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Cairns to Cape York 9 Day Roadtrip Itinerary: Camplify

Tuesday 8th May 2018
By Dave Eddy
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By Dave Eddy
Article written by Campstay.

Most travellers begin their tropical North Queensland adventure in Cairns. This itinerary takes you all the way to Cape York, and captures some of Queensland’s most iconic natural wonders. Experience stunning tropical rainforests while being a stone’s throw from the world-heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef.

This road-trip spans a whopping 1800km. Although some travellers complete this journey in less than a week, it’s far more enjoyable to take nine or ten days. This will ensure you see and do everything you wish to without rushing. Pack your bags, load the camper and hit the road – Cape York is waiting!

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Day 1 - Cairns to Port Douglas

Distance: 68km

Start your morning with breakfast at Jamdrop Café, one of Cairns’ finest eateries. Grab some picnic supplies and head north to Palm Cove. Spend the morning exploring the Daintree Rainforest’s natural beauty. Take part in a guided tour showcasing the Daintree’s biological diversity. Afterwards, enjoy lunch with a view before continuing north to Port Douglas.

(Daintree Rainforest)

Take a pitstop at picturesque Four Mile Beach. Grab a spot towards the northern rocky headline; this is a great place to explore, adventure, and cool off with a swim. 

(Four Mile Beach)

Continue driving to Port Douglas. Here you can end the day with a tasty meal at Salsa Bar and Grill.


Day 2 – Port Douglas to Cooktown

Distance: 266km

Enjoy a light breakfast at Café Fresq before visiting Port Douglas Wildlife Habitat. Cuddle koalas, handfeed kangaroos, take part in guided tours and of course, take amazing photos with the animals. Have lunch at Curlew Café and Restaurant before heading to Cooktown.

(Port Douglas Wildlife Habitat)

Nestled between the mouth of Endeavour River and Grassy Hill, Cooktown is a charming and historically significant town. Home to heritage buildings, monuments and centres paying tribute to an era of great hardship and triumph, Cooktown is a great place to step back in time. Stop in at the James Cook Museum, brimming with artefacts, information and captivating stories.

Grab a bite to eat at the Cooktown Memorial RSL and get some rest – tomorrow will be a big travel day!


Day 3 – Cooktown to Musgrave Station

Distance: 545km

Today’s mission: arrive at Musgrave Station in time for sunset! With approximately 545km to cover, you’re in for a huge day. Today is all about off-roading through Lakefield National Park, the lowest lying part of the peninsula. Lakefield is the second largest National Park in Queensland and is a popular place for camping and fishing. The park including lakes, billabongs and wetlands, so there’s a lot to see along the way.

(Lakefield National Park)

To break up the long drive, stop for a picnic lunch and stretch your legs before continuing to Musgrave Station. If you’ve timed it right, you’ll see the sun set as you enjoy dinner at Musgrave Roadhouse. Get an early night as you’ll be up bright and early.


Day 4 – Musgrave Station to Coen

Distance: 111km

As Musgrave Station is merely a stopover, hit the road as early as possible. Coen is roughly three-and-a-half hour drive away. Located in the centre of Cape York Peninsula, Coen is part of the large Cook Shire Council. Have lunch at Great Northern Café before detouring to Coen River. Here you can explore the wetlands and forest greenery before cooling off with a dip in the river.


Day 5 - Coen to Lockhart River

Distance: 209km

Treat yourself to a little sleep-in before hitting the road towards Lockhart River. Along the way you’ll pass Archer River Roadhouse; stop here for a delicious meal. The ‘Archer Burger’ is renowned for its ability to satiate even the most seasoned trucker’s appetite – give it a go! Once you’ve satisfied your hunger, continue to Chilli Beach.

(Chilli Beach Lockhart River)

Chilli Beach, sandwiched between the reef and the rainforest, is near the north-east boundary of Kutini-Payamu National Park. It’s a great spot to see the many coastal and seabird species roaming the area as you stroll along the water’s edge. The best time to walk the beach is during low or outgoing tide, when there is plenty of beach; check the tide chart at Portland House. Before you know it, the sun will be gone. Head inland to Lockhart River and set up camp for the night.


Day 6 – Lockhart River to Moreton Telegraph Station

Distance: 113km

Start your day with a visit to the Lockhart River Art Gallery, swapping settlement history for dreamtime stories told by Aboriginal artists. 

From here (if you have a suitable vehicle) it’s time to tackle the 4WDing Frenchman’s Track, home to the deepest and fastest flowing river on the Peninsula. This is one of the Cape’s most testing tracks, featuring water crossings, technical driving and varying sand tracks. Dress accordingly, you might just get a little wet today!  

(Frenchman’s Track – Pascoe River)

This track should take up the remainder of your day; you’ll arrive at Moreton Telegraph Station just in time for sunset.  If your vehicle isn’t up to the Frenchman’s Track, take the 2WD road to the station instead.


Day 7 – Moreton Telegraph Station to Bramwell Station

Distance: 37.2km

Just because you’re half-way through your trip, doesn’t mean it’s time to slow down; the adventures will continues today. The Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve is a must-visit en route to Bramwell Station. This wetland conservation property is a tribute to the late Crocodile Hunter. The 135,000ha property is home to spring-fed wetlands, rare and vulnerable plants and shy native wildlife. It also provides a permanent flow of water to the Wenlock River, the most crocodile-infested waterway in Australia.  

Take part in an APT or AATT tour. Along the way, you’ll pass through the Wenlock River - have your camera ready to ‘snap’ some shots of the crocs

Fuelled by your day of adventure, make your way to Bramwell, just in time for dinner at Bramwell Station Tourist Bar.


Day 8 – Mapoon to Bamaga

Distance: 173km

Today’s car ride will take about six hours, so we suggest an early start. Along the way, stop for a picnic lunch and stretch your legs before continuing to Bamaga.

Bamaga is a small town, 40km from the northern tip of Cape York. No trip here is complete without cruising the islands. Thursday Island is the heart of the Torres Strait, Cape York’s most popular tourist destination.

(Thursday Island - Bamaga)

Enjoy beautiful ocean views, see native flora and fauna and taste delicious local seafood. Enjoy a scenic stroll along the esplanade, take in the spectacular view from Green Hill Fort and learn about Thursday Island’s strategic military history.

Finish the day with dinner at Cape York Peninsula Lodge.


Day 9 – Bamaga to Cape York

Distance: 31km

Today is all about making it to ‘The Top’. Head to Punsand Bay and Roko Island. The island is a family owned pearl farm located around 5km west of Punsand Bay. They offer pearl farm tours, fishing charters and a tropical island experience. If you choose to do a tour you will learn how pearls are made, see how they are harvested; naturally, you can also purchase fine jewellery.

Once you’ve learned all you can about pearls, continue towards Cape York. There’s something rewarding about reaching a destination you’ve worked hard for.  Upon arrival, park and walk the final 20-30 minutes across jagged molten rocks to the “tip of Australia’ sign. Not only will you feel accomplished, you’ll be rewarded by stunning views.

Wow, you made it! What you do from here is up to you. Explore the Cape or return to Cairns.  One thing’s for sure, you’ll be thinking about this incredible journey for years to come. 


Do you own an RV? Interested in learning how Camplify can help you turn your caravan, camper or motorhome into $5000 - $35,000 per year? Learn more about how Camplify works for owners

To find out how Camplify can work with you and your RV, register today here.

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