Off the central Queensland coast lies the Cumberland group protected
in South Cumberland Islands National Park. The islands and surrounding
waters are part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and are
protected. This is part of the sea country of the Ngaro people.
Scawfell Island is the largest island in the group. Granite cliffs
line this hilly continental island’s rocky, indented coastline.
Open eucalypt woodland covers most of the island and hoop pine-dotted
rainforest grows on steep, sheltered slopes. Scawfell is an important
turtle rookery. The island, lying 60 kilometres off the Australian
mainland, is a large horseshoe shape. Granite cliffs line its coast,
Scawfell being the largest national park island in the South Cumberland
group. Large areas of rainforest perch on steep mountain slopes. Access
to the island is via Refuge Bay, a tree lined 1.3 km white sandy beach.
The bay is a wide sheltered bay facing north with all tidal access. The
bay has clear blue water, an excellent coral fringing reef, ideal for
Cockermouth Island is hilly and covered mainly in open grassland.
The western side has sandy beaches and a sheltered anchorage. A remnant
ancient Pleistocene reef is exposed at low tide in the shallow lagoon
on the island’s western side. Cockermouth is one of the prettiest
islands in the Whitsundays, and one of the least visited. in the the
lagoon you can watch the turtles and sting rays enter for their daily
feasting. Weathered rocks scarred by the strong tides and wind,
provided a base for hoop pines to climb upwards to the sky. Slowly the
tide ebbed to expose a sand spit, popular with oyster catchers seeking
a fresh morsel of mollusc, crab, star fish or sea urchin. The only sign
of human habitation was a National Parks sign advertising the location
of a camping area. This is your quintessential Robinson Crusoe Island
and one of the Whitsundays' best kept secrets.
Keswick Island is picturesque and is inhabited by a small number of
residents. It is a semi-popular tourist destination set to expand with
planned development. Visitors can stay in a small number of catered and
self catered accommodation. The island has its own airstrip and is
accessible from Mackay Airport by a short plane flight or by private
boat. Identified as part of the Cumberland Isles Group by Captain James
Cook in 1770.
Keswick Island and neighbouring St Bees Island were first designated
together as ‘L1 Island’ by Lieutenant Matthew Flinders, RN,
in HMS Investigator in 1802. Keswick Island was later individually
named in 1879 after the town of Keswick in England's Cumbria Lake
District by Staff Commander E. P. Bedwell, RN, in SS Llewellyn. Keswick
Island is separated from its nearest neighbour, St Bees Island by only
a few hundred meters by the Egremont Passage.
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St Bees Island
St Bees Island is largely composed of steep, volcanic hills reaching
370m above sea level. A small number of koalas were introduced to St
Bees Island from the adjacent mainland in the 1930s. Later koalas were
taken from St Bees Island to nearby Brampton and possibly Newry
Islands. On St Bees Island, at least, the koala population has
persisted and it is currently estimated that the island supports a
population of between 200 and 300 animals.
Elsewhere in Australia introduced populations and isolated mainland
populations have grown rapidly and outstripped their habitat. A small
team of researchers from the University of Queensland and Central
Queensland University) supported by the Central Queensland Koala
Volunteers established a study of the koala population of the island in
1998, and have found the colony to be thriving, without any problems.
Things to do
Bush camp on Scawfell Island. A shelter shed and toilets are
provided. Take fresh water, a fuel stove for cooking and insect
repellent. Open fires and generators are prohibited. Remove all rubbish
to the mainland. Bookings are essential in holidays.
Refuge Bay on the northern side of Scawfell Island is a popular anchorage. Fishing is allowed only here.
Beware of marine stingers and cyclones during the warmer months.
Scawfell Island is 60km north-east of Mackay. Access is by private boat or water taxi.
Further information: QPWS , DPI Building, 30 Tennyson Street, PO Box 623 MACKAY QLD 4740
ph (07) 4944 7800. fax (07) 4944 7811