A driving trip to The Wild North is for those adventurous spirits who love leaving clouds of dust in the wake of their 4WD.
There are a number of ways to experience the epic Cape York Peninsula in which you’ll witness historic hotels, ancient rock art and breathtaking natural scenery and wildlife.
These journeys will take you along red Outback roads, past wetlands brimming with birds, and into isolated fishing spots. You can test your four-wheel driving skills over treacherous creek crossings on the Old Telegraph Track and swim in stunning waterfalls.
Here are some of the best tracks on your trip to the top.
Punctuated by lush rainforest, spectacular beaches and mysterious mountains, the coastal Bloomfield Track starts at Mossman Gorge in the southern Daintree National Park. Take a bush tucker tour with the area’s traditional owners or head into Daintree Village which is popular for croc spotting tours. You’ll catch the Daintree River Ferry and drive past ancient rainforest, gorgeous beaches and a number of creek crossing before reaching Cape Tribulation where the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics rainforest meet.
This is the end of the bitumen road and from here it’s an adventurous 4WD crossing of the Bloomfield River, past the Aboriginal art centre at Wujal Wujal and the township of Ayton. Pause at Helensvale, home to the classic Lion’s Den Hotel, before continuing on to Black Mountain. You’ll drive past piles of black granite boulders which are considered sacred by local Aborigines before arriving in historic Cooktown.
This journey starts in Cooktown, home to historic monuments and museums. From here, you’ll join the Peninsula Development Road at Lakeland and travel to Laura to see the Quinkan rock art galleries, one of UNESCO’s top 10 rare rock art sites. The drive further north will take you past Rinyirru National Park which is best known for its wildlife and fishing. A great place to stop is at the Musgrave Roadhouse, built as an overland telegraph station in 1887, before passing through Coen, and on through Oyala Thumotang National Park and the scenic waterholes of the Archer River.
The journey north to Bramwell Junction will bring you to the Old Telegraph Track known for its steep eroded banks and challenging creek crossings. Enjoy the scenery at Fruit Bat, Eliot and Twin Falls before catching the Jardine River car ferry to Bamaga. Some 30km later you will arrive at Australia’s most northern Point from which you can view the Torres Strait islands.
Worthy of a mention all on its own, the Old Telegraph Track cuts through the scenic heart of the Cape York Peninsula, following the original telegraph line. This is a journey for those experienced with a 4WD as you navigate the steep banks of Palm Creek. Camp the night at Dulhunty River and then tackle Gunshot Creek which more often than not, requires a winch. This track is so challenging, you’ll need to walk Cockatoo Creek to determine the best route across the uneven rocky bottom. You can follow this route to the Northern Bypass Road, turn left, and then return to the track nine kilometres later.
Keen anglers should travel from Cooktown via Battle Camp Road where they will be rewarded with Barramundi in the three major river systems. Kalpower Crossing will take you into Cape Melville National Park and on to Wakooka Road and the pristine waters of Bathurst Bay. Beach fishing includes cod, flathead, queenfish, grunter and barra here. On the journey south towards Cooktown, Starke River is known for mangrove jack and barramundi and there is also an all-weather boat ramp and mud crabbing opportunities.
Boasting wet tropics rainforest, dry woodlands, coastal wetlands, mangroves and the Great Barrier Reef itself and its islands, the Wild North is flush with great birdwatching opportunities. Starting in Cooktown, head north to Endeavour River Valley, home to red goshawk and bustards. At Rinyirru National Park you can see white-bellied sea eagles, great egrets and little-pied cormorants. Waterbirds inhabit Red and White Lilly Lagoons and Low Lake. The rare golden-shouldered parrot inhabits Artemis Station and at nearby Laura, you’ll find the diamond dove.
Read on to learn about how to choose the best flights to explore the Great Barrier Reef on a helicopter scenic flight.
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