Capricornia Cays is both a national park and a scientific national
park. Popular recreational activities in the park includes bird, whale
and turtle watching as well as camping, walking, swimming, boating,
snorkelling and diving. Capricornia Cays National Park is noted for its
biological diversity, beauty and for provided habitat for a number of
endangered plants and animals. In particular the cays are recognized as
having the largest breeding population of endangered loggerhead turtles
in the South Pacific.
Access to the islands via boat is available from Gladstone, Bundaberg
and 1770. Islands and cays in the group include Broomfield Island,
Erskine Island, Heron Island, Lady Musgrave Island, North West Island,
Tryon Island, Fairfax Islands and Hoskyn Islands.
The cays’ stunning white beaches and coral reefs will leave a
lasting impression. Their exceptional beauty and biological diversity
make them internationally significant. Capricornia Cays National
Park’s eight islands are part of the Great Barrier Reef World
Heritage Area. Their biological diversity, exceptional beauty and
endangered plants and animals are internationally significant.
The stunning white beaches and outstanding coral reefs of these small,
relatively untouched cays make them popular destinations. This national
park offers a variety of recreation opportunities ranging from
commercial resort relaxation to nature-based camping and day visit
enjoyment. Unlike rocky continental islands, the Capricornia Cays were
completely built by corals. Rich forests of Pisonia grandis, which are
typically only found on coral cays, dominate the island vegetation. A
fringe of tough, small trees and shrubs such as coastal she-oak,
octopus bush, native grasses and pandanus surround the cays’
pisonia forests. On North West Island, strangling figs and native elms
are scattered through the forest, and native mulberries, sandpaper figs
and lantern bushes grow in small clearings.
Things to do
Short walking tracks on North West and Lady Musgrave islands cross
the islands and walkers can return along the beaches. Take drinking
water and wear a hat and sunscreen. Wear shoes when walking on the
coral rubble beaches and tracks.
Lady Musgrave Island’s lagoon is ideal for beginner snorkellers
and divers as the surrounding ring of reef provides a barrier against
outside currents. Patch reefs and bommies adorned with corals rise
vertically from the lagoon’s sandy floor, providing shelter for
fascinating reef creatures. You will discover more delicate and
luxuriant coral forms in this well-protected area. Snorkelling is
rewarding for those prepared to swim toward the reef edge.
Scuba divers have greater opportunities to explore bommies, crevices
and caves along reef perimeters and slopes. Divers and snorkellers
should wear diving boots to protect their feet, as they might have to
walk across coral rubble to the water. A boat is the only safe way to
reach distant snorkelling and diving sites.
Beware of strong currents and changing tidal conditions. Although Lady
Musgrave Island’s lagoon provides protected water for snorkelling
you must stay clear of access channels to the island, and be wary of
boats. Never dive or snorkel alone.
The islands and surrounding reef provide also valuable feeding and
nesting sites for marine turtles. Four species are found within this
area — green and loggerhead turtles are commonly seen, while
flatback and hawksbill turtles are only rarely seen.
The Capricorn and Bunker groups are a distinct group of 22 reefs
straddling the Tropic of Capricorn, at the Great Barrier Reef’s
southern end. There are 16 coral islands, known as cays, on these
reefs. The Capricornia Cays National Park protects eight vegetated
coral cays — Lady Musgrave, North West, Masthead, Wilson, Heron,
Erskine and Tryon islands, and part of Heron Island. Camping is
permitted on North West, Masthead and Lady Musgrave islands only. A
further six cays form Capricornia Cays National Park (Scientific).
These are Wreck, One Tree, East Hoskyn, West Hoskyn, East Fairfax and
West Fairfax islands. There is no public access to these cays.
Typically the islands rise only a few metres above high water mark,
except North West Island, which rises to six metres at its eastern end.
You can walk around North West and Masthead islands in a few hours, and
Lady Musgrave in about 45 minutes, but seasonal closures to protect
breeding seabirds or high tides can restrict circuit walks.
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The islands are accessible only by boat. Gladstone, Bundaberg and
the Town of 1770 are the closest departure points and it is possible to
access the islands by private and charter vessels. Tides, group size,
equipment and cost are factors determining the type of vessel required.
North West and Masthead islands have restricted tidal access.
Generally, barges drop campers and their gear on these beaches at high
tide. Masthead Island, although seemingly remote, has high speed
catamarans and helicopter flights operating close by, ferrying resort
guests between Gladstone and Heron Island.
For camping permits and detailed information on the national park, contact:
QPWS Gladstone Office , Centrepoint Building, Level 3, 136 Goondoon Street, Gladstone
PO Box 5065, Gladstone QLD 4680. ph (07) 4971 6500. fax (07) 4972 1993