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Cape York

Cape York and the Gulf Savannah are the last Australian frontier. Located on the northern most tip of Australia, Cape York Peninsula is a wild and sparsely populated wilderness area and is only accessible during the dry months of April to December. Its rugged coastline points towards New Guinea while the eastern side of Cape York is fringed by the coral gardens of the Great Barrier Reef.

The seemingly undeveloped land of Cape York will surprise and delight. The dusty tracks contrast dramatically with the abundant river systems, crystal clear creeks and spectacular waterfalls. This is a vast area of unexplored wilderness, magnificent national parks, sacred Aboriginal sites, unexplored rainforest, rugged mountains and swampy marshlands. This is a land of climatic extremes where the creeks run dry, or ten feet high.

If you love bushwalking, four-wheel driving, wildlife, fishing birdwatching or camping then Cape York is the place for you. The Cape York region is one of the largest wilderness areas in the world that remains relatively untouched, maintaining its original beauty and variety of sights. You’ll be amazed by the 40,000 year old tradition and culture of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders – Australia’s Indigenous people. See the unique wildlife including kangaroos and the unusual dugongs. With all this untamed beauty the area offers an escape from the man-made pressures of the city.

You can discover Cape York in a variety of ways. Travel by four wheel drive to the very tip of Australia or cruise the blue waters of the Torres Strait. Trek to ancient Aboriginal Rock Art sites at Quinkan Rock Art Reserve, where thousands of years of Aboriginal culture have been recorded in ochre and clay paintings.

Islands of the Torres Strait

The Torres Strait is made up of over 100 islands north of Cape York in Tropical North Queensland. Stretching approximately 150km between the northern most tip of Australia and the south coast of Papua New Guinea, the dazzling turquoise waters of the Torres Strait are dotted with over 100 islands as well as coral cays, exposed sandbanks and reefs.  The Strait’s overall population of 8000 people, of which approximately 6000 are Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people, is dispersed throughout 19 small island communities. The communities are all remote, approximately 1000 kilometres from the nearest city and each has a population between 80 and 750 people.  The most populated island and centre of trading and business in the Straits is Thursday Island, also known as ‘Waiben’. With 3,500 residents the Torres Strait Islander culture is an interesting mix of Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Malay, South Sea Islander, Papuan, Aboriginal and European peoples.   Torres Strait Islanders are proud of their unique culture and both the older and younger generations strive to retain it. Where possible Torres Strait Islanders maintain their traditional way of life, depending on marine resources for their daily existence. Thursday Island, now identified as one of the last great frontiers in Australia, holds some great Australian history. In 1880 Thursday Islandacted as the defence centre for Australiaand evidence of this still exists in that the cannons still remain in place.  The culture is quite distinct from mainland Aboriginal culture.  There is a variety of accommodation and tours to experience the Torres Strait Islands.  It’s an ideal stopover to see the Torres Straitculture and lifestyle inherited from its South Pacific neighbours.

Varied terrain

One of the world’s last wilderness frontiers, the Cape York Peninsula is a unique area of incredible contrasts.
Measuring some 11 million hectares in size, it extends 1000 kilometres north of Cairns to Cape York, the tip of the peninsula, which extends out beyond the islands of Torres Strait.
The Cape begins at Cooktown and from here a wild, unexplored habitat awaits – dusty tracks, abundant river systems, crystal clear creeks, spectacular waterfalls and prolific wildlife.
The further north you venture, the more diversity you’ll discover – windswept beaches where time and tide have eroded cliffs into fascinating shapes and mountains clad in rainforest, gently sloping down to the sea.
Beyond Cooktown, most residents live in Aboriginal and cattle station communities and in small mining towns dotted among enormous national parks.
Cape York Peninsula is home to the Injinoo Aboriginal people, who know the land intimately, allowing their survival in this harsh land. Visit the Pajinka Wilderness Lodge at Pajinka, owned and operated entirely by the Injinoo people who offer lodging, field trips and tours to visitors.
There are only two seasons on Cape York Peninsula the ‘wet’ and the ‘dry’. The wet from mid November to April is by far the most spectacular but access is only by aircraft. At the end of the big wet, south-east trade winds return to dry the land, leaving it green and lush and covered with  wild flowers.

