Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Michaelmas and Upolo Cays National Park

What's special?

One of the most important seabird breeding sites in the Great Barrier Reef is protected in Michaelmas and Upolo Cays National Park. Unlike nearby Green Island, Michaelmas is a small, low sand cay covered just by grasses and low-growing plants which provide an ideal habitat for thousands of ground-nesting seabirds.

At least 14 species of seabirds have been recorded on the island. Nesting peaks in summer when more than 30,000 birds have been observed. Sooty terns, common noddies and crested terns are the main nesting species.

The surrounding waters are marine park and part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Exploring Michaelmas Cay

Visitors are asked to stay on the beach to avoid disturbing the nesting seabirds. When agitated, the adults fly off, leaving their chicks and eggs unprotected. Chicks are prey to scavenging silver gulls, and embryos can die from exposure.

Enjoy birdwatching, but never handle any birds or eggs. Look for black-naped terns, reef herons, roseate terns, ruddy turnstones and little terns.

Go snorkelling in the beautiful reefs around the island. Make sure your fins do not damage the corals.

Camping is not allowed on the island and visitors are not allowed on the cay between 3pm and 9am.

Beware of marine stingers between October and May. Help protect the island and reef ? anchor in sand and snorkel carefully to protect the coral, and observe fishing, collecting and seabird nesting restrictions.


Wear a hat and sunscreen if walking around the island. No tracks are provided.

Getting there

Michaelmas Cay is 40km north-east of Cairns. Access is by charter or private boat.

Sources & Further reading


Journey Back Through Time
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                                                                                           Author: M.H.Monroe  Email:     Sources & Further reading