Visiting South Cumberland Islands safely
South Cumberland Islands National Park is 60km north-east of Mackay and 50km from Seaforth by boat. Access is by private or charter boat. The nearest boat launch facility is at Seaforth. Access is also possible from Mackay and Airlie Beach. Seaforth is 45km north of Mackay off the Bruce Highway. For information on charter boat operators in the area, see the tourism information links.
The islands are rugged and there are no wheelchair-accessible facilities or tracks on the islands.
Parts of the islands can be isolated. To enjoy a safe visit, read more about staying safe in national parks of the Whitsundays.
Be prepared for emergencies
- Carry emergency food, water, AM/FM radio, spare batteries and medical supplies—particularly an iodine-based antiseptic for cuts (though be sure no-one in your group is allergic to iodine). First-aid training is desirable.
- Mobile phones are useful but not reliable.
- Monitor weather forecasts and radio messages about changing weather conditions.
- Leave your itinerary with a reliable friend or family member and keep them informed.
Mobile phones are unreliable on the islands. Satellite phones are best and a marine VHF radio is very useful. In emergencies you can contact other vessels in the vicinity on VHF marine channel 16 (emergency channel) or VHF channel 81.
The Whitsundays receive good broadcast radio reception and weather forecasts are available on most channels hourly. Weather forecasts are also available from the Bureau of Meteorology or by calling 1300 360 426.
The South Cumberland Islands lie within the Queensland tropical storm (cyclone) zone. The department has developed a cyclone and tsunami contingency plan and will work with camper transfer companies and local authorities to try to inform campers of impending cyclones and possible evacuation.
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! before your visit.
Essentials to bring
Although rangers visit the islands during regular marine park patrols, generally there are none on site. You must be responsible for your own safety. Remember to bring:
- sufficient food and water, plus extra in case of emergency. None of the islands have fresh water available. Ensure you have enough water for drinking, cooking, washing and bathing. Allow at least five litres per person per day.
- a first-aid kit, lots of vinegar and advice on recognising and treating dangerous marine stingers. Visit Beachsafe for the latest safety advice.
- reliable equipment such as torches, AM/FM radio and VHF radio.
- dehydrated food and minimal packaging.
- sturdy food containers and rubbish bags.
- camping gear cleaned of seeds, insects and vermin.
- tarpaulin, sunscreen and insect repellent.
South Cumberland Islands National Park is open 24 hours a day, all year round. However, parks may be closed if there are severe weather warnings.
Permits and fees
Camping permits are required for camping in the South Cumberland Islands National Park and fees apply. Visitor numbers are limited to ensure a quality experience. You will need to book your site and purchase your permit in advance. Display your camping permit tag prominently on your tent—there are fines for camping without it.
Commercial photography permits are required if you intend to sell any photographs taken of national park islands in the South Cumberlands. Organised event permits are required for organised group activities that may interfere with general public use. Commercial activity permits are required for any commercial activities. Contact us for further information.
Leave dogs, cats and other animals at home. Domestic animals are not permitted in national parks.
Dogs are not permitted on beaches and intertidal areas within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and adjacent to an island national park, or areas prohibited under a regulatory notice.
Climate and weather
South Cumberland Islands National Park has a tropical climate. In summer, daytime temperatures can exceed 35°C. The cooler months of the year, from April to September, are the best times to visit.
Daytime temperatures and humidity can be high at any time of the year and nights can be cool. Please carry suitable clothing to accommodate all temperature extremes.
The South Cumberland Islands lie within the Queensland tropical storm (cyclone) zone. Cyclones commonly occur between November and April, but can develop outside these times.
Fuel and supplies
Visitors should be well prepared and self-sufficient before setting off from the mainland. Fuel and supplies are available at Mackay and Seaforth. For more information see tourism information links.