Located halfway between Cairns and Townsville, Cardwell is the centre of an extensive natural wonderland - world heritage rainforests, swimming holes, waterfalls, wilderness tracks, white water rafting, canoeing, crabbing, fishing and prawning - that makes Cardwell a very appealing destination.

Cardwell's long, sweeping beach and jetty. Click for larger photograph. Nowadays Cardwell is a quiet sleepy town, but before Cooktown was settled in 1873, this was the only port between Bowen and Somerset on the tip of Cape York. Cardwell is one of North Queensland's earliest settlements, dating back to 1864. Although it was initially established as the site for a port to service the cattle trade, the location did not prove successful. Among other reasons, there was considerable conflict with local Aborigines.

The name of Edmund Kennedy appears prominently in the history of Cardwell. Kennedy, in his tragic attempt to travel from Rockingham Bay to Cape York, passed close by the existing townsite in 1848. A cairn has recently been built at the southern end of the town 'to commemorate the centenary of the landing of the explorer Edmund Kennedy and his party who passed within two miles north of this cairn on June 26 1848 whilst on their fateful journey of exploration to Cape York.' The expedition was disastrous and Kennedy was killed by hostile Aborigines.

But Kennedy was not the only explorer in the area. In 1863, George Dalrymple successfully linked Cardwell with the inland settlement following an Aboriginal trail through the range that, until then, was considered an impenetrable barrier. This pass is now known as Dalrymple's Gap.

But when gold was discovered in Charters Towers, Cardwell's importance as a port for the inland dissapeared. However, Cardwell's industry shifted to logging and, by 1886, the town boasted the largest sawmill in North Queensland.

Today Cardwell does not have a lot of infrastructure, but it is definitely a pleasant, peaceful place to make a stopover. There is a lot to see and do in the area surrounding Cardwell, with some of Tropical North Queensland's most attractive National Parks close by and access to spectacular Hinchinbrook Island, the Everglades and over 20 islands easily accessible by boat.



The Dalrymple Gap Walking Track is a memorial to the courage and determination of the early pioneers of the northern wilderness and one of Queensland's oldest designated roads. The track was originally an Aboriginal walking track but after George Elphinstone Dalrymple, who founded Cardwell as a port to service his pastoral interests in the Valley of Lagoons, discovered it, it became a well worn road.

Nowadays, it is only used by walkers. Following a section of the original road, the walking track is between the Damper Creek Bridge, on the Bruce Highway, and the exotic pine plantations on Abergowrie State Forest. The track passes through open eucalypt forest with rainforest creeks, and dense rainforest that follows the cascading waters of Dalrymple creek. The track is around 10 kilometres end to end, taking between four and five hours to walk one way and requires a vehicle pick-up at the other end, in Abergowrie State Forest. However, if you don't want to go all the way, the stone bridge is two kilometres from the car park, on the Cardwell side, and you can use it as a shortened return walk. Be aware that this section of the track ascends continuously and can get quite steep in some parts, with ruts, loose rocks and shallow creek crossings. After passing the bridge, the southern descent is also very steep for about one kilometre until you reach the first crossing of Dalrymple creek. The rest of the track is quite gentle and pleasant.

The forest on either side of the range is very different. While the Cardwell side consists more of open eucalypt forest with rainforest strips in the creek line and it is a bit dry as a result of exposure to sea winds loaded with salt, the other side comprises striking rainforest, completely protected from the wind and well watered.

To get there you have to turn off 15 kilometres south of Cardwell at the Damper Creek Brigde signpost. Drive for one kilometre along the rough dirt track until you reach the end of the road and get to a clearing to the left of the creek. The walking track commences at the other side of Damper Creek. Overnight camping is allowed but you have to get a permit from the Ingham or Cardwell Forestry offices. Call on (07) 4777 2822 or (07) 4066 8779 for the permits.

30 minutes drive south west of Tully you can find Murray Falls, located in Murray Upper State Forrest. With their 30 metres drop, Murray Falls are one of North Queensland's most beautiful falls. There is an easily accessible platform in the area, where impressive sculptured stones and sparkling rock pools can be viewed from. Murray Falls have a short boardwalk that takes you to the base of the falls and a longer rainforest track that leads you to the lookout above them. Remember to obey the signs and stay on the boardwalk, rocks in the area are slippery and can be dangerous.

There are camping facilities, barbecues, showers, toilets, picnic tables and swimming available.

