Like most adventure lovers, it had always been our dream to take a Cape York trip. I spent hours and hours researching and planning the best Brisbane to Cape York itinerary and trying to determine whether we were best to join a tag along 4WD tour or whether we were brave enough to make the Cape York road trip alone.
In the end, mainly due to the need to be completely flexible with our dates, we decided we’d give it a crack and made the road trip to Cape York alone. So we took our off road camper trailer and our trusty Pajero Sport and with my copious amounts of notes which I took from spending hours and hours learning from other experienced Cape York travellers – set off for our 3 week Cape York holiday.
While thanks to other general travellers, I came up with a pretty detailed Cape York trip itinerary before leaving – I will admit that this was one of the hardest trips to plan. Unfortunately, there is limited Cape York travel information online and when talking to other travellers, while some make it sound like it’s a near impossible mission, others make it sound like a walk in the park – I knew it was probably going to be neither.
So we did as much Cape York trip preparation as we could and with a huge dose of adventure, we set off on what turned out to be a trip of a lifetime!
If you’re planning a Cape York trip, this is a great guide for you to read. In this guide, I’m going to cover off, day by day, our Brisbane to Cape York road trip to help you put together your own itinerary. I’ll also cover things like:
- All the best things to do in Cape York
- Cape York accommodation and camping suggestions
- Our Cape York trip cost
- Tips on Cape York driving
- Tips on the best time to go to Cape York
This guide won’t go into loads of details about each of the Cape York towns we visited – however, it will link to separate articles on this.
Also, just so you know upfront – we are not hardcore 4×4 enthusiasts – so we certainly took the easy route to the Cape York tip and back. So if you’re looking for a guide on all the gnarliest 4wd tracks on the cape – sorry, this isn’t the Cape York travel guide for you. However, if you’re the average punter looking for an amazing adventure – then read on – I’ve got you covered with some great Cape York information.
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- 1 Our Cape York Trip: Brisbane to Cape York Itinerary
- 1.1 Day 1: Brisbane to Marlborough (Drive 11 hours – 780 km)
- 1.2 Day 2: Marlborough to Rollingstone (Drive 8.5 hours – 676 km)
- 1.3 Day 3: Rollingstone
- 1.4 Day 4: Rollingstone to Laura (Drive 8.5 hours – 576 km)
- 1.5 Day 5: Laura
- 1.6 Day 6: Laura to Bramwell (Drive 8 hours – 475 km)
- 1.7 Day 7: Bramwell – Day Trip to OTT
- 1.8 Day 8: Bramwell to Punsand Bay (Drive 6 hours – 237 km)
- 1.9 Day 8: Punsand Bay
- 1.10 Day 9: Punsand to the Tip / Pajinka
- 1.11 Day 10: Punsand Bay to Loyalty Beach (Drive 45 minutes – 35 km)
- 1.12 Day 11: Loyalty Beach
- 1.13 Day 12: Day Trip to Thursday Island
- 1.14 Day 13: Seisia to Eliot Falls (Drive 4.5 hours – 110 km)
- 1.15 Day 14: Eliot Falls to Weipa (Drive 4.5 hours – 300 km)
- 1.16 Day 15: Weipa
- 1.17 Day 16: Weipa to Chili Beach (Drive 4.5 hours – 285 km)
- 1.18 Day 17: Chili Beach to Archer River (Drive 3.25 hours – 162 km)
- 1.19 Day 18: Archer River to Ravenshoe (Drive 8 hours – 644 km)
- 1.20 Day 19: Ravenshoe to Charters Towers (Drive 3.25 hours – 162 km)
- 1.21 Day 20: Charters Towers
- 1.22 Day 21: Charters Towers to Injune (Drive 8.5 hours – 787 km)
- 1.23 Day 22: Injune to Home (Drive 6.25 hours – 556 km)
- 2 Best Time to go to Cape York
- 3 How Long to do Cape York
- 4 Cape York Trip Preparation Tips
- 5 Are Modifications to your 4WD Required?
- 6 Cape York Alcohol Restrictions
- 7 Cape York – Our Verdict
Our Cape York Trip: Brisbane to Cape York Itinerary
In this Cape York holidays guide, I will be relatively brief and link you to my more detailed articles where applicable. The purpose of this Cape York guide is to simply provide you with a detailed Cape York 4WD trip itinerary, so you don’t need to worry about planning your own trip day by day.
We live in Brisbane, but you may well live further than that, closer to the tip or somewhere completely different. That’s ok – just start on whichever day covers a town you’ll be passing through and go from there.
Also, this is the Cape York 4WD itinerary that we took – you, of course, can take way longer and see loads more or take more time going up to the Cape and back – there are loads of ways you can make this trip. We were trying to make the trip within 3 weeks and spend most of our time in Cape York, so we went up and back in the fastest time that was comfortable for us. So this is just a Cape York suggested itinerary – to get you started.
