Andy and Hil 2015 Cape York Trip Videos

Andy and Hil 2015 Cape York Trip Videos

by Andy and Hil

It was September 2013 on another trip ‘down under‘ to link up sections to complete our quest to drive roughly around the coast of Australia we found ourselves chatting to our tour guide on Fraser Island about Cape York. We hadn’t been sure if it had been feasible for us to get up there under our own steam (in a rental vehicle) up until that point due its formidable reputation.

He ran his own group tours and tag-alongs and assured us with our experience we’d have no trouble. We have a good deal of experience of good distances on dirt roads having previously done trips like along the Savannah Way and the Gibb River Road before. He explained the old Telegraph track is not the only way up there and that at the right time of year conditions can be fairly benign. What’s more he advised we should do it as soon as possible, before more bitumen went down and the nature of the Cape was changed forever. So we were reassured and we started planning from that point onwards getting hold of the (almost) mandatory Cape York Atlas & Guide plus Katrin’s excellent Destination Cape York Travel Guide. We had a lot of experience with Britz and the troopy so that was our first choice. We did sound out a couple of others but they were very restrictive. We planned our stops, fuel, mechanical repairs availability, stops (booking more than 50% of our camp sites assuming all went to plan) and flights were booked almost a year in advance and from there we were counting the days until the off. So, ‘fast forward’ to September 2015, we finally set off from the UK, via Singapore and Brisbane.

1. The Cape, Trailer

Part One:

Arriving in Cairns never get’s old - it’s a beautiful and wonderful city. The only taxing part is when you’ve had to spend the best part of two days in airplane seats to get there, making you quite tired and grumpy. But I love it’s charm and we have a few of our favourite haunts there, having started or stopped a few trips there. We picked up the Troopy good and early, gave it a thorough inspection/test then did all our shopping before we set off for Port Douglas. We have a good set of kit we carry with us, quite a bit of camping gear accumulated plus a compressor and a few car bits and bobs. We always like to spend the first day not too far away and with civilization on the doorstep. You never know quite what condition the van will be, Britz are always well checked over, but before now other rental companies have left us scrambling for a new battery or replacement camping gear etc. The Tropical Breeze Caravan park was exceptionally busy, and with it’s good facilities and proximity to town understandably so. The other good thing about PD is there are plenty of pubs and restaurants and so we went back to an old fave at Iron Bar. They have the added bonus of Cane Toad racing for nightly entertainment. The following day it was off to Cape Tribulation via Daintree, with a river cruise (croc spotting) and all the rainforest boardwalks. The coastline is just breathtaking, hugging the spectacular coastal rainforest. Camping in the National Park at Noah Beach was a real contrast to the Tropical Breeze, as only a hanful of the sites we occupied so it was the start of the real adventure.

2. The Cape, Part 1: Cairns to The Daintree

Part Two:

After catching a glorious sunrise we headed north on from Noah beach we did the Bloomfield Track as the first bit of dirt road adventuring. We had done it before years before as a small group tour so we knew what we had in store. Bloomfield Falls (or at least the last of one you can see from the bottom) are a spectacular sight and marked the furthest north we’d been previously in Queensland. Then we moved on to the Lions Den Hotel, which on our map was dirt roads but we found had been sealed a couple of years previously. After a dunk in the river (which I found quite chilly - being a ‘big sook’) we had an interesting night with the accordion players, spicy pizza and finally some ‘bikies’ who kept the whole camp awake most of the night.
However I don’t think anyone wanted to say anything to them. We stopped at some lovely spots on the way to Cooktown, including notably the (tricky to find) Trevathan Falls, the sublime Archer Point (with views from the lighthouse) and many more beaches. Finally we had a poke around in Cooktown visiting the museum and finally a lovely meal in town.

3. The Cape, Part 2: Daintree to Cooktown

Part Three:

