The Ultimate Cardwell QLD Travel Guide

Cardwell is calling you into an adventure holiday!

North Queensland hospitality and art meets coastal mountain ranges, rainforest, waterfalls and world heritage islands! Here, you can relax or embark on a transformational hiking challenge. Your choice! Either way, it's worth booking your next vacation where you'll have access to great local attractions plus Hinchinbrook Island, Ingham, and Lucinda.

Still not convinced? Check out my ultimate guide to Cardwell, starting with a list of Cardwell highlights that offer great reasons why you should visit Queensland and embark on your own adventures around this beachside town on holiday...

Top 18 sights in the Cardwell area of Queensland, Australia

Attie Creek Falls

  1. Attie Creek Falls

Waterfalls that create an underwater fairy garden.

Attie Creek Falls is a 25m multi-drop waterfall. You can reach Attie Creek Waterfalls via a 500m walk to the base of its main drop, which is accessed behind Cardwell. The water is crystal blue and very clear. You'll be able to sit in cool water and enjoy a vast natrual landscape view.

Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre Gallery & Keeping

2. Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre Gallery & Keeping

Great art connected to culture and country.

Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre is home to multi-award winning craftspeople and artists. Girringun represents artists from nine Traditional Owner Groups. It's a non-profit organisation doing wonderful work! They also have a native plant nursery.

Cardwell Jetty

3. Cardwell Jetty

A photographer's dream.

Wander out along the jetty for a better look back at Cardwell Beach and the coastal mountain ranges behind. You'll see local anglers fishing here. In the other direction, Cardwell Jetty looks over the Great Barrier Reef islands. Events are held on the adjacent Cardwell Foreshore.

Cardwell forest drive

4. Cardwell forest drive

Discover your own private nook!

Drive through thick bushland and stop to admire stunning views of the coast and national park. Take a picnic and something to swim in!

Cardwell Park Rest Area

5. Cardwell Park Rest Area

An interesting place to rest looking out to Hinchinbrook.

This is a nice scenic spot to have a picnic at. You'll overlook Hinchinbrook Island, which is opposite the Cardwell Park Rest Area. Walk along the paved path or let the kids play in the free playground. The Cardwell Jetty and Cardwell Rainforest & Reef Visitor Centre are nearby.

Cardwell Spa Pool

6. Cardwell Spa Pool

A natural creek spa in the wilderness.

The Cardwell Spa Pool is a geological wonder. This spectacular, seasonal swimming spot is just west of Cardwell. It's a nice little surprise in the sense it is unheralded and in the middle of nowhere with no signage or directions. But, it's worth finding!

Cardwell Bush Telegraph

7. Cardwell Bush Telegraph

A historic precinct with antique gadgets and more!

The Cardwell Bush Telegraph is housed in the former post office building. It's now a heritage centre. It was built in 1870. The the J.C. Hubinger Museum, the old court house, gaol and shire hall are all nearby. Admission to the museum is free. There's lots of gadgets! Visitors can send a morse code message, for example!

Cardwell Lookout

8. Cardwell Lookout

Panoramic views.

You'll take a winding track through forest. Suddenly, the forest opens up to show you panoramic views of panoramic views of Cardwell and Hinchinbrook Island! It's on the Cardwell Forest Drive. You'll enjoy this sensational holiday picnic and photography spot.

Cardwell State Forest

9. Cardwell State Forest

Go wild, North Queensland style!

Cardwell State Forest features a mix of native vegetation and pine plantations. This is a place of rugged mountain scenery, lush tropical rainforest, dry open forest, pine plantations, creeks and waterfalls. It's 40,000 hectares in size, so there's lots to explore! It's a popular attraction for mountain biking and hiking.

Hinchinbrook Island National Park

10. Hinchinbrook Island National Park

Where clouds meet mangrove forests.

You'll find cloud-covered mountains support fragile heath vegetation on Hinchinbrook Island. Rainforest and eucalypt forest descend to a mangrove-lined channel. Hinchinbrook Island is one of Australia's largest island national parks (39,900ha). Explore pristine wilderness that has been protected since 1932. You can get to Hinchinbrook Island is by water taxi from Cardwell to Missionary Bay.

Thorsborne Trail, Hinchinbrook Island

11. Thorsborne Trail, Hinchinbrook Island

Discover yourself on a legendary adventure!

The famous Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island is a lengthy four-day hike within some of Queensland’s most celebrated scenery. This is a 32km Great Walk that's great for a mental and physical challenge. We're talking about a transformational experience!