Throughout this itinerary, if I think we could have done something better – I’ll mention this so you can learn from our mistakes.
Also, as I said, we took our camper trailer with us, but along the way, I’m going to cover off where you can stay, even for those families not planning on a Cape York camping trip.
Day 1: Brisbane to Marlborough (Drive 11 hours – 780 km)
Day one saw us leave home bright and early at 6 am. It was an uneventful day, consisting of a few toilet breaks and about 30 minutes for lunch in Gin Gin.
Thanks to a combination of books, iPads and podcasts, the day went surprisingly fast. Although the last hour or two was a killer.
We found most of the toilet stops within towns had some good little playgrounds for families with young children.
We arrived at our stop for the night at 5 pm.
Accommodation: Marlborough Motel & Caravan Park cost us $25 for the night for the 3 of us on an unpowered site. They do have motel rooms available if you’re not camping. Click here for our full review and everything you need to know about staying at the Marlborough Motel & Caravan Park.
If you’re coming from down south and planning on stopping a few days in Brisbane – click here for a guide on things to see and do in Brisbane.
Day 2: Marlborough to Rollingstone (Drive 8.5 hours – 676 km)
On day two, we were on the road by 8 am and fueled in Marlborough before we left– there is a petrol station right across the road.
We pretty much drove straight through again until we reached Rollingstone Beachfront Resort. We had a quick stop for lunch at a rest stop just outside of Mackay.
We arrived in Rollingstone around 4.30 pm and had a great beachfront powered site.
Accommodation: Rollingstone Beachfront Resort cost us $116.10 for a beachfront powered site for 2 nights for the 3 of us. They do have cabins available if you’re not camping. Click here for our full review and everything you need to know about staying at the Rollingstone Beach Front Resort.
Fuel: Marlborough $83.23 and Ayr $70.14
If you’re stopping for a few days in Townsville – click here for a guide on things to do and see in Townsville.
Day 3: Rollingstone
We had a late start to the day and a swim in the pool. We then headed to the local golf club – Mystic Sands Golf Course for lunch ($56 for 3 meals, 2 wines and 1 soft drink). You can camp here if you’re on a budget and fully self sufficient as there are no facilities.
After lunch, we headed to the beautiful Paluma Range National Park – an afternoon just doesn’t do this park justice – there is so much to see. It’s only about a 20-30 minute drive to the park from Rollingstone.
There is a range of places to visit in the national park, probably the most popular being Little Crystal Creek. This is probably one of the most picturesque waterfalls and rock pools I’ve ever seen – it’s just gorgeous. There are various pools with different depths, so perfect for kids of all ages to swim in. It is super cold though!
We also visited Big Crystal Creek, which is in a different area of the National Park. Here there is sliding rocks and Paradise Waterhole.
Sliding Rocks isn’t signposted – but just follow the signs to Big Crystal Creek and the road eventually stops. There is no sign here and you’ll probably be like us and have no idea which way to go. But just walk through the boom gate and follow the track to sliding rocks. It’s about 100 metres and well worth the walk. The kids will love swimming here.
Then we backtracked to the Paradise Waterhole – this place is huge! And the water is crystal clear – no wonder it’s named Big Crystal Creek. There is a campground here and it would be a great place to stay while exploring the National Park.
It was then back to camp to watch the sunset from our campsite at Rollingstone Beachfront Resort.
Accommodation: Rollingstone Beachfront Resort
Day 4: Rollingstone to Laura (Drive 8.5 hours – 576 km)
We woke up to a brilliant sunrise over the beach at Rollingstone – they are spectacular here and well worth the early wake up time.
We were on the road by 8.30 am, headed for Laura – where most people start their Cape York adventure from. It’s also the last of the continuous bitumen road – so enjoy it while you can!
For lunch, we stopped in Milla Milla for some quick sandwiches on the side of the road and then another stop in Lakeland – the gateway to Cape York. There is a little interpretative centre here with some general information about Cape York, including its history, local people, wildlife and fauna.
It was then onwards to Laura where we pulled into the Peninsular Hotel around. I found in my research that the hotel is called a few different things – Laura Hotel, Quinkan Hotel – but its official name is the Peninsular Hotel.
Behind the hotel is a lovely little grassy and shady campground – there are both powered and unpowered sites. There is no camp kitchen and the amenities are basic – but we quite liked it here. Click here for more details about staying at the Peninsular Hotel.
Accommodation: Peninsula Hotel cost us $35 per night for a powered site for the 3 of us. For non camping accommodation – there are motel rooms across the road at Laura Motel. Click here for our full guide on where to stay in Laura.
