Heading north from Cairns you can go the inland road (which is sealed) or the coastal road which is 4WD only (from Cape Tribulation). Visit Palmer River, Bloomfield, the iconic Lions Den Hotel at Helensvale and the mysterious Black Rock National Park.
Cooktown (330km north of Cairns), is one of Queensland’s hidden gems – a beautiful, unspoilt coastal town, and one of Australia’s most historically significant townships. This is where Lt James Cook found safe haven in 1770 to repair his ship, the “HM Bark Endeavour”, and where the First Reconciliation took place between Europeans and the Guugu Yimithirr people.
A century later, Cook’s Town was built on the banks of the river where that historic meeting took place. A bustling new port and community grew from a ramshackle tent city to service the mining camps of Queensland’s largest gold rush on the Palmer River. The gold soon disappeared, but Cooktown hung on, surviving economic decline and two devastating cyclones, to emerge as one of Tropical North Queensland’s best kept secrets. The book River of Gold by Hector Holthouse gives a fascinating look into this region’s history, perhaps read it on your travels.
There is evidence of Cooktown’s colourful past all over town, and many places of interest can be seen with a leisurely stroll of the town. Don’t miss the world-class James Cook Museum, learn more about the town’s history at the Cooktown History Centre, see the Chinese Shrine at the Cooktown Cemetery or visit some of the oldest Botanic Gardens in Australia and learn about our local flora. For the train buffs, visit the Cooktown Historic Railway Park at the bottom of Hogg Street.
Today Cooktown has a population of 2,300, and the town is growing again as word spreads of its beautiful location and the friendliness of its people. With the completion of the Mulligan Highway in 2006, the town is now easily accessible by a fully sealed road and air, yet its remote location, stunning landscapes and laid-back lifestyle give it a distinctly frontier feel – the very essence of Australia! At the end of the day head for Grassy Hill. This is where James Cook stood to search for a passage through the Reef. It’s everyone’s favorite place, and the views at sunset are breath-taking.
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.
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.
Stand at the Tip of Australia
The final section of your tip to The Tip brings you to the Northern Peninsula Area which is home to 5 communities. Bamaga and Seisia are largely Islander communities, while Injinoo, Umagico and New Mapoon were established for Aboriginal people in the 1960s.The NPA area has good shops, camping places and accommodation at Loyalty Beach, Punsand Bay and Seisia. The daily ferry to Thursday Island departs from Seisia.
Cape York is pure adventure!