When Tegan & Leigh from Wander to Wonder Oz told us they were going to tackle Cape York we were so excited to follow their journey – and a little bit jelly, as it is one destination that our team has not visited! After their 10 day adventure they sat down to share with us all a run down of their trip to the tip! Grab a cuppa (or beer) and enjoy…
Our lap of Oz wouldn’t be complete without visiting the iconic off road destination of Cape York and proudly standing at the northern most point of Australia.
For many, it’s the journey there that makes this trip a ‘must do’. The revered Old Telegraph Track offers 4WD enthusiasts tricky creek crossings, the insane Gunshot drop and many more challenges that make this trek a rite of passage for serious explorers! That being said, you don’t need to be a 4WD hot shot to get there. The Peninsula Developmental Road and the Bamaga Road are both highly accessible and apart from the varying levels of corrugations, are easy to drive with numerous bitumen segments. So if you’re like us, and perhaps aren’t that experienced or aren’t that interested, don’t be put off! Cape York is still an awesome adventure even via the main roads.
The pilgrimage to the Tip begins in May when the wet season ends and extends through to October so you’ll need to time your visit accordingly. The conditions of the roads can vary greatly depending on when grading is done and the amount of traffic, so as a rule avoid school holiday periods if possible. Cape York is also renowned for its abundance of dangerous saltwater crocodiles so be mindful of your surroundings at all times, only swim in signed areas and camp at least 50m away from waters edge.
Preparation & Gear
Our Bailey Rangefinder caravan is not a full off road van, so rather than risk any damage we left her safely stored in Cooktown with Nicko the local seafood man! Storage was just $5 per day and Nicko was a wealth of knowledge on the Cape.
For our lodgings, we opted for a couple of double swags that were quick and easy to set up and pack down and could be carried on our roof rack. A hot tip for these is to leave the bedding in laid flat and roll it up with the swag, which saves on storage space and set up time!
Leigh’s parents also joined us for the journey in their Silverado and Kedron Top Ender van (a beast of a combination!).
Our Isuzu MUX was already equipped with the following:
- 2” Old Man Emu suspension
- Sarafi snorkel
- ARB Long range fuel tank
- 80lt Waeco fridge
- 120ah lithium battery set up from Pocket Power Australia
- Side awning (with additional awning walls)
- UHF radio – this is a pretty crucial piece of equipment, which allows you to communicate with other road users on potential hazards and attract help if required.
Like any road trip, you should also carry a quality first aid kit (and know how to use it) as well as some basic recovery gear in case you come unstuck. A tyre repair kit, various tools, air compressor, assorted spare parts and recovery gear all live permanently in our car.
When free camping we rely on our solar set up from Pocket Power to keep things charged. While stationary the solar blankets top up the fridge battery and our emergency solar generator, which in turn keeps all our devices and lights powered up. The LED light strips were great to light up our site without attracting bugs as well as being magnetic meaning they stuck perfectly to our roof rack!
We took a simple butane gas stove for all our cooking needs and pre-prepared a few meals prior to leaving. They were brilliant for long days and lack of kitchen space and tools! You’ll find a full-sized Woolworths in Weipa to grab any last minute supplies as well as a supermarket at Bamaga and several roadhouses. It is also worth noting that there are restrictions on liquor possession.
DAY 1 – Cooktown to Musgrave
After farewelling our caravan, we hit the road eager for adventure! Following some hot tips we headed up Battlecamp Road, then through Lakefield National Park which had a couple of small river crossings. Don’t forget to stop and let your tyre pressure down when you hit the red stuff and I wouldn’t recommend walking the river crossings either! Snap snap!
Following a quick lunch stop at the Old Laura Homestead, and a few corrugated sections of road, we arrived at the iconic Musgrave Roadhouse. Here you can grab fuel, a cooked meal and of course accommodation. An unpowered site with access to hot showers and toilets cost us $24 and we managed to arrive just in time to see the resident freshwater crocs and turtles being fed.
DAY 2 – Musgrave to Coen
After hearing from some fellow travellers that the PDR between Musgrave and Coen was in pretty bad condition we decided to take a private track through Lily Vale and Running Creek out to Coen. The track was a ripper, no corrugations or potholes with a couple of pretty little river crossings and nice terrain. Just be mindful that the land surrounding these roads is private and to stay on track, slow down when passing properties and remember to close any gates you open.
We set up camp for the night on the northern bend of Coen River just a few kilometres out of town. There was a toilet and bins on site as well as good phone reception.
