Wallabie Cape Hillsborough | Wallabies at Cape Hillsborough

How to get your very own “wallabies at dawn” photo with your family

There’s a particular phenomenon that occurs in Cape Hillsborough National Park. Every morning, dozens of wallabies congregate down by the water’s edge on Casuarina Beach in time for sunrise.

There are over 30 different species of wallaby in Australia, mostly found around bushland or wooded forest areas. Glimpses are common, but a longer, closer look is rare, which is what makes their appearance on the beach every morning so special.

Anyone visiting the Cape Hillsborough wallabies can expect a life-changing experience, connecting with nature

Here’s everything you need to know about spotting wallabies in Cape Hillsborough.

 Why wallabies venture down to the beach

Casuarina Beach Wallabies

Wallabies rarely live near coastal areas, preferring dense wooded areas like the rainforest instead. This is because a large part of their diet involves foraging in undergrowth for grasses and foliage. Casuarina Beach is ideally located between the forest parkland and glittering ocean, bringing the wallaby’s natural habitat right to the shoreline. It’s one of the reasons Casuarina is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the state.

Close relatives of the kangaroo, albeit smaller and less aggressive, ‘wallaby’ comes from Indigenous Dharug dialect, and is an informal catch-all term for any macropod smaller than a kangaroo. Even if you’ve never seen them on the ocean shore, you’ll probably have caught sight of them rustling around in the bushland, but it’s rare for so many wallabies to forage in such wide open spaces.

What attracts the marsupials down to the shore is not just the promise of a majestic sunrise, it’s breakfast. The early hours of the morning (specifically, low tide) are prime feeding times for wallabies after high tide transforms the beach into a buffet of mangrove seed pods that are staples of the wallaby’s herbivorous diet.

The best time to see wallabies

Although wallabies may venture down to the beach throughout the day, the best time to see them is approximately an hour either side of sunrise, so make sure you time your visit carefully and remember to set an alarm.

Wallaby-watching etiquette

The wallabies that visit Cape Hillsborough shorelines are the Agile Wallabies and the Eastern Grey Kangaroos. Their small size and timid tempers mean they’re safe to observe but scare easily. As wild animals, they can get spooked if you come too close or make too much loud noise. Some of the wallabies that you’ll see in Cape Hillsborough may also have a joey in their pouch. You might catch a glimpse of the baby poking its head out, but be aware that the mother will be extra alert with a little one on board.

Naturally, you’ll want to remember this day so taking photos is encouraged. Just be cautious of any flash photography or loud sounds.

Before you arrive, book a Wallaby Tour with Ranger Sam. She’s one of the parkland’s resident rangers who protect the wildlife and ensure that the forest remains in pristine condition. She’ll get you as close as possible to the wallabies without disturbing their morning routine, and show you the best viewing spots on the beach.

Along the tour, Sam will also teach you everything you need to know about the Cape Hillsborough eco-system and the resident wallabies and kangaroos that visit daily. Her expert guidance will enhance your appreciation of the wallaby-watching experience, and ensure that you leave the parkland with a lasting memory and a deep appreciation for Australia’s unique and wondrous wildlife.

Getting there

Located just 52km from Mackay, Casuarina Beach is where the Cape Hillsborough National Park meets the East Coast.

Being so remote, you will need a set of wheels to get to Cape Hillsborough. So, if you’re visiting Mackay, be sure to hire a car. If you’re driving north on a road trip from Brisbane, take the Pacific Coast Way for an unforgettable ride.

Where to stay

The best way to make sure you’re there for sunrise is to sleep on site. Really immerse yourself in the parkland and camp under the stars in a powered or unpowered site at the  Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park, or along Smalleys Beach, which is less than a 10 minute drive away. Both sites have cooking facilities and shower amenities so they’re not as heavy duty as other off-grid camping sites.

To dial up the comfort factor, head to Seaforth where you’ll find Halliday Bay Resort, and Seaforth Holiday Units for self-contained accommodation that feels like home. The trade off is waking up earlier to get to Casuarina before sunrise, but that’s a pretty good deal.

And while you’re in Cape Hillsborough, make sure you spend some time exploring the rest of the parkland and the Hibiscus Coast.