Michaelmas Cay National Park is located on the world famous Cairns Great Barrier Reef and is protected under the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area. Michaelmas Cay is located 40 kilometers North-East of Cairns. Daily access to Michaelmas Cay is by commercial reef tour companies or private boats and no overnight camping is permitted on the coral cay island at all.
Cairns reef tours depart daily from Cairns Marlin Marina in Spence Street and travel times out to the sand cay reef is around ninety minutes. Cairns reef tours can only access Michaelmas Cay via the northern channel. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has kindly provided three public moorings for private use with each boat occupying these moorings for a limited time to allow others to visit and enjoy the access onto the sand cay and see the migrating flocks of birds
Michaelmas Cay was formed entirely by plants and animals. Michaelmas Cay is a small low sand cay covered by low-lying vegetation—an ideal habitat for thousands of ground-nesting seabirds. Michaelmas Cay is one of the seven most important seabird breeding areas on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. All year round sea birds such as Sooty Terns, the Common Noddy and the Crested Tern can all be seen nesting on Michaelmas Cay. During the peak of the breeding season in summer up to 20,000 pairs of sea birds make Michaelmas Cay their home, making Michaelmas Cay a great place for bird watching and avid bird photographers and ornithologists.
Michaelmas Cay is the only place within the Cairns section of the Great Barrier Reef that provides an opportunity for visitors to experience a seabird rookery with high species diversity and large bird populations. Michaelmas Cay is also the only local bird rookery supporting breeding populations of Sooty Terns and Common Noddies and is the most significant local rookery for Crested Terns and lesser Crested Terns. It has been recorded that Michaelmas Cay is the southernmost limit of Sooty Tern breeding and the northernmost breeding limit of the Crested Tern. Nowhere else are these two species found breeding together in such vast numbers and in such an accessible location and therefore it is vital to ensure the protection and privacy of these migratory sea birds.