Cape Hillsborough: A hidden holiday paradise in Mackay’s backyard


Tina Dubinsky

Mackay in North Queensland has many splendid beaches. I’ve seen a few around the world and none compare. One of my favourites destinations continues to be Cape Hillsborough National Park and Beach.

This beach paradise has long sandy shores located in a natural cove. The tropical rainforest during the wet season is beautiful to behold with views that curve around a sheltered cove nestled between instinct volcanoes.

The area teems with Australian wildlife and despite its popularity with visitors, it’s peaceful and serene. The rim contains long winding walks around the reclaimed volcanic landscape. And there’s great fishing.

Cape Hillsborough is found just outside of Mackay in North Queensland, Australia. It’s a hidden tourist destination that’s a fun place to drive into. And if you have the time it is worthy of a longer stay, like a week or two.

Cape Hillsborough Beach where the rain forest meets the sea.
The big beautiful beaches of Cape Hillsborough, just south of Seaforth.
CREDIT: © Alizada Studios at Adobe Stock Photos

Cape Hillsborough accommodation loved by tourists to the Whitsundays

Cape Hillsborough has its own Nature Resort and Tourist Park.  

Part of the popular Whitsundays area, the tourists love this place. It has clean amenities and is often booked out in peak seasons. So, if you plan to stay overnight, best to call ahead and check the vacancies.

Just before the caravan and camping grounds that make up the resort, an expansive picnic and BBQ area lie beneath tall shady trees and palms. It’s an ideal place to stop and have lunch, followed by a game of friendly cricket or frisbee.

The drive to Cape Hillsborough, about 50km going North, North-West from Mackay, takes you on a scenic route through past The Leap, cane farms and a small township known as Bucasia.

During the wet seasons, the National Park teems with Australian wildlife, especially kangaroos and wallabies.  

Large seawater turtles are also frequent visitors on the beach.

Before heading there I’d recommend checking if the area has had recent rains. If there’s a drought, many of the wildlife animals are known to migrate to other areas when local watering holes dry up.

Other wildlife in the area include:

  • Snakes, including sea snakes.
  • Jellyfish, including Australia’s deadly box jelly.
  • Scorpions, especially along the rainforest walks.
  • Saltwater crocodiles, who are known to nest in the area.
  • Water rats known for their white-tipped tails.

The kangaroos can also get a little dangerous, especially the ones tourists’ feed, so watch your lunch.

Wildlife in Cape Hillsborough, Mackay

The beach is large, long and beautiful. Natural rain forest reaches all the way down to the sandy shores.

There are numerous wildlife walks through the rain forest to higher peaks where you can look down on the cove and out to sea. Long steep walks wind around old dead volcanoes, so take plenty of water with you.

If you are on the beach at low tide, as I was in the photo below, you may happen to come across swarms of tiny soldier crabs.  It’s fascinating to watch these colourful, harmless crabs scuttle across the sand in swarms.

Enjoying my time in paradise
Cape Hillsborough – Big Beautiful Beaches and lots of soldier crabs to chase and befriend.
CREDIT: T Dubinsky

How to enjoy the paradise of Cape Hillsborough

You will enjoy Cape Hillsborough especially if you like

  • Fishing, (great place to catch various types of coral fish).
  • Walking along beaches.
  • Exploring tidal rock pools.
  • Taking in scenic trails.
  • Swimming.
  • Relaxing in the shade on hot summer afternoons.

This paradise can be a one day adventure. But you will need at a minimum:

  • A vehicle to drive you there.
  • Boat and gear if you want to go boating, and/or fishing (boat ramp available).
  • A wide-brimmed hat.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Sneakers or sandshoes.
  • Refreshments.
  • Togs, if you want to go swimming, preferably a stinger suit.
  • Camera for memorable holiday snaps.

Always take precautions against jellyfish especially during the warmer months. If you don’t have a stinger suit,  you can wear hosiery over your arms and legs with normal bathers as a precaution.

Take it from me, you don’t want to get stung. But if you do, having a couple of bottles of white vinegar will help you to get the stingers off.

Check the weather before going, most beaches up north can get nasty if there is a tropical low hanging about and don’t forget to take the Aeroguard.


This article was first published at – Appreciating the finer things in everyday life on 28 November 2013. It was last updated on 04 August 2019 to include new information.

Comments, thoughts?