Frankland Group National Park
Surrounded by extensive fringing reefs, these five continental islands feature rocky outcrops, dense rainforest, mangroves and coastal vegetation, making them a haven for a variety of wildlife.
Getting there and getting around
The Frankland Islands — High, Normanby, Mabel, Round and Russell — lie about 10km offshore from the mouth of the Russell-Mulgrave rivers at Russell Heads, about 50km south of Cairns.
Outcrops of weathered and eroded green and white metamorphic rock, the islands are part of the coastal mountain range separated from the mainland by a rise in sea level. The vegetation on the islands is varied and includes patches of lush dense rainforest, coastal plant communities and mangrove swamps.
The islands support a large array of bird life including numerous sea birds as well as pied imperial-pigeons, fruit doves, varied honeyeaters and white-breasted woodswallows. The fringing reefs surrounding the islands support a diversity of reef life including various fish, sea stars, clams, shells and both hard and soft corals.
The Frankland Islands have special significance for the Mandingalby Yidinji and Gungandji Aboriginal peoples who fished, hunted and gathered foods on these islands and the adjacent sea country. Captain Cook named the islands in 1770 in honour of two eighteenth-century sailors. They were a Lord of the Admiralty and his nephew, both named Sir Thomas Frankland. A short-lived beche-de-mer station was established in 1866 and the islands were often used as a campsite during expeditions such as Dalrymple’s north-east coast expedition in 1873. Early in the 20 th century, the Franklands became a popular fishing and boating destination for local people. Russell Island is a Commonwealth lighthouse reserve. High, Normanby, Mabel and Round islands are protected as national parks and have been since 1936. The surrounding waters were included in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in 1983.
There are a few small walking tracks around the campground on Russell Island and visitors are welcome to walk the perimeters of all the islands, but Normanby Island has the only major walking trail. Due to nesting seabirds, access to the Normanby Island sand spit is restricted during the period 1 September to 31 March.
Normanby Island nature trail — 1km circuit (20 minutes) Grade: Easy
This circuit walking trail traces the story of the Frankland Islands. Their past is symbolised by the rocky outcrop on the eastern side, once connected to the mainland, and their future by the wave-washed sand spit on the western side of the island. On this walk you will pass by rocky outcrops, through dense rainforest, coastal vegetation and mangrove communities, and you will have the opportunity to see a variety of flora and fauna, including both marine and terrestrial animals.