Flinders Group National Park
The Flinders Group of islands is located adjacent to Princess Charlotte Bay, 25km west of Cape Melville and 11km north of Bathurst Heads, 340km north of Cairns on eastern Cape York.
Several commercial cruise vessels departing Cairns visit the island group.
The islands can also be reached by private vessel. A popular anchorage for cruising yachts, the islands can be reached by small boat from Bathurst Heads or Cape Melville in suitable weather and tide conditions. Owen Channel near Aapa Spit, a conspicuous sand spit on Flinders Island, is the most popular anchorage and is safe in all winds except for the south-west storms during the wet season.
There are no wheelchair-accessible facilities on the island group.
The Flinders Group National Park comprises seven islands: Flinders, Stanley, Blackwood, Maclear, Denham, King and Clack islands. These attractive islands feature rocky shores, rugged sandstone cliffs, hills and escarpments, and sand dunes.
The islands’ slopes are covered in woodlands, mixed vine thickets, open heath and grasslands. Salt flats and mangrove forests occur in intertidal areas. Fringing reefs and highly diverse seagrass meadows surround the islands. The island group supports a variety of land and sea birds.
The Aboriginal Traditional Owners of the Flinders Group islands and Cape Melville collectively identify as Yiithuwarra or “saltwater people”. The cultural landscape of the island group, which has great meaning for the Yiithuwarra, contains many important Aboriginal heritage sites reflecting their long occupation, in particular, rock imagery (rock art) sites associated with early European contact. The islands also have associations with early European surveyors and tangible links to World War II.
Camping and accommodation
Camping - Bush camping is available on Flinders Island in the Flinders Group National Park. A pit toilet, shelter, picnic table and water tanks are provided for visitor use. Visitors should bring adequate water, as water availability cannot be guaranteed throughout the dry season. Bring fuel stoves as open fires are prohibited, and rubbish bags as all rubbish must be removed. Camping is not allowed on the other islands.
Camping permits are required and fees apply.
The islands are remote; camping is possible in nearby Cape Melville National Park on the mainland. Other accommodation is available in Cooktown, 180km south-east of the island group (235km by road from Bathurst Bay).
For more information see the tourism information links below.
Things to do
Stanley Island walking tracks map (coming soon)
Walking opportunities on the islands are limited to strolls around the camping area and Aapa Spit on Flinders Island and a long strenuous walk to the Aboriginal rock art shelters on Stanley Island. Walking around the other islands is not encouraged, as important cultural sites may be disturbed.
The “Dart” — 300m return (10 minutes) Grade: Easy
A short track on Flinders Island (Wurriima) leads from Aapa Spit to several wells and a rock carved with the words “HMS Dart, 1899”. This carving is a legacy of the visit by a naval survey ship which collected water from the wells in 1899.
Yindayin rock shelters — 2.8km return (1 hour) Grade: Moderate
On Stanley Island (Yindayin), a strenuous walk begins at Mangrove Landing in Owen Channel. The track crosses to the northern side of the island, continues along the beach and meanders through low woodland. Here, interpretive signs provide information on bush tucker. A boardwalk with numerous steps climbs to a rocky overhang and winds through two “rock shelters”, allowing viewing of the famed rock art images. A sandy track descends back to the beach. The walk then returns along the same track. Interpretive signs along the boardwalk present the story of the island’s heritage. The walk requires a moderate level of fitness; it is best to walk in the cooler part of the day, avoiding the midday heat. Carry water and wear a suitable hat, sunscreen and sturdy footwear. Please stay on the boardwalks to avoid raising dust in the rock shelters — dust can obscure and harm the rock art images.
Commercial operators provide guided walks to the Yindayin rock shelters as part of their cruise itinerary. For more information see the tourism information links below.
Picnic and day-use areas
A day-use area is located adjacent to the campground on Flinders Island. A shelter with picnic tables, a toilet and a water tank are provided (although the water tank can be empty during the dry season usually from May until November).
The Flinders Group offers sheltered anchorages for private and commercial vessels. The islands are a popular destination for cruising yachties. The island group can also be accessed by small boat from Bathurst Heads or Cape Melville on the mainland in suitable weather and tide conditions. The most popular anchorage is in Owen Channel adjacent to Aapa Spit, a prominent sand spit on Flinders Island. This anchorage is safe in all winds except for the south-west storms during the wet season.
The reef and waters surrounding the Flinders Group National Park are protected as part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Flinders, Stanley, Blackwood, Maclear and Denham islands are surrounded by yellow zone (Marine Conservation Park), which allows limited fishing and collecting. The waters surrounding Clack Island, Clack Reef and the western side of King Island are green zone (Marine National Park) which is a “look but do not take” area. A light green zone (Buffer) surrounds the green zones.
