Tucked in behind Cape Melville to the east with Princess Charlotte
Bay to the west, the Flinders Group is 340km north of Cairns. The seven
National Park Islands are well off the beaten track and these days most
visitors are expedition cruise passengers, long distance cruisers or
fishing trawlers seeking refuge from bad weather. The islands can also
be reached by private vessel. Several commercial cruise vessels
departing Cairns visit the island group.
A popular anchorage for cruising yachts, the islands can be reached
by small boat from Bathurst Heads or Cape Melville in suitable weather
and tide conditions. Owen Channel near Aapa Spit, a conspicuous sand
spit on Flinders Island, is the most popular anchorage and is safe in
all winds except for the south-west storms during the wet season.
The Flinders Group National Park comprises seven islands (Flinders,
Stanley, Blackwood, Maclear, Denham, King and Clack islands), with a
total area greater than 3000ha. On the basis of the Yiithuwarra
peoples’ traditional affiliations, the Flinders Group has been
successfully claimed under the Aboriginal Land Act (Qld) 1991 although
the leaseback provisions have yet to come into effect. The islands also
lie within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and the
surrounding waters and reef are protected as part of the Great Barrier
Reef Marine Park.
The Flinders Group of islands is located adjacent to Princess
Charlotte Bay, 25km west of Cape Melville and 11km north of Bathurst
Heads, 340km north of Cairns on eastern Cape York.
There are no wheelchair-accessible facilities on the island group.
The Flinders Group National Park comprises seven islands: Flinders,
Stanley, Blackwood, Maclear, Denham, King and Clack islands. These
attractive islands feature rocky shores, rugged sandstone cliffs, hills
and escarpments, and sand dunes.
The islands’ slopes are covered in woodlands, mixed vine
thickets, open heath and grasslands. Salt flats and mangrove forests
occur in intertidal areas. Fringing reefs and highly diverse seagrass
meadows surround the islands. The island group supports a variety of
land and sea birds.
The Aboriginal Traditional Owners of the Flinders Group islands and
Cape Melville collectively identify as Yiithuwarra or “saltwater
people”. The cultural landscape of the island group, which has
great meaning for the Yiithuwarra, contains many important Aboriginal
heritage sites. Reflecting their long occupation, heritage sites
include mammoth rock art galleries on Stanley Island that depict
contact with European explorers in the late 1800s. Following the
stepped boardwalk up to the Yindayin rock shelter, there are hundreds
of painted images depicting crocodiles, turtles and dugongs as well as
tall ships. The shelter is also the birthplace of an important Elder.
Bush camping is available on Flinders Island in the Flinders Group
National Park. A pit toilet, shelter, picnic table and water tanks are
provided for visitor use. Visitors should bring adequate water, as
water availability cannot be guaranteed throughout the dry season.
Bring fuel stoves as open fires are prohibited, and rubbish bags as all
rubbish must be removed. Camping is not allowed on the other islands.
Camping permits are required and fees apply.
The islands are remote; camping is possible in nearby Cape Melville
National Park on the mainland. Other accommodation is available in
Cooktown, 180km south-east of the island group (235km by road from
Camping on Flinders Island requires a camping permit and fees
apply. A tag with your booking number must be displayed at your
Things to do
Walking opportunities on the islands are limited to strolls around the
camping area and Aapa Spit on Flinders Island and a long strenuous walk
to the Aboriginal rock art shelters on Stanley Island. Walking around
the other islands is not encouraged, as important cultural sites may be
The “Dart” — 300m return (10 minutes) Grade: Easy
A short track on Flinders Island (Wurriima) leads from Aapa Spit to
several wells and a rock carved with the words “HMS Dart,
1899”. This carving is a legacy of the visit by a naval survey
ship which collected water from the wells in 1899.
Yindayin rock shelters — 2.8km return (1 hour) Grade: Moderate
On Stanley Island (Yindayin), a strenuous walk begins at Mangrove
Landing in Owen Channel. The track crosses to the northern side of the
island, continues along the beach and meanders through low woodland.
Here, interpretive signs provide information on bush tucker. A
boardwalk with numerous steps climbs to a rocky overhang and winds
through two “rock shelters”, allowing viewing of the famed
rock art images. A sandy track descends back to the beach. The walk
then returns along the same track. Interpretive signs along the
boardwalk present the story of the island’s heritage. The walk
requires a moderate level of fitness; it is best to walk in the cooler
part of the day, avoiding the midday heat. Carry water and wear a
suitable hat, sunscreen and sturdy footwear. Please stay on the
boardwalks to avoid raising dust in the rock shelters — dust can
obscure and harm the rock art images.
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Picnic and day-use areas
A day-use area is located adjacent to the campground on Flinders
Island. A shelter with picnic tables, a toilet and a water tank are
provided (although the water tank can be empty during the dry season
usually from May until November).
The Flinders Group offers sheltered anchorages for private and
commercial vessels. The islands are a popular destination for cruising
yachties. The island group can also be accessed by small boat from
Bathurst Heads or Cape Melville on the mainland in suitable weather and
tide conditions. The most popular anchorage is in Owen Channel adjacent
to Aapa Spit, a prominent sand spit on Flinders Island. This anchorage
is safe in all winds except for the south-west storms during the wet
The reef and waters surrounding the Flinders Group National Park are
protected as part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Flinders,
Stanley, Blackwood, Maclear and Denham islands are surrounded by yellow
zone (Marine Conservation Park), which allows limited fishing and
collecting. The waters surrounding Clack Island, Clack Reef and the
western side of King Island are green zone (Marine National Park) which
is a “look but do not take” area. A light green zone
(Buffer) surrounds the green zones.
Fisheries regulations also apply — information on bag and size
limits, restricted species and seasonal closures is available from the
Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries. Further information is
available from Cairns and Cooktown QPWS offices.
The island group offers opportunities for watching seabirds. Many
species can be seen around the shores, including the eastern reef
egret, osprey, white-bellied sea-eagle, pied oystercatcher, beach
stone-curlew, silver gull, caspian tern, bridled tern, sooty tern,
crested tern, lesser crested tern, and common noddy. On the islands,
woodland birds include the bar-shouldered dove, pied imperial-pigeon,
varied honeyeater, yellow-bellied sunbird, mistletoebird, nankeen
kestrel and Torresian crow.
Along the walking tracks and around the camping area, visitors may
also glimpse geckos, sand monitors and native rodents. Bats may be seen
under rock overhangs and colonies of black flying-foxes inhabit the
A diversity of fish, crustaceans and molluscs can be found along the
shores and in the shallow waters around the islands along with several
species of marine turtles and, occasionally, dugongs, marine mammals
that feed on seagrass.
Climate and weather
The Flinders Group has a tropical climate with a wet season usually
between December and April, when maximum temperatures can soar above 30
degrees Celsius. The best time to visit the island group is between May
and October when rain is unlikely and temperatures are cooler, as the
islands’ vegetation does not provide much shade. For more
information see the tourism information links below.
Be aware that dangerous stinging jellyfish may be present in the
waters around the islands during the warmer months. Be aware that
estuarine crocodiles can occur in waters around island national parks.
Remember your safety is our concern but your responsibility always be
croc wise in croc country.
The Gateway Discovery Centre
51 The Esplanade, Cairns QLD 4870
ph (07) 4051 3588
fax (07) 4051 7509