Ten years. That’s (probably, hopefully) how long you have to visit Cape York and experience a land that has defied the onslaught of civilisation, before the dirt tracks become sealed roads and the peninsula is changed forever.
Until 100 years ago, only Indigenous Australians enjoyed this area – and what an area to enjoy. Australia’s most northerly point, and one of the few remaining great wildernesses, the Cape has plenty to offer. The dusty tracks contrast dramatically with the abundant river systems, crystal clear creeks and spectacular waterfalls. If you love bushwalking, four-wheel driving, wildlife, fishing, bird watching or camping, Cape York is for you.
“If you want untrammelled wilderness, this is the place to go.”
– David Whitley
It’s almost impossible to get to Cape York on land during the wet season (December to April) when the rivers crossing the dirt roads become impassable. Seeing the Cape by water is a fabulous option, with uninhabited islands, wilderness coastline, remote tidal estuaries, lagoons and Outback rivers to explore.
The gateway to the Cape is Cooktown, a town with two centuries of history to explore: Captain Cook’s landing in 1770 (to repair the Endeavour), and the colourful gold rush period of the 1880s.
Did you know?
The tropical north of Australia is home to the world’s longest mail run in a single day. From Cairns to Heathlands Station on Cape York, the flying postman takes the mail a distance of approximately 1450km.
How to get there
Scheduled flights from Cairns to Cooktown are available on smaller regional airlines such as Transtate Airlines, departing daily.
By car, you can get to Cooktown via two roads:
The inland road, which is accessible by all vehicles, via the Mulligan Highway and the Peninsula Development Road. The distance is 331 km from Cairns and 265 km from Port Douglas.
The coast road is for 4WD vehicles only and runs via the Bloomfield Track. Cairns to Cooktown is 250 km and Port Douglas to Cooktown is 194 km. Always check road conditions with the RACQ before heading to Cooktown, as the coast road can be closed during the wet season (November – June) for a few days at a time.
Coral Reef coaches has services between Cairns and Cooktown.
The Cape is only accessible by car in a 4WD (rent one in Cairns or Cooktown) and even then conditions depend on the exact arrival of the Wet (January to March), when rivers become impassible. Always check the road conditions with the RACQ before you leave.
Best time to go
May to November.
Tourism Queensland website
** This is our original 100 Things to Do Before You Die. First published in 1996. There is an updated 100 Things To Do In Australia Before you die, published in 2011.