We loved our trip to the tip, it was the most challenging, yet rewarding adventure we have had.
We went in July 2022. The best time to go to Cape York is in the dry season between May and September. School holidays are always the busiest time and can cause camping spots to fill up quickly so please factor this in when planning your trip.
We decided to take our off road Australis 21’6 coastline caravan. You can get a caravan to the tip using the Peninsula Developmental Road (PDR) to the Jardine Ferry and then via the Bamaga Road. The PDR to Weipa is 50% sealed, from Weipa it is all corrugations and some of these can be severe. We found the worst part from Bramwell Junction to the Jardine Ferry.
If you dont want to take the caravan all the way up you can leave the caravan in Weipa or at the start of the PDR in Laura or Lakeland.
Below is our itinerary to help others who may be considering this amazing adventure.
First stop Mareeba
We planned to stay here because there is a drive in movie theatre where you can camp overnight after the movie finishes. This isn’t something you get to do every day so we were all excited. You will need to check their website https://www.mareebadrivein.com.au/ to see if they have movies showing on the dates you are passing through. Adults are $14 and $8 per child and camping is free with the movie tickets.
There are toilets on site which are open all night.
There is a café onsite which sells hot food, popcorn and sweets. There’s also a kids playground where most of the kids congregated and played for an hour before the movie started.
You cannot get into the site until 5pm so if you arrive early we can recommend the Skybury Cafe and roastery. They have a free museum and a video on the farm itself. We enjoyed a drink in the café and an obligatory photo on the swing. The views from the café over the plantation are breathtaking.
We also visited Mareeba Visitors Centre which has a Heritage Museum that is free to enter, there is a playpark close by for the kids to run wild and caravan parking so great for passing a couple of hours.
We arrived at the Drive in at 5pm and there were already caravans queuing so make sure you get there on time.
Mareeba to Cooktown - 2 hours and 50 minutes – 264kms – Sealed Road
After Mareeba we went to Cooktown. We spent 6 nights in Cooktown. There is so much to see and do all within an hour of the town. We have done a separate blog on Cooktown and what we got up to so please check it out for more information.
Cooktown to Hann River Roadhouse - 2 hours and 20 minutes – 216kms – Mainly Sealed Road
We decided to head for Hann River roadhouse after spending the previous 3 nights unpowered at the local RV donation camp in Cooktown. It meant we could recharge the batteries, top up with water and do some washing.
We got there around lunchtime and had the pick of the sites.
They have an array of animals here that the kids loved saying hi too. There’s Hercules the 4 year old pig that loves being sprayed with water, Shadow the 22 year old miniature pony, Aussie the emu that thinks she is a dog and a number of geese, peacocks and guineafowl. The owner also feeds the local wallabies every evening and you can go down and watch this. Since we have left the Cape we have heard the news that Aussie the Emu has since died, such sad news, he was such a friendly welcoming bird that came straight up to new arrivals to say hi.
There are play areas for the kids including a sand pit with a number of trucks to play with and plenty of room for the kids to run around and play soccer. Our boys met 2 other boys and enjoyed having a kick around. At night we enjoyed a fire and toasted some marshmallows.
We paid $40 for the night
Hann River Roadhouse to Coen North Bend free camp 2 hours and 25 minutes, 175km – Mainly unsealed
Again we got here around lunchtime, we stopped in Coen to buy some bread and milk and top up with fuel before heading a couple of ks north of the town to the free camp. You can camp right on the rivers edge on the road side or cross the river and camp on the other side. The other side is sand with a small creek crossing but we saw lots of people taking caravans over. We got there early enough to be able to stay on the roadside. There is a drop toilet on site.
There are no crocodiles here so the kids spent the day snorkelling, putting in the yabbie pots and catching the small fish on handline with sweetcorn. They enjoyed this place so much they didn’t want to leave. Again you can have a fire so we enjoyed the night around the fire toasting marshmallows.
This place is so good we also stayed on the way back.
Coen free camp to Weipa, 3 hours and 6 minutes, 257km
After Coen we went to Weipa. There is only one campsite in Weipa so you don’t really have much choice on where to stay. There are some free camps on the outskirts but we chose to stay in town.