Fuel: Can’t remember where?? $76.62
Day 5: Laura
After breakfast, we headed across to the Quinkan Cultural Centre. This is an excellent little centre that has information about Laura with a focus on the indigenous people. It’s $10 per adult and kids are free.
After the centre, we drove to the Split Rock Art Galleries – considered one of the most significant rock art sites in the world. It costs $10 per person to visit Split Rock while we were there, but I understand it has increased to $30 per person and payment is via an honesty system.
If you prefer, you can do a guided tour of Split Rock – you can arrange this via the Quinkan Cultural Centre. They are expensive though, at $190 per adult and kids over 12 being $85 – kids under 12 are free.
We then headed back to camp for lunch. Afterwards, we headed out to the Old Laura Homestead, about a 30 minute drive out of town.
On return to camp, we walked across the road to Mary Harris Memorial Park, which has a few old relics from when Laura was a gold rush town. We then drove out to the old railway bridge, which is just out of town.
Accommodation: Peninsula Hotel
Fuel: Laura General Store $93.71
Day 6: Laura to Bramwell (Drive 8 hours – 475 km)
It was recommended to us to air down before leaving Laura – so we did. However, the reality is the majority of the road is bitumen – it’s at least 50 km or more of bitumen straight out of Laura. Even when the road is gravel, it’s in excellent condition and you probably don’t need to air down. So I’d suggest waiting to air down until you think it’s necessary.
From Laura, we left around 8.30 am and arrived in Coen at 12.30 pm. Here we headed straight to the Exchange Hotel for lunch. Lunch isn’t cheap, with meals starting at $20 and only burgers on offer. However, the serves are huge and you could easily share one between two people. They have kids meals too for $10.
After lunch, we headed across the road to Cape York Heritage House. It’s right on the corner of the main street and just looks like a residential home. It’s not staffed, but you can go in and look around. There is a range of items and photographs on display mostly from the gold rush era.
We had considered stopping and checking out the Bend but were short on time, so we didn’t. The Bend is a popular riverside spot that is a great place for swimming. The water is crystal clear and there aren’t any crocs. It’s also a popular free campsite.
To reach the Bend, drive north out of town and you’ll eventually find a spot on the right hand side of the road. It’s usually easy to spot as there will be plenty of cars there.
From Coen, we drove a further 3.5 hours to Bramwell Station Tourist Park. First though, we stopped at the turn off to Bramwell for a photo stop at the sign. It’s becoming a popular spot to take a photo – probably because it’s one of the first signs you come along which mentions Cape York.
If you’re going to Weipa, at this point, you will continue on the Peninsular Development Road. Or a little back before this turn off is a road heading east to Portland, Chili Beach, Iron Range National Park or Lockhart River. We visited both Weipa and Chili Beach on the way back.
We arrived at Bramwell Station Tourist Park at around 4.30 pm.
Accommodation: Bramwell Station Tourist Park – $25 per vehicle for an unpowered site. There are also rooms for $112 or ensuite rooms for $200 per night. Click here for our full review and everything you need to know about staying at Bramwell Station Tourist Park.
Fuel: Archer River Roadhouse $85.05
Day 7: Bramwell – Day Trip to OTT
A few kilometres north of Bramwell Station is the Bramwell Roadhouse – you can camp here too. This is also the start of the famous Old Telegraph Track (also called the OTT or Tele Track). You need to have all the 4WD gear to safely do this track, as well as plenty of experience. I’d also recommend you go with at least one other vehicle for assistance if you get in trouble.
We were travelling alone and didn’t think it was wise to do the entire track. However, you can duck in and out of the track from various points where you can still see some of the OTT highlights.
So while in Bramwell, we decided to go and check out a few places. First, we drove the start of the track for 3 km until we reached Palm Creek. The water level was low and we could have crossed it. But decided not to and just watched a few others cross before turning back.
We then drove around 44 km north, where we took the Gunshot bypass to the infamous Gunshot Creek. The track is well signposted; just keep a lookout for it. It’s then another 25 km to the OTT. The bypass road is pretty similar to the main road – it is very bumpy, so be prepared.
Once you reach the OTT, it’s 7kms to Gunshot. This section of the OTT is relatively easy to drive. You’ll certainly need some 4WD experience though, but it’s nothing even beginners like us couldn’t handle.
We then pulled up at Gunshot and spent an hour or so watching others cross the creek. The actual infamous Gunshot is pretty crazy stuff and we didn’t see anyone do it. But there are a few different options for crossing Gunshot creek, which doesn’t involve going that way. Still – it’s a hairy crossing and certainly one for only those well experienced.
You could travel north from Gunshot along the OTT to Cockatoo Creek; however it was getting late in the day and we headed back to camp.
Just a note about fuel. The campers next to us at Bramwell left bright and early; we took it easy and left a few hours later. Anyway, we saw them when we stopped at the Roadhouse a few hours after they left. We chatted with them and they said the petrol station had run out of fuel and so they had been waiting there all morning as a truck was coming to fill the tanks up.
