Purpose designed as a port in 1864 to ship Burdekin Valley produce to southern markets, Cardwell was regarded as the north Queensland capital until the faster-growing Townsville took over the mantle.
Blessed, however, by its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, Hinchinbrook Island - the largest island national park in the world - and surrounding islands and their attendant snorkelling wonder worlds, Cardwell remains a thriving resort centre with superb views over Rockingham Bay.
Uninhabited save for a small resort at Cape Richards, Hinchinbrook Island abounds in native flora, fauna, crystal streams, palm-fringed beaches and mangrove stands.
Cardwell's natural attractions also embrace the vast Edmund Kennedy National Park, famed for its teeming bird life, which includes herons, egrets, orioles, scrub turkeys, wrens and the magnificent brolga.
Cardwell is within comfortable driving distance of Townsville and Magnetic Island, Tully Gorge and Wallaman Falls which boasts Australia's longest single-drop fall. Reef and gamefishing cruises operate out of Cardwell.