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Planning your Cape York Trip

Cape York is remote, beautiful and somewhat mysterious. It’s a land of extremes, with historical, cultural and natural qualities and is well worth the time and preparation to explore.

Hema Maps and Adrenalin Offroad tour to Cape York

When you think of Australia’s northern Queensland regions, you may think of dusty roads, remote roadhouses and pubs, unparalleled natural wonders, captivating yet dangerous wildlife and unforgiving conditions. You’d be right on many of these. Taking a trip to Australia’s northern-most regions is not for the unprepared. The Hema Cape York Atlas & Guide is the ideal travelling companion. It’s also got the maps you need to navigate the region, but it also offers helpful tips on preparation, safety aspects, unique points of interest and information on the extensive Indigenous and post-settlement history of the iconic destination.

Stay Safe

When undertaking the Hema-endorsed 4WD Tag-Along Tour of Cape York, the Hema team of course was aware of the need to stay safe and be prepared for any issues that may arise.

“Cape York in many ways is the ultimate Aussie destination,” said Sam Hayward, Hema Maps Chairman. “It’s remote, it’s beautiful and representative of the diversity of Australia. You can see the true contrasts of Australian landscapes. Untouched beaches, tropical rainforests, towering escarpments, arid environments, inland bodies of water, sacred Indigenous sites … it really is symbolic of the beauty of this land.”

Cape York Beach

Despite its unarguable pull, the Hema team is well aware of the dangers that such a remote region can pose.

Hema Maps GM Matthew O’Meara says that safety is a priority when travelling.

“We all love to travel, but part of that preparation process is learning about what to take and how to plan. This includes safety. When you’re in a region with few medical facilities and limited communication options, it’s vital that you’re well prepared. We love travel but we take our safety responsibilities seriously. Our Atlas & Guide series features valuable safety information, hazard warnings and information on what to take on your travels,” he said.

Personal preparation is important, such as packing a full first aid kit and ensuring that you have an effective communication device. However, it’s also essential that your vehicle is prepared. Becoming stranded in a remote area is a dangerous situation. On roads that can go days without passing cars, it has never been more important to carry the right equipment and have a vehicle that is fully equipped for the rigours of remote travel.

With a whole chapter on preparation, the Hema Cape York Atlas & Guide offers advice on how you need to kit out your 4WD to survive the trip. It’s recommended that you fit a snorkel to your car for those often-challenging water crossings. Bullbars are vital, given the size and unpredictable nature of wildlife, such as wallabies, livestock, and wild pigs. Also, you need to consider fitting a winch, using the appropriate tyres (and being educated on tyre pressure) and installing a cargo barrier so your gear doesn’t fly around the car in rough conditions.

Hema Maps and Adrenalin Offroad tour to Cape York

Heavy-duty suspension is a must, as is a dual battery system and carry an air compressor. Cape York isn’t the place for 4WDs that are only used to taking on low-ranked trails in the Dandenongs. It’s well worth visiting an expert for advice on whether your 4WD is ready for the Cape York challenge.


While some areas of the Cape now offer adequate mobile telephone reception (such as Punsand Bay), other areas are still ghost towns in terms of mobile coverage. Telstra seems to offer the best reception, but this is still only present in towns and Indigenous communities. Once you venture out further into the bush, coverage can be non-existent. Satellite phones are a great option and can be hired for your trip. However, remember that calls are expensive, so save it for emergency situations or to check in with your nominated person who is monitoring your travels.

A personal locator beacon is also a great addition to your Cape York travel kit. If all goes wrong, it can mean the difference between rescue or remaining stranded.

Budgetary Considerations

Things can be expensive in remote areas. Cape York is no exception. The rising cost of fuel is a consideration for many travellers. Prepare yourself a budget and include some emergency money.

Most places on the Cape now accept EFTPOS, but you should also carry cash because there are often disruptions to electronic transactions. Make sure you withdraw your cash before you head north of Cooktown. Beyond this town there are only four places to withdraw money.

Other costs to factor in are the fees associated with camping permits for national parks and food. Most towns have a supermarket or general store, but prices can be higher than usual given the extra freight costs.

As with all trips, preparation can save you money in the long term. A well-serviced and appropriately equipped 4WD is less likely to break down, costing you big money, particularly in remote areas. There is also the issue of obtaining 4WD parts on the road. It can be days before parts can be delivered to remote communities, and there may not even be a mechanic who can help you.

Plan, Plan, Plan

We all know the value of planning, even for a trip to a caravan park only hours away. But this is especially important when taking on Cape York. Its remoteness is certainly part of its attraction. However, it also means that you need a reliable vehicle, appropriate communication equipment, safety essentials and a knowledge of where you’re going and when you’ll get there.

Trust Hema to help you prepare. We’ve been there, done that and learnt the tricks. The Hema Cape York Atlas & Guide is a trustworthy companion that will help you long after you’ve left city highways and small, remote towns.

Cape York Hema Maps Tour

Now days many people (not just novices) prefer to join a Tag-Along Tour when travelling through remote regions. Typically run by a professional registered and experienced Tour Guide, one can travel in your own vehicle, confident that you’ll not end up stranded in the middle of nowhere, all alone. There can be safety in numbers. Read in our next article how this format has worked very well for Hema’s own adventures to Cape York.

Next steps

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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  • Neville Arnott: July 17, 2023

    Very good info on what to take , thank you

  • Roger: July 17, 2023

    Have travelled the cape with my wife in a 2007 76 series Landcruiser at the time we were both 78 years of age. We traveled with my daughter and her partner in the same year and model LC taking in the Telegraph Track and everything in between.
    The cape was the most beautiful and rugged area of Australia we have travelled
    We continue to travel at 80 years of age in our land cruiser fully fitted out with spares, sat phone, first aid kit and AED in emergency heart attacks if needed
    Regards Roger and Delma

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