Where to See Kangaroos on the Beach? Cape Hillsborough - Sunrise, Tide Times and Tips
Where to See Kangaroos on the Beach? Cape Hillsborough - Sunrise, Tide Times and Tips

Where to See Kangaroos on the Beach? Cape Hillsborough - Sunrise, Tide Times and Tips

Australia
Australia

When Is the Best Time

Watching kangaroos at the beach at sunrise is a magical experience in the Cape Hillsborough National Park in the Mackay area in Queensland. However, there is so much more to see and do – Cape Hillsborough location map.

Two big kangaroos on the beach at sunrise
When these two appeared, most visitors had left the beach already.

I will give you an overview of the beautiful Cape Hillsborough National Park, which hikes to do, when is the best time and where to stay. This park is a must-visit place when travelling from Brisbane to Cairns or vice versa along the East Coast.

Two kangaroos on the beach at sunrise and the sea in the back.
Soon after, around 6:30, it became too hot for them, and they disappeared.

Do you wonder why these kangaroos occur at beaches? There are only four beaches where you can spot kangaroos before sunrise. One of these beaches is Casuarina Beach in the Cape Hillsborough National Park.

A standing kangaroo on the beach.
Beautiful atmosphere with the kangaroos on the beach.

The kangaroos and wallabies are night active and rest during the day. They appear at Casuarina Beach to feed on mangrove seed pods, which were washed up by the sea.

The food that attracts the kangaroos.
You can imagine if kangaroos prefer such mangrove pods; they can't digest sugar in carrots well.

This beach is famous today because of the kangaroos and wallabies at sunrise, so a ranger became necessary to protect the wildlife each morning. These are wild animals; please watch them from a distance. Heike, the ranger during our visit, had a vast knowledge and answered every question.

A few visitors watch the kangaroo on the beach.
View from our campsite to the last remaining kangaroo on the beach.

For a better visitor experience, food is placed on the beach for the macropods. However, this amount of food attracts the wildlife but is far from being sufficient. Food was still left on the beach, but the wallabies disappeared before the sun rose, and bush turkeys tried to get an additional meal without effort.

Three kookaburras sitting on a branch.
The kookaburras are kingfishers that can grow to more than 30 cm.

All leftover food is removed from the beach afterwards. Please, never feed these animals. They are able to digest grass, but a carrot or apple contains too much sugar and will harm them.

Information sign of not feeding the macropods.

The best time to spot kangaroos and wallabies on the beach is before sunrise because most of them are nocturnal and active around dusk and dawn because of the heat during the day.

A standing kangaroo on grass.
One of the two kangaroos which call the Tourist Park their home.

However, three now two kangaroos call the Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park their home. If you are lucky, they appear after sunrise on the beach, providing excellent shots as they did during our visit.

Wallabies on the beach before the sun rises.

It is rare to spot them at sunset on the beach because the beach and campground are too busy at this time of the day.
Nevertheless, although it became a little busy, it was still an incredible experience.

Campground visitors at the pool
The pool of the Nature Tourist Park.

Due to the remote location, you must stay at the campground, which offers campsites, bunks and cabins. The camp is greatly located right at the edge of the beach. Dawn in June in the winter is before 6 a.m., and in December in the summer, before 5 a.m. If you wish to see macropods, you must get up early when it is dark.

This area was formed by volcanic eruptions.
The volcanic rocks are sharp, and proper shoes are essential.

The best time regarding the weather, the box jellyfish and mosquitoes is the drier and colder winter season, from May until September. During this time of the year, fewer box jellyfish occur in the Pacific Ocean due to colder sea temperatures. However, although the sea looks beautiful for swimming and snorkelling, never go without a stinger suit, a stinger can cause your death! There are fewer mosquitoes and midges in winter, but they can be pests in the hot and humid summer months.

A black with white and blue dots.

Winter is also the best time to watch plenty of butterflies in the National Park and on the Beachcomber Cove track.

7 Top Things to Do in the Cape Hillsborough National Park

The bay in the Cape Hillsborough National Park
The beautiful bay in the National Park.
1 Watch the wallabies and kangaroos before and at sunrise
A kangaroo on the beach at sunrise.
The Casuarina Beach, where you may spot macropods.
2 Hikes and walks in the park
A visitor on a hiking path in the National Park.
The Diversity Boardwalk was our favourite.

There are excellent short hikes and interpretive walks in the park. To hike these trails, you must not stay in the tourist park. You can park outside to explore the National Park. The park is breathtaking at low tide when you are able to walk to Wedge Island and the entire Casuarina Beach, which is separated by the Division Rocks at high tide – more below.

3 Birding
An Australian Oystercatcher on the sand.
Australian Oystercatcher 

We met a group of birders coming here annually, and we agreed and spotted many birds and nests during our stay.

4 Tide pooling
Kids at the tide pools.
These kids came with their buckets to the tide pools.

We saw kids excited to explore the tide pools.

5 Fishing
A long fishing line lost on the beach.
We found this fishing line on the beach, which can harm ocean life and the macropods.

You can go fishing in the park, but please take everything out that you took in. We found a fishing line on the beach where marine animals could have easily injured themselves

6 Buggy carts

A buggy cart on the Casuarina Beach

Casuarina Beach is also popular for wind buggy carts. We saw some of them on the beach, and it looked like they had fun.

7 Whale and dolphin watching

Two dolphins close to the shore.

In the winter, you may spot humpback whales passing by from one of the outlooks or dolphins. We spotted dolphins from Wedge Island.

