Cardwell is a small tropical coastal town of 1500 people that straddles the Bruce Highway and fronts the magnificent Hinchinbrook Channel and Island on the Cassowary Coast in Far North Queensland, Australia.
While Cardwell was settled in 1864, apart from sugarcane farms, it has avoided substantial development. The town has most tourist facilities and provides the gateway to Hinchinbrook Island as well as the backing hinterland.
Cardwell Beach is well protected by Hinchinbrook Island and is usually calm. There is a jetty and boat ramp which are only useable at high tide, so watch the tides if swimming or boating. The beach faces east and is 6.5 km long, extending from the wide, sandy tidal shoals of Meunga Creek in the north to the low, mangrove-fringed mud flats of Oyster Point in the south.
West of Cardwell the rugged topography of the Cardwell Range intercepts the trade winds resulting in high rainfall. The coastal escarpment is covered in rainforest which transitions to the west to eucalypt woodland and tropical savanna. Cardwell Range biodiversity has been protected by the introduction of Forestry Reserves, National Parks and Queensland World Heritage Wet Tropics Areas. Seaward lies the Coral Sea, the Great Barrier Reef and Lagoon, Rockingham Bay and Hinchinbrook Channel. Islands are visible from Cardwell including protected areas i.e. Hinchinbrook Island, Goold Island and the Brook Islands Group.
Oyster Point is one kilometre south of Cardwell. With the establishment of Port Hinchinbrook, the Marina Public Boat Ramp provides year round access to the protected marine environments of Hinchinbrook Channel, Estuaries, Islands and Great Barrier Reef. The Cardwell Jetty is an important infrastructure asset, where visitors can socialize and view the coastal scenery; and anglers can enjoy both day and evening fishing activities.
The Aboriginal heritage is defined by Language Groups; the boundary of the Dyirbal and Warrgamay lies between Cardwell and Tully in the north. The first Europeans settled in the area in January 1864 in order to create a port initially called "Port Hinchinbrook". Subsequently, the town was renamed after Edward Cardwell, 1st Viscount Cardwell.
Cardwell was the first port settlement on the Queensland coast north of Port Denison (Bowen). The first party of non-indigenous people to settle at Rockingham Bay arrived in January 1864. They were 20 in number and they came from Bowen on the small schooner Policeman with the 3 ton cutter Heather Bell in tow.
Cardwell also has a granite monument erected in memory of Walter Jervoise Scott, a pioneer of the Valley of Lagoons. The monument was sent from Great Britain by his brothers intended for his grave at Valley of Lagoons. On arrival at Cardwell, it was found to be too large to transport up the rough track to Valley of Lagoons, so it was erected in Cardwell instead.