Cape York, view from top of Australia

Where to go

Cooktown & Cape York

Cape York is the Very Tip of Australia

Welcome to the Cape, an untamed frontier region dotted with rugged national parks, pristine waterways and secluded beaches.

Every day is an adventure in Cape York, one of Australia’s last true wilderness areas. Go camping, fishing, four wheel driving, walk along the beach and discover the incredible Aboriginal and early European history. Cape York is somewhere that everyone must visit once in their lifetime.

Jack Colquhoun – Cape York Camping Punsand Bay

4WD Adventures in Cape York

THE DRIVE OF A LIFETIME

Cape York is Australia’s ultimate self-drive location – in fact, you’ll find more 4WDs here than anywhere else in the country. You’ll need one if you want to access most of the region as paved roads are a rarity, which adds to the sense of adventure. A 1200km strip of road connects Cairns with Cape York and will take about seven days to drive, visiting Cooktown, the Lockhart River, remote campsites and vast cattle stations.

Swimming at Fruitbat Falls

PARK LIFE

There are more national parks in this region than anywhere else in Queensland. Spread over the central and eastern parts of the cape, they feature a range of diverse landscapes. Swim in the crystal-clear (and crocodile-free) waters of Twin Falls in Jardine National Park at the northern edge of the cape, or spot waterbirds in the extensive wetlands of the vast Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park.

Cooktown Old Bank

 A SLICE OF HISTORY

Cooktown is the capital of the Cape York region, a small coastal town about 330km north of Cairns. The town holds a significant place in Australian history, being the site of Captain James Cook’s first interaction with Indigenous people. After his ship Endeavour was crippled on a nearby reef, Cook and his crew spent 48 days here, during which time they made the first records of native fauna and Aboriginal words.

Fishing rods on beach at sunset

AN ANGLERS’ PARADISE

Cape York is also a bucket-list destination for anyone serious about fishing. The Wenlock River has the richest diversity of freshwater fish in the country, with some 48 species including the rare rainbow fish, fimbriate gudgeon, Buffon’s River garfish and freshwater sawfish, as well as barramundi and saratoga.

Indigenous dancers perform at the Laura Dance Festival

CRADLE OF CULTURE

The culture here is a fascinating mix of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, and the local communities have rich traditions dating back tens of thousands of years. Cape York is also the birthplace of the incredible Laura Dance Festival. More than 500 artists from 20 communities in the region attend this biennial Aboriginal performing arts festival, which attracts thousands of spectators from all over the world.

Tips

  • You need to properly prepare for four-wheel driving in Cape York. Make sure you pack extra supplies like fuel and water, always carry at least one spare tyre, and have some knowledge of basic maintenance. If you want to venture far off-road, a driving course could be a good idea. And always take crocodile warning signs seriously.

  • Spend the night at the most northern address in Australia at the Punsand Bay campsite. There are spectacular views up to the tip of Cape York and out over the Torres Strait Islands. You can watch the sun rise from the Coral Sea and set over the Arafura.

  • Snorkel on some of the most isolated reefs in the country in the far northern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. These reefs are largely untouched, with excellent wall dives, pinnacles swarming with fish and huge coral heads. Thousands of green turtles can be found in these waters between November and December.

Discover More

Visit the northern tip of Australia and discover a land full of natural wonders, epic 4WD tracks, sensational fishing and secluded campsites.

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Cape York arial shot

Getting here

  • Sky trans aircraft in Cape York

    By air

    Skytrans connects Cairns with the main communities on Cape York and the Torres Strait Islands and offers the most diverse route options. REX Regional Express also operates a service from Cairns to Bamaga and Qantaslink offers daily return flights from Cairns to Weipa. Daintree Air Services offers scenic tours and charter flights between Cairns, Cooktown, Lizard Island and the tip of Australia.

  • Car driving on dirt road in Cape York

    By car

    Self-drive or hire a car. Two-wheel drive vehicles can enjoy sealed roads on the inland route to Cooktown via the Mulligan Highway. The Peninsula Development Road (PDR) is also sealed all the way from Lakeland to Laura. A four-wheel drive vehicle is required to journey north of Laura or hop on a tag-a-long tour and let a guide do all the hard work for you.

  • Bus

    By bus

    Trans North Bus & Coach operate three services weekly between Cairns and Cooktown via the Great Barrier Reef Drive and the Bloomfield Track in Cape Tribulation. They also operate three services weekly on the inland route via the Mulligan Highway.

  • Boat to Cape York

    By ship

    Cruise ship to Cooktown. Or take the cargo ship MV Trinity Bay all the way along the coastline. You’ll cruise 1,000km in azure-blue waters along the Great Barrier Reef on a vessel destined for the northernmost point of Australia. A stunning, unique, bucket-list experience like no other. Why not put your 4WD on the vessel heading north, and drive back to Cairns through Cape York – an untamed wilderness that has to be seen to be believed.

Stay

Where to put your feet up after a day of adventure.

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