A tropical township through which visitors enter and exit Hinchinbrook Island. Cardwell is the only coastal town on the Bruce Highway between Townsville and Cairns.

Location: 1,533 km north of Brisbane.

Girringun: an Aboriginal cultural centre telling about the local aboriginal people, their past and customs. It was also created as a home for original local Aboriginal artifacts which had been dispersed throughout the world.

Coral Sea Battle Memorial Park: commemorates an air and sea battle, some 800 km east, between Australian/US forces and Japanese, in May 1942. Cardwell played a major role in the battle, in the role of the home base for the Allied forces. This beachfront park is unique because of its close proximity to the site of the battle as well as being Australia's largest war memorial.

Surrounding area

Hinchinbrook Island: With its lush rainforests, rugged, misty and heath-covered mountains, sweeping sandy beaches, rocky headlands, paperbark and palm wetlands, mangrove-fringed shores and extensive open forests and woodlands, Hinchinbrook Island National Park is one of the world’s most outstanding island parks.

Dalrymple Gap Walking Track: To follow in the footsteps of the early settlers, take the Dalrymple Gap Walking Track over the Cardwell range. The trail starts 15 klm south of Cardwell. Passing through the Girringun National park, the 10klm walking track is suitable for experienced walkers. The trail is comprised of open eucalypt forest with rainforest strips in the creek lines. At the gap, the historic stone-pitched bridge is the oldest surviving example of civil engineering work on mainland north Queensland. Bridge was in use 1864 to 1870.

Cardwell Forest Drive: a 26 km scenic drive, starting at the town centre and covering lookouts, fresh water swimming holes and idyllic picnic spots. Easy to follow signs mark the way and you’ll discover delights such as Cardwell Lookout, Attie Creek Falls, Dead Horse Creek and Spa Pool along the way. Its beautiful water holes, natural spa pool and picnic facilities provide an enjoyable drive for all with wonderful bird watching and bush walking opportunities.

Natural features: Cardwell Range; Burdekin River; Hinchinbrook Island; Edmund Kennedy National Park (4 km north); Goold Island National Park; Brook Islands National Park; Cape Richards; Valley of Lagoons; Girringun National Park; Murray River Wetlands; Rockingham Bay; Dalrymple Gap; Broadwater State Forest.

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West of Cardwell the coastal escarpment is covered in rainforest which transitions to the west to eucalypt woodland and tropical savanna. The rugged topography of the Cardwell Range intercepts the trade winds resulting in high rainfall. This combination has made the area home to some of Australia's most picturesque and spectacular waterfalls, including Wallaman Falls, which is Australia's highest sheer drop waterfall.

Brief history

Explorer Edmund Kennedy passed close by the present townsite in 1848 during his tragic attempt to travel from Rockingham Bay to Cape York. George Dalrymple published proposals for the establishment of a new pastoral settlement in North Australia in 1859, and began to explore and open up the northern part of Queensland to bring it to fruition. In 1864, he established Cardwell on Rockingham Bay as a port for the inland pastoral stations.

Origin of name: named by George Dalrymple (1826-1876), explorer, public servant and politician, in 1864, after Edward Cardwell (1813-1886), later Viscount Cardwell, Secretary of State for the Colonies April 1864 to July 1866.

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