So you're planning on going up to Cape York?
Don't worry, it’s not as bad as everyone says. All you need is preparation and common sense. Don't rush and take it easy when you hit the dirt.
Majority of the roads are good. Some roads we had to pay special attention on.
Chilli beach (not frenchmans) - It has some big wash outs that can snap your car/ute chassis if you're not careful. So we took it extra slow when we could see them coming plus having the rivers/creeks come up on our map we were well prepared for them.
Bloomfield Track - The locals and some 4x4 enthusiast don’t call this a 'Track' as it’s easy to just fly through. However for someone that has never attempted a track like this it can be very daunting at first. If you have just a 4WD then this track is easy however we were towing a caravan so it made it for a challenge. It’s very important that you know how to handle massive inclines and descents before hitting this track. There have been some people who have come stuck halfway on the inclines and had to wait for a tow truck to pull them out. If this ever happens to you then put the brakes on and get your partner to run out and put chocks under the wheels to stop the vehicle and caravan from rolling. We approached these inclines in 4L 4WD with the hubs locked and in first gear. This meant that our Nav was in its lowest gear possible with maximum revs. On the descents I had my finger on the brake controller’s override to provide more power to the caravan brakes so as not to overheat the cars brakes. It’s very important on these inclines and descents to give your car a break if you think it needs it. Get out and check the brakes of all tyres and monitor the engine temp of the car. If anything is abnormal then you will have to wait until they have cooled down.
PDR (Peninsular Development Road)
The road is simple to tackle, it consists of corrugations, washouts and really bad drivers. You have 2 choices with corrugations, Drive at 20-30km/h or 80km/h+. If you drive slowly your car will love you for it as it gets minimal wear and tear. Drive fast then you ‘skip’ over the corrugations and obviously gets you there quicker.
The tyre pressure we choose to run was 28 PSI cold all round when we hit the dirt. This was a very happy medium for us and provided a soft ride, not all 4WDs are the same so seek advice on what you should be running. We constantly check all bearings on the rigs as it’s a simple check and a failed bearing can be disastrous. All you have to do is put your hand on the bearing cover and if it’s crazy hot then you need to fix the heat issue ASAP.
The good thing about Cape York is that there is plenty of people up there doing it so if you have any issues, chances are the next person can help you. We even had a tour bus pull over and ask us if we were ok when we pulled over to get fire wood. There’s plenty of tow trucks and mechanics especially up near the top so once ago that is peace of mind.
I could go on all day but as long as you take it easy then your dramas will be less.
Our Cost Wrap Up
[From Cairns up to the tip & back to Cairns]
Please note these prices are from our trip in June 2017
Number of days for our cape trip; 35 days
Total kms covered; 3,018kms
Average fuel prices per L for diesel only;
Cairns $1.29 Cooktown $1.37 Musgrave Roadhouse $1.53 Bramwell $2.00 Jardine $1.60 Bamaga $1.60-$1.79 Weipa $1.40 Lakelands $1.34
Total $$$ spent on fuel; $747.50
Money spent on food and drinks (alcohol included);
groceries/supermarket/bottleO's : $823 takeout / sneaky roadies : $417
Total $$$ on campsite fees; $425
Our top 5 places to see;
the tip sign Lakefield National Park Chili Beach (expect a lot of rubbish) Wajul Wajul falls / Bloomfield falls Cape Tribulation
Our top 5 camp spots;
Free camp on the beach at the tip (beach access near carpark for the Tip sign) Loyalty beach campground Wenlock River / Botavia Goldfields Captain Billy's Landing (need a permit) Free camp just 2km north of Coen by the river
Number of campfires; 17
Places where you can get groceries up at the Cape;
Seisha has a great fresh butcher Decent grocery store in Bamaga with plenty of supplies to get you out of trouble (had a good supply of fruit and veg) Coen shops (x2) have minor supplies Weipa has a Woolworths, bakery & butcher Most roadhouses have very basic stock also if your desperate
Gas refills: $10 per kg to top up at the tip! $6 per kg in Weipa. We suggest to take plenty for your trip and use it sparingly.
Handy maps we used daily;
Hema paper map ($15), Cairns tourism map of the cape tracks (free) & Croc tents map - of the Capes finer tracks up at the tip (free from croc tent)
Times we needed the winch / recovery gear; 3
Number of crocodiles spotted; 2 (poor effort we know!)
Other wildlife spotted; dingos: 2 goanna's: 6 cows: hundreds horses: 56 stray dogs: 34 beautiful birds & butterflies; countless
Fish caught; only 1 - 73cm Barramundi from a inland hole we nicknamed 'barra-dice'.
Alcohol restrictions are in place after the Jardine (we saw police 3 times on separate occasions checking people) If you go to Chili beach, spend at least 1-2nights. We thought it was a big drive just for a day trip. Most people use UHF channel 40 to communicate on the roads Cooktown has great stores to top up with last minute tools, groceries, fishing gear etc. We stocked up a lot in Cairns. The Croc tent has more than enough Cape' souvenirs to satisfy your needs
Food hot spots;
Archer River Roadhouse burger $15 Wood-fired pizzas at Punsand Bay $23-$30 Fish & Chips at Loyalty campground (Sunday nights only) $15 per serve Palmer Roadhouse mega steak sandwich $15
Daintree; Car only $14 & Car+Camper/Caravan $19 (both prices one way) Jardine; Car only $99 & Car+Camper/Caravan $130 (both prices return)
Telstra phone reception;
Laura Rangers station in Lakefield NP Coen Weipa At the Jardine Ferry Chili Beach (only just) Bamaga / Seisha / right at the tip
Our route - keep in mind we towed our caravan through and to all this places;
Cairns to the Daintree. 1 night
Daintree through Cape Tribulation, up the Bloomfield track to Wajul Wajul. 1 night
Wajul Wajul to Lion’s Den Hotel. 1 night
Lion’s Den to Cooktown via Archer Point Lighthouse. 3 nights (Cooktown festival was on at time of visiting)
Cooktown onto 'Battle Camp road' to Lakefield NP. 2 nights
Lakefield NP to Musgrave Roadhouse. 1 night
Musgrave Roadhouse to Coen, via the Port Stewart track. 2 nights
Coen to Wenlock River - stopped at Archer Roadhouse for lunch. 1 night
Wenlock River to Chili Beach. 2 nights
Chili Beach returned on same track to Moreton Telegraph Station. 1 night
Moreton Telegraph Station to Bramwell. 1 night
Bramwell to the tip on the PDR with a stop in at Elliot Falls. 2 nights
Tip free beach camp spot, moved to Loyalty Beach. 5 nights
Day trips to Punsand Bay, 5 beaches track & Mutee Heads. Depart Loyalty Beach and headed to Kennedys Lost Camp 50km north/east of Bramwell. 1 night
Day trip to Captain Billy's then stayed at Moreton Telegraph Station. 1 night
Moreton Telegraph Station to Weipa via bypass road. 3 nights
Weipa to Coen via PDR. 2 nights
Coen to Musgrave Roadhouse via PDR. 1 night
Musgrave to Lakefield. 1 night
Lakefield to Palmer Roadhouse. 1 night
Palmer Roadhouse to Mt Molloy. 2 nights
We weren't on any time limit hence why our trip to the cape might be classed as 'long'. We are currently travelling Australia full time at the moment and don't believe in rushing, so we make sure we have plenty of time to see the places we want to see.
Also make sure you check out our 3 part Cape York Videos on YouTube!