This made us always top up on fuel at almost every station we passed from here on in, as we didn’t want to get stuck waiting like these poor buggers.
Accommodation: Bramwell Station Tourist Park
Fuel: Bramwell Junction Roadhouse $83.17
Day 8: Bramwell to Punsand Bay (Drive 6 hours – 237 km)
We left Bramwell Station at 8.30 am bound for Australia’s most northern campground – Cape York Camping, Punsand Bay.
If you want to look at a few more places on the OTT, you can also do this from this section of the trip. You can enter the OTT to see Fruit Bat Falls, Eliot Falls and Twin Falls – we did this on the way back.
Also, just south of Fruit Bat Falls, there is also another well signposted section you can enter and see Sailor Creek – it’s not very far at all from the main road.
From Bramwell to Jardine would have to be some of the worst gravel roads we encountered on the trip. So be prepared for some crazy bumps! Although conditions change all the time and you may be lucky and the road might be freshly graded when you come through.
We arrived at Jardine Ferry by 11.30 am, which we were happy about as we heard they closed for lunch from 12 to 1 pm. However, we arrived to a million cars lined up waiting for the ferry. Apparently, the ferry had broken down before we got there and so now there was a serious wait to cross. We waited 1.5 hours before it was our turn – thankfully, they didn’t end up closing for lunch.
The ferry was $130 return for the car and our trailer.
From the Jardine Ferry, we drove another 30 minutes or so and stopped at the Bamaga supermarket. It’s a good sized supermarket but expect the variety to be limited and items much more expensive than regular prices.
From Bamaga, we stopped into the Croc Tent for a bit of a look – this is the place to go if you want to buy any souvenirs for your trip. They have Cape York branded everything!
Also, across the road from Croc Tent, you can see the old Jardine Homestead. Unfortunately, it’s quite derelict now and you can go near the old buildings – but it’s interesting to see this old historical building.
We then arrived at Cape York Camping, Punsand Bay, where we had booked a powered site for 3 nights. It’s a great spot right on the beach with a bar, restaurant, laundry and swimming pool.
Accommodation: Cape York Camping Punsand Bay – $70 per night for a powered site for the 3 of us. They also have a range of other accommodation options if you’re not camping. Click here for our full review and everything you need to know about staying at Cape York Camping Punsand Bay.
Day 8: Punsand Bay
After more than a week on the road, this was always going to be a chill out day. So we spent the day by the pool. Andy and I caught up on some work and Myla made new friends – it was a great way to recharge the batteries after being on the road and Punsand Bay is the perfect place to do it.
If you don’t need a rest day – you can skip this day and move straight to day 9.
Accommodation: Cape York Camping Punsand Bay
Day 9: Punsand to the Tip / Pajinka
Today was the day we reached the very tip of Queensland – in fact, the very tip of Australia!
It’s just a short drive to the tip – formally known as Pajinka. However, if you’re going in peak season, I’d recommend going early as otherwise you’ll be crowded by people coming from further afield – after all, this is what people have come for.
There is a small car park at the tip and it’s about a 15 minutes walk to the very tip. The walk does take you over many rocks and uneven surfaces, so it is best to wear enclosed shoes. Another option is to go at low tide and walk around via the beach – however, I recommend going up over the rocks if you can because the views are phenomenal!
Once we returned, we wandered around Frangipani Beach – the beach where the car park is located. It is so beautiful here – such a shame this is croc territory and you can swim in the electric blue waters here.
From the car park, it’s just a short drive and you’ll come across some old abandoned buildings. This is actually an old 5 star resort which was called Cape York Wilderness Lodge. We popped in for a look where you can see the reception area, bar, pool and a few more old buildings.
We then headed out to Somerset, which is just south of the tip. This was the very first administrative centre of Cape York and the first permanent white settlement. It’s crazy to think this, as the area is so remote and isolated and the landscape so harsh and rugged.
In 1864, Police Magistrate John Jardine was sent here to oversee the region. Unfortunately, there was much rivalry between Jardine and the local Indigenous population resulting in significant Indigenous deaths. You can see some old graves here from this time, including that of Jardine.
Apart from the graves, there is pretty much nothing here today, apart from a few old relics, although unfortunately, much of it is not signposted and difficult to find. So we couldn’t find much of it.
Apparently, you can see some old ruins from the original homestead and there are some caves with Aboriginal paintings. Have a look at this article which may help you find some of these places.
Also, at Somerset is the start of the 4WD track called Five Beaches Drive. We didn’t take this drive, but we heard from other travellers that it’s a lovely drive. The drive starts from Somerset Beach, where you take the track up over the headland down to Fly Point, then Vallack Point, Nanthau and Narau Beaches. So including Somerset – that’s 5 beaches.
