The Old Telegraph Track

The Old Telegraph Track will most likely be the best part of your trip.

Whenever I think back to my trips around in Cape York, it always is the best part of it

It can be slow, but it's exciting, and along the track are some of the best spots on the whole peninsula.

And there is nothing to be scared of even if you are a beginner - you can always turn back should you come to a creek crossing that is too much for you.

There are also several bypass roads that help you to get around the scariest crossings.

The Old Telegraph Track Is Great Fun!

The track is best done from south to north, mainly because it gets gradually harder the further north you get.

Note: Some people get disappointed with the OTT. Why? Because they are experienced four wheel drivers (if you are one the Old Coach Road is a must), but by hearing about this 'great four wheel drive track' they get their expectations right up and then realise it wasn't challenging enough for them. Remember - everything is relative. What is too easy for some, is too challenging for others. The Old Telegraph Track has its reputation because it is challening enough for the average adventure traveller - not for over experienced four wheel drivers. For someone with no experience, it can even be too much - the northernmost crossings
definitely are. How challenging it is for YOU depends on YOUR experience and YOUR vehicle, even the time of the year and the recent weather (rains). Below are photos and descriptions of all the crossings so that you can get the best possible idea before you go out there. Still, the day you go the conditions may be different from what you see here.

If you are only a half-brave four wheel driver, and unless you have the vehicle properly prepared with a snorkel and all, you are probably best off doing the southern part of it, which is easier, and avoid the northern half by taking the Northern Bypass Road.

telegraph track

The track starts at Bramwell Junction, where you can turn left to the Old Telegraph Track (Bypass Roads go straight ahead, past the roadhouse).

Bramwell Junction to Palm Creek Crossing

The start of it is really easy-going with a few holes like on the photo below, but nothing major.

dry creek crossing

If you are a total beginner, your first challenge is Palm Creek. It is quite steep in both ends, although it is a dry creek well enough into the Dry Season.

palm creek

Ducie, South Alice and North Alice Creeks

The next creek north is Ducie, which is an easy one, and like Palm and the others down here, dry in the Dry Season.

ducie creek

After Ducie you come to an easy part with quite a level road and the South Alice Creek, which is so easy you most likely don't even notice it.

south alice creek

North Alice is easy too, and like others down here, it is dry well enough into the Dry Season.

north alice creek

After North Alice you cross the border to Heathlands Nature Reserve.

heathlands reserve

Dulhunty, Bertie and Cholmondeley Creek Crossings

And after that you come to the first crossing that is wet even during the Dry Season - the beautiful Dulhunty River. It's not a hard one to cross, at least during the Dry Season. It's a beautiful river with lush vegetation, and it is a great spot to camp.


The next creek north is Bertie, which is also wet even during the Dry Season (as are most crossings north from here). The shallowest and easiest place to cross it is after a little drive east along the southern river bank - the exit is where I stand taking the photo.

bertie creek

After the Bertie you come to a crossroad where you can turn onto the Gunshot Bypass (to avoid the infamous Gunshot Crossing), or keep following the rest of the Old Telegraph Track, which after Gunshot will gradually get more adventurous - the crossings get deeper and it's easier to damage your vehicle.

gunshot bypass

If you choose to continue, you first come to Cholmondeley Creek crossing, which is shallow during the Dry Season, and shouldn't be a problem.

cholmondeley creek

Gunshot - the Most Famous Crossing

The next crossing north, after a few kilometres drive through an open heath country, is the famous Gunshot Creek - which, if done properly (using one of the steep drops instead of the "Slingshot"), is the scariest of all crossings on this track.

gunshot creek crossing

North of the Gunshot you come to a grave, which belongs to an Old Telegraph Line linesman, and has quite an interesting story written on the plaque.

telegraph linesman grave

Cockatoo Creek - The Old Telegraph Track

The next crossing north is Cockatoo Creek, a beautiful creek with clear water and green vegetation around it (away from the creeks it's not always so green!). The bottom is rocky but there are some bog holes you need to avoid so make sure you walk the crossing first (and others north from here), and find the safest route to get through it.

cockatoo creek

Sheldon Lagoon and Sailor Creek

Next you pass by the Sheldon Lagoon ...

