Overland to Cape York's Tip
Australia’s most northerly point, Cape York offers the intrepid traveller myriad adventure experiences, writes Lee Atkinson.
As far as signs go, it’s not very impressive – just a few words stencilled on a post, explaining where you are. But it’s the most photographed spot within 1,000 kilometres because everyone who gets to the northernmost point on the Australian continent snaps a souvenir-selfie with the sign at the tip of Cape York.
Getting there is always a journey of epic proportions, particularly if you’ve bumped your way along the Old Telegraph Track, which follows the trail established by builders of the Overland Telegraph Line in the 1880s. One of the country’s greatest adventure drives, it’s renowned in 4WD circles for its thrillingly steep and slippery creek crossings. Highlights along the way include sampling Outback hospitality at the country’s most northerly cattle station – many an Outback legend started off as a traveller’s tale told during happy hour at the tin shed bar on Bramwell Station – and cooling off beneath plunging waterfalls.
It’s a wild land where everything is bigger than you expect – vast savannah plains studded with monumental termite mounds and wetlands brimming with birdlife and lily-covered billabongs. Once you’ve crossed the Jardine River you’re officially on the Tip, but there’s much more here than just that famous sign. Spend some time exploring and you’ll find the remains of a wrecked WWII plane in the rainforest near Bamaga and old radar installations at Mutee Head. Take in the stunning vistas over the Torres Strait on our 11 Day Cooktown and Cape York Tour.
There’s more WWII history on nearby Horn Island in the Torres Strait. More than 500 bombs were dropped on the island and tours include visits to abandoned slit trenches, gun posts and the remains of crashed aircraft. Interestingly, neighbouring Thursday Island, home to the largest community in the Strait, was never bombed. There’s a legend that a Japanese Princess died here before the war and was buried on the island, protecting it from harm, although many locals scoff at the idea.
The Tip in Queensland also boasts a string of beautiful beaches such as Punsand Bay, where you can watch the sun sink into the sea at The Corrugation Bar, while enjoying a great pizza. There are also plenty of cultural attractions to take in. The ancient Aboriginal rock art sites in Quinkan Country are ranked in the world’s top 10 by UNESCO. The Gab Titui Cultural Centre on Thursday Island is the place to see dhoeris, the intricate feathered and pearl headdresses that are the symbol of the islands, and zamiyakal, the 'dance machines' unique to the Torres Strait. Crafted from painted wood, some are hand-held clappers that look like stars, others feature delicate feather wands. They are mesmerising as the men twirl and snap them in time to the beating drums while they dance.
For your trip to the Tip, why not join us on the 11 Day Cooktown to Cape York journey.
Witness some of the country’s most spectacular natural locations on this 4WD adventure. Highlights include the vast Daintree National Park, part of the World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics area. You’ll visit stunning Mossman Gorge, then cruise along the Daintree River, maybe spotting a few crocodiles, before relaxing at Cape Tribulation, where rainforest fringes the beach.
After travelling by 4WD, relax at great accommodation options including rainforest cabins at The Heritage Lodge and Spa in the Daintree and cabins at Lotusbird Lodge in Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park. You’ll get a taste of Outback hospitality at Bramwell Station.
Experience Indigenous culture, beginning with a Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk at Mossman Gorge. A smoking ceremony is followed by stories of the Kuku Yalanji culture and demonstrations of traditional plant use for medicine and food. In Quinkan country, visit Split Rock, ranked one of the top 10 rock art sites in the world by UNESCO.