We then returned to camp and spent the remainder of the day relaxing around the pool area at Punsand Bay.
Accommodation: Cape York Camping Punsand Bay
Day 10: Punsand Bay to Loyalty Beach (Drive 45 minutes – 35 km)
We decided to break up our time at the tip between Punsand Bay and Loyalty Beach. Punsand Bay is a bit expensive, whereas Loyalty Beach is about half the price. However, if I had my time again, I’d probably just stay put at one or the other and my recommendation would be Punsand Bay. You can always visit either one of them for meals at their restaurant – which I’d recommend you do.
Anyway – so we drove down to Loyalty Beach and set up camp, right on the beachfront. We caught up on some washing and relaxed.
One of my favourite places at Loyalty Beach was down at DJ’s Restaurant and Bar – you can read more about it by clicking the link below. They open at 5 pm and we were down there on the dot to relax with a drink in hand and watch the sunset.
Accommodation: Loyalty Beach Campground – $37 per night for an unpowered site for the 3 of us. They also have a range of other accommodation options if you’re not camping. Click here for our full review and everything you need to know about staying at Loyalty Beach Campground.
Day 11: Loyalty Beach
Today we went out in search of all the old WWII plane wrecks which are in the area. If you’re short on time, you could do this the same day as you head out to the tip and Somerset.
Make sure you pick up a map while you’re at the Croc Tent, as this will help you located where all the wrecks are. Some are easier to find than others, but you’ll be able to see the DC3 -air force courier that crashed on its landing approach killing all six crew on board and Beaufort Bomber just 2kms past DC3.
We then headed to Mutee Heads (pictured above) for a picnic lunch. This is such a beautiful part of Cape York and a lot of people chose to camp here and fish – I can see why.
We then headed back to Loyalty Beach, stopping in at New Mapoon first. Just next to the council building is the New Mapoon Indigenous Knowledge Centre. It’s just a small outdoor information centre that provides information about how the Aboriginal people were forcibly removed from their homes in Mapoon.
We spent the remaining part of the day relaxing around camp and of course, we headed to DJs at 5 pm for a drink and watched the sunset.
Accommodation: Loyalty Beach Campground.
Day 12: Day Trip to Thursday Island
Today we went on a day trip with Cape York Adventures to see some of the Torres Strait Islands. The tour started at 8.15 am from the wharf in Seisa, just a 10 minute drive from our campsite at Loyalty Beach.
The tour took us to three islands – Horn Island, Thursday Island and Roko Island – you can read more about our trip here (coming soon) or see our YouTube video, which shows some of the highlights from our trip.
The day trip is not cheap by any means, but I mean, we weren’t going to be all this way and not visit the Torres Strait Islands. The trip was $250 per adult and $140 per child.
Accommodation: Loyalty Beach Campground.
Day 13: Seisia to Eliot Falls (Drive 4.5 hours – 110 km)
It was time to start making out way down the Cape – but our adventures weren’t over – the best was still to come!
We headed back to the Jardine Ferry and once again, it had broken down, so the lineup of cars was even longer than when we came up. We waited around 2 hours for our turn to cross the river!
We had intended to have a bit of a look at Nolan’s Creek on the OTT without crossing it, but given how long we waited at the ferry, we decided to push on. Apparently, there is a track some 28kms north of the Fruit Bat Falls where you can go in for a sticky beak. If you have a Hema Map, it’s marked there.
You can also go into the OTT from Bamaga Road to see Sam Creek – there is a gorgeous swimming hole here that I’ve seen some photographs of and looks lovely. To get here, there is a track some 15 km north of Fruit Bat Falls – again, if you have a Hema Map, it’s marked there.
We were a bit nervous about getting to Eliot Falls as it’s on the OTT and you need to cross Scrubby Creek. All the maps have it listed as a deep and long crossing and given we are not overly experienced 4WDers; this worried us a little.
However, arriving at Scrubby Creek, we found a small detour that still crosses the creek but has a causeway across the creek. We did it with ease, even with our heavy camper trailer on the back.
We arrived at our campsite at Eliot Falls, set up camp, and headed straight out to swim in the waterfalls and rockpools. The waterfalls and rock pools are amazing! We spent the whole afternoon at The Saucepan, Eliot Falls and Twin Falls. It’s no more than a 15 minute walk to the various falls from your campsite and just a few minute walk between each of them.
Accommodation: Eliot Falls Campground – $20.55 per night for an unpowered site for the 3 of us. Click here for our full review and everything you need to know about staying at Eliot Falls Campground.
Fuel: Bamaga BP $36.95
Day 14: Eliot Falls to Weipa (Drive 4.5 hours – 300 km)
We had intended on spending two nights at Eliot Falls and I would recommend you do that. However, at the last minute, we decided to squeeze a trip to Weipa into our itinerary. If you are super short on time, one night at Eliot Falls is certainly doable.
