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The adventure of driving a four-wheel drive vehicle to the northernmost point of Australia along the Cape York Peninsula will provide you with a lot more than just a camera roll full of memories (although this is a plus!).
Your trip will be packed with Aboriginal culture and the history of Australian pioneers, not to mention a plethora of iconic Australian wildlife and animals that call this region home. From red desert roads to prehistoric rock art collections, ancient gold towns to bush cattle ranches, and everything in between, your journey will be loaded with history and culture.
Because Cape York is so far removed from civilization, adequate planning is essential to ensuring that your vacation is both enjoyable and without problems. This article will provide you with some of our best advice to help you traverse this uncharted portion of the globe. Topics covered include researching before you go, what to bring, and how to keep safe while travelling.
So, let’s begin!
Brisbane to Cape York Road Trip: Itinerary, Places, Distance & Attractions
Leaving Brisbane in Far North Queensland and making your way to Cape York, which is the most northern point on mainland Australia, is often regarded as one of the roughest and most isolated adventures that Australia has to offer. A real journey worthy of your bucket list that calls for careful planning, thorough preparation, and unwavering resolve to complete.
The possibility of driving around Cape York is becoming more and more feasible with each passing year thanks to the construction of more paved roads and cell towers. However, despite these advancements, the possibilities for daring, self-sufficient overland journeys are almost endless in this enormous wilderness.
In the event that you are in the process of organizing a trip to Cape York or simply daydreaming about your very own 4WD journey from Brisbane to Cape York, we have compiled a number of helpful hints and responses to frequently asked questions regarding traversing the Cape York peninsula that you might find interesting to learn before you set out on your journey.
|Car Drive Time
|1 day and 9 hours in normal traffic
|Iron Range (IRG)
Brisbane to Sunshine Coast
|1 hr 25 min
The Sunshine Coast is glad to have you here. In southern Queensland, Australia, you’ll find a stretch of coastline known as the Sunshine Coast. This region is known for its beach resorts, surf locations, and agricultural hinterland.
It extends from the coastal city of Caloundra, which is located near Brisbane, all the way up to the Cooloola part of the Great Sandy National Park, which is home to a variety of different coloured sand dunes, as well as mangrove forests and small lakes. The upscale community of Noosa Heads is known for its assortment of quaint stores, its waterways, and the hiking trails that wind through the surrounding Noosa National Park.
You may walk barefoot on the beach one minute and then hike to the ancient peaks of the Glass House Mountains the next, all the while eating farm-fresh local vegetables and immersing yourself in the green rainforest along the route. This is all possible here.
Top Attractions on Sunshine Coast:
- Noosa Heads National Park
- Eumundi Market
- Australia Zoo
- Mooloolaba Beach
- Underwater World
Accommodation in Sunshine Coast:
- Novotel Twin Waters Resort
- Peppers Noosa Resort & Villas
- The Sebel Noosa
- Rumba Beach Resort
- Noosa Pacific Resort
Restaurants on Sunshine Coast:
- Noosa Beach House
- Rickys River Bar & Restaurant
- Wasabi Restaurant & Bar
- Sails Restaurant Noosa
- The Long Apron
Sunshine Coast to Eumundi
Another kid- and parent-approved rest station along the M1 north of Brisbane is The Ginger Factory, which is located not far beyond Yandina. The Ginger Factory has gorgeous subtropical gardens, is free to enter, is open seven days a week all year long, and has tours, tiny rides, one-of-a-kind shopping stores, and a cozy café with homemade ice cream. It’s a great place to take a stroll and relax before continuing your journey, whether you’re travelling with or without young children.
If you’re driving from Brisbane to Cape York on a Wednesday or Saturday morning, you may stop at Australia’s largest and finest artisan markets, the Eumundi markets, which are located only 10 minutes up the M1 from the Ginger Factory. The markets include several food stands, a wide variety of performances, and a wide variety of wares for sale.
