Cape Hillsborough began forming approximately thirty million years ago when lava flows covered the area. A remnant of this time is Pinnacle Rock – the Volcanic plug which stands beside the road to Cape Hillsborough. The area was alternately covered with silt and more lava flows and pounded by surf for countless centuries. Today, the battle-scarred rocks at the edges of the Cape’s twin beaches stand as testimony to the eons of geological upheaval.

The first human inhabitants of the area were the Juipera Aborigines. Evidence of their habitation can be seen today in the shell middens and rock fish trap at Hidden Valley and in many stone axe-heads found in the area.  Shell fish were collected from nearby mangroves and roasted over open fires and the discarded shells piled into middens.  Other evidence of aboriginal occupation at Cape Hillsborough includes fire places found approximately one metre below the present soil surface.

The first recorded European to see Cape Hillsborough was Captian Cook, who on June 2nd 1770, named the headland after the Earl of  Hillsborough. By the end of the 1860’s, the first farms had been established in the area.

Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park was developed in the early 1950’s by Rex and Vi Risley.  They established a resort that consisted of holiday units, caravan park and shop.  The area was gazetted National Park with 2.5 hectares set aside for a tourist park.  The Risley’s applied for the freehold title and were granted it.

The Risley’s spent many hard years clearing a track into the area.  Rex began clearing the track by hand and contracted a D7 Caterpillar bulldozer to remove the larger trees.  The road today is still in the same position that Rex Risley surveyed in those early days.  The road to Hidden valley and the circular walking track was also initiated by the Risley’s.  In 1966 National Parks took over the maintenance of the area and opened it up for public use.  They created other walking tracks and the picnic area.

The Risley’s established running water (from a spring up the hill), electricity and telephone connections to the resort.  In 1959 the first building, which was the shop and residence (now the conference room), was pre-cut in Mackay and transported to the resort by boat.  The resort was opened for business in 1966.   The Risley’s sold the resort in 1975. A fully sealed road all of the way to Cape Hillsborough was completed in 1993.  The resort was connected to town water supply in 2001.