Heading north from Cooktown (after seemingly being on the menu of the local sandflies) we headed north again finally hitting ‘the gravel’ full time. We stopped off at Endeavour Falls which was more or less deserted. Then via more falls on the Battle Camp Road until we hit Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park. Old Laura farm was a pretty spot and you realise how tough they must have had it. There were lots of beautiful lagoons but sadly it was the wrong time of year to see them flowering. The other outstanding spot was the Nifold plains which made us start to think we were finally getting far enough away from civilisation. We stopped off at Musgrave to top up some supplies and then on to Coen through some spectacular cattle country. Coen looked a pretty sleepy type of place. The (S)Exchange hotel campground was pretty quiet, so we found a spot well away from the other campers. Lovely grounds but there was quite a few shards of broken glass seemingly scattered around liberally all over the site. We had a fun night in the pub with the hospitable locals (and finding some old classics on the free jukebox) until it shut around 10:30pm. Seemingly we missed the invite to the after-party because the sounds of Friday night festivities seemed to go on well into the early hours. Next day we headed off north again on a long stretch of dirt until we made it to Archer River Roadhouse for lunch with an enormous (!!) very tasty burger! Then off north again crossing the Wenlock and reaching our camp for the night at Bramwell station (calling in first at the Bramwell Roadhouse to fuel up for the coming days). We sampled some great BBQ food and Ken’s station talk over a few libations.

4. The Cape, Part 3: Cooktown to Bramwell

Part Four:

After a bit of a lie in and then a long chat with Ronny (the camp handyman) about his past and adventures, we headed off north again. We arrived at Fruit Bat Falls to find we had it all to ourselves. From the size of the car park (and coach spots) we felt very fortunate indeed and spent a good long time bathing and cooling off (although I still thought it was cold!). Then we headed along the track towards Twin and Eliot falls. This involved crossing over Scrubby Creek.

We walked it first to check it and then actually got to see someone go through in a Hilux. So we followed that line, which was probably not as good as our direct line we’d just walked. Also it was probably a bit beyond what we should have done in a rental. From there we found the pitch we’d booked through the Park's website at Eliot Falls Camping Area. Both Eliot and Twin Falls had a couple of other bathers but by the time we got to the Saucepan it was getting cooler and we had that to ourselves. It seemed there was only one other couple in the camping area that night and they were deep in the other section so it was a quiet night by the fire. The next morning we had a long chat with the couple of other campers, who’d dropped by, so we set off possibly a bit later than intended. So it was back across Scrubby creek and then back for another dip at Fruit Bat. We made it to the Jardine ferry and the guys told us the roads past the ferry were a (in their words) “bit rough”. They weren’t kidding, having done a fair few outback roads I can contest that it gave the suspension a good workout. There even a few car parts here and there in the road that had been shaken off (like lamps). It looked like it had been a long hard season and the grader hadn’t been through in a long while (heard it has been much improved since). Eventually we made it to the tar and then Bamaga, where we stocked up our supplies at the IBIS supermarket. There we met a young Brit (one of many we met in Servos etc) who was loving his time living and working in the town. Then it was on to Seisia and the shimmering gulf with a glorious sandy beach, a gorgeous sight after lots of red dirt and corrugations. We pressed on to Loyalty Beach and decided to treat ourselves to a cabin. We’d me a couple back at Lion’s Den in the neighbouring camp who had been acting as handyman and kitchen hand for the season, who had recommended it. It was a lovely change to have a cabin with clean sheets/towels, A/C, and a bit of room to stretch out. The view of the sunset was just sublime, it really was (as was painted on the facilities building) like stepping into paradise. The coloured lights and garden for setting for our sumptuous meal capped off a wonderful day and evening.

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Mar 14, 2017
Story too Great to Fit In so Here It Continues :-)
by: Katrin

5. The Cape, Part 4: Bramwell to Loyalty Beach

Part Five:

After a short hop back to the port at Seisia we boarded the ferry to cruise to the Torres Strait and Thursday island. After being on the road to be cruising through the tropical turquoise waters made a fabulous change of pace. We chatted with a family group who were also having a fabulous holiday. We got off at Thursday and did the short island tour (town, fort, graveyard etc).

