Coastal camping adventures for intrepid families at Cape Palmerston
Issued: 31 Jul 2018

Intrepid: fearless, adventurous, audacious, daring… If that sounds like your family facing up to a few days’ camping in a scenic coastal ‘wilderness’, read on!

Photo credit: John Atkinson © Queensland Government

Intrepid: Fearless, adventurous, audacious, daring… If that sounds like your family facing up to a few days’ camping in a scenic coastal ‘wilderness’, read on!

You’ve grown up watching Mike and Mal in orange kombis ‘travelling all over the countryside’ and you’ve chuckled at Russell Coight’s ‘all Aussie (mis)adventures’, safe in the knowledge you can do better…

Well, here’s your chance! Camping at Cape Palmerston National Park, on a remote coastline in the Mackay region, you can test your mettle with intrepid adventuring, family-style.

Pack the family into the high-clearance 4WD, along with everything you need to be fully self-sufficient—remember the fishing gear and kayaks or tinnie—then set off for a true-blue family adventure holiday. Here’s a taste of what’s lies ahead.

View from a high vantage point over forested and grassy coastline that curves around to meet the blue ocean
Cape Palmerston National Park | Paul Curtis © North Queensland Wildscapes

Say a sweet goodbye to civilisation, just for a while

If you're travelling from the north, call into Sarina for a break. Amuse the kids for an hour or more at the Sarina Sugar Shed. Watch how sugar is extracted from the cane on miniature processing and distilling equipment, then taste a range of sweet products made on site.

If you’re not in a hurry, Sarina Beach is not far away and the esplanade park is a pleasant place for a barbecue or picnic. And, with a patrolled beach, it’s a good spot for the kids to swim.

Picnic table sits on concrete pad surrounded by neatly mown green grass with a few trees along the shore and blue ocean in the background
Sarina Beach | © Tourism & Events Queensland

Life is a journey not a destination—enjoy the drive

Once you reach the parks’ southern entrance, the adventure begins. Four-wheel drive along the sandy beach—be prepared for soft sand and extreme tides (we’re talking 6m!)—and watch the passing parade of rocky headlands, mangroves, swamps, rainforest and sand dunes.

Wildlife abounds in this park—get the kids playing ‘nature bingo’ along the way to see who can spot the most wildlife. You’ll want to stop and explore the beach as you go. Look for beach stone-curlews stalking along the shoreline, pied imperial-pigeons feeding in fig trees (in late winter and spring), water mice living in the mangroves (they build mud nests!), dolphins and turtles in the ocean, ospreys and sea-eagles overhead… What else can they find, those indomitable adventurers of yours?

Four-wheel-drive vehicle parked on sandy beach, near pale blue ocean that merges into pale blue cloudy skies
Cape Palmerston drive | © Steven Nowakowski

Set up camp on the ocean shore…and batten down the hatches!

After about an hour’s drive through the park, you’ll arrive at Windmill Bay camping area on the park’s eastern coast. Pitch the tent or set up the camper trailer in the shade of the she oaks and you’ll be ideally-located for all adventures.

The long sandy beach will lure you from your tent for early morning walks, and will keep the kids occupied for hours during the day. We provide bush-style pit toilets, you provide the rest. We suggest you bring a fuel stove and perhaps your own portable toilet. Maybe pack a few extra tent pegs too, in case the winds are up! Remember: Dauntless!

View through casuarina branches along sandy beach lapped by gentle waves towards a small rocky point
Windmill Bay camping area | Querida Hutchinson © Queensland Government

Onwards and upwards—the cape beckons!

Continue your Cape Palmerston drive adventure and follow the coastal track north to the cape itself. Climb the cape for great views and look for whales passing by during cooler months and turtles anytime in the water below. Get the kids to keep their eyes open for dugong—Ince Bay (to the north of the park) is a Dugong Protection Area, so you just might be lucky.

You’ll also see Mount Funnel towering in the distance—actually you’ll see it from just about every vantage point throughout the park!

Twin wheel ruts of a dirt track lead to the top of a grassy treeless hill in the distance and disappear over the horizon, under a cloudless bright blue sky.
Cape Palmerston | John Atkinson © Queensland Government

Nothing beats a view with a hue—camping with a sunset

If you prefer to see sunsets rather than sunrises from your tent, drive the sandy bush track across the park to Cape Creek camping area on the west coast. More sheltered than the east coast, this is a great place to relax in the shade of she oaks and soak up the serenity. You’ll want a portable toilet to stay here; otherwise you’ll need a spade and TP necklace (roll of toilet paper on a string worn around the neck)!

This camping area is also perfect for exploring the coastline and Cape Creek. You and your bunch of adventurous voyagers can launch the tinnie from the sand at high tide and spend happy hours on the water, perhaps even catching a feed for dinner! Heroic voyagers, even!

Fluffy white clouds and bright blue skies are reflected on the water's surface of a calm estuary, fringed by a low coastline clad in dense green mangroves
Cape Creek estuary | John Augusteyn © Queensland Government

Your family of intrepid adventurers will thank you for an unforgettable (we may even say unbeatable) camping holiday in this remote getaway! Visit Cape Palmerston National Park for more information or take a closer look at your camping options now! Check Park alerts before you head off.