We stayed in Weipa for 4 nights.
You cannot have campfires within the caravan park. There is a pool and a playground. The town of Weipa is bigger than we expected because there is a large mining community, There is a Woolies so you can stock up with any food or drink you may need here and the prices were all reasonable.
The beach infront of the campsite is beautiful and people take their camp chairs down to watch the sunsets. You can also drive up the beach, its not very far but people were setting up down there and having small fires on the beach. There is also a café onsite that does food.
They have an indigenous heritage centre by the wharf that is free. We made use of this to home-school the boys. It has lots of information on the mining history of Weipa, the local wildlife and fauna and the indigenous history. The staff are also very informative.
We took a day trip out to Old Mapoon where it is believed the first contact between the Aboriginal and European settlers happened in 1601. There are a couple of monuments here with some really interesting reading on the history of Mapoon including the government removing the local Aboriginals and burning their homes. Its such a sad story.
While we were that way we checked out the Cullen Point campground. There weren’t many people camping here but I can imagine its very quiet and peaceful. There is a boat ramp and it’s a lovely walk around the beach with a variety of different shells to be found.
The boys got up early one morning and tried their luck at the jetty but weren’t successful. We also spent a couple of hours one afternoon here. We managed to catch a Queenie in the cast net when we were trying to catch bait fish. No luck using the rods though.
We also tried under the Mission River Bridge on the way to Mapoon. This was recommended by the campsite. You can drive your car under the bridge and fish safely, far away from the waters edge and the crocs. There was a family of local Islanders already there catching a feed. Ethan, our eldest, 10 at the time, will talk to anyone especially if they like fishing. They taught him how to fish better using the handline and a different way to throw his cast net. We spent the afternoon here and caught a barra and some crab which we gave to the Islander family to cook on their fire for dinner.
Weipa to Moreton Telegraph Roadhouse via the Batavia Airport Road, 1 hour 47 minutes and 132km
We were told by a couple who camped behind us in Weipa to take the Batavia airport road which will cut your trip by 100ks and approx. an hour. They had travelled the road the day before and it was in good condition. We are very grateful for this advice because they were correct.
We had decided to stop at Moreton so the boys could try to catch a Barramundi in the Barrahole that is 750 metres from the campground. No luck again but we had the place to ourselves and it was so quiet and relaxing listening to the water run down the river. The roadhouses don’t really start to fill up until mid to late afternoon.
There are toilets and showers for the campers and they are open daily from 2pm to 10am. There is no phone service here and no free wifi. You can pay for wifi if you wish.
They have a café onsite which is open for lunch and dinner. We didn’t eat here. You can have campfires.
We paid $50 for the night
Moreton Telegraph station to a free camp right by the entrance to the Northern section of the OTT, listed as Bypass/Tele track Junction on Wiki camps. 2 hours and 35 minutes, 162km
This place is great for exploring Fruit Bat falls, Eliot Falls and Twin Falls. We would not recommend taking a large caravan any further into the OTT track.
Once we set up camp we had lunch and drove 10kms to Eliot Falls and Twin Falls. When you park the car and walk along the board walk you come to a junction, we went left and reached Twin Falls first. There are 2 sets of small falls and at the bottom of each a pool, water that you can swim in. They are reasonably shallow so great for younger kids and the water is surprisingly warm. We enjoyed floating around with our noodles.
After this we walked further along the boardwalk to Elliot Falls. This one is the tallest of all the waterfalls with deep water making it a great place for kids to jump into. The jump is pretty high but all 4 of us gave it ago. You then swim along a few meters and pull yourself out.
On the way back to camp is the famous Fruit Bat falls. This place was amazing!! There is plenty of parking, the road in was easy and it’s only a short walk from the carpark. There is a rocky area where you can leave your towels and belongings. At the top of the falls you can wander in ankle deep water, up the river taking in the scenery, there are small pools of water to sit in and relax. Then there is the bottom of the falls which is deeper. The water is so clear and there are small groups of fish so take the kids snorkels and floaties with you.
There is also a little water fall on the opposite side of the bank that makes for a good picture.
