Cape Hillsborough is a small but atmospheric national park. Two beautiful crescent-shaped beaches are fringed by tropical forest; dramatic rocky headlands, with giant volcanic boulders that seem to have tumbled down the hills that form the backdrop to the beaches; trails take you around the peninsular to ancient Aboriginal sites. The thing most people come to see though, are the kangaroos.
If you’re lucky, at sunrise or sunset, there’s a chance that Cape Hillsborough’s famous beach-loving kangaroos will show up. These kangaroos (and wallabies) must be some of the most photographed animals on the planet. Queensland’s tourist literature features them at almost every opportunity, making it seem like there are a constant parade of kangaroos wilfully wandering in front of tourist cameras.
I arrived at Cape Hillsborough on a 500km drive from the Capricorn Coast to Airlie Beach. It wasn’t exactly the most direct route, but I thought it would be fun to see kangaroos on the beach. Leaving the main highway, I found myself on small roads passing through fields of sugar cane. It seemed to get more and more remote the further I went, until I found myself driving on a gravel road.
There was sugar cane as far as the eye could see, and occasional farmhouses with horses in paddock. Just when I thought I’d somehow been transported back to Cuba, I came to an intersection with a paved road and made my way the last few kilometres into the national park. The moment I stepped out of the car I saw two kangaroos. They weren’t on the beach but it seemed like a good omen.
I’d arrived in the afternoon and only had a couple of hours before sunset. I walked to the beach, strolled from one end to the other, then around some jagged rocks to a second beach, that at high tide is only accessible by a trail over the hill. As the sun set, I found myself standing alone on the beach in a natural amphitheatre of wooded hills. The ocean was like my own personal orchestra. It was magnificent.
I drank in this unique atmosphere and wandered back to the main beach. I hoped by now that the most famous kangaroos on the planet would be gathered for their ritual perambulation. I wasn’t alone, seven other people had appeared from somewhere, but where were the kangaroos? I waited, hoping beyond hope that I’d not made the journey for nothing, but not a single marsupial showed up.
It was getting dark and I still had an hour or two to drive before I could rest for the night. As I walked through the car park, something moved in the growing gloom of evening. There, not six feet from my car, was a wallaby. I managed to take a quick photo then it hopped off into the trees, and I drove off through the cane fields into the night.