rain if it's raining, as well as plenty of toilets and everything like that. And right off the campground areas, is where you can start the walking tracks. So you can go and just start your exploration of those 10 kilometres of tracks. Bring your bicycle over or hire one locally and really just go explore the island.

    Are pet's allowed?

    Sorry but pets are not allowed in the national park.

    Okie dokie. And what about with regards to the camping, is it powered campsites or no power?

    There's no power at the campsites but I also wanted to mention at Sandy Bay, so Sandy Bay campground off South Molle Island it's one of our reef protection program sites where we've actually installed public moorings. So the public moorings is part of a program that you can safely and free use it to secure your vessels so you know it's safe. You can have that nice sleep at night knowing that it's safe and you're not gonna damage the coral. So just another really important reason, you know, to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

    And speaking of the reef, what about diving, snorkelling, swimming? Any rules, restrictions or special sites?

    Yeah, so right around South Molle Island it is a yellow and blue zone which means you can fish. There are a few rules, if it's a yellow zone so just check your zoning before you go out and about. But there is fishing all around South Molle Island and it's quite good, as well as snorkelling and just swimming. It's really nice and just I guess a reminder to everybody, we're coming up into those warmer months, to wear your stinger suit.

    Wow, I really just want to be there now. Do you have to book? How do I go about booking a campsite?

    Yeah, so you just go to the Queensland parks website. And I would also direct anyone looking for more information to go to our Life's Best Moments and that's all one word dot d-e-s for department of environmental science dot qld dot gov dot au. That's where you can find where you can book your permit to camp and find out a bit more and actually look at some maps and brochures that we've put online for you as reference.

    You have done such a fantastical job of convincing me to travel to South Molle Island. Kay, before I let you go is there a particularly special part of the island for you? Something that that would be your ranger's pick about South Molle.

    Secret tip? I do have a secret tip for South Molle Island. So on the eastern side of South Molle, we have two lesser-known islands that kind of get forgotten about called Planton and Denman islands. Now these campsites we have,  just bush campsites so you kind of have to be self-sufficient. There is a drop toilet but that's about it. No tables or anything. But once you book into that site, it closes the site down so you have the island to yourself. So how magical is that? You can book into a campground for, you know, minimal fee and have an island to yourself in the Whitsundays?

    Yeah. Sign me up. Kay, thank you. I've got a website to check out. Thank you very much.

    Not a problem.

    Thank you so much. Ranger Kay. Ranger Kay Kunze taking you to South Molle Island and a little bit beyond to a place where you might even have your very own island in the Whitsundays, should you be willing to make the journey. Well, there you go. We'll be back with more Park Life in a couple of weeks’ time.

    Looking after the park

    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.

    Please also read Looking after national parks of the Whitsundays.

    Park management

    Read about Managing national parks of the Whitsundays.

    Tourism information links

    See Tourism information links for national parks of the Whitsundays.