So we got up reasonably early, packed up our campsite and headed out to Fruit Bat Falls. This was hands down the highlight of our entire trip! This place is amazing. It’s only 10 km from the Eliot Falls campground, but the roads are a bit rough, so it takes around 30 minutes to get to Fruit Bat Falls.
You could spend hours here; it’s so amazing – if you go with kids – they will never want to leave! This is why having at least two nights here is recommended.
We then continued to Weipa, which is another 4.5 hours or around 295 km.
If you want to see a little more of the OTT, you could make a detour to Sailor Creek on the way. From where you exit from Fruit Bat Falls onto Bamaga Road, just 7km away, there is an entrance to the OTT. From here, it’s just a short drive to Sailor Creek.
Once in Weipa, before checking into the campground, we stopped at the Woolworths in town to stock up on supplies. It was great to see a full size supermarket finally!
Weipa was so busy that we couldn’t get a campsite there, but they had a cheap cabin there which we booked into. So it was kind of nice not having to set up our camper trailer!
After settling into our cabin, we went down the beach to enjoy one of the spectacular Weipa sunsets we had heard so much about.
Accommodation: Weipa Campground – we paid $240 for two nights for a budget cabin with a kitchenette but no bathroom. Campsites start at $37. Click here for our full review and everything you need to know about staying at Weipa Beach Campground.
Day 15: Weipa
We really wanted to do the mine tour in Weipa, but given this was a last minute addition to our itinerary, they were booked out during our stay. However, I also heard good things about the Western Cape Eco Tours, so we booked into their Wildlife Tour and their Sunset Tour – both similar but slightly different.
The Wildlife Tour is dependent on the tides and for us, the tour started at 8.30 am. It is a cruise through the local waterways, searching for local wildlife, including birds and of course, crocodiles!
After the Wildlife Tour, we checked out the Weipa Cultural Centre, which is just a short walk from where the boat disembarks.
We then headed back to the campground and spent some time in the pool.
In the afternoon, we headed back out with Western Cape Eco Tours for their Sunset Cruise. While cruising the same waterways as the morning, it looked completely different as it was high tide and the sun slowly setting in the sky; it put a beautiful orange glow over everything. And of course, we were served champagne and beer!
After the cruise, we headed back to the campground and ordered fish and chips at Barramuchies – the campground’s on-site cafe. The food was delicious!.
Accommodation: Weipa Campground
Day 16: Weipa to Chili Beach (Drive 4.5 hours – 285 km)
Next up, we drove over to the eastern side of Cape York to Chili Beach. It was a real mission getting across to Chili Beach and in hindsight, while Chili Beach is absolutely beautiful – given our short timeframe, we probably should have left this off our itinerary.
With that being said, Chili Beach is lovely and drive through the rainforest as you get closer is just amazing!
We had booked 3 nights at Chili Beach – but given we spent two nights at Weipa, which wasn’t in our planned itinerary, we shortened this to just one night. We gave the additional nights to some fellow campers we met at Weipa.
After setting up our campsite at Chili Beach, we took a long stroll down the beach and relaxed around camp.
Accommodation: Chili Beach Campground – $20.55 per night for an unpowered site for the 3 of us. Click here for our full review and everything you need to know about staying at Chili Beach Campground.
Fuel: Weipa $45.47, Lockhart River $73.03
Day 17: Chili Beach to Archer River (Drive 3.25 hours – 162 km)
Before lunch, we headed down to visit the speck of a town called Portlands Road. There is really not much to this town except a beautiful outlook across the ocean and there is a cafe run out of someone’s house called Out of the Blue Cafe – it wasn’t open though when we were there.
Portlands Road is where you’ll also find The Temple – which looks like a fabulous place to stay.
We then headed back to camp for lunch and then packed up. Then we drove to Archer River Roadhouse – one of our favourite roadhouse campsites.
After setting up camp, we all headed down to the Archer River for a swim. The river offers beautiful crystal clear water, with shallow areas for wading and deeper areas for a swim. Many people were sitting in the water with a stubbie – a great way to end the day.
After our swim, we headed back for a shower and then dinner at the roadhouse.
Accommodation: Archer River Roadhouse Campground – $25 per night for an unpowered site for the 3 of us. There are also rooms for those non campers. Click here for our full review and everything you need to know about staying at Archer River Roadhouse.
Day 18: Archer River to Ravenshoe (Drive 8 hours – 644 km)
Another early start to the day, which saw us officially end our time in Cape York. We had a stop in Laura to fuel up and have lunch and we farewelled the Cape York Peninsula. However, we welcomed the bitumen road!