sheldon lagoon

... and then you cross Sailor Creek on a small bridge. After the bridge, on your left hand side is an old linesmen's shelter with names of previous travellers under the ceiling.

sailor creek

The Old Telegraph Track Joins Bypass Roads

Soon after the Sailor Creek you come to the crossroad where the Old Telegraph Track and the Bypass Roads will join in and go in one for a while - until, you come to the sign that shows you to some of the absolute highlights of not only this road but the whole peninsula.

old telegraph track bypass road junction

Fruit Bat, Eliot and Twin Falls

First there are the Fruit Bat Falls - I have heard people saying that they haven't seen a better swimming spot in the whole Australia.

fruit bat and eliot falls 
When I have visited, the water has been so clear you can see the bottom, and it has been reasonably shallow (this depends on the season, of course), and perfectly cool. It's a fantastic spot for a lunch and very popular too, since it is close to everyone whether they travel along the Old Telegraph Track or Bypass Roads, and whether they are on their way up or down the peninsula.

fruit bat falls

North of the Fruit Bat Falls is the crossing of Scrubby Creek, which doesn't look like much on the map, but can in fact be deep enough so take care.

scrubby creek cape york

After the ford there are Eliot Falls, and a short stroll from them are Twin Falls - another beautiful swimming hole.

eliot falls

While the Fruit Bat Falls are day-use only, at the Eliot and Twin Falls there is a national parks camping ground where you can stay over the night. It can get crowded, particularly during the height of the Dry season.

twin falls cape york

Canal Creek - the Old Telegraph Track

The first creek north of the waterfalls is Canal Creek, which can be quite deep and also has an uneven bottom worth walking through and checking out the best route before you drive it.

canal creek

After Canal Creek, you leave the Heathlands Resource Reserve and enter Jardine River National Park.

jardine river national park

Sam, Cannibal, Mistake and Cypress Creek Crossings

Next, there are four crossings right next to each other. The first one is Sam Creek, which is not too bad but the bottom is uneven so walk it to find the shallowest route through it.

sam creek

The next one is Mistake Creek, which is not too bad. It has a sandy bottom but is not too deep, not well enough into the Dry Season anyway.

mistake creek

The next one is Cannibal Creek, which is a beautiful creek and a great spot to camp. The entrance and exit are quite steep, but the water is not too deep
well enough into the Dry Season.

cannibal creek

The next one is Cypress Creek, famous for its log bridge, which is quite wonky so take care.

cypress creek

After the Cypress you follow the red-soiled track through tropical savannah vegetation with grass trees and some forest palms, past the poles of the Old Telegraph Line that seem to be in better condition here than elsewhere -
until you get to Logans Creek - one of the deepest crossings on the whole track.

the old telegraph track

Logans and Nolans - the Deepest Crossings

And it doesn't help that the water is murky and the whole area looks like a croc habitat - however there are no croc signs unless I have missed one, and people do walk it to check the bottom, which is a smart thing to do for the sake of saving your vehicle. If you feel it's too hard, you have the opportunity to turn back to Mistake Creek and take the bypass.

logans creek

Your next one north is Nolan's Brook, also called Bridge Creek, although the days when the bridge was driveable are history. This is often the deepest of all the crossings and is the crossing that claims most vehicles. So many people get their vehicles stuck here that nowadays there are towing ads in trees.

nolans brook

The bright side of Nolans - where the old bridge used to be (I am hanging in some of the last remains on the pic there), - as you can see, is a wonderful swimming hole. Beautiful emerald green water, clear and clean, and just right temperature to cool down :-)

bridge creek

The End of the Old Telegraph Track

After Nolans Brook, the Old Telegraph Track is effectively over. You continue to Jardine National Park and have the opportunity to continue all the way to the mighty Jardine River, or turn left to the ferry crossing (which takes you across the river on the Jardine River Ferry).

jardine river swim

Some cheeky people still try their luck to save the ferry ticket money and cross the river at the old river ford instead, however it is nowadays considered too risky even though I have seen people doing it and getting across too!

walk in jardine river

In any case, don't do like Rob on the photo above and walk in the middle of Jardine - people have been taken by crocs here and I have seen crocs in this river myself. 

Read more about crossing this river at the old Jardine River Ford.

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