Cairns to Cape York

What's the quickest way from Cairns to Cape York?

While it means missing out a lot of good fun, some people like to shoot right up to the Tip of Australia and back.

You are going to miss out a lot of beaches, fishing and camping spots, some good townships, some unique rainforest and some of the best four wheel drives.

But if you want to do so, I am not going to try to stop you - maybe you simply haven't got enough time.

Here is your quickest way from Cairns to Cape York. You still do see many great places.

cairns esplanade beach

Cairns is a great city with some good attractions, adventures and outdoors activities, and if you have the time try some day trips outside the city. 

If you are in a hurry, at the very least you should take a tour to the Great Barrier Reef and try some local seafood restaurants.

South of the Cape York Peninsula

Then you have the choice of the coastal or the inland road south of Cape York.

inland way to cape york

The Inland Way
The inland way is quicker, it is also sealed all the way to Laura, but it goes through some dry outback environment, and is more remote considering the distances between the few townships are longer. It goes via Kuranda, Mareeba, Mt Molloy, Mt Carbine and Lakeland.

coastal road to cape york

The Coastal Way
The coastal road has some beautiful scenery and more famous places like Daintree and Port Douglas, but is only sealed from Cairns to Cape Tribulation, and is definitely worth doing, apart from the famous tropical rainforests the best things are CREB Track, Bloomfield Road and Cooktown.

Southern Cape York Peninsula

In southern Cape York, you only have one road north.

laura australia

Lakeland and Laura
Depending on what way you want to take between the Peninsula Developmental and Cooktown (Mulligan Hwy or Battle Camp Road), the inland and the coastal road will meet either in Lakeland or Laura - both small townships with basic amenitites.


North of Laura the road is mostly unsealed, and instead of townships you have two roadhouses - Hann River Roadhouse, and Musgrave - an old historical roadhouse on the crossroads of the roads to Lakefield National Park (east) and Pormpuraaw (west).

Central Cape York Peninsula

In central Cape York, you can take the quickest road north, but you also have some choices for side trips.

coen australia

North of Musgrave you have a township - Coen - about half way from Cairns to Cape York. Now if you weren't rushing up north (or do on your way back south) the side tracks to do here would be the Old Coen Track, Running Creek Track and Port Stewart.

archer river roadhouse

Archer River
North of Coen is a roadhouse, but first you pass by a quarantine station and the turnoff to Mungkan Kaanju National Park, (now Oyala Thumotang National Park) and further north along the corrugated road you come to Archer River Roadhouse.


lockhart river iron range

Turnoff to Lockhart River
North of Archer River is the turnoff to Lockhart River, Portland Roads and Iron Range National Park, which contains some unique rainforest, known for species found nowhere else, however they are not easy to spot unless you stay and take your time.

weipa telegraph road junction

Turnoff to Weipa
Further north you come to the turnoff to Weipa, or to be more correct - the main road, which is the Peninsula Developmental Road, continues to Weipa, and if you want to go north, you turn right to Cape York - the Tip of Australia, Pajinka and Bamaga.

Northern Cape York Peninsula

In the northern Cape York peninsula things get more adventurous.

wenlock river bridge

Telegraph Road
The road north is called Telegraph Road, and it is a reasonable dirt road that can get corrugated; and muddy after rains. It passes by millions of termite mounds, the turnoff to Frenchmans Track; Wenlock River Bridge and Moreton Telegraph Station before it comes to Bramwell Junction.

old telegraph road

The Old Telegraph Track
At Bramwell Junction you have the choice of taking the Bypass Roads, or the Old Telegraph Track, which is by far the best part of your Cape York trip. The best way is to take the OTT on your way north, and the Bypass Roads on your way back south.

Northern Peninsula Area and the Tip

jardine river ferry crossing

Northern Peninsula Area
In the end of the Old Telegraph Track you cross Jardine River on a ferry. North of the river you come to Injinoo, Umagico and  Bamaga - the largest town up here. Next north are New Mapoon and Seisia, where you can catch a ferry to Thursday Island.

tip of australia

Tip of Cape York
Further north are Loyalty Beach, the historical Lockerbie and Somerset, Somerset Beach, Punsand Bay, Pajinka and finally the place called Cape York - the northernmost point of mainland Australia. Off the coast are Torres Strait Islands.

cape york travel

Plan Your Trip... the FREE Cape York Travel Pocket Guide

Get this 50 pages guide totally for FREE. It contains information that helps you getting started with planning of your trip. You get to make early-stages desicions such as when to go, how long time you should take, how to get there and get around, where to stay (general info), what will it cost.. and a short insight to what is there to see and do in Cape York.

Plan and Bring to the Trip... the full Destination Cape York Travel Guide

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This complete 300 pages travel guide is all you need before and during your trip. Besides the background chapters on the peninsula's history and wildlife; and the comprehensive detail about all the places (down to prices, opening hours and full contact detail), it has invaluable information on at least 10 four wheel drive tracks, at least 30 guaranteed FREE camping spots on the Cape (and at least 150 on your way to the Cape), at least 40 best swimming holes, all mapped; as well as practical things - from fuel, roads, wireless internet and mobile phone reception, how to deal with the national parks booking rules; and Aboriginal land entrance and camping permits and alcohol restrictions - to vehicle preparation and accessories and necessary recovery gear by my vehicle-recovery-guy partner). Not to mention locals' tips on how to spot that croc and palm cockatoo ;-)

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