For more information on Murray Upper State Forest and other parks in the area, please visit our NATIONAL PARKS page.

The Blencoe Falls are an impressive three-tiered waterfall falling 92 metres into the Herbert River Gorge. Surrounded by open eucalypt forest with valleys protecting pockets of rainforest, the Blencoe Falls are only 83 kilometres north of Cardwell, set in a remote area that can only be reached on the dry season. There are no facilities in the area, so make sure you take all you need with you.

To get there, drive 13 kilometres north of Cardwell and turn left at the Kennedy Store. Follow the bitumen for six kilometres and then turn right into the Kirrama Road. 20 kilometres away from the highway you will reach a lookout over the Kennedy Valley, close to a monument to surveyor George Tucker. Drive for another 29 kilometres, turning left a couple of kilometres beyond the sawmill. Another 22 kilometres and you will reach the falls. It seems like a long and difficult drive, but the views are spectacular and the drive is absolutely enjoyable.


Located five kilometres north of Cardwell, this National Park features wetlands, mangroves and beautiful views of Hinchinbrook and other islands. The park is a fine place for birdwatching, picnicking by the sea and walking through forest and mangroves to get to the beach. It provides an important habitat for the estuarine crocodile.

To reach the park, you have to turn off the Bruce Highway four kilometres north of Cardwell and drive one kilometre along Clift Road to the park entrance. Bear in mind that from there on, the road is unsealed and frequently narrow and winding and can be slippery or even flooded during the wet season. From that point to the beach there are another three kilometres, most of which are unsealed and often narrow and winding. Caravans should be left outside the park. Camping is not permitted on the park or the beach.

For more information on Edmund Kennedy National Park and other parks in the area, please visit our NATIONAL PARKS page.

Between the months of October and May, marine stingers along the North Queensland coast make swimming a dangerous hobbie. Don't be put off by this. The mountains behind Cardwell hide some superb crystal clear streams and swimming holes.

Located only seven kilometres south of Cardwell, by turning on the Cardwell side of the bridge, the Five Mile Swimming Hole is an attractive picnic area with barbecue facilities, where you can rest and have a swim. The swimming hole is safe from crocs, sharks and stingers, which makes it popular all year round. However, authorities warn you to wear sandshoes or other foot protection against bullrouts, a relative of the stone fish that inhabit these waters.


Australia's largest war memorial, the Coral Sea Battle Memorial Park, commemorates an air and sea battle that took place about 800 kilometres east, between Australian and US forces against the Japanese, in 1942. The park is a perfect spot for a picnic, with the silhouette of Hinchinbrook Island against the skyline and cool sea breezes. The town still remembers the CORAL SEA BATTLE every May, with dignitaries from both the United States and Australia taking part.

There is a massive headstone in front of the Anglican Church on the Bruce Highway. This extravagant monument seems out of proportion to the modesty of the adjoining building. It reads: 'In memory of Walter Jervoise Scott, one of the pioneers of the stations known as the Valley of Lagoons.' It was sent out from England after his death in 1890, but the road to the Valley of Lagoons was too dangerous and intricated, so the family and the teamsters decided that even though Scott was buried at the Valley of Lagoons, the headstone would remain on the coast.


Cardwell is renowned for its great fishing, crabbing and prawning. Fishing is at its best mornings and evenings although any time is good. Try your luck from the jetty or the rockwalls bordering the canal near Port Hinchinbrook boat ramp, south of Cardwell. Other boat ramps close by are Meunga Creek, north of Cardwell, Fishers Landing, 22 kilometres south and Marine Parade, in Cardwell. All the boat ramps, except Port Hinchinbrook, have limited tide access. Catch Barramundi, Mangrove Jack, Estuary Cod, Bream, Flathead, Salmon and also Whiting.

Crabbing can be done off the jetty at any time. No skills are required, just patience and remember to pull up the dilly every 20 minutes or so to check for a sand crab or a 'muddie'. And don't forget it is illegal to take female crabs.

The best time to go prawning is in the early morning, but we mean really early morning, when the near high tide and calm conditions make prawns confident. Anywhere along the waterfront is good, although it is advised to avoid the area within ten metres of the foreshore boat ramp. Bear in mind that casting a net from the jetty is not allowed.

An interesting and easy introduction to the attractions that the hilly surroundings behind Cardwell offer is the short nine kilometre trip through the forestry areas. Turn west at the Seafood Cafe on the Bruce Highway, cross over the railway line, take a map from the box beside the road and then go on to the lookout which offers magnificent views of both Hinchinbrook Island and Cardwell. There are nine stopping points on the journey, including a scientific area of paper bark, tea-trees and swamp mahogany as well as a number of freshwater swimming holes, including the Spa Pool and Dead Horse Creek.