There are toilets and benches to enjoy a picnic.
There are no crocodiles at any of these falls so swimming is safe.
Dogs are not allowed at Fruit Bat falls, Eliot Falls or Twin falls because they are in a National Park.
There is a campground at Eliot falls, it is not recommended for large caravans, camper trailers at tents are fine. Bookings are made through Queensland National Parks.
After returning from Fruit bat falls, we had a fire and sat looking up at the amazing sky. There is minimal manmade light so the stars are out in force. You have no phone or TV signal at this campsite which is a blessing in disguise.
The following day we decided to drive along the Northern OTT. We weren’t sure how far we would get but agreed to give it a go. We are so pleased we did. It was another amazing experience.
We got as far as Sams Creek which is a little oasis in the middle of nowhere. There were 2 families camped in tents. We headed to the small sandy beach and jumped into the water. Despite it being 8am the water was warm and the kids had fun splashing around.
Neil spoke to a family who were camping there. They advised us against going any further up the OTT track because we were travelling alone and if we got stuck we had no one to help us out so we decided to head back. As we got back in the car another family came along who were heading up the OTT and were alone so we decided to tag along with them which suited both of us.
We had such an epic day ticking off all of the famous water crossings and the Cypress Creek Log bridge. We actually bumped into another 2 cars along the way, brothers, so we convoyed up from Cannibal Creek. The men all spotted for each other while the ladies did the photography and filming. The kids loved swimming in all the creeks and watching the 4x4s in action.
The landcruiser handled it brilliantly however we did get bogged at Nolans. Im not going to lie the panic was real when I saw it stop and water went up to the top of the bonnet however, we had the snatchstrap tied on ready to go and one of the brothers who had gone first had left his car on the beach and we were towed out in seconds. The inside of the car did get wet and Neils pride dented a little because Nolans Creek is where people set up their deck chairs and watch people coming through. Everyone was great though and they also helped us get the car out quickly.
Cypress Creek Log Bridge
Standing in Nolans Creek after a day of 4x4 adventures
You can watch a short video I made here The Northern section of the Old Telegraph Track, Cape York 2022
We cant thank the guys enough for letting us convoy together. It makes it a lot safer and more fun. We don’t regret any of it and its all part of the adventure.
That afternoon we headed back to the free camp, hooked up the caravan and headed further north.
Bypass/Tele track Junction to Alau beach Campground, 1 hour and 30 minutes, 96.5 km
When we left the free camp it was 3:30pm. Its very unusual for us to travel late in the afternoon but we wanted to head 40ks north to the ferry where we planned on staying the night.
When we got there the campsite was empty and the ferry was still open with no queue. We decided to just go for it so paid the $175 return ferry fee. You are literally on the ferry no more than 2 minutes. Unfortunately there is no other way to get to the tip so the ferry is a cost you cannot avoid.
We drove a further 35ks to Loyalty Beach where we hoped to stay but they were full so headed back to Alau Beach Campground. This place is amazing, the beach and the views here make you feel like you are in paradise. The campsite and amenities are basic but you are 10ks from the most northern tip of Australia. The campground is run by a local family who are lovely. Our boys enjoyed playing with their 2 children and the kids also loved the family dogs that you see roaming around camp. These are the guard dogs who alert you if strangers hang around in the night which unfortunately does happen so please be mindful of this and lock things up. We never had any issues while we were there. This is also an issue across all of the campsites up here so not just this one.
We stayed here 4 nights. We actually enjoyed just being at the campsite. The fishing was good off the rocks, there are spectacular views of the Torres Strait and its islands and in the evening we enjoyed a fire and a few beers on the beach with other campers whilst enjoying the epic sunsets.
Alau Beach campground to Loyalty Beach campground, 15 minutes, 12.5km
We stayed at Loyalty Beach for 2 weeks but this was because we wanted some down time before heading back and we had the flexibility to do so.
Loyalty Beach is a larger campground than Alau and it has a restaurant and bar. We had the famous Sunday night fish and chips one night and were also lucky enough to see Big Pup who was the entertainment for the evening. Even if you don’t stay at Loyalty you have to try the fish and chips on a Sunday. It gets busy so bst advice is get there for 5pm so you can get in quick.
