Conway National Park
This 22500ha reserve protects the largest area of lowland tropical rainforest in Queensland south of the wet tropics. Hoop pines grow on coastal ridges and in damp gullies, emerging above the rainforest canopy. The forest provides habitats for epiphytes such as ferns and orchids, and mammals, birds and insects.
The park on the central Queensland coast east of Proserpine includes the rainforest-clad Conway Peninsula. Rugged, steep rocky cliffs provide a spectacular 35km long backdrop to the Whitsunday Passage and islands.
Conway range and Whitsundays were formed by volcanic action millions of years ago. The sea level used to be much lower. When levels rose during the last glacial period about 30-50 000 years ago, valleys and low areas were drowned leaving the higher peaks as islands.
Conway National Park is of high biological significance. Twenty-three species are significant nationally and internationally, six species are rare or threatened and three are known only from this area. The endangered Proserpine rock wallaby lives in small areas at the northern end. Like many native mammals, it is active only at night but with a spotlight and patience, you might see it.
The park also has areas of open forest, mangroves, and coastal eucalypt woodland including the vulnerable Morten Bay ash/poplar gum/blue-leafed teatree woodland association. The Repulse Creek inlet mangrove system is the largest area of inlet mangroves in a national park south of the wet tropics.
Turn off the Bruce highway 1km north of Proserpine or 65 km south of Bowen, then travel 26km to Airlie Beach. Do not take the turnoff to Conway Beach. Obtain park information from the Whitsunday Information Centre, cnr Shute Harbour Road and Mandalay Road, 2.5km from Airlie Beach heading towards Shute Harbour.
A picnic ground on Shute Harbour Road, 4km from the Whitsunday Information Centre, has toilets electric barbeques, picnic tables and shelter shed. Gates are locked daily at 5pm.
Bush camp at Swamp Bay, a 2.1km walk form the Shute Harbour Road carpark. Toilets, picnic table and a shelter shed are provided. Gas or fuel stoves are the preferred option for cooking. Pay fees and obtain permits at the Whitsunday Information Centre.
Circuit track (1km circuit)
From the picnic ground, the track passes through lowland rainforest festooned with small vines and crosses a small tidal creek beside an area of cottonwoods and mangroves. These mangroves are immersed only at high water and do not have the well developed aerial roots associated with mangroves on the seaward side. On this track you might see brush-turkeys and orange-footed scrub fowl. A self guiding brochure highlighting features can be obtained from leaflet boxes at either end of the circuit track. Please return the brochure upon completion of the walk.
Hayward Gully (3.2km return)
Vegetation along this extension of the Circuit Track includes the large leaf stinger which can be painful when encountered on bare skin. The track is maintained free of this plant, however, caution should be exercised when any large, hairy, heart-shaped leaves are sighted.
Mt Rooper (2.4km to lookout tower; 5.4km for circuit)
This track passes through low woodland growing in shallow, stony, clay soils. Lophostemons, grass trees and wattles are prominent. Although grass trees here are small, they can grow to 4m. Their pale yellow flowers produced on spear-like stalks provide food for many insects. Mt Rooper lookout has a panoramic vista of Whitsunday Passage and islands. A 2km track connects to the Swamp Bay track. Further down the track, open forest gives way to lowland rainforest. A rocky outcrop half way down forms a natural look over Swamp Bay. Along this track are signs describing Aboriginal use of selected plants in this area.
Swamp Bay track (2.1 km one way)
This track follows the creek at the foot of Mt Rooper. The creek, like most here, flows only in the wet. The beach at Swamp Bay is covered in broken coral washed up by wave action. The view is across Molle Passage to the Molle group of islands.
Coral Beach track (1km one way)
This popular track is contained within Environmental Reserve that adjoins the National Park. From Coral Beach a 700mt walk to The Beak lookout provides more panoramic views of Whitsunday Passage.