At the tropical far north tip of Queensland lies the stunning and unspoiled environs of the Cape York Peninsula. Well known for its wild and rugged landscapes, diverse wildlife, and rich cultural history, Cape York has been a firm fixture on many a traveller’s bucket list over the years—and now, maybe yours! Discover the beauty of this stuck-in-time region via this essential itinerary.
Fly or drive to Cairns, the gateway to the Top End, to begin your off-road adventure. Passing by the crystalline coastal waters of lovely Port Douglas, your first stop is the ancient and wonderous Daintree National Park. As the world’s oldest rainforest, it’s a globally recognised natural wonder we are lucky enough to have in our very own backyard.
Onwards to Cooktown, a charming and historically significant town chock full of heritage buildings, museums and monuments, beautiful botanic gardens, popular James Cook Museum, several neat and tidy holiday parks, plus the popular Jackey Jackey Thai Restaurant.
Heading inland you will find the tiny settlement of Laura and the sacred, UNESCO-listed Quinkan Rock Art Sites. Here, sandstone escarpments bear ancient Indigenous paintings, etchings and stencils believed to date back around 14,000 years. Split Rock Galleries is the only site open to the public, but you can access the Flying Fox and Tall Spirits sites by jumping into a tour group.
Now, back on the Peninsula Developmental Road and it’s a straight shot up to the Cape. Be sure to stop in at the Archer River Roadhouse for its famously huge Archer Burger, while the Bramwell Station Tourist Park is a beloved and boisterous outback overnighter with a good bar and live music.
Onwards! Once you reach the Cape, there are a number of attractions you won’t want to miss. The Jardine River National Park is a lush and abundant ecosystem homing a diverse variety of native wildlife including wallabies, kangaroos and, of course, freshwater crocodiles. Look before you jump!
The ancient sandstone landscape supports the Jardine River as well as smaller streams, swamps and marshes, heathland, grassland, rainforest, and woodland. The area is a living cultural landscape encompassing the land and stories of several Indigenous groups, including the Atambaya, Angkamuthi, Yadhaykenu, Gudang and Wuthathi people.
No trip to the Top End is complete without a stop at the tip—the northernmost tip of the country, that is. After crossing the mighty Jardine by ferry take your pick of little local towns to explore. Bamaga and Seisia both offer a glimpse into Cape York life, and from there it’s a quick (but a little rough) 45-minute drive to Australia’s northernmost point.
Don’t forget to snap your picture with the iconic “You Are Standing at the Northernmost Point of the Australian Continent” sign. And you’ve done it—Cairns to the Cape by Caravan… complete!
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