Population 1251

Cardwell is a coastal town overlooking Rockingham Bay and the nearby islands of the Great Barrier Reef. Ferries transport visitors to nearby Hinchinbrook Island, the largest island national park in Australia. Between the island and the mainland is Hinchinbrook Channel (Cardwell is at the northern edge), a popular spot for fishing and a sheltered area for houseboats.

Visitor Information

Rainforest and Reef Information Centre, 142 Victoria St; (07) 4066 8601

Nearby national parks

  • Girringun National Park

    Girringun National Park, part of the traditional lands of the Warrgamaygan people, comprises four sections: Blencoe Falls, Dalrymple Gap,...more

  • Paluma Range National Park National Park

    Lying within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, Paluma Range National Park offers mountain-top views and picturesque waterfalls. The Mount...more

  • Wooroonooran National Park

    Part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, Wooroonooran National Park boasts the two highest mountains in Queensland, along with wild...more

Nearby towns

  • Tully

    At the foot of Mount Tyson, Tully receives one of the highest annual rainfalls in Australia – around 4200 millimetres. This abundance...more

  • Mission Beach

    Mission Beach is named for the Aboriginal mission established in the area in 1914. The beach that features in the town's name is a...more

  • Ingham

    Ingham is a major sugar town near the Hinchinbrook Channel. Originally, Kanaka labourers were employed in the surrounding sugarcane fields,...more

In Town

Bush Telegraph Heritage Centre This complex comprises the old post office and telegraph station, in operation 1870–1982, and the original magistrates court and gaol cells. An informative history of communications and the region is provided through interpretive displays. Open 10am–1pm Mon–Fri, 9am–12pm Sat, other times by appt; Bruce Hwy; (07) 4066 2412.

Rainforest and Reef Information Centre: interpretive centre that acquaints visitors with landscape, flora and fauna of northern Qld; Bruce Hwy, near jetty.

Coral Sea Battle Memorial Park: large war memorial that commemorates the WW II battle off the coast between Australian/US forces and the Japanese; beachfront.

Boat hire and cruises: explore the tropical waters and islands to the east at the helm of a yacht, houseboat or cruiser, or travel with an organised cruise; details from visitor centre.

Snorkelling and scuba-diving tours: details from visitor centre.


Hinchinbrook Island National Park An amazing variety of vegetation covers this island park, including rainforest, wetlands, forests and woodlands. The 32 km Thorsborne Trail on the east coast is renowned for its spectacular scenery as it winds past waterfalls and along pristine beaches. Many people allow 4 days or more for the walk, camping on a different beach each night. Hikers must be self-sufficient and bookings are essential (limited number of walkers allowed). Shorter walks are from the camping areas at Macushla and The Haven. Small, low-key resort (maximum 45 people); Access the island via ferry from Cardwell or Lucinda; (07) 4066 8601; 26 km SE. Read more

Scenic drive in Cardwell State Forest: this 26 km circuit from Cardwell takes in a lookout, waterfalls, swimming holes and picnic spots; begins on Braesnose St.

Girramay National Park: boardwalk through extensive mangrove forests and variety of other vegetation to beach, with spectacular view of islands. This park is a habitat of the endangered mahogany glider; (07) 4066 8601; 4 km N.

Five Mile Swimming Hole: attractive picnic and swimming spot safe from crocodiles, sharks and stingers; 7 km S.

Dalrymple's Gap: original service path and stone bridge through range; 15 km S.

Brook Islands: nesting area for Torresian imperial pigeons (Sept–Feb). Excellent snorkelling on reef of northern 3 islands. Sea access only; 30 km NE.

Murray Falls: climb the steep 1 km path to viewing platform over falls and surrounds; 42 km NW.

Girringun National Park: travel through World Heritage rainforest on road (dry weather only) to the 3-tier, 91 m Blencoe Falls; (07) 4066 8601; 71 km W; see Ingham for southern parts of park.