DAY 3 & 4 – Coen to Weipa
It was a special start to the day as we celebrated Finn’s 5th birthday! After opening and sampling some pressies we packed up camp and headed to the Archer River Roadhouse for a fuel top up. From there it was plain sailing all the way to Weipa on the PDR, which was in surprisingly good condition. We arrived at the Weipa Caravan Park and managed to snag an unpowered spot with a beach view for two nights at $38. The park has a great pool and an outdoor restaurant that is open from 5pm and offers you a front row view to the gorgeous sunsets over the water.
DAY 5 & 6 – Weipa to Bramwell
Continuing on the PDR, we made our way to Bramwell Station, which is the most northern cattle station in Australia complete with cattle mustering via helicopter, potty calves to help feed and an overzealous brolga.
An unpowered site will set you back just $25 per car and its free picking for sites. We managed to get a nice tin shelter to set up under which offered shade during the day and cover from the rain we had overnight. There were plenty of bathroom facilities around, however only a few had hot water available.
While you’re there save yourself the trouble of cooking and get yourself along to the ripper buffet dinner and show available at $35 per adult, $15 per child.
We stayed two nights here as our travel companions needed some work done on their car by the on-site mechanic, but otherwise one night would have been ample.
DAY 7 & 8 – Bramwell to Loyalty Beach
Following the PDR, we arrived at the famous Jardine Ferry just before the lunchtime break. While the $100 return crossing fee might make your eyes water, it is the only way across so suck it up and enjoy the short trip over!
The PDR after the ferry was in pretty poor condition so we took our time, drove to road conditions and made sure we let our travelling companions know of any decent pot holes or corrugated segments. When towing a van on dirt roads your braking time can be a lot slower and no one wants to be swerving!
We stayed at Loyalty Beach Campground in New Mapoon, about a 45min drive from the tip. The campground is situated on 13 acres of gorgeous beachfront and also has a restaurant and bar on site. An unpowered site cost us $30.
The following day we drove out to see the WW2 plane wrecks and stopped in for a geez at the iconic Croc Tent where we of course purchased some useless souvenirs. Then it was off to the main drawcard – the very Tip! Getting there is pretty simple; just follow the Pajinka Road pass the abandoned Pajinka Wilderness Lodge til you hit the car park. From the car park you can either walk or scramble over the rocky outcrop or wait til the tide goes out and walk around the headland on the sand. We opted for the scrambling and had no trouble with the kids or Leigh’s parents… haha.
Standing at that famous metal sign was such a sweet moment. All the planning and rough roads now culminated into a few photographs and silly faces. Looking at the shot of three generations of Davey men, I can’t help but get a little teary knowing just how much this photo will be treasured in the coming years and hoping that perhaps one day Finn might recreate this shot with his own children (and hopefully us!!). We can only hope that this special part of Australia continues to be cared for and left in its current state for future generations to enjoy.
Later that evening we celebrated the success of our trip by having Loyalty Beach’s famous Sunday night fish & chips on the beach. With a huge screen showing the Rugby State of Origin, a beer the hand and sand at my feet – it couldn’t get any better.
DAY 9 – Loyalty Beach to Moreton Telegraph Station
While we would of loved to stick around and relax, we had a date with the Laura Rodeo. So we kissed Nan and Pop goodbye and headed back to the Jardine Ferry.
On our way down we made a quick detour off the PDR to the beautiful Fruit Bat Falls. The crystal clear waters and cascading falls are croc free and the perfect place for a dip and to wash some of that red dirt off. We can now also proudly say we have driven the Old Telegraph Track, albeit just the 2.7kms…
That evening we pulled up stumps at Moreton Telegraph Station set on the banks of the Wenlock River. An unpowered site on some lush green lawns set us back $25 and offered hot showers and toilets.
DAY 10 – Moreton Telegraph Station to Cooktown
From Moreton we traced our tracks back via Lakefield National Park & Battle Camp Road to Cooktown where we very happily collected our caravan. Thanks to the swags the van now felt very luxurious and we had a new appreciation for the ease of running water!
We had an awesome time exploring the northern most tip of Australia and ticking off that bucket list item. And while it would have been pretty epic to tackle some of the OTT, I’m happy to go home with the car (and our marriage) still in tact and carry on to the next adventure!
Tegan & Leigh – You can check out more of their adventures in Our Big Lappers Section
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***THANK YOU Davey family – we can’t wait to here all about your next months of adventures!!!***
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