Then we got the ferry boat over to Horn island to do the "In their Steps" WW2 tour which was fascinating and moving. Then it was back to the mainland and time to inch our way a bit further toward the tip, taking the more coastal road to avoid the bumps on the main road (although there seemed to be some dispute as to if it was private/restricted or not - Loyalty Beach said it was fine and Hema seemed to think it was OK too). Calling in at the Croc Tent for a road status update and local maps (plus a stubby holder) we overheard a fellow traveller complaining of how he’d had three punctures on the way up! One had to wonder how fast they had been travelling over those corrugations? Then onto Punsand bay, another fabulous spot and the campground staff could not of been more friendly/helpful. Pitched up, made camp, chatted to our new neighbours - John and Janet, then enjoyed the sunset beach (shame it wasn’t as westerly facing as Loyalty Beach), down to another nice bar with truly sumptuous pizza (!!!) and then watched "outback TV" (our campfire) with a couple of tinnies. The next morning we were ready to make the final push up to Pajinka (The Tip). The road was slow going as it was relatively narrow and twisty but we only saw a couple of other cars. I dread to think how busy it would be during the height of the season. With a few K’s to go the abandoned resort was a strange sight to behold. It must have been a interesting and special place to stay but it seemed befitting that the undergrowth was slowly claiming it back - we both erred on the side of conserving the tip as a more natural reserve. So, when Matilda had taken us as far as she could, we set out from the smallish car park over the meandering path towards the tip. It was a breathtakingly and staggeringly beautiful spot. I think the preceding months planning plus all the adventures getting there made it quite emotional and quite a soul-stirring experience to finally reach that little "Northernmost" sign at the water’s edge. We spent a considerable time there and simply found it difficult to tear ourselves away. But, as always, the luxury of time was not on our side and we eventually traipsed back over the hill, taking in the vistas of the wonderful Frangipani beach and the nearby islands of the strait. We drove the tracks to Somerset and nearby beaches before retreating back to Punsand Bay - where we opened up the bottle of fizz (we’d been saving) to celebrate what had been a truly magical day, in front of yet another crackling campfire.

6. The Cape, Part 5: Loyalty Beach to The Tip

Part Six:

After a good sleep (induced by the fizz) we drove out to the neighbouring beaches and especially Cable Beach, the beach where the actual telegraph wire of the Telegraph Track became a submarine cable that would have been so important for communication "back in the day". Then back to Punsand where we had arranged a helicopter flight over the Torres Strait Islands and the Tip. We hadn’t intended to be quite so extravagant but we had both been so taken with the area we never knew when (or if) we would ever make it back, so we pushed the boat out. The whole thing was magnificent and I’d run out of superlatives trying to describe it. It gave us a real feel for the landscape and coastlines of this tropical wonderland. We both felt it was money well spent and I’d recommend it to anybody. We had the rest of the day relaxing (apart from catching up on a spot of laundry) and yet another campfire. The next day we reluctantly started the journey back towards Cairns. We planned a slow return and we couldn’t resist another Gulf sunset at Loyalty beach. So, given we didn’t have far to go we checked out Allau Beach and Muttee heads beach first. Then back for yet another unbeatable sunset, another night off from cooking with a meal topped of with some top notch cheese and biccies. The next day we slowly crabbed our way down the side-cuts on the bumpy road back to the Ferry, it was a relief to my backside and Matilda to reach the other side. Popped into Fruit bat one more time (again, nobody else there) then we took a scenic detour past the ranger station and the termite mounds before reaching the Bramwell Roadhouse and Campsite. Found we had the same neighbours, John and Janet, as in Punsand Bay. They had camped at Muttee Heads but obviously must have been out fishing when we got there. We all had dinner together and after our second station talk from the Ken we found the singer was also originally from Wales, like Hil. Somehow she was press-ganged into signing! Oh dear, oh dear is all I can say!

Mar 14, 2017
The Last Part
by: Katrin

7. The Cape, Part 6: Punsand to Bramwell

Part Seven:

Setting out south again over the Wenlock we quickly reached the branch road to Weipa, a very scenic track that eventually became tar. The trucks, mining road, ore ships and spoil heaps quickly form an impression that Weipa, being a mining town, obviously feels incongruous after the pristine outback wilderness. But not having stayed in a real "town" for a while, it came as a nice change at least. Having reached the campsite in good time and with a couple of hours to kill before the tour of the mine, we decided to walk to the pub. A nice Sunday lunch and a beer would be just the ticket and we’d be responsible and not drive. The Albatross "Resort" was a top spot - overlooking a beach and did great pub food. A nice change to be able to have a beer at lunch time. After lunch we decided to stock up on a few take out beers, as we had a bag on us, but it seems you are not allowed to buy beer unless you are driving a car! Weird. The mine tour was organised by the camp site and our guide was extremely knowledgeable and it really was fascinating to see them working away at the surface layers to get at the bauxite deposits. Not what I was expecting at all. Sadly the mine owners don’t allow video but I can say it is well worth doing, if you are interested in that kind of thing. That evening we enjoyed our last gulf sunset with the last of our tinnies we’d dragged up from Cairns. So the next day we went to Woolies to stock up the fridge and get some BBQ supplies, it was remarkably well stocked, then we drove our car to the Albatross so we could finally get those beers! We drove up to the Mission River Bridge - allegedly it held some length records. Then we set off back eastwards, eventually rejoining the Telegraph track for a short time, before taking the Lockhart River Road towards Iron Range National Park. You could tell the track must be challenging (to say the least) in ‘the wet’ - there was lots of creek crossings that still had water in them even that deep in ‘the dry’, with some steepish banks to traverse. Iron Range National Park itself was stunning with it’s dark foreboding forested peaks before the road flattens out into what seemed like lush pasture and meadowlands. So finally we reached the breathtaking Chilli Beach. We’d been warned the prevailing winds and sand can make camping there a bit challenging but we must have caught it in it’s most benign state as it looked like heavenly. We had booked into the Beach Shack at Portland Roads anyway, so after a good time enjoying the beach we drove round to see the charming little community a few K’s north. We had booked the beach shack and pulled up to be greeted by Buddha, the caretaker. He had spent some many years in PNG and was quite a character. He’d got everything prepared for us and the beach shack was quite simply amazing.

