/ Bowling Green Bay National Park

Hiking out to Cape Cleveland lighthouse

Rushed and somewhat under prepared, I packed my bag the night before and rushed off to drop off my bag at the ferry. I didn't have time to prepare decent food or pack drinks, nor did I pack a tent as one of the fibreglass rods was broken by the wind last time. Luckily, I've have experience sleeping out in the bush with only a sleeping bag and wasn't concerned; although the other bush walkers had pitty for me.

I went with the Townsville Bushwalking Club who are an array of experienced older folk. They've done it all and continue pushing full steam ahead. I admire the casual group as they are hardcore when it comes to bush bashing. Their motto is "When the fun stops, the adventure begins"

One of the parts of this walk reminds me of a Lord of the Rings scene where is rolling grassy hills and stone features sticking out.

Oysters, Turtles and Wine

Dreaming of freshly shucked oysters off the rocks, swimming with turtles, sipping fine wine and sampling fine cheeses overlooking the turquoise ocean and bay at sunset? What about camping next to a lighthouse under the stars, awake to a superb sunrise over the ocean? Get bored? - good rock climbing awaits you.

This is the trip for you!

The bonus is, hiking in you only need to carry a light day pack whilst enjoying a nice coastal walk from AIMS.


Optional but recommended: The barge costs $30 and camp site fee. There is water and facilities there but you will have to contact Ray Boundy (+61 408 779 304 or +61 7 4778 2156) who currently has the lease on the lighthouse out there.

The two main routes

You can either hike along the ocean coast via AIMS at Cape Ferguson (you will need an AIMS contact for permission), or along Cleveland Bay starting from near Cocoa Creek.

Overnight gear can go over on the barge. This will need to be dropped off at the barge owners place, contact Ray. Therefore for the hike in and out you only need day pack, with food and water for the day (no water resupply during the hike in or out). There are rain water tanks at the cape camp site and water steriliastion tablets are recommended. Other basic facilities are also available at the cape (toilet, shower, BBQ).

Our basic plan was:

Saturday - start hike about 0730, hike all day cross country, bush bashing to reach the cape camp site about 1600. (if using Cleveland Bay route, timings are subject to tides).

Sunday - local exploring, rock climbing, swimming at pebble beach and oyster shucking.

Monday - hike out, partly different route, hike all day cross country to reach the cars about 1600.

Overnight gear - your personal overnight gear goes over on the Barge. You have to be self-sufficient. You have to include your personal tent and sleep gear, food, drinks (esky optional), swim / snorkel gear, spare clothes.

Hiking is fair dinkum bushwalking - cross country with no formed tracks until near the last hour near the cape, the old telegraph track. There are some low hills to traverse, open woodland, long grass and rocky ground, some sandy beaches. There is no shade along the routes so need good hat and sun protection (the reward is, at the cape, an icy cold refreshing ale may await you, if you put it on the barge).

The oysters on the rocks are natural, you just gotta collect them so take a shucking knife.

The old rail line at the cape was once used to unload fuel from ships for lighthouse.

The experience

This excellent through walk was held over the long weekend. The route in was fine, albeit overgrown with tall guinea grass. The track marked by the Bush Walking Club in 2014 was reasonably clear in the forested parts, but in the flat country just behind the dunes it is overgrown and hard to follow. Despite that it is still only 2 hours from AIMS to Paradise Beach.

Paradise Beach, Cape Cleveland

Due to the long grass we decided to travel to the lighthouse using the route we normally take out. This way we were saved the hard slog up to Castle Rock for later. The views of the valley walls were as spectacular as ever and it was interesting to see it from the other side. The breezes were not as frequent as they would have been up on the coastal cliffs, but we enjoyed them nevertheless. We crossed the last inland hills via the telegraph poles then it was over to red rock bay for the final push to the Lighthouse. Some were feeling the effects of the hot day, but a cold shower and swim at the lighthouse worked wonders on our heat exhausted bodies - it didn't help that this hike was in Summer. Saturday evening we took photos of the sunset and night sky, Townsville Waterfront, and slept very well of the cliffs.

Cape Cleveland Lighthouse at night
Photo Credit Keith Dyson

Sunday we went in search of old WW2 gun emplacements, and did a beach tidy up removing all the washed up plastics. An afternoon nap was enjoyed by a few of us, then it was an afternoon swim and oyster catching.

Monday it was time to say farewell to the lighthouse and we decided to head back via the cliffs. There were more breezes and very spectacular views; we all enjoyed the walk back. A refreshing dip was enjoyed at Paradise Beach then it was time for the final push home. Again another two hour journey and we were back at AIMS. Ice creams at the road house and a very good night's sleep awaited us. Thanks to the Bush Walking Club for the experience, and to AIMS of course for letting us have access to their property.

Here is the interatctive map of the hike:

I host advenutres every weekend around Townsville. If you are fit and capable, join us on these expeditions by visiting Townsville Advenutres.