Zoe Falls

12. Zoe Falls

A natural infinity pool, overlooking paradise.

This is Australia's best wild vista and natural infinity pool. You'll take a short walk from the beach through rainforest to find this sparkling freshwater pool. This is a sensational instagram holiday photo location overlooking Zoe Bay. Truly stunning.

Goold Island National Park

11. Goold Island National Park


Goold Island is off the coast from Cardwell in Rockingham Bay. It's close to the northern tip of Hinchinbrook Island and is part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Look for fish traps. This park features official camping areas and a real sense of tropical island adventure!

Ramsay Bay

12. Ramsay Bay

A place for new discoveries!

This secluded beach called Ramsay Bay is located on Hinchinbrook Island. It's the longest and most energetic beach on the island. There's a small rocky headland here that provides sensational views. Also, check out the floating pontoon and Ramsay Bay Boardwalk.

Mulligan Falls

13. Mulligan Falls

Camping beside a waterhole.

Mulligan Falls plummet from the mountain tops into a deep secluded swimming hole. There's a camping ground nearby. Watch the water flow over basalt rock washed smooth over time. You'll find trees where you can sling a hammock in the shade too.

Cape Richards

14. Cape Richards

Look out from the northern tip.

Cape Richards is the northernmost tip of Hinchinbrook Island. You'll find a one square kilometre, 140 m high hillock. This is an interesting part of this pristine island environment and World Heritage-listed area. There's the ruins of an abandoned resort here, which was destroyed by cyclone Yasi.

Lucinda & Dungeness

15. Lucinda & Dungeness

Marvel at the world's largest bulk sugar loading facility.

Lucinda is a very small community with a strong connection to the water. The location of Dungeness is within Lucinda. It's home to a six kilometre jetty stretching far out into the Coral Sea. The Lucinda jetty is the world's largest bulk sugar loading facility. It's a photographer's dream. We bought coffee at the Channel Inn Bar and Bistro. The boat ramp is beside it. If you put the boat in here, you can be at Hinchinbrook or one of the other islands in minutes!


16. Ingham

Italy meets North Queensland, Australia!

Ingham really deserves its own page. It's famous for its sugar cane industry and connections to Italy. The annual Australian-Italian Festival brings thousands of visitors to the town to enjoy Italian wine, cuisine, culture and music. Highlights include TYTO Wetlands Centre and Regional Art Gallery.

Butterfly Valley

17. Butterfly Valley

Butterflies, wildlife and serenity.

Butterfly Valley is a 160 acre property that provides holiday accommodation. It's surrounded by pristine National Park. Discover private swimming holes and a waterfall that is only 300 meters from your front door. There's a lookout over Hinchinbrook Island here too. You'll see abundant wildlife as well as butterflies.

Cardwell Pub

18. Cardwell Pub

A true Queensland Aussie Pub experience!

There are multiple licensed venues in Cardwell. In Cardwell, things to do include a visit to the Pub (i.e. Aussie slang for 'Public Bar'). During our holiday, we visited the Marine Hotel. It overlooks the water. We played pool in the area out the back and ordered hot chippies and a drink. You'll find a good example of a 'traditional' Pub experience here.

Music in Cardwell

For regular live music, check out the pubs on the weekends and the regular community markets near the Jetty. Once a year, head over to Ingham to listen to live music at the Australian-Italian Festival. Other music events come to Cardwell too, such as the 2021 'Cardwell Make Music Festival' and annual Cardwell Seafest. Drop into the visitor information centre to hear what's on when you visit.

Top 4 Instagrammable Locations in Cardwell, Queensland, Australia

You'll find a lot of iconic Australian wilderness photo locations around Cardwell, especially if you take a boat out on the waters around Hinchinbrook Island! The top instagrammable location in Cardwell are:

  1. The Lucinda Jetty: During the golden hours, this Jetty comes alive! You'll get stunning shots of a pristine beach, with the Jetty lit by a richly coloured sunset.

  2. The Cardwell Spa Pools: Have a look at the Cardwell Spa Pools on Instagram ! It'll give you an idea of the beautiful shots you can take here!

  3. Attie Creek Falls: If you're into underwater photography in truly pristine water, this is were you'll want to go! Again, you'll find great examples if you check out Attie Creek Waterfalls on Instagram.

  4. Cardwell Jetty: With vast views and a dramatic coastline, there are lots of options here! Bring your GoPro and long extension pole to get some incredible underwater footage down the stairs at the end.

