Raine Island National Park (Scientific) Tropical North Queensland

Raine Island has unique natural and cultural values. Photo credit: Queensland Government

About Raine Island

    Park features

    Located 120km offshore from Cape York Peninsula, Raine Island National Park (Scientific) includes Raine Island and the nearby Moulter and MacLennan Cays. This remote island national park is not accessible to the public.

    Raine Island is a highly significant cultural and story place for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Island features a stone beacon constructed by convicts in 1844, which is one of the oldest structures remaining in Queensland, and of national cultural significance.

    Raine Island supports the world’s largest remaining nesting population for the internationally endangered green turtles (Chelonia mydas). Each year as many as 60,000 female green turtles migrate thousands of kilometres to lay their eggs on the Island. Raine Island is also the most significant seabird rookery in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

    Raine Island National Park (Scientific), including its adjacent cays, is afforded the highest protection under Queensland’s nature conservation laws and both Commonwealth and State marine parks laws. These laws enable Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) to continue its successful monitoring and conservation of the park's wildlife.

    Ranger interview

    Hear Program Manager Kat Robertson talking about why Raine Island is special for so many reasons, and why it is not accessible to visitors. (Courtesy ABC Radio).

    Audio transcript

    You're with Cat Feeney on ABC Radio Brisbane in Queensland. Let’s travel to an island now.

    Queensland is your oyster so where is good to go? How about a visit to one of this state’s 250 national parks? Well, that’s usually the focus of this Park Life segment. We tell you about a place that you could consider taking a trip to. But today’s incredible site is actually located in a pretty treacherous spot, for a start. It’s an island surrounded by waters that have wrecked many ships in years past. Even if you could get to this island, chances are you wouldn’t be allowed to set foot on its stunning white sands and Kat Robertson can tell us why. She is the Acting Program Manager for the Raine Island Recovery Project. Kat, thank you for joining us. Why can’t we go to Raine Island?

    Thank you for having me today. Why can’t we go to Raine Island? Well, it is, like you said, a very special and unique place. It has really high natural and cultural values. It is what we call a national park (Scientific), which means that people can’t go to the island, to protect those values. Raine is home to a stone beacon constructed in 1844 by convicts. It is the most important seabird nesting site on the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. And it’s a very important cultural and story place for the traditional owners from Wutathi and Miriam nation. What people might know, if they have heard of Raine Island, is that it supports the world’s largest remaining green turtle nesting site.

    I want to talk a little bit more about the turtles and the other things you’ve mentioned, but can you give us an idea of where exactly Raine Island is.

    It’s about 620km north of Cairns and 120km offshore of the Cape York Peninsula. It’s right on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef and it’s really difficult to get there, even for us as park rangers.

    So you are allowed to go there because your work involves the preservation, protection and scientific exploration of Raine Island. How did you get to be one of the very few people in Queensland, in Australia, who get to go to Raine Island? How did you get involved, Kat?

    I got involved through the Raine Island Recovery Project. The Queensland Government sought funding to involve a collaboration between private and public entities to preserve Raine Island. Researchers and scientists found that there was a problem there for the green turtles that were nesting on the island. We became concerned that although you had thousands of turtles nesting on the beach you actually weren’t getting many hatchlings, so we developed a 5 year project between BHP, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the traditional owners, and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation to work on that project. So that’s how I got involved. I’ve been working on it for 6 years now.

    Kat Robertson is with you. She is the Acting Project Manager for the Raine Island Recovery Project. You’re hearing a bit more about Raine Island as part of our Park Life segment where we take you to one of the national parks in Queensland, usually to inspire you to explore your home state, but in this case, it is an island park that is off limits to the general public and for very good reasons, which you’re about to hear. Kat, can you tell me more about the turtles. How are things going? What happens? Set the scene, paint a picture, take us to Raine Island, seeing as we can’t!

