Distance: 40km (Day one 25km, Day two 15km)
Time required: Including minimal breaks, two days (day one, 10 hours; day two, 6 hours)
Best time of year: May to October, avoid cyclone season, stinger season & summer.
Environment: Coastal sand spit, beach front, mangrove wetlands.

This one's for all the beach lovers out there. Go remote and have your own private beach getaway. Visit an active lighthouse at the end of the headland, near the base of the sandspit. See in your own eyes all the rubbish washed up onto the shore. Sharks, dingoes, no drinking water and kilometre after kilometre of sand spit ensure that this walk will be more adventurous than most other beach walks. It's not just a boring beach walk, this hike will take your through different terrains as you navigation through dead mangrove forests and the sand spit. It's an interesting beach with human rubbish littered throughout.

Over 4000 years old and still growing, this 22 kilometre long sandy cape is a place for local Quad bikers, fisherman and boaters to explore on their weekend; though not many venture too far from home. The northshore current has been depositing the sand over many years creating this lengthy headland ending with a long low sandspit and wetlands habitat. Cape Bowling Green is a truly remarkable spit which extends 22 km out into the sea. It is north of Ayr and is reached through the tiny community of Alva 16 km from Ayr. Much of the spit is less than 1 km wide.

Many ships wrecking at Cape Bowling Green necessitated the construction of a lighthouse at the cape and is home to a diverse array of coastal wetlands. The diversity and extent of wetlands, including the wildlife it supports, has led to large parts of the bay being listed as a Ramsar site, a wetland of international importance, under the Ramsar Convention. Mangroves line the western shore and cyclone-battered beach makes up the eastern side. In many places mangroves have been screwed out of the sand by past cyclones. The vast mangroves could well be home to crocodiles.

The walk is recommended as an overnight trip and for safety reasons you should camp away from the mangroves. Preferably camp north of the lighthouse, 15 km from Alva. The light is a modern automatic one; the original was removed. Some 200 m west of the light is the restored grave of a family member of a former lighthouse keeper. The grave used to be east of the light but has been moved because of beach erosion. Before setting off, ensure you are totally self-sufficient, especially with water and sun screening. Knowledge of tide times could be useful, as walking is easier at low tide. Signs at the outset at Alva banning camping relate to Alva and not to the cape.

THE PLAN

Day One

  • Walk the east side beach for the long 15 km to the light and grave, then preferably go a little further to set up camp.
  • Take a walk without the packs for the remaining 5 km to the remote and magnificent cape tip. You feel as if you are on some mid-Pacific coral atoll. There is no vegetation to be seen anywhere. Swimming may be unwise near the tip as currents appear strong, sharks and crocodiles. Marine stingers may also be present during the wet season. During the infrequent cyclones the sea evidently washes right across the last couple of kilometres of the sand spit. You can opt to miss out on the last 5km and stay at base camp, set up a tarp or find a tree to get some shade and read a book.

Day Two

On the second day you need to retrace the 15 km to Alva beach front. No doubt the experience of this coastal wilderness will long be remembered.

WHAT TO TAKE

  • Backpack
  • Tent or bivy or sleep under the stars!
  • Sleeping mat & Sleeping bag
  • Food and snacks for the days (1 x breakfast, 2 x lunch, 1 x dinner)
  • 2 x 3 litres of water carrying capacity minimum. Recommended 4 liters of water per day. The only thing worse than carrying water, is running out of water.
  • First Aid Kit & PLB
  • Inscent repallent
  • Spare clothes for the trip home
  • Tarp for shade (optional)
  • Camping Permit

WHAT TO WEAR

  • Sun protection (A wide brimmed hat, long sleeve shirt, long pants)
  • Sunscreen SPF 50+
  • Appropriate footwear

POTENTIAL HAZARDS

  • Swimming may be unwise near the tip as currents appear strong, sharks and it's NQ so crocs...
  • Heat exhaustion, heat stroke, dehydration & sunburn.
  • Possible cold temperatures at night (15°C)

INTERACTIVE MAP

Cape Bowling Green Topo Map

ENVIRONMENT AND VEGETATION

Bowling Green Bay and Cleveland Bay are also protected as Fish Habitat Areas and Dugong Protection Areas. Wetlands in Bowling Green Bay include seagrass meadows, mangrove and saltmarsh communities, as well as brackish and freshwater swamps. The site is internationally important in the migration of marine turtles, shorebirds and terns. It is also nationally and internationally important for several threatened species, including marine turtles, dugongs, inshore dolphins and waterbirds. Bowling Green Bay provides vital habitat for a range of species, with some of the largest colonies of fish feeding birds in eastern Queensland occurring there. Fresh and saltwater interact in Bowling Green Bay. Tidal waters push inland to form estuarine deltas. During flood conditions, freshwater from the nearby Burdekin and Haughton rivers flow into the bay, reducing the salinity of the water. The site’s multitude of habitats fit together in a complex, constantly changing mosaic influenced by these water flows. Some plants that usually thrive in very different levels of salinity grow side by side here.

History

James Morrill had a similar experience to William Buckley, who lived with Aborigines for over 30 years. Morrill was a carpenter that worked onboard the barque Peruvian. He was part of the crew and passengers who left Sydney bound for China on 27 February 1846. In a storm, the Peruvian hit and sank on Horseshoe Reef in the outer Great Barrier Reef off the coast from Shoalwater Bay, north of Rockhampton.

Twenty-two survivors made makeshift raft, somehow crossed the reef, and then drifted northwards for over a month. They existed only on a diet of raw fish and because of this, the death rate rose rapidly. When the craft finally beached near Cape Bowling Green, south of Townsville, only five remained alive - Morrill, Miller, White, Captain Ritkethley, and Ritkethley's wife.

Miller disappeared and White died of malnutrition. Both the Pitkethleys and Morrill were adopted into Aboriginals. Pitkethleys joined a Cape Cleveland tribe, however, both died within two years. Morrill joined neighbouring tribe centred on Mount Elliot for some 17 years. During 1861, prospects changed for Morrill when pastoralists pushed into the new frontier of North Queensland. Two years later his opportunity came when his hunting party of Aborigines came across two European station hands. He then made himself known to the men and return to European society.

There was some recognition of what he had achieved and his knowledge of the country and experience of the Aborigines was often consulted. He joined the Department of Customs at Bowen and in 1864 was part of George Dalrymple's expedition to Cardwell. Later in the year he captained the Anel taking the first cargo to Cleveland Bay (Townsville).

Morrill died in Bowen in October 1865 where he was buried. A number of local Aborigines attended a mourning ceremony. Part of the country he lived in and journeyed through stretched between the Black and Burdekin rivers and includes the Mount Elliot area within Bowling Green Bay National Park. Alligator, St Margarets, Major and Spring creeks draining Mount Elliot are perennial and would have been a constant supply of water, except is the driest of seasons.