South of Cape York Peninsula

There are areas on this site that are south of Cape York peninsula.

I included them despite the fact, because you will most likely be driving through at least some of them.

Firstly, there is Cairns outback - the Burke Developmental Road all the way to Normanton.

And then, there are two ways to Cooktown - the coastal, and the inland way.

Even the tightest definitions on what actually is Cape York peninsula, agree that the 'peninsula proper' starts in Kowanyama in the west, Lakeland in the middle, and Cooktown in the east.

The Tropical Coast

cairns to port douglas

Cairns to Cape Tribulation
Let us start in the east. The majority of Cape York travellers come via Cairns, and just north of this great city is the beautiful road to Cape Tribulation.
It goes all the way through the Wet Tropics area, which means rainforests, sugar cane fields, and beautiful coastal scenery.


cape tribulation to cooktown

Cairns to Cooktown
After Cape Tribulation, it still goes through beautiful Wet Tropics rainforest, the difference is now you are on smaller road.
A few sealed bits, others unsealed, a few steep slopes and creek crossings, but no big four wheel drive challenges. It's sealed again from Ayton to Cooktown.

The Dry Inland

cairns to cooktown

Inland Way from Cairns to Cooktown
You can also get to Cooktown the inland way, and as opposed to the coastal road, this is an outback road with dry vegetation. The road is called Mulligan Highway and it goes, past the turnoff to the Kondiparinga Mt Mulligan Road and Hurricane Karma Waters Road, all the way to south of Cooktown.

cairns outback

Cairns Outback
Another area that is south of the peninsula is the road inland from Cairns. It goes through some outback country with dry open woodland. The eastern half is elevated limestone country with a few townships, the western half is the flat country around Burke Developmental Road (and Highbury Drumduff Road) to Gulf Savannah, Normanton, Karumba and Kowanyama.

Kuranda Cairns Road

Kuranda Cairns Road is a beautiful tropical drive, south of Cape York.

It goes through some lush dense rainforest.

After leaving Kuranda you first pass its northern suburb - Top of the Range - and the turnoff to Black Mountain Road, before the road starts winding and climbing a bit.

kuranda cairns

Then you drive past the Rainforestation Nature Park.

cairns kuranda rainforestation

And after that your drive past the Henry Ross Lookout.

henry ross lookout

... before the road starts descending and winding a lot.

cairns kuranda

It winds for a good while before you get down to Smithfield - a northern suburb of

Ayton to Cooktown Road

The road from Ayton to Cooktown is just north of Bloomfield Road.

If you are travelling the coastal road up to Cooktown, you will first drive through Daintree Rainforests and Cape Tribulation, then the so called "infamous" Bloomfield Track, and finally the road between Cooktown and Ayton, the southern part of which is also called Rossville-Bloomfield Road.   

The coastal road to Cooktown is known to be "harder" than the inland way, and it is, but it isn't nearly as hard as they make it sound (you don't need a tour operator to do Bloomfield Road!).

While 4WD is "required" for Bloomfield Road (you need the 4WD vehicle for high clearance but not necessarily the 4WD gears, not all the way anyway), the Cooktown-Ayton bit is mostly sealed and an easy 2WD drive.
rossville bloomfield road

Rossville Bloomfield Road
This is the southern half of it, which starts at Ayton and Bloomfield, and goes past Cedar Bay National Park, Rossville, and Helenvale with its famous Lions Den Hotel.  

As opposed to the Bloomfield Road further south, it is mostly sealed and suitable for 2WD vehicles.

archer point

South of Cooktown
This is the northern part of it, which is even easier and is the main highway to Cooktown.

It passes by Black Mountain National Park, turnoffs to Mount Amos and Archer Point Roads, Annan River, and the turnoff to Quarantine Bay and Walker Bay before it comes to Mt Cook and Cooktown.

4WD Cape Tribulation

Do you need a 4WD in Cape Tribulation, south of Cape York?

If you only visit Cape Tribulation and are not planning to go any further north, you don't need a 4WD.

Lots of people drive here from Cairns in their two wheel drives - the road is good and sealed all the way.

But if you want to continue up to Cooktown, (or if you want to venture into some small 4WD tracks around in the area), you will need a four wheel drive vehicle.

The coastal road to Cooktown is the famous Bloomfield Track, and there is also another one that goes from Daintree Village to Bloomfield, which is the even more famous CREB Track.

CREB Track is a steep and narrow four wheel drive track where you need both a four wheel drive vehicle and also use the four wheel drive gears, at least on the steep slopes.

Bloomfield Road is a reasonable gravel road, except that there are a few creek crossings (easy and almost dry most times but this depends on the recent weather); and the fact that you cross a few mountain ranges which indeed are quite steep.

It depends on your skills and your vehicle whether you want to use your four wheel drive gears to keep traction on the steep slopes, but you do need a four wheel drive vehicle because you need high clearance at least in creek crossings.

4wd cape tribulation

This is something to remember when you read about whether you need a *four wheel drive* on a particular road or not.

Are they talking about that you need a four wheel drive vehicle to get across or are they talking about that you need to engage your four wheel drive gears? That's two different things!

They may say that you get through in two wheel drive - but this may mean that they got through without using the four wheel drive gears.

But you likely still need a four wheel drive vehicle because you need high clearance!

A lot of the times in Cape York you will get through, even most parts of the so-called real 4WD tracks, without engaging your 4WD gears (we have tried this just for more challenge on some of those tracks and it works), but it does not mean that you will get through in a two wheel drive vehicle!

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