A guide to Curtis Island with 2WD

Written by: Sally Sees

Where is Curtis Island?

Curtis Island is located in the Gladstone Harbour, just off the coast of the city of Gladstone. The island is a big one, at over 675km2, with much of the space dedicated as a national park and conservation area. There is a small township, located at the southern end of the island, aptly named South End. With just a handful of houses and a couple of paved roads, this little town is a true hidden gem.

What is Curtis Island known for? 

Curtis Island is popular with locals for four-wheel driving, bush camping, boating and fishing. Beyond the tiny town of South End, there are no more paved roads, and it is 4WD access only.

There are a couple of campgrounds hidden within the Curtis Island National Park for those with a four-wheel drive vehicle, where you can really get away from it all and get back to nature. Curtis Island is also known for the three liquefied natural gas complexes which were constructed to produce LNG for Australia and to export.

How do you get to Curtis Island?

Access to Curtis Island is by boat only. Curtis Island Ferry Services runs a daily service to the island via car barge. You can drive your car, van, caravan or trailer onto the barge, or if you are just coming as a passenger, you can walk on to the ferry with any bags or gear you have. The ferry runs from the Gladstone Marina and arrives at the township of South End on Curtis Island.

Can you visit Curtis Island without a 4WD?

When I stumbled across Curtis Island online, I wasn’t sure if it was accessible to those without a 4WD. The island looked like a raw, natural beauty and I really wanted to experience it, but I was visiting the region in a campervan, and I wasn’t sure if it was possible to do so with a 2WD.

After a quick chat with the Gladstone Region Regional Tourism Organisation and Curtis Island Ferry Services, I discovered it is possible to head over to Curtis Island without a 4WD. You won’t have the whole island at your disposal, but I am so glad I made the decision to go, as there is just something special about this place!


What to do on Curtis Island without a 4WD?

Although you are limited with a 2WD to the small community of South End, there is still plenty to do! Before we had even disembarked on the ferry, we were invited to have morning tea with some of the locals, who gave us some great local knowledge.

There are miles of coastline to explore, with the eastern side of the island offering great beachcombing options. This side of the island is the ‘ocean side’ of the island, and is exposed to strong currents. Swimming is best done on the ‘bay side’ of the island, on the western side of the South End township. If you have kayaks or paddle boards, the waters are calm and inviting. And if you’re lucky like we were, a local might invite you to take their 4WD buggy down on the beach for a cruise along the sand!


Be sure to make the most of the opportunity to watch the sun both rise and set over the water. Sunset is best seen from the small hut, which you will find on the left side of the road as you disembark from the ferry. Sunrise is best seen from the helicopter landing area, which is just to the right of the road from the ferry.

But above all, Curtis Island is a great place to slow down and do nothing. Find a spot along the cliffs to enjoy the panoramic ocean vistas. Keep an eye out for kangaroos at dusk and dawn, wild horses roaming around, and turtles nesting on the beach between October – March. And simply enjoy the slow pace of life on the island.


Tips for visiting Curtis Island   

If you’re planning a visit to Curtis Island, be sure to bring enough water with you for drinking and cooking. There is no potable water available on the island. There is a small restaurant and store at Capricorn Lodge in South End, that sells basic supplies, but be sure to pack most food and drinks. If you want to have a meal at the restaurant, call ahead to confirm what meals are on offer to pre-order. Don’t forget to pack your insect repellent, the bugs can be lethal at dusk and dawn!

Sally manages the sustainable budget travel blog, Sally Sees. She writes about all things sustainable budget travel and believes that travel doesn’t need to cost the earth. Both in how much we spend exploring it, and the impact our travels have on it. Check out her blog here, and follow her adventures on Instagram @sallysees.