Whitsunday Islands National Park Whitsundays

Take in beach views from your shady camp site at Cairn Beach camping area. Photo credit: © Queensland Government

The iconic Hill Inlet is not to be missed on a visit to Whitsunday Islands National Park. Photo credit: © Tourism and Events Queensland

Cairn Beach, Whitsunday Island

Escape the crowds and discover the Whitsundays' best camping area for snorkelling and bushwalking adventures.

Accessible by

  • Boat

Campground facilities

  • Picnic tables
  • Toilets (non-flush)
  • Walking
  • Snorkelling and diving
  • Canoeing and kayaking
  • Boating
  • Tent camping

Set up camp in this secluded and sheltered bushland site, among clusters of fragrant bottlebrush and gorgeous rubble beach.

If you’re feeling active, take a hike along nearby Whitsunday Cairn track, part of the Whitsunday Ngaro sea trail, and be rewarded with breathtaking views from the volcanic rocky summit.

Board your kayak or canoe for a blue-water adventure around the surrounding islands and bays. Discover sensational snorkelling along the fringing reef at the south-east end of Cairn Beach.

Walk along the beach at low tide and look for sea cucumbers, starfish and crabs sheltering under the rocks and rubble before returning to camp.

Whitsunday Islands National Park is part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, famed for its superlative natural beauty, outstanding examples of reef ecosystem development, evolutionary history and amazing diversity.

Getting there and getting around

Cairn Beach camping area is on Whitsunday Island in Whitsunday Islands National Park, located offshore from the Queensland central coast, 25km east of Airlie Beach.

  • Cairn Beach is located on the western side of the northernmost tip of Whitsunday Island, and is about 35.1nm (65km) from Shute Harbour (travelling in an anti-clockwise direction).
  • Accessible from mid to high tide by shallow craft only. Anchorage at this site is poor.
  • No public moorings are available.
  • Read boat and fish with care for tips on boating and fishing safety and caring for parks.
  • For tourism information for all regions in Queensland, see Queensland.com, and for friendly advice on how to get there, where to stay and what to do, find your closest accredited visitor information centre.

Getting to the Whitsundays

  • Travel on the Bruce Highway to Proserpine, 125km north of Mackay.
  • From Proserpine, drive 25km east along Shute Harbour Road to Airlie Beach, and continue a further 10km to Shute Harbour. Book your tour or charter boat or launch your vessel from here.
  • All roads to the boat launch sites are suitable for conventional 2WDs.

The islands' national park is easily accessible by commercial tours and transfers, charter boat and private vessel from the coastal towns of Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour. Hamilton Island (20km south-east of Shute Harbour) is also accessible by aircraft.

Commercial tours

  • Commercial operators offer day trips, camping tours and boat, camper and kayak transfers departing from Abell Point Marina at Airlie Beach and from Shute Harbour.

Charter boat

  • Bare boats or private charters are available from Airlie Beach, Shute Harbour and Hamilton Island.

Private vessel

  • There are public boat ramps at Port of Airlie and Abell Point Marina in Airlie Beach, Shute Harbour, Cannonvale (4km east of Airlie Beach), Dingo Beach (50km north-west of Airlie Beach), Conway Beach (38km south of Airlie Beach) and Midge Point (60km south of Airlie Beach).
  • Always take the weather and tidal influences into account when boating in the Whitsundays.

Aircraft

  • Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach have airstrips and commercial operators offer sightseeing tours.

Before you visit

Opening hours

Cairn Beach camping area is open 24 hours a day. Check-in to your camp after 2pm and check-out by 11am on the day of departure.

Check park alerts for the latest information on access, closures and conditions.

Cairn Beach campground. Photo: Queensland Government.

Cairn Beach campground. Photo: Queensland Government.

Camping area features: This site has outstanding physical beauty, with a sandy beach backing onto rainforest with fringing coral reef. The campground is located within beach scrub vegetation containing numerous bottle trees. For amazing views you can also walk the Cairn track, part of the Ngaro Sea Trail, to a volcanic rock formation known as the Whitsunday Cairn.

Location: North-western side of Whitsunday Island; approximately 27km north-east of Airlie Beach.

Access: The camping area can be reached by shallow draft boat (only) at mid to high tide. Anchorage at this site is poor.

Number of sites: Four defined sites. Maximum of 12 people.

Camp sites are suitable for: Walk-in camping.

Camp site surface: Sand and dirt.

Facilities: Composting toilets, picnic benches.

Open fires: Prohibited.

Generators: Not permitted.

Essentials to bring: Drinking water, rubbish bags, insect repellent. Read more about before you visit

Bookings: book online or learn about our camping booking options. Advance bookings recommended for holiday periods.

Mobile phone coverage: Available.

Visiting safely

For more safety information see Visiting Whitsunday Islands safely and camp with care.