Just solar power and rainwater but kitted out with everything you’d need and this was possibly my highlight of the trip. The heightened elevation meant it had stunning views of the neighbourhood beaches, hills and sea (but a bit of a pain to lug a suitcase up). We had a BBQ with our fresh meat (from Weipa Woolies) and sat enjoying the light fade away and the lapping of the coral sea. The comfy bed was a lovely relief from camping.

8. The Cape, Part 7: Bramwell to Portland Roads

Part Eight:

Apart from a bush turkey clanging on the corrugated iron roof waking us in the middle of the night, we awoke ready to enjoy coffee on the veranda and to soak up the last of the views. I really wished we’d had more time there. So it was time to go but first we called in at the cafe next door for an absolutely sumptuous breakfast. But then we really had to tear ourselves away.

It was a little rainy once we got away from the coast on our trip back to the highway but it was over as quickly as it had arrived and we were soon back to those lovely blue skies again. Calling in for lunch at Archer River we hit Coen again, but pushed on through to the Musgrave Roadhouse, where it had started to look a bit slightly stormy again. We’d fancied staying there after calling in on the way up. It was a nice spot although slightly annoying that our neighbours insisted on running a generator late into the evening. Eventually we could bear it no longer at around 9pm and we asked how long they intended to run it for and they said "oh, we hadn’t realised it was still on". Disappointing, I’m afraid inconsiderate use of generators is one of my bugbears in the bush! The only downside of Musgrave is that is right next to the main road, so it does get quite a few trucks driving up and down through the night but thankfully they were relatively infrequent. The next day we pushed on south, calling in at Hann River Roadhouse (maybe should have pushed on and stayed there) before reaching the end of the gravel at [New] Laura. From there we did a tour of the art sights from the Quinkan Cultural Centre. The Quinkan Galleries really are really quite exceptional and our guide very informative. We took the tyres back up to highway pressures and pressed on, calling in at a few more local art sites and lookouts en route to our last camping night, at the "Mighty" Palmer River Roadhouse. It was top notch and we had a great pitch overlooking the Palmer river valley. It was our first indication of how busy things could get, as it was practically full. It was mid-late September and this seemed to be the next wave that were just about to embark on the journey up the Cape. The owner had a quirky sense of humour and we had a good night in the roadhouse chatting to him other travellers. The next morning we set off again as the scenery became more and more agricultural, eventually hitting more and more little hamlets and townships before Mareeba. To us this seemed like Manhattan after the last few weeks of the outback. We called in at Kuranda to see Barron Falls (again - never tire of that sight!) and a spot of lunch. Then it was crossing the Great Dividing Range and associated lookout spots before we hit the coastal plains and the dual carriageway to Cairns. All that traffic! Woah! Eventually we threaded Matilda through the streets to the Hilton where we’d started three weeks previously. We quickly disgorged the contents of the van into our room and went to drop off Matilda at the Britz depot. The spot of rain in Iron Range meant she didn’t look too bad at all and she’d was yet another hired vehicle we were very sad to part with. Then it was a taxi back to the Hilton. The luxuriousness of room was just spellbinding after three weeks camping (with a few nights off). So after drinks on the balcony and in the lounge it was back to our favourite Chinese and an early night! The following day it was check out (leaving our remaining beers for the staff) and a flight to Brisbane (Virgin Australia let us off the extra KGs of all our camping gear). We checked into the hotel and met up with Jo and Dave, dear friends from Sydney who had flown up, for a night on the town. Sadly all too brief. So, the following day it was back to the airport and the long trek back home to the UK again… time to order some more Hema guides for our next outback adventure!

9. The Cape, Part 8: Portland Roads to Cairns

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