Activites and Experiences at Cape York

  • Off Road Driving The Cape area is accessible via vehicle between April and December of each year. Tag along tours where people drive their own 4WDs with a group leader are a popular option. For anyone planning to travel on their own outside a guided safari they’ll need to be fully prepared with maps, a suitable 4WD vehicle, emergency supplies and good guide books. Experienced off-road drivers can camp by billabongs or waterfalls, ford rivers, fish for barramundi and watch for crocodiles near the coast. Good local maps will help you locate all the interesting 4WD tracks in the area.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Visit ancient Aboriginal art sites at Qinkan Rock Art Reserve where thousands of years of Aboriginal culture have been recorded in ochre and clay paintings. In June each year the Torres Strait Cultural Festival is held on Thursday Island. Many islander communities gather to display their culture, arts and crafts. You can experience throwing a boomerang or spear, play a didgeridoo, watch colourful song and dance, and learn about bush foods, bush medicines, hunting and gathering skills and the stories of the Dreamtime.
  • Birdwatching Enjoy a full day or half day bird safari tour and view over 200 species of bird in the rainforest.
  • Bushwalking There are plenty of bushwalking tracks in the region and Cooktown supports the local Bushwalking Club.
  • Camping Camp out in 500 000 star luxury in a swag on a peninsula cattle station and get a taste of what life would have been like a century ago. Join a camping and 4 wheel drive safari, there are various operators and packages to choose from.
  • Canoeing Canoe the Jardine River, a wild and untamed river. It has an extremely high difficultly rating and it is recommended that trips be taken in June to September.
  • Scuba-Diving Indulge in the beauty of Lizard Island and enjoy some of the best scuba-diving in the world.
  • Fishing – Beach
  • Fishing – Estuary Barramundi fishing is permitted in the region and the maze of creeks and rivers that drain into nearby Princess Charlotte Bay is a fishing paradise. There is a fishing-closure from November to February each year, but for the rest of the year the limit is five barramundi per person.
  • Fishing – Trout/Fly
  • Fishing – Game Go on a sportsfishing safari with a seasoned operator – half day and extended trips on a share or sole use basis are available to suit all levels of expertise. Visit the Ribbon Reefs of the Continental Shelf for tag and release black marlin fishing at its most exhilarating, as well as wahoo, dogtooth tuna and sailfish.
  • Fishing – Deep Sea Go on a sportsfishing safari with a seasoned operator – half day and extended trips on a share or sole use basis are available to suit all levels of expertise. Visit the Ribbon Reefs of the Continental Shelf for tag and release black marlin fishing at its most exhilarating, as well as wahoo, dogtooth tuna and sailfish.
  • Flora The flora in this region is complex, with tropical rainforest, open forest of melaleucas, heathland, eucalypt forest and savannah grassland. Freshwater mangroves and lianas are common along the streams and among the many varieties of plants in the region you will find a carnivorous variety
  • Gold prospecting Try your luck at fossicking for gold in Maytown.
  • Photography There will be plenty of opportunities in the Cape York region to ‘capture the moment’ on film.
  • Meditating/Relaxing Indulge in isolated luxury on Lizard Island – it’s within easy reach of Cooktown by sea or air.
  • Sailing Go on a sportsfishing safari with a seasoned operator – half day and extended trips on a share or sole use basis are available to suit all levels of expertise. Visit the Ribbon Reefs of the Continental Shelf for tag and release black marlin fishing at its most exhilarating, as well as wahoo, dogtooth tuna and sailfish.
  • Scenic Flight One of the most amazing ways to see the Cape York is from the air.
  • Sightseeing There is plenty of sightseeing to be done on the Cape York, from the reef to the rainforest and outback. For a truly unique sight, stand on the northernmost point of the Australian continent.
  • Snorkelling Indulge in the beauty of Lizard Island and enjoy some of the best snorkelling in the world.
  • Swimming Indulge in the beauty of Lizard Island and swim in clear, cool island waters
  • Bush Tucker
  • Animal Viewing
  • Walking There are many walking trials around Cooktown’s scenic rim.
