Stop at the top of the Cardwell Range for the most impressive view you will see on The Tropical Coast. This is where the mountains meet the sea with Girringun National Park on your left and Hinchinbrook Island National Park on your right and the rainforest occasionally parting to reveal Hinchinbrook Island and its mangrove channels.
As you travel north an option for serious bush walkers is the Dalrymple Gap Walking Track in Girringun National Park. A challenging six hour walk follows the route of an historic road which crosses the Cardwell Range. It passes a stone-pitched bridge and winds through eucalypt forests, beautiful streams and rainforest.
A few kilometres further along the highway is an easily accessible stop for a quick dip and barbecue at the Five Mile Swimming Hole, just 7km south of Cardwell.
Or you can venture along the Cardwell Forest Drive to swim in the gorgeous blue water at the Cardwell Spa Pools.
As the halfway point on The Tropical Coast between Townsville and Cairns, Cardwell is an ideal base to explore and fish the entire region.
Accommodation includes motels, hotel, camping, caravan parks, backpacker hostels, bed and breakfasts, cabins and resorts. Dine at cafes, eateries, clubs or play 18 holes on the newly revamped golf course.
Port Hinchinbrook features an all-weather, all-tide boat ramp, and resident Coast Guard. It is the access point for boats heading into the Hinchinbrook Channel or to Hinchinbrook Island where you will find fishing charters, island transfers and boat hire from dinghies to houseboats.
You can launch your boat here or at the Menuga boat ramp to the north. Those wanting access to the mangrove area of Hinchinbrook Channel could use the boat ramp at Fisher’s Creek, 35km south back along the highway.
With almost 40,000 hectares to explore, Hinchinbrook Island should be more than just a day trip. This pristine island national park is a particular favourite with dedicated hikers from around the world. People come to tackle the renowned 32km Thorsborne Trail to experience diverse environments from sandy bays through mangrove forests and dense rainforest to the 1121m peak of Mt Bowen. Camping is available at several sites with numbers strictly limited.
Take a ferry from Cardwell to Goold Island, just 17km offshore, where you can camp in the national park. Line and spear fishing is allowed at Garden Island or snorkel the magnificent coral gardens surrounding the nearby Brook Islands.
With its stunning backdrop of Hinchinbrook Island, the foreshore is the focal point of Cardwell and a popular place for fishing or spotting turtles and dugong which are often seen from the jetty. Following the damage from Cyclone Yasi, the ‘Reconstructing Cardwell Project’ has built new playgrounds, barbecue and picnic facilities, walking and cycling paths along the 4km of newly completely beautified foreshore.
A cultural precinct near the jetty brings together arts and history from this stretch of The Tropical Coast. Follow the Cardwell Environmental, Cultural and Heritage Trail, enjoy unique artworks created by local artisans working in various mediums at the Hinchinbrook Regional Arts, Cardwell Gallery or learn about the devastation of Cyclone Yasi at the J. C. Hubinger Museum. Cardwell commemorates the historic Battle of the Coral Sea between the Japanese and the Allied Forces during World War 2 with a service on the first Sunday in May at its Coral Sea Battle Memorial Park.
Near the jetty is the Rainforest & Reef Information Centre, Here you discover the story of Girroo Gurrll, the halfman, half-eel of the Girramay people and other details about the Great Barrier Reef. This is where you'll want to stop and collect more details about this region.
There is more rich local information about this unique reef and rainforest area to be seen at the Cardwell Visitor & Heritage Centre. Located at the historic Cardwell Post Office and Bush Telegraph Station, where you can show the kids what life was like before the mobile phone by sending a morse code message. Get a feel for the early judicial system in the courthouse and lock-up, "'race to the top of Australia" in the Journey Room or check out the old weather instruments. Built in 1870, the telegraph office is one of the oldest buildings in North Queensland. It has been entered on the Queensland Heritage Register, the Register of the National Trust and the Register of the National Estate of the Australian Heritage Commission.
The Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre is where you can see contemporary and traditional art from the region’s nine traditional owner groups. Work includes traditional baskets, paintings, ceramics and wooden artefacts as well as the unique Bagu with Jiman artwork inspired by the traditional fire making implements of the Girringun rainforest people.
Driving west from the centre of town, is the Cardwell Forest Drive, 26km of scenic loops exploring swimming holes, a natural fed spa pool and waterfalls with great picnic spots, which is becoming a popular location for mountain biking enthusiasts.
Back on the Bruce Highway, head north for 5km to the Edmund Kennedy section of Girramay National Park. This is a wetlands national park in a small area between the highway and the coast.
Another 21km further north take the Bilyana turn-off to see Murray Falls, a drive west of about 20km, the last 2km from the park entrance is unsealed. Here the rainforest-clad mountains meet tropical lowlands in the scenic section of the foothills of the Kirrama Range where the clear waters of the Murray River cascade in a stunning 30m drop over boulders into rock pools.
One of the region’s most popular campgrounds, swimming and rock slides are popular here, along with the picnic area. The falls can be viewed from the boardwalk or walk through the rainforest to the lookout. Driving out of the area you can rejoin the highway further north at Murrigal, just 16km away from Tully.