Mobile 0418 538170
We specialize in big barra charters from hinchinbrook and townsville.


Featuring a great variety of events that cater for everyone, the Seafest ensures fun and entertainment for the whole family. Events such as crab races, a puppet show, a fashion parade, competitions, cultural dances, live bands, firework displays and much more guarantee never ending leisure for all sorts of people. Of course, food and drinks will be available as well.

Every first Sunday of May, the people of Cardwell get together to commemorate the Coral Sea Battle, the first naval battle in history in which the rival ships never came within sight of one another. Dignitares from Australia and United States pay tribute to those who took part in the battle, which happened only 800 kilometres off the coast of Cardwell.

During four days in September, keen fishers get to Port Hinchinbrook to compete in the Annual Fishing Festival. This event is rapidly becoming one of the most prestigious fishing tournaments in Australia. Apart from fishing, there will be entertainment for every one.


Cardwell accommodation ranges from luxury hotels and resorts, to family friendly apartments and motels, cosy bed and breakfasts and backpackers hostels, as well as caravan parks for those travelling with their tent or campervan. Scroll down or use the buttons on the right to choose your style of Cardwell holiday accommodation.


LMB One, Cardwell
Phone (07) 4066 2000 / Fax (07) 4066 4022
Port Hinchinbrook offers a range of accommodation. The Front Street Cabins feature 5-star amenities and twin queen sized beds. The Port Hinchinbrook Waterfront Suites feature private decks overlooking the marina.

Bruce Highway, Cardwell
Phone (07) 4066 8662


215 Victoria Street, Cardwell
Phone (07) 4066 8500

1 Scott Street, Cardwell
Phone (07) 4066 8776
The Cardwell Beachfront Motel has six fully self contained units, and six motel units, all close to the beach. The units are suitable to accommodate up to six guests, depending on the type. All the units are airconditioned and have mountain and sea views.



18 Gregory Street, Cardwell
Phone (07) 4066 8330 / Fax (07) 4066 8565
Mobile 0408 896 013
Cardwell Bed and Breakfast is conveniently located just minutes from the sea, with access to a forest drive, lookout, and with magnificent parks and island views. This spacious home features one queen sized, one double and one twin share rooms, all of them airconditioned.

Lot 13 Stoney Creek Road, Cardwell
Phone (07) 4066 2299 / Fax (07) 4066 2255
The rooms open to wide verandahs around a central courtyard ensuring covered access to the main living areas. Outdoor furniture is conveniently placed on the verandahs and throughout the gardens providing informal relaxation and dining areas.

18 Landsdown Street, Cardwell
Phone (07) 4066 2383
Seascape Bed and Breakfast is a self contained unit with its own entrance away from the main house. It features one bedroom and a kitchen and shower, and a lounge which has two single beds.


6 Brasenose Street, Cardwell
Phone (07) 4066 8404
Cardwell Central Backpackers is a modern hostel conveniently situated close to the bus terminal, shops, pub and beach. The hostel features dorm rooms (for up to four persons), double bedrooms, pool and BBQ area. Fruit picking work available.

178 Bowen Street, Cardwell
Phone (07) 4066 8014 / Fax (07) 4066 8014
Cardwell Backpackers provide working opportunities for backpackers to pick fruit and veg in the Cardwell/Tully area. This includes picking pineapples, pumpkins, bananas and sugar cane.

186 Victoria Street, Cardwell
Phone (07) 4066 8671


186 Bruce Highway, Cardwell
Phone (07) 4066 8671
Located on at the northern end of Cardell's commercial district on the beach side of the Bruce Highway.

43a Marine Parade, Cardwell
Phone (07) 4066 8550
Cardwell Beachcomber has six acres of powered sites, grassy camping areas, cabins, ensuite villas, BBQ, camp kitchen and swimming pool. Beachcomber Bar & Grill is open seven days for your enjoyment. The modern amenities have disability access.

175 Bruce Highway, Cardwell
Phone (07) 4066 8648 / Fax (07) 4066 8910
Set in tropical gardens, Kookaburra Holiday Park offers a wide range of quality accommodation, sparkling swimming pool, three covered BBQ areas with free gas BBQs, full laundry and well stocked kiosk.