Walking trails

Cape Hillsborough trailhead map
The trails are all marked inside the National Park.

Do you plan to visit the National Park? Check out the tide times before you head here! The most gorgeous hikes, numbers 1 and 2, are accessible at low tide for roughly two hours on either side. Tide Times Cape Hillsborough

Beachcomber Cove

Beach Comber Cove Walk
Beachcomber Cove and Division Rocks are accessible at low tide.

This is a circular trail during low tide; you must walk the same way back at high tide. The circular trail leads through eucalyptus, remnant rainforest and ferns. Ascend the trail through the forest and walk back along the beautiful beach and the turquoise-blue sea between the Division Rocks at low tide.

The circular part through the forest.
The inland track which you must walk back at high tide.
  • Trail Length: 2,2 km
  • Duration: 1-1 ½ hours
  • Difficulty: Easy

Wedge Island Walk

View from Wedge Island back to the bay and beach.
This path is accessible at low tide - the starting point is the beach in the middle of the photo.

Another beautiful walk in the horseshoe-shaped bay to a rocky volcanic island and Orchid Rock. The Island and Rock are accessible at low tide only. We even saw some corals not covered by the sea due to a negative tide.

View from Wedge Island to Orchid Rock.
Some parts of the reef were visible at low tide, but the ground was muddy.
  • Trail Length: 
  • Duration: 1 ½-2 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate – You need proper shoes; the best are water shoes to walk over the volcanic rocks to the island and Orchid Rock. The tidal zone and the part of Orchid Rock are muddy. You will stuck in there ankle-deep as Markus did.

Diversity Boardwalk

A boardwalk through a mangrove jungle.
A boardwalk meanders above the mangroves because they are flooded at high tide.

A fantastic walk through patches of mangrove and rainforest with plenty of information boards about the culture and nature along the track. This is another gem in the park and was my favourite of all.

Xanthorrhoea in drier sections of the walk.
The trail leads from the mangroves to a higher and drier section.
  • Trail Length: 1,2 km
  • Duration: ½ hour
  • Difficulty: Easy flat hike and boardwalk

Yuibera Trail

Information board for the Yuwi Trail
The Yuibera Trail takes roughly half an hour.

One of the highlights is the old Aboriginal fish trap of the Yuwi people next to the parking. Overall, it is a lovely walk with information panels about the Yuwi people, some of their stories and the surrounding nature if you have 24 hours in the park available.

The lush vegetation along the trail and the sea.

Getting here in a 2 WD is doable when dry and driving slowly. Only the parking area is a bit tricky. Come in the late afternoon for the walk and watch the sunset afterwards.

The fish trap made of rockst.
The fish trap - fish got trapped by placed rocks.
  • Trail Length: 1,2 km
  • Duration: ½ hour
  • Difficulty: Easy flat path

Andrews Point Track – The Lookout Track

Information board Andrews Point Track

This circular trail at low tide offers excellent views of the sea and beach from higher elevations. Unfortunately, the trail was closed due to maintenance work. This was the resting area of the macropods, and the mop left the area currently. The reason we saw fewer of them at the beach at sunrise.

  • Trail Length: 2,8 km (circular trail)
  • Duration: 1 ½ hours

Where to stay to watch the kangaroos at sunrise?

A man in front of a tent next to the beach.
Our fantastic campsite in the Cape Hillsborough Nature Park.

Beach camping at Cape Hillsborough to watch the kangaroos is possible. The closest sites are behind the dunes. We got a powered campsite with an incredible view of the sea – powered for $ 43 and unpowered for $ 37. They also offer different types of cabins and bunk beds.

 

Two kangaroos on the beach shortly after sunrise

Overall, it is a great place to spend a night with super kind staff. I highly recommend booking your site in advance for weekends. We arrived during the week and were able to choose between different sites.

The entrance and reception of the Nature Park.
The entrance gate is accessible with a code only.

Of course, you must not stay here to see the kangaroos and the epic sunrise, but this was the most convenient way. Getting up at 5.30 was already hard for us but so worth it.

You need a code to access the Nature Tourist Park gate with your vehicle, the pool, showers, and restrooms.

Smalleys Beach without any visitor.
Campground Map of Smalleys Beach, which is left behind the trees.

Another excellent camping option at the Cape Hillsborough National Park beach is Smalleys Beach and Campground. You must book these sites online to secure one of the eleven sites. Booking campsite Smalleys Beach

Cake and Coffee Stop – My Tip

Visitors having a coffee and cake in the organic food store.
The coffee and cake were excellent here before we continued.

We stopped at the Organic Store in The Leap Google Maps Location. This is only one of four organic shops in Queensland so far. The cake was homemade and delicious, and the coffee was great, too. 

Best Months to Visit

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Related Topics

Location and Tips

Queensland, Mackay, Cape Hillsborough
Australia
Australia

Cape Hillsborough National Park is a little gem mostly known for kangaroos on the beach at sunrise. But this park offers many hikes, birding and more, and often it felt like being alone in the park.

A couple at the Whitehaven Beach Outlook.
I am Micha, and this is Markus. This was the trip of a lifetime for our 25th wedding anniversary.

I took all these pictures in my article in the winter, and we hiked the mentioned trails. This National Park Guide is based on my own experiences. If you like the article, I would be happy if you shared it with friends and on social media. If you want to support me, subscribe to our YouTube Channel, watch the  Shorts of our 90-day world trip, and maybe you will find some ideas for your next vacation. 

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