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For many people idolizing a trip to Australia, a chance to catch the sunrise on the beach with kangaroos and wallabies hopping around is the ultimate bucket list dream.
This is one of the main reasons why people visit Cape Hillsborough, a small town in the Mackay region in Queensland, but that’s not all there is to see there. In fact, there are many things to do in Cape Hillsborough that make it worth a stop on anyone’s Aussie travel plan.
The area is known for its relaxing coastal landscape, which offers a natural retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. I would even argue that the best thing to do in Cape Hillsborough is to do nothing and just soak in the tranquility.
But if you’re not sure what to do in Cape Hillsborough, below are some of our favorite attractions and popular activities.
Disclaimer: My trip to Mackay was in partnership with Mackay Tourism, though all thoughts, ideas and opinions in this guide are our own. Visit their website for more information on things to do in Mackay!
- Things to Do in Cape Hillsborough, Queensland
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Things to Do in Cape Hillsborough, Queensland
1. Watch kangaroos at sunrise at Cape Hillsborough
We road tripped around Australia for 18 months and in that time we saw hundreds of kangaroos. My girls and I squealed with delight every time. I probably get more blasé about seeing so many beautiful beaches rather than kangaroos.
They’re gentle, curious and sweet and there’s nothing like watching them in full bounding glory.
Did you know they can leap the length of a bus with one bound? Did you also know that kangaroos cannot move backward? It’s why they are represented on our national emblem, as Australia is a nation always moving forward.
I could tell you many incredible facts about kangaroos. The last one being that they are actually part of the macropod family, which includes 65 species such as wallabies, tree kangaroos, pademelons, and quokkas.
When you visit Casuarina Beach at Cape Hillsborough for dawn, be prepared to meet lots of kangaroos and wallabies, in particular, my favourite, pretty faced wallabies.
We rose early to get down to the beach to see the roos at sunrise – an event that’s rising in popularity and turning this relatively unknown coastal town 50km north of Mackay into the place to go.
I spoke in this post about how my job, and the need to get the perfect picture, got in the way of my authentic experience with the roos. But, that’s not the roos, nor the experience’s fault, that’s my choices.
I did have the most delightful experience coming onto the beach, though. A kangaroo bounded up and stopped with its nose almost touching my belly. I’ve never felt such an open, curious, welcoming energy before from wildlife, possibly even a fellow human!
A kangaroo bounded up and stopped with its nose almost touching my belly. I’ve never felt such an open, curious, welcoming energy before from an animal, possibly even a fellow human!
I squealed alongside my girls.
I recommend getting to the beach as early as you can before the sun pokes its head up.
The colours in the sky are just as spectacular as the kangaroos and wallabies scouring the morning tide for their breakfast of mangrove seed pods, seaweed, and coral sand dollars. Resist the temptation to chase the kangaroos.
Allow them to do their thing and enjoy the subtlety of the natural interaction from afar.
Resist the temptation to chase the kangaroos. Allow them to do their thing and enjoy the subtlety of the natural interaction from afar.
The experience won’t last too long. After about half an hour when the sun gets some momentum in its ascension, the macropods will search for cooler ground and disappear into the surrounding shrub. Most people will scurry away as well.
Stay. The colours of the sky are still changing from pink to purple and apricot. You’ll relish in having it and the beach all to yourself. It’s a natural experience just as beautiful as the kangaroos it illuminated only minutes before.
Once you’ve soaked up all of that there is plenty more for you to do in the Cape Hillsborough region.
I don’t think spending 30 minutes on the beach with kangaroos for sunrise is a worthwhile trip if there aren’t other things to do in the area. Thankfully there are.
2. Visit Wedge Island and Orchid Rock
The island you are gazing at just across from Casuarina Beach is Wedge Island.
At low tide, you can walk across the causeway to it.
We met a lady in a cafe near Finch Hatton Gorge who recommended it to me as one of her favourite things to do. Her kids love playing in the caves over there.
I’ve been told it’s a beautiful beach with great snorkelling locations. Watch for incoming tide, otherwise, you will be stuck over there. You can kayak over there and so not have to worry about the tides.
Be sure to look over at Orchid Rock, a tiny rock off Wedge Island that’s known for its rock pools. If you have a drone, it would be a great backdrop for photography.
3. Walk the Andrew’s Point Track
You can combine a walk over to Wedge Island on a circular walk to Andrew’s Point. It’s said to be an amazing lookout place, especially to see turtles feeding on the grass beds below at Turtle Cove. Turtle laying and hatching occurs between September and Jan/Feb.
We didn’t have time to walk all the way to Andrew’s Point, but the girls and I managed a shorter walk through the cool rainforest, which opened up to more exposed eucalypt forest the higher you climbed up the stairs to the ridge point.
It’s worth it as you get spectacular views over Wedge Island and the broad, sandy Casuarina Beach, otherwise known as Cape Hillsborough Beach.
