Planning your trip to the tip – Cape York

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Ready to tackle one of Australia’s most remote landscapes? 1,200km of untamed World Heritage listed rugged rainforest. Well, I’ve got you covered! An immensely diverse region with national parks, secluded beaches, protected waterways, and a rich indigenous culture. In all of Australia, I don’t think there’s a more adventurous destination. A huge highlight of our travels so far. Unreal four wheel driving, epic camping, and exceptional fishing (I’ve been told!)

 

What’s the best time of the year to visit Cape York?

As we all know, the top half of Australia has two seasons. Wet season and dry season. Wet season normally falls between November and April. During this time Cape York shuts down, road access is severely limited due to extreme flooding. Whereas the dry season is between May and October. We visited Cape York in July just after school holidays. It wasn’t extremely busy but had a nice buzz about the place. To get Cape York at it’s finest some people make their way up as early as May, which seems crazy as the water crossings can be as high as the carnage.

 

How long should you spend travelling Cape York?

Cape York is a big commitment, the conditions often limit your travel to a few hundred kilometres per day. We spent eight days travelling north and another six days travelling back south again from Cairns.

 

Do you need a heavily modified 4WD to travel Cape York?

Not necessarily, we did it in a MQ Triton with a 2 inch lift and a snorkel. We did have a winch but didn’t need to use it, we opted for snatch straps when needed. You won’t need mud terrain tyres, all terrain tyres did the job for us, and we managed to survive without diff locks. I’d imagine some modifications would make it easier. With next to no facilities along the way you will need to be reasonably self-sufficient.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is The Old Telegraph Track worth doing?

If you cross the old telegraph track from start to finish, you’ll make your way across 15 plus water crossings and creeks, two of which are renowned to provide entertainment and skills to cross, being quite deep. Steep churned up entry and extra points. The good news is there are chicken tracks and other optional routes cut into the tracks, so generally there’s an easier option if needs be. Only three crossings: Nolan’s Brook, Gunshot and Palm Creek are truly challenging. These can all be bypassed easily without loss of any pride! To be completely honest the old telegraph track is a nice break from the corrugations that cause absolute havoc on the (PDR) Peninsula Development Road.

 

Where do you stay/camp on your Cape York Trip?

Camping varies in prices from free camps to $6 in National Parks. When you travel north of the Jardine River, you’ll use your ferry ticket as compensation. There are many privately run campsites all of which are a little bit pricier, but worth the stay. The best camp near the top is Punsands Bay, offering unpowered sites from $30. They are renowned for their epic woodfired pizzas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where can you fuel up in Cape York?

Be sure to fill up in Cairns. Jerry cans and all, then you can top up in Cooktown, then again in Coen and Bramwell Station if needed and finally the Jardine River Crossing. Be mindful that fuel prices jump about 30-40c per litre north of the ferry. If you do need fuel up the top, you can find it in Seisa and Bamaga.

 

Can you swim up in Cape York?

If you keep your eyes peeled, no doubt you’ll be able to spot some crocodiles so be wise. There are some incredible spots to swim on your travels to the tip of Cape York. Along the Old Telegraph Track most crossings are considered safe to swim in. Elliot Falls and Fruit Bat Falls are two of the most iconic water holes in Australia. Both can be accessed by the PDR on the Bamaga Road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you need a permit to access Cape York?

The only permit you’ll need is included as part of the ferry at the Jardine River crossing. This also includes the use of free camps north of the Jardine River Cossing.  A return trip costs $121 which you can buy online or at the ferry terminal.

 

Do you need to pre book National Park campsites?

Yes, you will need to pre book all National Park campsites online. You won’t have much signal so it’s probably best to plan ahead.

 

Is there any phone coverage while travelling Cape York?

It is marked as ‘Queenslands Final Frontier” so it should come as no surprise that Cape York has limited phone reception. To be honest this is what made our trip so incredible. Everyone communicated, shared stories and experiences with no distractions.

 

What if you decide not to do the Old Telegraph Tack, can you still make it to the tip?

There is absolutely no shame in opting for the easier option. The Old Telegraph Track is iconic but its not for everyone. You can take the Peninsula Development Road the whole way to the tip if you so wish. You can use a detailed Hema map to navigate your way and find a route that matches your adrenaline levels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What if you are not a confident four wheel driving, are there groups you can travel with?

You can one hundred percent join a Cape York tour or tag along trip. Book a seat on one of the many tour companies that start in Cairns; Tag along Tours of Australia is a popular one.

 

Things to think about before taking on your quest to the tip of Cape York.

  • A snorkel is not essential unless you plan on doing the Old Telegraph Track.
  • A 12v battery system to run a fridge.
  • A tyre gauge, air compressor, shovel, snatch straps, and beers as payment for those who help you out.
  • It is a good habit to check screws regularly to make sure they’ve not loosened with the corrugations.
  • Enough fuel to last 1000km so you can skip the most expensive fuel spots.
  • At least 10l drinking water. There’s water along the way (water crossings) for cooking and washing if needed.
  • A paper map or online Hema maps (and the ability to read them), we got a rude awakening. We were very grateful to have met a great crew to navigate our trip with.
  • A two inch lift would be helpful for those tougher tracks.
  • A satellite phone or beacon in case of an emergency. Communication is key, most travellers use UHF two way radios to do so.

 

Only about 60,000 people take the trip to the tip each year. Go on, put it on your bucket list. I can guarantee you won’t regret it. The holy grail for many 4WD enthusiasts. We all want to get to the furthermost tip of Australia at least once in a lifetime.

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