Michaelmas and Upolu Cays National Park
Getting there and getting around
Michaelmas and Upolu Cays National Park is 40km north-east of Cairns. Daily access to Upolu and Michaelmas cays is by commercial or private vessels. Commercial vessels depart from Cairns and Yorkeys Knob and the frequency depends on demand. Travel times depend on whether the vessel is sailing or motoring. Sea planes are available but can only access Upolu Cay.
Access onto Michaelmas Cay is only allowed within the roped-off area (Designated Access Area of the Marine Park section) between 9.30am and 3.00pm. Access to the national park section of the cay (area above high water) is prohibited due to nesting seabirds.
Michaelmas and Upolu cays are small, low, sand cays, covered by low-lying vegetation which offers an ideal habitat for thousands of ground-nesting seabirds. Michaelmas Cay is one of the most important seabird breeding sites within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. It is the only destination within the Cairns section of the reef that provides an opportunity for visitors to experience a seabird rookery with high species diversity and large populations. Michaelmas Cay is also the only local rookery supporting breeding populations of sooty terns and common noddies and is the most significant local rookery for crested terns and lesser crested terns. It is the southernmost limit of sooty tern breeding and the northernmost breeding limit of the crested tern. Nowhere else are these two species found breeding together in such vast numbers in such an accessible location.
Both cays are surrounded by coral reefs teeming with a variety of interesting marine life. The surrounding reef and waters of the Michaelmas and Upolu cays form part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and World Heritage Area and are popular destinations for both commercial and recreational water activities.
Things to do
>>Guided tours and talks
>>Picnic and day-use areas
To enjoy a safe visit to Michaelmas and Upolu Cays National Park, please take these precautions.
>>Be sun smart. Wear a hat, sunglasses, long-sleeve shirt and sunscreen, even on overcast days, to avoid sunburn.
>>Ensure you carry plenty of drinking water and drink frequently to avoid dehydration.
>>Know your own health limitations for safe snorkelling and diving — do not put yourself and others at risk, and always snorkel and dive with a buddy so that help is at hand.
>>Be aware of tidal movements on the beach.
>>Use proper hygiene such as washing hands before eating, due to the presence of large numbers of birds and their faeces. Birds can carry disease and should not be handled.
>>Wear protective clothing if you must enter the water. Dangerous stinging jellyfish (marine stingers) may be present in the water around Michaelmas and Upolu cays. They occur frequently between October and May. During this time it is not advisable to swim or snorkel.
>>Be aware that estuarine crocodiles can occur in the waters around island national parks.
Looking after the park
Many people visit Michaelmas and Upolu Cays National Park each year so it is important to minimise your impact. Terrestrial and marine plants and animals depend on us to keep the land, ocean and beach areas clean.
>>Stay out of the vegetated areas and always stay within the designated roped-off area.
>>Do not attempt to touch birds, chicks or eggs.
>>Avoid sudden movements or loud noises as this may cause the adult birds to fly away, leaving their eggs and chicks exposed to predators and the harsh environmental conditions.
>>If birds appear disturbed, back away.
>>Do not feed wildlife including birds and fish — it is harmful to their health.
>>Domestic animals are prohibited in the national park; it is also an offence to have domestic animals in the National Park zone of the marine park — leave all pets at home.
>>Leave no rubbish. Rubbish bins are not provided. Do not bury rubbish — take it with you when you leave. This includes cigarette butts, which do not decompose.
>>Anchor only in sand — corals are fragile and easily damaged — and use marine park mooring buoys where possible.
>>Avoid touching, kicking or standing on living coral when snorkelling or wading ashore.
>>All marine life is protected. Do not collect corals, clams or shells.
>>People can spread weeds onto islands and cays through transportation of seeds. Check socks, laces, clothing, towels etc. for seeds before landing on the cays.
>>Remember this is a national park — everything is protected.
EPA Customer Service Centre
160 Ann Street, Brisbane
PO Box 15155 CITY EAST QLD 4002
ph (07) 3227 8185
fax (07) 3227 8749
Information for this National Park has been supplied courtesy of Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service