It’s worth it as you get spectacular views over Wedge Island and the broad, sandy Casuarina Beach.
The entire walk to Andrew’s Point is 5.2km return along the track, or 2.8km return via the beach.
Top tip: While here don’t forget to make a trip out to Eungella National Park to see wild platypus, and Finch Hatton Gorge for tropical rainforests and hidden swimming holes. This area has so many experiences that make it a worthy place to visit.
4. Dine at Eimeo Pacific Hotel
On our way back to Mackay, we stopped in at the popular and highly recommended Eimeo Pacific Hotel for lunch and extraordinary views out over the Coral Sea.
Our Bulgarian waiter was so friendly and funny and took us on a tour to admire the grounds. I loved hearing his story and how much he loved living in Mackay.
The view was a little hazy, but we could make out the nearby Keswick and Brampton Islands.
Lunch was a delicious halloumi salad and the girls loved their mocktail. It was enjoyable relaxing with them in the sun as our final Mackay experience.
We were disappointed our trip to Mackay was over so soon and we had to return to reality.
Eimeo Beach is a popular sheltered bay with white sand and is 20km north of Mackay.
Drive up to the hotel slowly so you can enjoy the heritage-listed canopy of mango trees at Mango Avenue. It was divine.
5. Check Out The Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park
The owners of Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park, Renae and Ben Atherton and their three children are so warm, friendly and welcoming as is Rebina who helps manage the park.
The girls and I had dinner with them at their weekly fish and chips of a Friday evening. It’s a social gathering for all staying in the park.
Order your fish and chips, grab a drink and a chit chat and let the kids watch a movie on the outdoor big screen.
The girls had such a great time playing with their children and were very upset with me when I dragged them off to bed.
The park has limited internet connection so enjoy the time to disconnect and reconnect to each other and nature. I loved it.
We had a great game of mini golf, which was more like snakes and ladders.
On a couple of holes, there are a few different places the ball can go, which can lead you forward or back in time. It was crazy fun!
The park is also a nature lover’s paradise, with a variety of butterflies, reptiles, echnidas and possums living in the park.
We stayed in a cabin right on the beachfront. The girls loved climbing the maze of mangrove trees out the front and we enjoyed a lovely breakfast picnic hamper in the morning.
Under Savannah’s instructions, we set up the picnic on the beach before setting off for our walk. Check rates and availabilty here for a stay at the tourist park.
6. Hike in Cape Hillsborough National Park
Not to be confused with Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park, the Cape Hillsborough National Park is a beautiful, rugged landscape famous for its eucalypt forest, pristine beaches, rocky headlands and volcanic rock formations.
It’s a great place to go for a hike through the rainforest, go fishing from the shore (barramundi is in abundance here), or spend the night camping under the stars. It also has an abundance of species of birds that can be seen throughout the year.
If you want to go camping, the best camping spots are by Smalleys Beach camping area, just off Cape Hillsborough Road. It has basic facilities such as toilets and town water.
While there are rivers and beaches in the park, it’s not recommended you swim or go wading in these waters due to crocodiles, box jellyfish, sharks, and other marine stingers commonly found in these waters.
That being said, the tidal rock pools are a great place to explore and see marine life from a safe place. If you’re visiting during the day, pack a picnic and head to the picnic areas to see kangaroos and wallabies in their happy place.
Note that you need to get permits to visit the park.
Top tip: Make sure to wear insect repellent! mosquitoes and sandflies are a real nuisance in this region.
7. Walk the Beachcomber Cove Track
If you’re looking for a short walk to do in the evening, then the Beachcomber Cove Track is a lovely 2.4-km loop trail in Cape Hillsborough National Park that’s fairly easy and takes just 45 minutes to do.
It’s a quiet trail that offers solitude, as well as views of the ocean and mountains.
The trail passes through the pine trees, ferns and rainforest, before opening up onto a ridge overlooking Beachcomber Cove.
It’s a great short walk that combines all the beauty of this park into one nice little package.
8. Visit Ball Bay
Located across from Cape Hillsborough behind the national park is another small town worth a visit. Ball Bay is tiny, like, really tiny. It has less than 360 residents and is where time stands still.
This sleepy town is flanked by palm trees, swaying shrubs and scenic coastal views.
You can go camping, relax on the beach, or cast a line and go fishing. It’s the perfect place to simply relax and enjoy the solitude of this region.
Cape Hillsborough is the definition of a hidden gem. With its stunning natural beauty and quiet pace of life, it’s the perfect place to visit if you need to unplug and recharge your battery.
Imagine waking up to a breathtaking sunrise on the beach, with kangaroos and wallabies hopping alongside you? You can’t get more Australian than that!
Whether you’re a nature lover, adventure enthusiast, or simply seeking tranquility, Cape Hillsborough has something for everyone. We hope this guide helped you plan your trip and gave you some inspiration for things to do.
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If you’ve experienced any other wonderful things to do in Cape Hillsborough, Mackay please leave them in the comments below!