Popular hashtags for Cardwell travel posts on instagram, facebook twitter and other social media include: #cardwell #queensland #northqueenslanddrones #bluewater #crystalcreek #hinchinbrookway #exploretnq #tropicalcoastqueensland #australia #thisisqueensland #discoverqueensland #visitqueensland #seeaustralia #travelqld #tourismqueensland #tourismaustralia #visitqld #beach #queenslanddrones ... and the location (e.g. #ingham #lucinda #hinchinbrook β€ͺ#β€Žattiecreek ) . Consider adding related hashtags such as #beach , #sunset , #wildlife , #waterfallsofinstagram , #waterfall , #waterfalls, #hiking , #adventure and #jetty for example.

Penelope filming at Hinchinbrook Island

Fun in Cardwell: 10 Reasons you must visit Cardwell, Hinchinbrook, Lucinda and Ingham

Ok, let's wrap it up. I've told you about the fun experiences and coastal beauty. In a nutshell, you should visit Cardwell and the surrounding area for the:

  1. Real sense of adventure that's authentically 'North Queensland'

  2. Pristine swimming holes and waterfalls

  3. Affordable accommodation and food.

  4. Instagram worthy adventures and landscapes

  5. Mangrove forests

  6. Access to stunning islands on the Great Barrier Reef

  7. Great attractions that are generally free of charge

  8. Unusual local music festivals

  9. Authentic Aboriginal Art

  10. It's not 'touristy'

When you combine these reasons with the fact that it isn't the 'same old same old' destination, Cardwell should be on your bucket list!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Cardwell known for?

The Cardwell is known for mud crabs. It's loved by hikers and people who enjoy the quietness of virgin rainforest and pristine beaches too. Cardwell was also the first port settlement established by non-indigenous people on the Queensland coast north of Bowen.

Can you swim at Cardwell?

Cardwell has an abundance of crystal creeks and waterfall swimming holes to cool off in. It's very safe to swim in these fresh water locations. Swimming at the beach and in rivers is not safe due to the majestic, but deadly, crocodiles.

Is Cardwell a good place to live?

Cardwell is a fantastic place to live! We have both friends and family living in the area. The community is welcoming and it's great for people who love outdoor adventure.

How far away is Cardwell from Cairns?

Cardwell is 182.0 km from Cairns. It takes about 2 hours and 11 minutes to drive from Cardwell to Cairns via the Bruce Highway (A1). The road is good and a lot of people do this vacation road trip.

Are there crocodiles in Cardwell?

Cardwell is known Croc Country and people in the area always need to be Crocwise. But, you should expect crocodiles in ALL far northern Queensland waterways even if there is no warning sign. The good news is that they don't come into town!

Is Cardwell safe?

Yes! There is very little crime. Also, the waters are very calm and good for boating because of the protection provided by Hinchinbrook Island. As long as you stay out of the waterways and ocean, you can expect a very safe holiday in Cardwell!

Currency in Cardwell

The main currency is the Australian Dollar. It's probably better to exchange your currency before you arrive or withdraw money through an ATM. The local bank ATMs provide currency at reasonable excange rates, but they can charge fees that make it worthwile visiting a money exchange instead.

Mobile Phone Service / Roaming in Cardwell

The main service providers are Optus, Telstra and Vodafone. You'll find other providers too. If you're going outside of a capital city, be sure to ask the phone store if your service provider "uses the Telstra network". Coverage can be a big problem outside of the capital cities in Australia and not all network providers give the same quality and speed of data and mobile reception!

Prepaid SIM cards are easy to buy, but it's easiest to buy them in a company branded shopfront.

The calling code for Australia is +61.

Share your Cardwell Holiday Tips!

I know there are even more things to do and see in Cardwell and I want to hear ideas from you! Comment below or head over to our Travel Fun Music Community Facebook Page , Travel Inspiration Instagram account or join the Our Travel Addict Conversations on Twitter. You can also leave tips in the comments on the Travel Fun Music YouTube Channel . Use the #travelfunmusic hashtag and it’ll show up on our website.

P.S. I've also received these questions. Don't worry - I haven't forgotten you folks! I just haven't had the chance to update this article to answer them yet! Sorry!

  • What to wear / what to pack for a trip to Cardwell

  • The best Hinchinbrook Island Hiking Trails

  • The Perfect Cardwell Travel Itinerary (with a map to download)

  • 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Cardwell

  • Top 10 Free Things To Do in Cardwell

  • Top 10 Things You Can’t Miss in Cardwell

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