We didn't try fishing from the beach here because there are a lot of rocks and when the tide is out there's a lot of mud to cross to get to the ocean. The locals did recommend spear fishing at night with a torch for crabs, squid and octopus but with the crocs that hang around here we decided to give that a miss.
We did do a lot of fishing from Seisia Pier. You will find a lot of the locals and other travellers here all trying to catch a feed. There are lots of bait fish that hang around under the jetty so bring your cast net or live bait jig. We saw locals catching Giant Trevally and Queen fish on handlines using the bait from the jetty. We had a few catches but nothing big enough for a feed.
You can walk along the beach from the Loyalty beach campsite into Seisia too which is a lovely walk.
Again, no bookings so first come first served and beach front camping if you’re lucky. Bigger beach front here though so you stand more of a chance.
Five Beaches Drive which incorporated Somerset Beach, the Cave Paintings, the Five Beaches Drive and Punsand Bay
We did all of this in one day.
We left Loyalty Beach at about 8:30am and went straight to Somerset Beach campground where you can park up and walk to the left for an 800m Rock scramble to the cave paintings. They are in good condition and the Cave is set back on a small sandy beach. We all loved the adventure and would recommend trainers for this walk. The views from the beach are amazing. The campsite there looks very quiet and peaceful with not many camped there.
These are the rocks you have to clamber over to get to the cave and the paintings featured above
After here we continued to the East Coast and completed the Five Beaches loop track which is a mix of rocky and sandy 4x4 tracks along the shoreline and down on to the sand via 5 different beaches. The East coast is windy and this is evident in the way the trees are all bending sidewards 🤣. The drive itself was pretty easy and it was great to see what the East coast offered. One thing we realised was we hadn't seen waves in months. The West Coast is alot calmer.
If you are feeling adventurous you can drive onto the 6th, 7th and 8th beach. Access to the 6th beach is cut off at high tide so you will need to plan your trip more carefully. The track onto the 6th beach is also very tight so expect some pin stripes and hope you dont meet someone else on the way. Below is a picture of landcruiser appearing from the scrub as we accessed the 6th beach.
We drove along the 6th beach but didnt go on to the 7th or 8th.
The amount of rubbish that has washed up on these shorelines is crazy. You could spend hours looking through it all in the search for any treasure.
From here we followed the loop back to the Croc Tent where you can stop and buy your souveneirs as proof you made it to the tip. This place has everything, fishing shirts, tshorts, hats, magnets, stickers and more.
Finally we stopped at Punsand Bay for a well deserved drink and something to eat. The kids also had some fun in their pool. It has a very resort like feel and we can see why people come and stay up here.
This is what most people come up to the Cape for right? To say you have been to the most Northern point in Australia and get a picture with the sign ❤️
We decided to head there early to beat the crowds and arrived about 8:30am.
The drive to the tip took about an hour. The drive itself is through lush green rainforestwhich looks beautiful against the red dirt.
The tide was out so we walked around the beach way. This does still involve walking over rocks but isn't as strenuous as walking over the top.
We got to spend a good 10 minutes at the sign to celebrate making it to the tip and achieving another one of our bucket list items before the next family wanted their turn.
The sign isn't the only thing to see up here though. The beach to the left of the car park is stunning and so are the views. We spent a couple of hours strolling up the beach taking in its beauty.
What we didn't expect though, was to see the amount of rubbish washed up at the back of the beach. There was so much stuff 😱🤦♀️😫. This seems to be a big issue up the Cape with the storms bringing in alot of rubbish that is sitting in the ocean. If you come this way bring a bin bag and take some away with you. We did 👌
By the time we left the car park was full and heaps of people were here so we were pleased we got there early.
Groceries and Fuel in Bamaga
There are a number of shops in Bamaga for you to pick up any groceries you need, there is also a fuel station, chemist and a fishing tackle shop. We always found a great variety of fresh fruit and vegetables and meat. Prices are higher than normal because of the location.
