Touring Cape York: The Land of Adventure
The Hema Maps-endorsed Tag-Along Tour of Cape York was an almost tangible reminder of the beauty, history, dangers and remote nature of the region. Join us as we explore the wonders and history of this iconic destination.
Following on from Sam’s great Hema Tag-Along adventure to Cape York, we take a closer look at what you can do at this must-see destination.
Long before Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon reached the western coast of Cape York in 1606 and before Captain James Cook named the region after the Duke of York in 1770, Cape York had a rich and longstanding Indigenous history.
For tens of thousands of years, Indigenous people such as the Wik, Yidinji and Kuku Yalanji people called the region home, caretaking it and building a remarkable history of tradition, arts and culture. The region remains well known for its Indigenous history, a drawcard that pulls an estimated 80,000 people to the area yearly.
Sights and Attractions
The unique and often challenging landscape of Cape York attracts keen 4WDers and campers. From the Jardine River National Park (named after pastoralist and magistrate Frank Jardine) to the Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park (CYPAL), there is plenty for nature lovers to enjoy.
This sparsely populated region (just 30,000 people in over 200,000sq km) features extremely old geological features that sharply contrast with one another. From the tropics to the dusty red dirt, Cape York is certainly a land of extremes.
This wide variety of landscapes offers recreational opportunities to anglers, hikers, 4WDers, wildlife watchers, divers, motorcyclists, families, adrenalin junkies and foodies. There are plenty of opportunities to rough it in swags or a rooftop tent, or you can opt for established tourist parks or hotels. Whatever your appetite for adventure, Cape York is well placed to cater for you.
Those seeking bushwalking experiences should consider the Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk, which includes a traditional smoking ceremony and a visit to a sacred ceremony site. Nature lovers can take the ferry to Fitzroy Island National Park to enjoy the picturesque island surroundings and the opportunity to take a dip in the fresh waters of Nudey Beach.
If you’re hoping to see some iconic Australian wildlife, head to Artemis Station for birdwatching paradise. This is the only region you will be able to see the spectacular golden-shouldered parrot, which was once prolific in the broader region.
Of course, what would a visit to Cape York be without seeing a magnificent crocodile in the wild? Join a Crocodile Express Daintree River Cruise to witness these ancient reptiles in their native habitat. Keep your arms and legs in the boat!
Prepare to get your 4WD dusty and dirty as you explore the unique corners of the Cape, accessible only by 4WD. The CREB (Cairns Regional Electricity Board) Track is highly popular with experienced 4WDers (and when wet can be impassable), but for something a little more tame, take on the track at the Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park. The Hema Cape York Atlas & Guide ranks this trail as ‘E’ for Easy, which means you can tackle it in an all-wheel drive (AWD) vehicle. The trip takes two days, so make sure you stock up on supplies. (Tip: This is a favourite destination of our founders: HEnry & MAgaret Boegheim).
The Hema Cape York Atlas & Guide contains information on the top 15 4WD trips in the Cape York region. It conveniently grades each track so you can be sure that your vehicle, and your sense of adventure, is up to the challenge.
More difficult tracks include the Old Telegraph Track (North and South) and the Starcke Coast trail, which should be traversed at an average speed of 40km/hr. The WWII Trek (Bamaga return) features historical relics and breathtaking scenery. This is graded ‘D’ for Difficult and is not suitable for towing or those with limited 4WDing experience.
Do your research
Road conditions in on the peninsula can change from season to season. It’s wise to check with road authorities before undertaking your trip to avoid delays or dangerous situations. The RACQ offers recorded road condition reports on 13 19 40. Or you can visit the Cook Shire Council or Douglas Shire Council websites.
Wildlife, while one of the region’s prolific drawcards, can pose some dangers. In croc country, you must be croc wise! The estuarine crocodile (saltwater crocodiles) is considered more dangerous than freshwater crocodiles. Salties are most active at night, especially during breeding season (September to April). Always check for signage before nearing or swimming in a body of water. Crocodiles that make their home near the Jardine River are all salties – the freshies don’t swim that far. With the capability to grow to up to seven metres, it’s best to keep an eye out for these wily reptiles when near bodies of water, including during water crossings.
If you’re on a fishing trip, never fish in the same spot twice. Scarily, crocodiles ‘hunt’, which means they are capable of monitoring and remembering your activity.
Crocodiles aren’t the only creatures to keep a watch out for. The eastern brown snake is known to inhabit this area and is the second-most venous terrestrial snake in the world. Snakes and humans have a mutual instinct to avoid each other, so it’s unlikely to encounter one unless it is surprised. The western brown and king browns are also prolific in this area, as is the northern death adder. These species are shy, but it’s a good idea to make a lot of noise when approaching an area to let them know you’re on the way. If bitten, apply a firm pressure bandage, avoid moving around and seek medical attentional immediately.
The Chironex box jellyfish makes enjoying the beach a little more difficult. In the warmer months of the year, the jelly fish swims in the region’s beaches, savouring the warmth of the water. The stings of the Chironex box jellyfish are extremely painful and toxic. As with crocodiles, abide by all signage and seek the wisdom of locals.
Knowledge is power
There is so much to see and do in the Cape York region. Plan your trip carefully so you don’t miss anything! The Hema Cape York Atlas & Guide has all the information you’ll ever need, including camping locations, maps, safety tips, preparation advice and information on attractions and sights.
At Hema Maps, we strive to provide the most comprehensive and accurate maps and guides for outdoor enthusiasts looking to explore Australia's natural wonders.
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