I’m not a morning person. Anything before 9am for me is early, unlike the majority of Australians, it would seem (I’ve been greeted with ‘Good morning, sleepyhead!’ at 8.30). But when you drive out to Cape Hillsborough to watch kangaroos feeding on a beach while the sun rises across the ocean, are you really going to stay in bed? And by bed I mean an air mattress stuffed into the back of your car.
Of course not.
Having decided to stay at the conveniently-located caravan park right on the beach, I was a mere fifty metres from the sand. This beautiful little national park takes up the Cape Hillsborough peninsula, and the walks around the headland give you amazing views up and down the coast. At low tide, a causeway appears between the mainland and Wedge Island, allowing you the chance to explore even more of the area. But one of the best parts of the park is close to the caravan park and beach. You’re walking through the forest, down (or up) some steep stone steps, when a cloud of butterflies flutter from the trees around you. It gave me a fright the first time it happened. I’d been told that during the cooler winter months, there are large numbers of butterflies in the park, and had been looking out for them, although I’d only seen a few so far. Then suddenly they were everywhere, their black and blue wings glinting in the sunlight. Everytime they took flight I stopped to watch. Then after they settled and I walked on, more would fly up. It was amazing and beautiful, although a female jogger didn’t seem to appreciate the sight as much as I did.
But on to the kangaroos. I roused myself at 6am the next morning, throwing on several layers of clothing against the morning chill. Stepping out onto the beach I saw that the sky was several shades of orange, though the sun hadn’t appeared just yet. But you could still make out the silhouettes of several kangaroos down by the water, heads down as they munched on seed pods washed up overnight by the tides. I was one of the first onto the beach, and I had a few moments to simply enjoy the show. The kangaroos are clearly used to humans gawking at them each morning. As the crowd gathered over the next half an hour, they didn’t even look up, even coming close to us when they finished feeding. Many people in the crowd grew excited by their apparent tameness, but I’m pretty sure the animals were simply waiting politely for a gap to appear so they could hop past us and back into the bush.
The sky turned from red to orange, to pink to gold, until finally it was bright. The sun lifted above the island and shimmered across the ocean. Cape Hillsborough is definitely a place I recommend to anyone travelling the east coast. I’ve not seen many sunrises (due to the aforementioned not-being-a-morning-person-thing), but I’m pretty sure I’ll always remember this one. Although this one in Indonesia was also pretty amazing.
Cape Hillsborough is located 50km north of Mackay in central Queensland.
There is no free camping available in the area (and nowhere to secretly camp anyway), so I stayed at the Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park. While the rates seem a little pricey, it’s the only option in the immediate area. But it is located right at the beach, so it’s perfect for rolling out of bed to see the kangaroos. The campsite has on-site accommodation as well as laundry, internet and food facilities.
There is also camping accommodation available nearby at Smalley’s Bay.
The peninsula is full of beautiful walks through forest, mangroves, along the beaches, just make sure to bring plenty of fresh water and check the tide times if you decide to go along the beach or out to Wedge Island so you don’t get stranded out there.
When a love of travel meets a passion for wildlife…
I’m a zoologist who explores the world while working for conservation organisations. I write about my experiences in the hope of inspiring others to follow their dreams and see the beauty of this earth – in a responsible and ethical way.