Most 4WD enthusiasts dream of heading to Cape York just as soon as they pick up the keys to their first 4WD (some of us even had that dream before we were even old enough to drive!). The hype surrounding travelling through far north Queensland is almost legendary amongst people that love adventure travel, and with good reason. The fishing is unbelievable, the scenery stunning, the camping laid back and the adventures are full on.
Four-wheel drive vehicles are in their element there with rivers, eroded bog holes, sandy beaches and any number of other extreme obstacles that keep the family sedans well away. Having said that, the Peninsula Developmental Road is quite trafficable in The Dry (May to October), and does see a wide variety of travellers using all manner of transport. Trucks, cars, motorbikes and even pushbikes feel the need to head north to Australia’s tip.
The advantage of a full size 4WD lies in the prospect of following the Old Telegraph Track to some awesome places. A series of stunning waterfalls are literally just over the next range as you trace our pioneer’s footsteps in a direct line from Bramwell Junction to the old Jardine River ford. The drive is rugged and demanding, with metre-deep, water crossings being just one of the obstacles.
Eroded, undulating terrain will lift wheels and ensure a scrambling passage through tropical jungle to some magic campsites. A snorkel on your vehicle is essential in this part of the world, while every group should have at least one vehicle equipped with a winch as you’ll almost certainly need it at some stage! Experience at driving in difficult conditions is also required to deal with the constant number of challenges.
The two most notorious obstacles are both creek crossings. Palm Creek at the southern end of the ‘Tele’ is now severely gouged and will require good tyres, a good approach line and a dose of good luck for a successful passage (a winch may help also). Gunshot Creek, further to the north has several demanding descents to the basin (almost vertical in nature, and especially so when viewed through your windscreen). You can size up these obstacles and see how others deal with them before continuing, or else backtrack and take the bypasses.
Fortunately, the Dry Season sees a procession of vehicles tackle this track, and help (together with plenty of advice) is never far away. The down side to this popularity is congestion on the track, and especially in the case of Gunshot Creek, where the vehicle line up can be tedious as cars wait their turn in queue like lemmings before taking the plunge.
Camping, in places, is also congested, especially at the picturesque water crossings where bathing opportunities offer a chance to wash off the day’s dust. While salt water crocodiles are prolific across the Peninsula, most smaller creeks dissecting the Tele are safe to take a dip in, but always obtain local advice especially early in The Dry, and never enter larger bodies of water like the Jardine or low lying swamp country.
Travellers bypassing the Tele will still be treated to some spectacular country. Fruit Bat Falls and neighbouring Eliot/Twin Falls are delightful locations where you can happily lose a day without even trying. The tumbling waters are great for taking a dip, or simply indulging in a natural spa bath. Camping at Twin Falls is popular however and requires pre-booking to ensure a site.
The Tele continues north of Twin Falls but deteriorates even further with deepwater crossings, swamp country closer to the Jardine, and a rickety log bridge over Cypress Creek. Adventurous 4WDers can drive to the Jardine (but not across it) and find some quieter bush camps along the way.
All travellers are able to cross the Jardine River by barge at the designated point on the Northern Bypass Road. A fee is charged for its use and once across, the tip of Australia is almost in reach. The towns of Seisha and Bamaga pave the way to the final leg, where walkers reach the mainland’s most northerly point. Restless 4WDers can again lock the hubs, even here, to visit the nearby Somerset ruins and its picturesque stretch of coastline.
Other opportunities for 4WDing are plentiful, with Portland Roads and Chili Beach being quieter than the destinations found on the main arterial, but are as equally challenging. Frenchman’s Track with its notorious Pascoe River crossing will give dedicated 4WDers a real kick.
Planning ahead will pay dividends for those lucky enough to head to Cape York, as the National Park camping requires pre-booking, even some commercial camps can be very busy. Plan to use tents or swags up this way, as camper trailers are a chore on most tracks and guaranteed to cause you grief on the Tele itself. Make a point of taking out all of your rubbish, and keep the Cape clean for the next group of adventurers.Back to Top