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About Turtle Group

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Getting there and getting around

Turtle Group National Park consists of nine islands comprised of the Turtle Group of islands, Nymph Island and the Pethebridge Islets. The Turtle Group of islands is located 10km offshore from Lookout Point, 84km north of Cooktown and 28km north of the nearest settlement at Cape Flattery. From Lookout Point, Nymph Island is about 20km north and the Pethebridge Islets are about 20km north-west (6.5km offshore of the mainland).

Lizard Island, with its resort and research station, is approximately 40km east of the Pethebridge Islets, 30km east of the Turtle Group cluster and only 28km east of Nymph Island.

Access to all the islands is by private boat via the boat ramp in the Starke River, or with a permitted commercial operator. See the tourism information links for details.

Weather forecasts are available from the Bureau of Meteorology.

Wheelchair accessibility

No wheelchair-accessible facilities are provided on any of the islands within the national park.

Park features

Nymph Island, Turtle Group National Park. Photo: Queensland Government.

Nymph Island, Turtle Group National Park. Photo: Queensland Government.

The park includes the Turtle Group of islands, Nymph Island and the Pethebridge Islets. Nine islands in total are protected within the Turtle Group National Park.

Nymph Island is a 65ha, sand and coral rubble island with extensive mangroves. Many 3700 year old micro atolls are contained within a tidal, internal lagoon drained by a narrow creek. Nymph Island became national park due to this unusual lagoon formation.

The Turtle Group of islands are small, vegetated sand and shingle cays. They show different levels of cay formation from a simple sand cay to cays with well developed beach-rock, shingle banks. The islands vegetation varies but includes areas of grassland, woodland, closed forest, vine forest and mangroves.

Camping and accommodation

Camping

Camping is permitted on Nymph Island and Turtle Group islands a, b, and f only. A maximum of 10 people per island is permitted and campers may stay for up to 14 days.

There are no defined camping areas or facilities on any of the islands—campers need to be self-sufficient. Take water, insect repellent, and a comprehensive first-aid kit. Satellite phones are also recommended. Fires are not allowed—ensure you bring a fuel stove. Remove your rubbish to the mainland.

Camping permits are required and fees apply. A camping tag with your booking number must be displayed at your camp site.

Other accommodation

Lizard Island National Park offers camping and luxury resort accommodation.

Things to do

The islands are great for birdwatching - near threatened (rare) eastern curlews have been seen. Photo: Queensland Government.

The islands are great for birdwatching - near threatened (rare) eastern curlews have been seen. Photo: Queensland Government.

White-bellied sea-eagles soar overhead, searching for their next meal. Photo: Andrew McDougall, Queensland Government

White-bellied sea-eagles soar overhead, searching for their next meal. Photo: Andrew McDougall, Queensland Government

Roseate terns bring their fresh catch back to the island for dinner. Photo: Andrew McDougall, Queensland Government

Roseate terns bring their fresh catch back to the island for dinner. Photo: Andrew McDougall, Queensland Government

Pied imperial-pigeons observe the islands inhabitants from above. Photo: Queensland Government.

Pied imperial-pigeons observe the islands inhabitants from above. Photo: Queensland Government.

Walking

There are no walking tracks on the national park. Visitors may enjoy a walk around the beaches of any of the islands. Please take care as vegetation is easily damaged which can lead to erosion. Seabirds also nest in the sand and vegetation.

Boating and Fishing

The Turtle Group National Park islands are a regular stop for cruising yachts travelling to and from Lizard Island. They also provide fair weather anchorages for private, tourist and commercial fishing vessels as they are close to the shipping channel.

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. Remember to be crocwise in croc country.

Boating

There are no public moorings in the waters around the islands of Turtle Group National Park. Public moorings are provided around Lizard Island. Read more about public moorings and anchoring. If you must anchor around these islands please follow these guidelines:

  • Anchor only on sand and away from coral reefs—corals are fragile and easily destroyed by anchors and chains dragging across the reef.
  • Use a reef pick if anchoring in coral is unavoidable. When hauling in, motor toward the anchor to prevent damage.
  • Do not throw rubbish overboard, especially when you are at anchor.

Fishing

Turtle Group National Park and the surrounding marine waters are internationally significant and are protected in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Zones in the two marine parks—the Great Barrier Reef Coast and Great Barrier Reef—provide a balanced approach to protecting the marine and intertidal environments while allowing recreational and commercial use.

