Somerset Australia

Somerset is one of the greatest historical places in Australia.

It was the earliest permanent white settlement on the Cape York peninsula, and the only one for a very long time.

It was the first administrative centre for the Cape York and Torres Strait area, in one of the most isolated and violent places in Australia.

While it didn't quite turn into the town of the size it was planned, there is definitely a lot of stories and a lot of history in this very interesting place.

somerset australia

Torres Strait and Cape York used to be dangerous places, with head hunters and cannibals.

somerset beach grave somerset beach grave

About a decade after Kennedy spearing, lots of lives were still being lost, and there was a need for a permanent military establishment to stop the violence.

somerset canons

So in the 1860s, the decision was made and the police magistrate to be was John Jardine from Rockhampton. He was amongst the people who arrived on the ship, while his oldest son Frank Jardine lead up the beef, in Australia's most amazing cattle drive.

somerset beach

The new establishment was built on Somerset Hill, which you can today see in the western end of Somerset Beach.

somerset hill

The cattle was taken to Vallack Point, today on the so-called Five Beaches Track, or Nathau Beach Drive, where they established a cattle station. Frank was running the station for years, with father John returning south and being replaced by other police officers.

somerset beach low tide

The tribal attacks and wars continued, and Frank was finally offered the police inspector position, and accepted it. Some time later he met and married the Samoan princess Sana, and moved briefly to Torres Strait to try pearling, while Somerset had other different police magistrates.

somerset beach high tide

But in 1877 when the adminstration of Cape York and Torres Strait was moved to Thursday Island, Frank bought Somerset off the Government, returned, and lived there for another 42 years until he passed away, 78 years of age, and Sana died four years later.

somerset grave somerset police jardine

After their deaths the homestead was maintained by their children, until the Second World War.

somerset shed somerset shed
somerset shed ruins somerset shed ruins

The homestead survived the war, but not a fire in the 1960s, so today you can only imagine they main house having stood right behind the rusted canons and the old mango tree.

somerset homestead

Under the tree you can still see some of Sana's rock gardens.

somerset rock garden somerset rock gardens

You can also see the old coconut plantation, and down the beach, on the eastern side you can still see the homestead's well.

somerset coconut plantation somerset well 
In the middle of the beach you can see the remains of the old slipway,
   somerset beach slipway

... and on the other, western side, are the graves of Frank and Sana, along with a few others.

somerset jardine grave somerset vidgen grave

At the western end of the beach,

somerset beach western end

... at low tide you can climb the rocks of the headland,

somerset beach rock walk somerset beach rocks
somerset beach rocky end somerset beach rock climb
... and you come to a cave,
   somerset beach cave

... with some Aboriginal rock paintings.

somerset beach aboriginal rock painting somerset beach aboriginal rock paintings
somerset beach rock painting somerset beach rock paintings

That's about what there is to see at Somerset and the beach, but it's also a beautiful place just to relax, and there is more in the area.

somerset camp somerset beach camp somerset beach camping somerset beach camping ground

If you are interested in Frank Jardine's history, you can go out to Vallack Point, where he had his cattle station. It is along the so-called Five Beaches Track, aka Nathau Beach Drive, which is a nice four wheel drive anyway

Five Beaches Track

East of the homestead is a sandy track that takes you down to Five Beaches.

five beaches fly point track five beaches fly point

It's a loop track that comes out further south on the way to Somerset.

somerset five beaches five beaches drive

It goes past Fly Point, Vallack Point,

five beaches vallack point somerset five beaches

... Nanthau and Narau beaches,

five beaches narau five beaches track
five beaches track five beaches sunrise

... lakes and beautiful sunrises over the sea.

Muddy Bay

In the middle of Lockerbie and Somerset, is the track into Muddy Bay.

somerset muddy bay road somerset muddy bay
somerset muddy bay somerset muddy bay

It's much like the name says - lots of mangroves, but there is also a small beach with oysters. In the area is also Paira, a historical homestead site.

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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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