Eco-friendly activities around town

Bushwalking around Townsville and Cairns

This entire region offers great delights to bushwalkers, although you are likely to get damp, either from the humidity or from a tropical shower (it is not called ‘rainforest’ for nothing). The Rainforest and... Find out more

Hiking the Thorsborne Trail 31 km

The 32-kilometre Thorsborne Trail is a classic tropical bushwalk that weaves along the east coast of the 393-square-kilometre Hinchinbrook Island National Park. There is a maximum of 40 people allowed on the track at a... Find out more

Birdwatching - Townsville to Cairns 45 km

You do not need to be a bird nerd to appreciate Tyto Wetlands near Ingham. It is a beautiful, peaceful spot for a picnic, a pleasant walk or a pre-dinner drink. But if you stop at one of the benches or bird hides and... Find out more

Swimming around Townsville and Cairns 84 km

Not far from Townsville there are a couple of popular swimming holes: Big Crystal Creek near Mutarnee, the icy Little Crystal Creek on the road to Paluma, and under the Rollingstone Bridge. Near Tully, you can cool off... Find out more

Cheese-tasting 94 km

In the lush highlands of Millaa Millaa, overlooking Mount Bartle Frere, the certified biodynamic Mungalli Creek Dairy has a superb range of organic cheeses and yoghurts for sale and tastings. You can watch the delectable... Find out more

Campsites around town

The Haven (Scraggy Point) camping area (boat-based camping) 9 km

The Haven is on the west coast of the island in Hinchinbrook Channel. Access is by charter or private boat and there is a maximum 7-night stay. Bring all supplies for self-sufficient camping.... Find out more

The Spit (Western Beach) camping area (boat-based camping) 18 km

This site on the island’s west coast has a maximum capacity of 50 campers; the surface is sand and grass and there are some shady trees. Walkers can attempt the beach walk around the coastline of Goold Island,... Find out more

Broadwater camping area 20 km

Endangered riparian rainforest lines the clear waters of Broadwater Creek, and open eucalypt forest dominates the visitor areas in Broadwater campground, 47 km west of Ingham and 16 km of unsealed road from the forest... Find out more

South Macushla camping area (boat-based camping) 22 km

North and South Macushla camping areas are just 100 m apart in the north of the island, on the east coast of Missionary Bay, and are accessed by boat. A maximum 7-night stay applies here. Bring drinking water and a... Find out more

Murray Falls camping area 27 km

Campers here can enjoy the 930 m walk through a rainforest gully that leads into open forest and finishes with amazing views over the falls and Murray Valley. The first 75 m section of the boardwalk at the top end of the... Find out more

Nina Bay camping area (walk-in camping) 29 km

Nina Bay has a maximum 2-night stay. It is 4 km south of the Ramsay Bay trackhead for the Thorsborne Trail and 2.5 km north of Little Ramsay Bay. Creek water must be boiled or treated before drinking.... Find out more

Coombe Island camping area (boat-based camping) 30 km

Fancy staying at your own exclusive, secluded bush campground? This site, about 13 km east of Tully Heads, only permits 1 group at a time. There are, however, no facilities here so you’ll need to be completely... Find out more

Hull Heads camping area 30 km

Estuary and reef fishing from an all-weather boat ramp and pontoon makes Hull Heads an excellent destination for anglers. The campground is next to the coastguard on Luff St in Hull Heads, 15 km east of the Bruce Hwy.... Find out more

Wheeler Island camping area (boat-based camping) 30 km

Located 12 km east of Tully Heads, Wheeler Island is accessible by private boat from Mission Beach. The campground’s only facilities are pit toilets and picnic tables, so campers will need to bring all... Find out more

Little Ramsay Bay camping area (walk-in camping) 31 km

This site on the Thorsborne Trail is 2.5 km south of Nina Bay camping area and 10.5 km north of South Zoe Bay camping area. Water from the nearby creek must be boiled or treated before drinking. The site is gas/fuel... Find out more

Caravan parks around town

Cardwell Beachcomber 1 km

The park is centrally located just a short distance from the centre of town and across the road from the beach (ideal for fishing). The park has good facilities and a licensed restaurant/cafe in the attached motel.... Find out more

Googarra Beach Caravan Park 29 km

The park, close to Tully Heads, has a cafe and a well-stocked shop and also sells fuel. This is a convenient overnight stop or a good base for exploring the area. Bookings are required in peak periods. Pets are not... Find out more

Beachcomber Coconut Caravan Village 37 km

Mission Beach is a dream holiday destination and this park is the perfect place to stay. It is set in a fabulous location just across the road from the beach. The shops are within walking distance. Bookings are required... Find out more

Wanderers Holiday Village 44 km

Close to the centre of town, this park is a popular holiday destination for those keen on fishing. There are covered barbecues and a boat parking area. Bookings are required in peak periods.... Find out more

Mission Beach Hideaway Holiday Village 45 km

This is an excellent park at the heart of a very popular tourist destination and just a short walk to the beach, the shops or the local restaurants. Bookings are required in peak periods.... Find out more

