Bowling Green Bay National Park

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Alligator Creek in Bowling Green Bay National Park
Alligator Creek is a popular attraction in the national park. PIC: Tourism QLD

The magnificent national park at Bowling Green Bay in tropical north Queensland is at first glance a perfect camping destination for grey nomads.

Located just 30 kilometres south of Townsville and 60 kilometres north of Ayr, it looks like an ideal base from which to discover the magic of this spectacular part of the world. Sadly for most grey nomads however the only camping area with facilities, Alligator Creek, is off limits due to space limitations.

The 16 campsites here have been ruled suitable only for tents and small campervans. That being said, the park’s proximity to major centres and other camping locations, still make it easily accessible … and its beauty make it worth the effort. Covering nearly 60,000 hectares of coastal and mountainous country, habitats here range from mangroves at sea level to rainforests on the mountain tops.

The majestic Mount Elliot rises 1,210 metres from the wetlands, saltpans and mangroves of the coastal plain, dominating the landscape. Close by is the similarly impressive Saddle Mountain. The park also incorporates the floodplains of the Haughton River and boasts one of the largest wetlands on the east coast. It is famously composed of mud and sand flats, swamps, isolated hills, mangrove forests and inter-tidal flats. Behind the areas where mangroves grow are bare salt pan.

The wetland has gained international recognition as a significant habitat for waterfowl, and has been listed under the Ramsar Convention. In the summer months at least 30 different species of birds migrate to the park from various parts of the world. For twitchers, it’s a great place to spot brolga, magpie geese, whistling duck, black duck, spoonbill, ibis, jabiru and scarlet honeyeaters.

Mount Elliot has numerous creeks on its eastern slopes, including Alligator Creek which descends in a series of cascades, deep pools and waterfalls. The best way to truly appreciate the diversity of the park is, of course, to get out there amongst it, and there are a range of walks that enable visitors to do just that. The Alligator Creek boardwalk is an easy stroll from the Alligator Creek day-use area through the forest to the banks of Alligator Creek.

The slightly more challenging three-kilometre Cockatoo Creek track traverses open woodland before rewarding hikers by arriving at the clear rock pools of Cockatoo Creek.

For those game enough to tackle the 17-kilometre Alligator Falls track, the route continues on following powerlines through a few boulder scrambling and creek crossing challenges before arriving at the falls themselves.

Sometimes known as the southern gateway to the tropical rainforests, Bowling Green Bay is perfectly located for passing grey nomads just a few kilometres off the Bruce Highway and – for so many reasons – deserves a spot on that ever more crowded Big Lap itinerary.

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