North West Island track
Delve into the fascinating history of this coral cay in the southern Great Barrier Reef as you explore a shady island track.
Discover relics of the historic turtle factory, which produced 250,000 16-ounce cans of turtle soup between 1924 and 1928 in a process called ‘from sea to soup’. Today sea turtles are protected and, if you are here during summer, you may see them nesting and hatching on the cay’s beaches.
Reflect on the cay’s colourful past at the grave site of the infant daughter of a guano ship’s captain. Spend time reading the informative signs in the camping area to learn more about this fascinating area. Explore shady pisonia forest as you cross the cay to the southern beach and return along the beach or back through the forest.
Capricornia Cays National Park is part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, famed for its superlative natural beauty, outstanding examples of reef ecosystem development, evolutionary history and amazing diversity.
At a glance
Getting there and getting around
The North West Island track is in Capricornia Cays National Park, 75km north-east of Gladstone in the southern Great Barrier Reef.
- The track is on the western side of the island.
- From the North West Island camping area, head south along the beach for about 400m to the relics of the turtle factory.
- Retrace your steps to the sign and follow the track across the island to the southern beach
Getting to the island
- You can reach the island by private boat or commercial vessel. The nearest departure points are Gladstone and Yepoon.
- The island does not have a regular charter service. You need to check with operators for timetables.
- Access is restricted by tides. Commercial vessels (barges) will generally drop you and your gear on the beach at high tide.
For tourism information for all regions in Queensland, see Queensland.com, and for friendly advice on how to get there, where to stay and what to do, find your closest accredited visitor information centre.
Fuel and supplies
You can get fuel and supplies on the mainland at Gladstone and Yepoon.
There are no wheelchair-accessible facilities.
When to visit
- Check park alerts for the latest information on access, closures and conditions.
Climate and weather
Capricornia Cays National Park straddles the Tropic of Capricorn and has a tropical climate. Conditions are pleasant throughout the year with hotter, humid days (26–30°C) from October to January. Balmy nights follow afternoons cooled by strong, north-easterly sea breezes. January to April is the wet season, although a shower may fall in any month. Between April and September, daytime temperatures are mild to warm (21–26°C) with cool nights (16–22°C), particularly when prevailing south-easterly winds blow. Water temperatures on the reef flat vary from 20°C in July to 27°C in January. Cyclones are possible between November and March.
Permits and fees
- Camping permits are required and fees apply. Display the tag with your booking number at your camp site.
- If you are planning a school excursion or organising a group event such as a wedding, fun run or adventure training, you may need an organised event permit. Maximum group sizes and other conditions apply depending on location and activity type.
You can have domestic animals on your boat but you can’t take them onto the islands, including the beaches and tidal areas.
Staying in touch
Mobile phone coverage
Unreliable. Check with your service provider for more information.
- Parks are natural environments and conditions can be unpredictable. You are responsible for your own safety and for looking after the park.
Read stay safe and visit with care for important general information about safety, caring for parks and essentials to bring when you visit Queensland’s national parks.
- Our national parks, including our precious Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area islands, need your help to remain pest‑free.
- Bring at least 5L per person per day, plus a bit extra in case of an emergency.
- There are no bins. Take your rubbish with you when you leave.
- You will need a marine VHF radio as mobile phone reception is unreliable.
- You can hire a portable VHF marine band radio from Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) Gladstone (VMR446 Gladstone). One radio is allocated to the island so if you have it, make yourself known to the other campers.
- There is a 24hr watch on VHF channels 16 (emergency) and 82.
- VHF channel 82 is monitored from 6am to 6pm by VM446 Gladstone and Gladstone Harbour Control.
- VHF channel 16 is monitored from 6am to 6pm by Gladstone Harbour Control.
- You can also contact vessels in the area on these channels.
- Weather forecasts from the Bureau of Meteorology in Rockhampton are broadcast on VHF channel 82 at 6.40am, 11.40am and 4.40pm; and on VHF channel 21 at 7.20am, 12.10pm and 5.05pm.
Capricornia Cays National Park lies within the Queensland tropical storm (cyclone) zone. We have an emergency contingency plan to provide early warning and possible evacuation of campers if a cyclone or other event threatens your safety.
- We will attempt to inform you of impending severe weather and the need for evacuation.
- During an evacuation, all camping permits will be cancelled and you will be required to leave the cays. The decision to evacuate may be made well in advance of a cyclone or other threatening event, while sea conditions are still moderate.
- If you need a permit refund, see camping and vehicle access permit fee and pre-paid booking refunds.
- The unpredictable nature of cyclones may mean campers are evacuated, but the cyclone doesn't eventuate.
- Commercial charter vessels will collect you during the evacuation.
- Sea conditions may prevent the evacuation of camping equipment and private boats. In these circumstances, you may be able to store you equipment in the toilet blocks. Where this is not possible, you will need to secure and store your equipment as best you can. No responsibility will be accepted for items or boats left on the island. You will need to organise your own transport to the cays to retrieve your property.
- When delivered to the mainland, you will need to look after your own accommodation.
- Read safety during extreme weather for important information about what to do during floods, bushfires and cyclones.
- When island walking, stay on the tracks to avoid trampling and collapsing wedge-tailed shearwater burrows in the sand.
- If reef walking, walk in sand channels and avoid stepping on live corals—they are easily damaged and will cause nasty cuts. Don't stir up sand and sediment, and beware of strong currents and changing tides. Wear shoes to protect your feet.
- Read walk with care for tips on walking safely and walking lightly.
- You'll need diving boots or other shoes to protect your feet when crossing the reef flat.
- Beware of strong currents and changing tides.
- Stay clear of access channels and keep an eye out for boats.
- Read water safety for important information about staying safe in and near water and caring for parks.
Boating and fishing
- The waters adjacent to Capricornia Cays National Park are in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park.
- Before heading out on the water make sure you have a zoning map, know the zones and what's allowed there.
- Access to the islands and many activities depend on tide times and heights. The islands' average tidal range is about 2m.
- Make sure you don't anchor in vessel loading areas.
- We don't allow you to place temporary moorings, such as star pickets, on the reef flats or over reef edges.
- Stay below 6kts when travelling over reef flats and shallow water.
- Dump fish scraps at sea, at least 500m seaward of the reef edge. Vary dump sites to discourage scavenging sharks.
- Fisheries regulations apply. You can obtain information on bag and size limits, restricted species and seasonal closures from Fisheries Queensland.
- Read boat and fish with care for tips on boating and fishing safety and caring for parks.