King Reef Resort 54 km

This beachside caravan park is part of a hotel complex. It has good basic facilities and is very popular during holiday periods. Meals and normal hotel services are available. Bookings are required in peak periods.... Find out more

Flying Fish Point Tourist Park 85 km

This quality owner-operated park is across the road from the beach in this small community about 7 km from Innisfail. The park puts on cooked dinners on Saturday nights and has happy hour on Wednesday. It also offers... Find out more

Rollingstone Beach Caravan Resort 91 km

This is a newer park with a fabulous beachfront outlook. It has a wide range of facilities, a selection of sites and a camping area. It does lack shade, but would be a great winter destination. Bookings are required in... Find out more

Hotels, motels & B&Bs around town

Cardwell Beachfront Motel and Holiday Units

The nearest motel to the centre of town, and an easy walk to restaurants, pubs, clubs and the jetty, this spot is on the highway but its six air-conditioned motel units are only 20 metres from the beach. The units... Find out more

Mudbrick Manor

A lot of love and skill went into the building of this adobe B&B by owners Ken and Bev Stephens. Guest facilities include plenty of board games as well as big screen TV, and you can make your own music on the antique... Find out more

Port Hinchinbrook Resort

This marina resort offers accommodation ranging from luxury ensuite cabins, some with mini kitchens, to one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. The 220-berth marina offers access to the spectacular Hinchinbrook Passage... Find out more

Eco-friendly places to stay around town

Hinchinbrook Island Wilderness Lodge and Resort 23 km

Revolutionary in terms of minimal-impact tourism when it was first established in 1974, this classy resort has no more than a toehold on the 393-square-kilometre Hinchinbrook Island, and you can hardly see the treetop... Find out more

Hidden Valley Cabins, Hidden Valley 79 km

Acclaimed as being Australia’s first completely solar-powered resort, with a restaurant, pool and room for 31 guests, this serious environmental resort is in secluded dry forest well off the Bruce Highway. It is... Find out more

Rest areas around town

Cardwell park area 1 km

At Cardwell

On the foreshore at the south end of town.

Five Mile Creek park area 7 km

T/O 45km N of Ingham (L) or 8km S of Cardwell (R)

Secluded area located 700m west of the highway at a swimming hole on the north side of Five Mile Creek.

Bilyana rest area 20 km

21km N of Cardwell (L) or 22km S of Tully (R)

Just off the highway among shady trees.

Murray Falls camping area 25 km

T/O 22km N of Cardwell (L) or 15km S of Tully (R)

Shady campground located 20km (partly unsealed) west of the highway near the falls in Murray Falls State Forest.

Mission Beach Camp Area 45 km

T/O 3 km N of Tully (R) or 49 km S of Innisfail (L)

Small campground located 24 kilometres east of the highway on the foreshore at the north end of the village. Good shade and facilities.

Bingil Bay camping area 49 km

At Bingil Bay

Very small campground among dense vegetation on the foreshore, 7.5km east of the highway. Limited sites.

Diggers Creek rest area 52 km

18km N of Tully (R) or 34km S of Innisfail (L)

Small area adjacent to the highway.

Frances Creek rest area 55 km

100km N of Townsville (L) or 11km S of Ingham (R)

Just off the road among a few trees.

Tully Gorge camping area 62 km

T/O into main street through Tully

Pleasant campground surrounded by rainforest on the banks of the Tully River in Tully Gorge State Forest. Located 40km north-west of Tully. Good facilities and shade.

Jourama Falls camping area 66 km

T/O 88km N of Townsville (L) or 23km S of Ingham (R)

Secluded in the forest of Paluma Range National Park 6km (partly unsealed) east of the highway via Jourama Rd. Permit required.

Fred Drew rest area 83 km

4km N of Innisfail (L) or 26km S of Babinda (R)

Just off the road at the junction with the Palmerston Hwy.

Balgal Beach camping area 92 km

T/O to Balgal

Small foreshore campground located 5km east of the highway at the northern end of Balgal via The Esplanade.

Rollingstone rest area 95 km

At Rollingstone

Well off the highway under shady trees via the service road on the south side of town.

What's on around town

Market: Cardwell Espl; 1st Sun each month.

Coral Sea Battle Memorial Commemoration: May.

Seafest: Aug.

Fishing Classic (Port Hinchinbrook): Sept.

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