Before you undertake any activities, and for more detailed zoning maps and information for State waters see Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park.
Fisheries regulations also apply — information on bag and size limits, restricted species and seasonal closures is available from the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries.
Further information is available from Cairns and Cooktown QPWS offices.
The island group offers opportunities for watching seabirds. Many species can be seen around the shores, including the eastern reef egret, osprey, white-bellied sea-eagle, pied oystercatcher, beach stone-curlew, silver gull, caspian tern, bridled tern, sooty tern, crested tern, lesser crested tern, and common noddy. On the islands, woodland birds include the bar-shouldered dove, pied imperial-pigeon, varied honeyeater, yellow-bellied sunbird, mistletoebird, nankeen kestrel and Torresian crow.
Along the walking tracks and around the camping area, visitors may also glimpse geckos, sand monitors and native rodents. Bats may be seen under rock overhangs and colonies of black flying-foxes inhabit the mangroves.
A diversity of fish, crustaceans and molluscs can be found along the shores and in the shallow waters around the islands along with several species of marine turtles and, occasionally, dugongs, marine mammals that feed on seagrass.
See the description of the park’s natural environment for more details about the islands’ diverse wildlife.
Things to know before you go
Essentials to bring
Be self-sufficient in food, water and first-aid supplies.
Bring water containers and water treatment equipment.
Bring sunscreen, hat, suitable clothing and sturdy footwear.
Bring a screened tent or mosquito nets for protection from insects at night.
Carry rubbish bags to take your rubbish away with you — bins are not provided.
The Flinders Group National Park is open 24 hours a day.
Permits and fees
Camping on Flinders Island requires a camping permit and fees apply. A tag with your booking number must be displayed at your campsite.
Domestic animals are not permitted in the national park — this includes the area between low and high tides on the beach as well as the islands. It is also an offence to introduce domestic animals into the national park zone of the marine park — leave all pets at home.
Climate and weather
The Flinders Group has a tropical climate with a wet season usually between December and April, when maximum temperatures can soar above 30 degrees Celsius. The best time to visit the island group is between May and October when rain is unlikely and temperatures are cooler, as the islands’ vegetation does not provide much shade. For more information see the tourism information links below.
Fuel and supplies
The nearest fuel and supplies are available from Cooktown, 180km south-east of the island group. For more information see the tourism information links below.
Keep on the walking tracks at all times to avoid disturbing snakes and take note of the safety information on trailhead signs.
Always carry water, wear hats and sturdy footwear and walk in the cooler part of the day.
As you walk, rest often in the shade as heat exhaustion can affect even the fit and healthy.
Stay clear of cliffs and steep rock faces and take care on uneven slippery track surfaces and the boardwalk, especially when wet.
Be aware that dangerous stinging jellyfish may be present in the waters around the islands during the warmer months.
Be aware that estuarine crocodiles can occur in waters around island national parks. Remember your safety is our concern but your responsibility always be croc wise in croc country.
Looking after the park
Domestic animals are prohibited in the national park; it is also an offence to introduce domestic animals into the national park zone of the marine park — leave all pets at home.
Camp only in the designated camping area — disturbance to vegetation can cause erosion and spread weeds.
Lighting of fires is prohibited — use only fuel stoves.
Rubbish bins are not provided — take rubbish with you when you leave.
Do not remove plant material, living or dead.
Avoid interfering with, or feeding, native animals, including fish.
Minimise your use of soaps and detergents as they can affect water quality.
Do not fossick in, take from, or cause damage to cultural sites.
Keep on the walking tracks and boardwalk to avoid kicking up dust, which can harm the rock art.
Please respect restricted access areas — they protect culturally sensitive sites.
See the guidelines on caring for parks for more information about protecting our environment and heritage in parks.
The Flinders Group National Park comprises seven islands (Flinders, Stanley, Blackwood, Maclear, Denham, King and Clack islands), with a total area greater than 3000ha. On the basis of the Yiithuwarra peoples’ traditional affiliations, the Flinders Group has been successfully claimed under the Aboriginal Land Act (Qld) 1991 although the leaseback provisions have yet to come into effect. The islands also lie within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and the surrounding waters and reef are protected as part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
Prior to European settlement, Aboriginal people traditionally used fire to manage their country — to provide access and prevent wildfires. Fire is used today to maintain the islands’ existing plant communities, particularly grasslands, thereby conserving plant diversity and protecting cultural sites and the camping area. Prior notice of the intention to burn is provided on the website and on-site signs.
Tourism information links
The Gateway Discovery Centre
51 The Esplanade, Cairns QLD 4870
ph (07) 4051 3588
fax (07) 4051 7509