Loyalty Beach to Bypass/Tele track Junction 1 hour and 30 minutes, 101km
We all really wanted to experience the falls again so decided to stop at the free camp for another night so we could spend the afternoon at Fruit bat falls, Eliot falls and Twin falls.
Bypass/Tele track Junction to Captain Billys Landing 1 hour and 30 minutes, 79km
We spent 1 night here,
The drive in from the PDR is 30km and the road is a mix of sand, mud and corrugations but it drives you through a beautiful rainforest. We towed our caravan in. Alot of the track is one lane so it would be tight if you met another caravan coming the other way.
The reviews are spot on and it's windy but it's not the worse wind we have experienced.
The campsite isn't allocated sites so you set up where you like. Bookings are online through the QLD national park website and costs $7 per person per night. There is no phone signal here so you need to book in advance. There's a large slab area so we parked the caravan on that. There's one toilet and a sheltered seating area.
At low tide you can walk to the right and explore the caves which have microbats living inside. Its also a great walk to the left of the campsite too. The kids had a bawl looking in the rock pools and finding shells. They actually found a huge shell pictured below which we left it in the communal area in at the campsite for others to enjoy too.
Please be aware - the edge of the campsite down to the beach is eroding. Ethan decided to try and climb up it on the morning we were leaving ☹ it gave way leaving his leg trapped underneath. Thankfully there were other campers staying and in a true Australian way with their help using shovels we managed to dig his leg free and lift the rock to get him out. He walked away with a few bruises and scratches but it could have been a lot worse. (Massive thanks to the help we got)
Captain Billys Landing to Coen North Bend free camp 4 hours and 25 minutes, 323km
We loved this place so much on the way up we stopped for 1 night on the way back down.
Coen North Bend free camp to Kalpowar Crossing, Lakefield, 3 hours, 220km
We had planned on taking the PDR back to Cooktown but some fellow campers told us about Kalpowar Crossing on the Lakefield Road. The entrance is opposite Musgrave Roadhouse and it's 113ks to the campsite.
The road takes you through the Lakefield National Park past numerous campsite options until you arrive at Kalpowar Crossing (WOW!!). The road in is dusty but minimal corrugations. We crossed one small creek. If you have the time there's lots of things to see along the way and lots of birdlife.
We were on site 8 which is huge, you could have parked 3 of our vans in here comfortably.
Each site has its own large firepit and grill so we enjoyed a nice steak dinner 😋
There are toilets, cold showers and water but it's not drinking water
It costs $7 per person. No pets allowed.
You can walk down to the crossing and fish but we didn't, we did put our yabbie pots in though and both boys caught a cherubin each. There are crocs here so unfortunately no swimming, however we didn't see any.
We stayed here 1 night but could have stayed more, its a great spot. Unfortunately we were all keen to get to Cooktown and start cleaning off some of the red dust.
The next morning we took the Battlecamp Road into Cooktown, again the road was fine. The whole drive was really picturesque.
By the end of the trip we all needed a good bath, our clothes needed a good soak and the caravan and car needed a full valet. We are still finding red dust now some 8 months later but we wouldnt change a think, its all part of the trip and we would do it all again tomorrow.
Would we recommend taking a caravan?
Its not a simple yes or no. It really depends on how you think your caravan will hold up and how precious you are about it. For us we had every confidence in the van getting us to the tip, we also knew we wanted to spend a few weeks in Seisia and we wanted to be able to stay in the van.
We did have some repairs to fix, cupboard doors and drawers, a shelf in the fridge, a hose on the washing machine and a front windscreen on the car.
We also don’t have a carafan so the dust that entered the caravan was insane and certainly took some cleaning during the trip and when we got back to Cooktown. If you can afford to install a carafan before you go then I would definitely recommend this.
We would also recommend adding extra screws in all your cupboards, drawers, microwave surrounds and anything else that is screwed in and a stone stomper to protect the front of your caravan and your rear window from stones.
Would we take the van again? We would like to go up without it next time so we can go to the places you cannot take a van, you are limited and do miss some great 4x4 tracks and campsites with the caravan in tow.
Whatever your situation if your thinking of going to Cape York, don’t wait, start planning now. It’s a bucket list adventure and one you will never forget.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact us and we are happy to answer them.