  • Water-based One of the great attractions of Cape York, and especially the very tip, is the superb fishing, which can be had with very little effort. There are a many fishing trips to choose from and a variety of operators that cater for different levels.
  • Accommodation
  • Airport
  • Ambulance
  • Banking Facilities
  • Beach
  • Boat Ramp
  • Bottled Gas
  • Chemist
  • Dentist
  • Electronic Funds Transfer at Point Of Sale
  • Fuel
  • Hospital
  • Public Bar
  • Mechanical Services
  • Medical Facilities
  • National Park
  • Newsagent
  • Police
  • Post Office
  • Public Telephone
  • Restaurant
  • Sporting Facilities
  • Supermarket
  • Swimming Pool
  • Takeaway Food
  • Tennis Court
  • Visitor Centres
  • Places of Worship
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander For much of the past two million years, a land bridge connected Cape York Peninsula and Papua New Guinea. As a result, the forests and woodlands of Cape York contain strong genetic links to those of Papua New Guinea. This close connection created the peoples known as Torres Strait Islanders who, with the Injinoo Aboriginal people, populate most of the northern coastal reaches of the continent. The long history of Aboriginal occupation has left a legacy of some of the world’s great archaeological treasures, with some sites dating back at least 30 000 years.
  • Active There is plenty of things to do in the Cape York region from four wheel driving, fishing and camping to scuba diving on one of the most luxurious islands on the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Adventure If it’s adventure you are after the Cape York has it all, canoeing down the Jardine River is extreme adventure. Take a safari tour through the heart of crocodile territory or go on a sportsfishing safari in pursuit of Black Marlin. And of course standing on the very tip of Australia can’t be missed.
  • Aussie Lifestyle Camp out in 500 000 star luxury in a swag on a peninsula cattle station and get a taste of what an Aussie lifestyle would have been like a century ago.
  • Beach Bask in nature’s glory on the soft white sands of Lizard Island. The Cape York itself has beautiful untouched beaches, which are home to the crocodiles in the estuaries and thus must be admired from afar and with caution.
  • Caravan and Camping Cape York is excellent for four wheel drive and camping safaris. A self-guided adventure does require preparation and considerations; information can be obtained from Tourism Tropical North Queensland Information Centre. Due to the road conditions caravans are not recommended. There are various professional companies who provide a top quality tours of the region and will provide you with a wealth of information about the region and its remarkable history.
  • Cruise Cruise the Cape York coast and Great Barrier Reef on a catamaran cruiser or a passenger carrying cargo vessel and view this amazing coast line.
  • Cultural Visit Thursday Island, capital of the Torres Strait Islands, and discover the pleasures of another culture.
  • Diving Indulge in the beauty of Lizard Island and enjoy some of the best scuba-diving in the world.
  • Eco Tourism There are many eco tourism accredited operators to choose from in the region.
  • Environmental Tour operators are dedicated to preserving the Cape York region; the surrounding waters, reefs and islands. It is a relatively untouched wilderness and there should be nothing left from your stay except footprints
  • Flora and Fauna The flora in this region is complex, with tropical rainforest, open forest of melaleucas, heathland, eucalypt forest and savannah grassland. Rare fauna and flora include cuscus, palm cockatoos, eclectus parrots, green pythons, palms and orchids. Other sites not to be missed are the giant termite mounds and birdlife on the plains. Crocodiles do inhabit the region in waterholes and the beachfront so care must be taken
  • Honeymoon Indulge in isolated luxury on Lizard Island, it’s within easy reach of Cooktown by sea or air and is a true jewel on the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Industry/Mining, Agriculture The mines at Weipa produce thousands of tonnes of ore, which is exported all over the world. Throughout the region there are also gold mines where many people lots there lives in search of fortune.
  • Island Indulge in isolated luxury on Lizard Island, it’s within easy reach of Cooktown by sea or air and is a true jewel on the Great Barrier Reef. Visit Thursday Island, capital of the Torres Strait Islands, and discover the pleasures of another culture.