We were on our way home now, which we had included a few days in Charters Towers. So on this day, we drove late until we reached Ravenshoe for an overnight stop. We got in late in the day, so we decided to treat ourselves to a motel room at Tall Timbers Motel and Van Park.
Tall Timbers is a really lovely property and in fact, Ravenshoe is really pretty and it would be well worth staying a day or two to explore if your itinerary allowed it.
Accommodation: Tall Timbers Motel and Van Park – we paid $130 for the night in a motel room. Campsites start at $37. Click here for our full review and everything you need to know about staying at Tall Timbers Motel and Van Park.
Fuel: Coen $86.78 and Laura $55.94
Day 19: Ravenshoe to Charters Towers (Drive 3.25 hours – 162 km)
We left Ravenshoe bright and early so we could be in Charters Towers by lunchtime. We checked into the Charters Towers Tourist Park, set up camp and had lunch.
We then headed out to Texas Longhorn, where we had a fantastic tour around their property, getting up close to the many gorgeous texas longhorns and learning heaps about these unique cattle.
After leaving Texas Longhorn, we popped into Visitor Centre to pick up a few brochures and then went down to Lissner Park, where we checked out the ducks and the WWII digital trail.
We then headed back to our campsite for the night.
Accommodation: Charters Towers Tourist Park – campsites start at $31.50 per night and there are self contained cabins for the non campers. Click here for our full review and everything you need to know about staying at Charters Towers Tourist Park Park.
Fuel: $67.80 Ravenshoe and $71.36 Blue Waters
Day 20: Charters Towers
We started the morning by heading back out to the Visitor Centre to see their short orientation film on Charters Towers.
From here, we then did the self guided heritage walk through town, which took us past all the grand old historic buildings.
Next, we stopped at the Zara Clark Museum for an hour or so. A fantastic little museum with loads of little knick knacks from long ago.
After the museum, we started the self drive tour, which took us around town to places such as where gold was first discovered, the old cemetery and the Venus Gold Battery. At Venus Gold Battery, we joined their 11.45 am 90 minute tour, where we learned more about how gold was discovered in Charters Towers and how it was processed at the battery.
After the tour of Venus Gold Battery, we continued with our self drive tour around town. Then we headed back to our campsite for a bit of a rest.
At 4.30 pm, Raleigh from the Tourist Park took us up to Towers Hill, where she provided us with a great grazing platter and bottle of wine – it’s part of their Sunset at Towers Tour. We enjoyed watching the sunset and checking out the cute little rock wallabies that came out to say hello. A great way to end the day.
Accommodation: Charters Towers Tourist Park
Day 21: Charters Towers to Injune (Drive 8.5 hours – 787 km)
This was our biggest driving day of the entire trip. We wanted to put a big day in so we’d get home the following day with plenty of time to unpack and clean up.
We arrived in Injune around 5 pm and booked into the Injune Motel – so we didn’t need to worry about setting up camp or packing up the following morning.
We went to the Injune Pub for a good country meal – just a 5 minute walk around the corner.
Accommodation: Injune Motel – we stayed in a motel room here for $130.
Fuel: Bellyingdon Cross and Rolleston $79.96
Day 22: Injune to Home (Drive 6.25 hours – 556 km)
Another driving day – we left early and arrived home mid afternoon.
Fuel: $66.81 in Dulacca
Best Time to go to Cape York
One of the most important things to know before setting out on your Cape York trip is the best time to visit. Many of the roads in Cape York are not sealed, and are in poor condition – this means that during wet weather many of the roads can become flooded. Therefore travellers are best to visit Cape York during the months of May to around October – although these times may vary year to year depending on the weather conditions.
Peak season tends to be during school holidays, so avoid these times if you can – particularly June / July – although this is exactly when we went and didn’t find it overly crowded at all. If you prefer fewer crowds, September onwards is recommended. However, you’ll also want to consider your tolerance to hot weather. Of course the closer you get to the end of the year, the warmer it will be. Even though we went in June / July – at the tip it was still hot.
Many say the very best time to go is as soon as all the roads open up, which is usually early May. Everything is green and the roads are freshly graded. However keep in mind that the roads open up at all different times.
How Long to do Cape York
Well, that’s going to be different for everyone. I often see people in the various Cape York FB groups say you need months for it even to be worth it to go to Cape York and I just don’t agree with that at all. Of course the more time the better – but most people just don’t have a spread few months to go on holiday.
As you can see we had 3 weeks from Brisbane and we had a great time! Would more time be better – absolutely. Could you do it in less time – probably? If you have all the time in the world, then you’ll have the luxury of travelling slow and seeing much more of the Cape than those short on time. However, if we all waited for the perfect time, we may well never get there.
One great idea I heard from a few travellers to help save time on the road was if one person in your group/family has more time than others – get that person to drive up to Cairns and have the others fly into Cairns to meet them. You could also do this on the way home.