    Well, the turtles come up during the summer. They are there to lay their eggs. Ninety percent of the northern green turtle population nest within the Raine Island National Park (Raine Island and Moulter Cay). You can be on the beach, we do what we call tele-counts, where we walk around the beach. In December last year, we counted 12,000 turtles on the beach in one night! So, to paint a picture, you’ve got lots of turtles on the beach, there’s sand flicking everywhere, and they’re up there trying to lay their eggs.

    Well, pretty incredible. As you said it’s a very significant site for the traditional owners of the lands. Tell me a bit more about the significance of Raine Island.

    The traditional owners are from Wutathi, which is in the Cape York area, and Miriam nation in the Torres Strait. So it’s a very significant place for them. The stone beacon which was built by the convicts is part of the island’s shared cultural history, and it has engravings of some of the traditional owners’ names from when they used to go out and visit the island themselves. So, the tower has so much history, just in this one little tower.

    What is this tower? I’ve got this picture in my mind of this gorgeous island in the Great Barrier Reef, relatively small, beautiful soft-looking sand, a bit of greenery, it supports birdlife and turtles and it has this strange rock tower ‘sprouting’ out from it. What was the point of this tower? When was it built, what did it do? Tell me a bit more.

    It was built in 1844 actually by order of the British Admiralty at the time, because the area around Raine, there’s obviously a lot of reefs, was really treacherous for ships coming through in that time. There were numerous shipwrecks that occurred around there. There are some old shipwrecks on the reef there at Raine Island. So they built it for safety. Its 40m tall so you can see it from quite a distance away.

    Very interesting. It’s been really great to find to a bit more about Raine Island from you, Kat. If I could just get your favourite part of the island, your favourite site or the feeling you have. Can you give me your favourite bit of Raine Island before we say a fond farewell?

    I would say it’s when you see the turtles coming up, sometimes they will struggle to lay eggs, and when you actually see, she digs the chamber, she lays her eggs, she fills it in, and she heads back to the water. And you know she’s done her job, and she’s helping making the future generation. It’s pretty special.

    Pretty special indeed, Kat thank you so much for taking us to Raine Island.

    It’s been a pleasure.

    Kat Robertson, Acting Program Manager of the Raine Island Recovery Project. One of your national parks but it’s a national park (Scientific), which means sadly its off limits to the general public, but, as you heard, for very good reason. What an interesting touchstone as well – the collision of Indigenous culture and heritage, colonial culture and heritage, and the way in which that island is used by the creatures that have been nesting there, making new life, for many, many, many generations. Queensland is such an interesting place!

    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.

    If you are boating around the Raine Island National Park (Scientific)

    • 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.
    • 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.

    If you have a permit to enter the island, 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

    In February 2007, an historic Indigenous Land Use Agreement was signed between the Queensland Government and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Traditional Owners. The agreement allows for joint management and ongoing protection of Raine Island National Park (Scientific), and the surrounding waters, by QPWS and the Wuthathi (mainland Aboriginal people), the Erubam Le, Meriam Le and Ugarem Le (Torres Strait Islander people).

    In August 2007 Raine Island, along with neighbouring Moulter and MacLennan Cays, was declared a National Park(Scientific) under Queensland’s Nature Conservation Act 1992 to protect the natural and cultural values of the island and Cays.

    Raine Island National Park (Scientific) is within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The surrounding waters are managed under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park.

    The waters immediately surrounding Raine Island and MacLennan and Moulter Cays have been declared as a Restricted Access Special Management Area under both State and Commonwealth legislation. Access to these waters is by permit only. This restriction ensures protection of breeding seabirds and turtles.

    The park is within a Marine National Park (Green) Zone where all fishing, harvesting and other marine extractive activities (other than permitted research and traditional native title holder activities) are prohibited.

    Research and monitoring programs are undertaken for the management and conservation of turtles, especially as this area supports the largest breeding population of green turtles in Queensland, which are endangered internationally and vulnerable within Australia.

    • There are currently no park alerts for this park.