  • Indulgence/Luxury Indulge in isolated luxury on Lizard Island, it’s within easy reach of Cooktown by sea or air and is a true jewel on the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Marine One of the great attractions of Cape York, and especially the very tip, is the superb fishing, which can be had with very little effort. There are a many fishing trips to choose from and a variety of operators that cater for different levels.
  • Mountain The inland route of the Cape York climbs the range from Mossman to Mt Carbine. The Cooktown Development Road leads down to mysterious Black Mountain, named by the local indigenous people as Kalkajaka, ‘Place of Spears’. Black Mountain is in fact two mountainous pyramids of blackened volcanic boulders thought to be 150 million years old.
  • National Park Many areas of Cape York Peninsula are national parks. Rangers are stationed at most of these National Parks. The Rangers are a good source of information on the local areas.
  • Nature based The Cape York is one of the world’s last accessible wilderness areas. For all its isolation, the cape presents a holiday choice of a challenging adventure or comfortable sightseeing. Experienced off-road drivers can camp by billabongs or waterfalls, ford rivers, fish for barramundi and watch for crocodiles near the coast.
  • Off road Cape York’s accessibility has meant limited facilities and relatively few inhabitants. From around Cooktown north, access is by dirt road suitable for 4WD, air via commercial flights into Cooktown, Weipa, Bamaga or Horn Island in the Torres Straits or by private charter or airstrip, or along the coast by sea. The eastern edge is rainforest, but west of the Great Dividing Range the land is mainly eucalypt woodland, scrubland and grasslands. The numerous rivers vary from almost dry in the dry season (May-November) to overflowing in the wet season (December-April), when the road to the Cape becomes impassable. Experienced off-road drivers can camp by billabongs or waterfalls, ford rivers, fish for barramundi and watch for crocodiles near the coast.
  • Outback Camp out in 500 000 star luxury in a swag on a peninsula cattle station and get a taste of what life would have been like a century ago. Join a camping and 4 wheel drive safari, there are various operators and packages to choose from.
  • Pub Stay Enjoy a stay in one of the historic hotels.
  • Rainforest The Cape York is one of the world’s last accessible wilderness areas and remains a land of few people and prolific wildlife living in rugged mountains and pristine rainforest.
  • Reef Indulge in isolated luxury on Lizard Island, it’s within easy reach of Cooktown by sea or air and is a true jewel on the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Relaxation Indulge in isolated luxury on Lizard Island, it’s within easy reach of Cooktown by sea or air and is a true jewel on the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Remote For all its isolation, the Cape represents a holiday choice of a challenging adventure or comfortable sightseeing. If you’d like to stand on the northernmost tip of the Australian continent, there is access via road, sea or airplane via Bamaga airport.
  • Romance Indulge in isolated luxury on Lizard Island, it’s within easy reach of Cooktown by sea or air and is a true jewel on the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Shopping Groceries are available in each town on Cape York.
  • Water based One of the great attractions of Cape York, and especially the very tip, is the superb fishing, which can be had with very little effort. There are a many fishing trips to choose from and a variety of operators that cater for different levels.
  • Wilderness From Cooktown to the tip of Australia is some of the most spectacular and rugged scenery in the country and one of the world’s last wilderness areas. The area is an under-explored paradise with thousands of species of tropical birds, beautiful waterfalls and basking crocodiles.
  • Wildlife Rare fauna and flora include cuscus, palm cockatoos, eclectus parrots, green pythons, palms and orchids. Other sites not to be missed are the giant termite mounds and birdlife on the plains. Crocodiles do inhabit the region in waterholes and the beachfront so care must be taken
  • RTN, QH and National Distributors (TQ)

Nearest Airport: CAIRNS

Accommodation In Cape York

Discover some of the accommodation in and around Cape York

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