However, provided you have at least a week or so to spend on the Cape (not including time to get to the start of the Cape) then just do it. Life is short – take the trip now – don’t wait!
Cape York Trip Preparation Tips
While we’ve been on road trips before, we’ve never done anything like a road trip to Cape York, so this one took a little extra planning, but nothing too major. Anyway, here are a few tips you might want to consider before heading off.
Get Your Car Checked Over
Definitely worth getting your car serviced before you go and let your mechanic know exactly where you’re headed. That way they can check to ensure nothing is loose. We also had our mechanic service our camper trailer.
We also had our RACQ cover increased to the highest level, just in case.
Make Sure You Have Telstra Mobile
The next thing I’d recommend is to get a Telstra mobile SIM card if you haven’t already. While you still won’t get service everywhere, you’ll have better luck with Telstra then any other service provider.
Get the Car Organised
Given you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the car, you’re going to want to give some thought to how you organise everything in the car. We got this car organiser from Aussie Outback Supplies which was really handy for our daughter to stay organised in the back of the car. Our daughter also has this lap tray from Spotlight so she can draw, read and even eat food from easily.
We also had one of these multi chargers plugged into the power outlet of our car so that we could ensure all devices were always charged up.
Download Shows and Podcasts
Given we were spending so much time in the car, before the trip we all downloaded a bunch of things on our devices, like shows on Netflix for our daughter and podcasts for us – it keeps everyone entertained on those long driving days.
Things to Bring
Everyone is different in terms of what they consider the essentials – but here are a few things I recommend for your Cape York trip:
- Cape York Hema Map – given you won’t get much service on the road and the additional detail this map shows you, it really is crucial
- UHF Radio – tune it to channel 40 to talk with others on the road
- Recovery Gear – in case of those times you get stuck
- Laundry Strips – much more compact and lighter to carry around than washing liquid, just ensure they are in a watertight container because if they get wet they will be ruined
- Dustbuster – for cleaning up all that red dust
- Blower – for blowing away all that red dust
Are Modifications to your 4WD Required?
Well, that depends on the sort of trip you’re planning on taking. Now like I keep saying – we are not 4WD experts. We’ve owned a 4WD for almost 12 months – so are certainly not qualified to give advice. However, we sought out loads of advice before this trip and I shall with you what they said and what we ended up doing.
So we did not take our car through any major creek crossings on the OTT or throughout the Cape – just a few minor ones here and there. So we decided not to get our car fitted with a snorkel or a winch – however, we would have if we were going to do the OTT.
We had been recommended to upgrade the shock absorbers on our car, but we didn’t. However, in hindsight, this probably would have been a good idea – because some of those corrugations really are brutal!
So in the end we decided not to make any modifications whatsoever to our vehicle – this was decided in consultation with our mechanic. The only modification we have on our vehicle are air bags for our camper trailer and this was done last year – so not in preparation for this trip.
Were we silly for not getting any modifications done? Were we just lucky nothing went wrong? I’m not sure but we did seek out lots of advice and in the end, felt we made an informed decision not to make any modifications to the trip. However like I said, in hindsight, we would have upgraded our car’s shock absorbers.
Basically, it really depends on your existing vehicle set up and the type of trip you tend to make.
Cape York Alcohol Restrictions
Cape York – Our Verdict
We had such a fun time on our Cape York trip! I had a few concerns before we left, such as how we’d go with driving that far as well as how the car and camper trailer would go on the corrugations and other tracks. The long distances didn’t seem to be a problem at all. While we did have some long days of driving, I tried to make sure we never had more than two long driving days in a row and in fact, tried to limit it to one driving day followed by a sightseeing day or two.
As to how the car and camper trailer went – well there was some damage along the way, but nothing too major. We got a chipped windscreen on day one, just outside of Brisbane! We also got a few minor scratches to the car, the air condition vent in the car came loose, a few bolts were lost from the camper trailer etc etc. But everything was easily fixed which was good. As to the driving itself, we did fine, even though we are fairly inexperienced 4WD drivers.
Cape York itself was brilliant! It is so remote, rugged and so pretty in places – it was excellent to see this part of Queensland.
I also really enjoyed the camaraderie there is among other travellers. Everyone’s up for a chat, to pass on some advice or lend a hand when needed. There was also such an awesome sense of adventure that was felt among us. I mean it wasn’t an “easy” trip and most days required us to muck in together to set up or pack up camp. But the bond this created and the memories we now have will be something to be cherished for a lifetime.
If you’re somewhat of an inexperienced 4WDer like us and wondering whether you should take a Cape York trip – then I hope after reading our story the answer is an overwhelming yes! With plenty of preparation, some common sense and a big sense of adventure – your very own Cape York holiday will no doubt be a trip of a lifetime!