A Marine National Park (Green) Zone encompasses the reef and waters surrounding the Turtle Group islands and Nymph Island. These ‘no-take’ areas prohibit extractive activities like fishing or collecting.

Check zoning information and maps before entering or conducting any activities in the marine parks.

Fishing can occur around the Pethebridge Islets, take only enough fish for a meal. Fisheries regulations apply—information on bag and size limits, restricted species and seasonal closures is available from Fisheries Queensland.

Viewing wildlife

Turtle Group National Park is an ideal birdwatching location with over 60 bird species recorded. Of these 26 migratory species are recognised in international agreements/conventions. Endangered little terns and vulnerable beach stone-curlews have all been seen within the park. Eastern curlews and sooty oystercatchers, both considered near threatened (rare), have also been recorded.

Breeding species including bridled terns, Caspian terns, roseate terns, crested terns, ospreys, white-bellied sea-eagles and pied imperial-pigeons are also found in the park. Seabirds nest on the ground, on rocky outcrops and in vegetation. Avoid nesting seabirds at all times. If parent birds are disturbed chicks and eggs can become vulnerable—easily destroyed by heat, cold and predators if left unprotected.

Things to know before you go

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, 574K) before your visit.

Essentials to bring

Preparation is the key to a safe and enjoyable visit to the Turtle Group National Park. Make sure you bring:

  • drinking water
  • a fuel or gas stove for cooking
  • protective clothing, sunscreen, hat and sunglasses
  • suitable shoes for walking on rough surfaces
  • a comprehensive first-aid kit
  • insect repellent.

Opening hours

Turtle Group National Park is open 24 hours a day, all year.

Permits and fees

Camping is permitted on Nymph Island and islands a, b and f of the Turtle Group.

Camping permits are required and fees apply. A camping tag with your booking number must be displayed at your camp site.

Pets

Domestic animals are prohibited on all islands within the Turtle Group National Park, this includes the beaches between low and high tide marks.

Climate and weather

Turtle Group National Park has a tropical climate. In summer the temperatures and humidity are high. From April to September the days are cooler and less humid. Visiting in the cooler winter months is recommended. For more information see the tourism information links.

Weather forecasts are available from the Bureau of Meteorology.

Fuel and supplies

Fuel and supplies are available on the mainland at Cooktown. The Turtle Group of islands is 10km offshore from the mainland at Lookout Point, which is 70km north of Cooktown.

For more information see the tourism information links.

Staying safe

  • Carry drinking water when walking or out in your boat.
  • Be aware of tidal movements and take care on slippery rocks.
  • Know your own health limitations for safe snorkelling—do not put yourself and others at risk, and always snorkel with a buddy.
  • Wear sunscreen and cover up when you are walking and out on the water.
  • 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 marine 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. Remember to be crocwise in croc country.

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

Looking after the park

We need your help to protect this national park.

  • Leave everything as you found it—everything in the park, living or dead, is protected.
  • Avoid bird-nesting areas and stay clear of roosting birds.
  • Never feed birds, fish or other wildlife—it is prohibited as it can affect the health of wild animals.
  • Leave your pets at home—domestic animals are prohibited in the national park; this includes the area on beaches between low and high tide marks.
  • Avoid touching, kicking or standing on coral.
  • Use fuel stoves only—fires are not allowed.
  • Take away everything that you bring on to the islands, including all of your rubbish. Disposing of garbage in the marine park is prohibited.
  • Minimise your use of soaps and detergents as they can affect water quality.

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, 574K) 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.

Park management

The Turtle Group National Park is managed by Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) in accordance with the Turtle Group National Park Management Plan (PDF, 438K) to preserve the highly significant natural and cultural values of the islands, while also providing and managing a range of visitor settings.

The reef and waters surrounding the islands are protected within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. They also form part of the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park (State) and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Commonwealth).

Complementary management of waters adjacent to these islands is vital and continued close cooperation between QPWS and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is essential.

Tourism information links

Nature’s Powerhouse
www.cooktownandcapeyork.com
Cooktown Botanic Gardens
Walker Street, Cooktown Qld 4895
Phone: (07) 4069 5763
email:

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

Further information

Contact us

Last updated
28 November 2016