Top Attractions in Eumundi:
- Eumundi Markets
- Eumundi Museum
- Eumundi Square
- Eumundi Conservation Park
- Eumundi-Noosa Road Natural Amenity Reserve
- Dick Caplick Park
Accommodation in Eumundi:
- Coolum Budget Accommodation
- Yandina Caravan park
- Joe’s Waterhole Hotel
- Eumundi Gridley Homestead B&B
- BIG4 Ingenia Holidays Noosa
- Phoenix Eumundi Bed & Breakfast
- Nomads Noosa Youth Resort
Restaurants in Eumundi:
- The Bungalow Eumundi
- Bask Eumundi
- Popina Eumundi
- Imperial Hotel Eumundi
- Sala Thai
Eumundi to Bulburin National Park
|4 hr 36 min
Mount Boreen Borreen is the highest peak of Bulburin National Park, which protects rugged, high land in the Many Peaks, Dawes, and Bobby Ranges. The park’s name comes from the mountain that is its highest point. Located in the middle of Queensland is the subtropical rainforest remnant with the biggest area.
The entrance of Bulburin National Park may be found around 120 kilometres to the south of Gladstone or 40 kilometres to the southwest of Miriam Vale.
Top Attractions in Bulburin National Park:
- Bulburin National Park
- Bulburin Creek
- Bulburin Dam
- Bulburin Lookout
- Bulburin Walking Trail
Accommodation in Bulburin National Park:
- Bulburin National Park Campground
- Bulburin Creek Retreat
- Bulburin Dam Retreat
- Bulburin Lookout Cottage
- Bulburin Forest Lodge
Restaurants in Bulburin National Park:
- Bulburin Park Cafe
- Bulburin Dam Restaurant
- Bulburin Creek Bistro
- Bulburin Lookout Diner
- Bulburin Forest Kitchen
Bulburin National Park to Kunwarara
|3 hr 36 min
Livingstone Shire, located in Queensland, Australia, is home to the rural community known as Kunwarara. According to the census completed in 2016, the town of Kunwarara has a total population of 71 inhabitants.
After forming a portion of the southern border of the locality with Canoona, the North Coast railway line then travels through the southwest portion of the community before departing towards Marlborough.
Top Attractions in Kunwarara:
- Kunwarara Heritage Park
- Kalka Para Dam
- Kunwarara Cenotaph
- Kunwarara Magnesite
- Kunwarara Heritage Trail
Accommodation in Kunwarara:
- Kunwarara Lodge
- Kunwarara Cottage
- Kunwarara Retreat
- Kunwarara B&B
Restaurants in Kunwarara:
- Kunwarara Hotel
- Kunwarara Store
- Kunwarara Cafe
- Kunwarara Takeaway
- Kunwarara Roadhouse
Kunwarara to Townsville
|7 hr 11 min
Townsville, our destination for the day, has more to offer than you may at first think. It’s also the starting point for a trip to Magnetic Island, which is one of my favorite stops on the way to Cape York. To all appearances, Townsville, the biggest city in northern Australia, is a thriving commercial hub. Once you go out and about in Townsville, you’ll quickly discover a wealth of activities.
The Strand is the place to be if you’re interested in the coast’s parks, beaches, and history. The view from the top of Castle Hill is spectacular. The central business district is filled with public murals and street art that you should check out.
Although there are many exciting things to do in this area, catching the boat to Magnetic Island is undoubtedly the highlight. To see and do all there is to see and do on Magnetic Island, you should set aside at least one full day. However, many tourists choose to spend at least two nights on the island since there is so much to do.
Top Attractions in Townsville:
- Magnetic Island
- ReefHQ Aquarium
- Castle Hill
- The Strand
- Townsville Palmetum
Accommodation in Townsville:
- Rydges Southbank Townsville
- Quest Townsville
- The Ville Resort – Casino
- Mercure Townsville
- Ibis Styles Townsville
Restaurants in Townsville:
- Rick’s Garage
- The Coffee Club Townsville
- Watermark Restaurant Townsville
- The Boardwalk Bistro
- The Courtyard Restaurant
Townsville to Port Douglas
|5 hr 19 min
It’s difficult to picture Port Douglas as a frontier town populated by drifting sailors and gold seekers. A popular tourist destination, the formerly tranquil town has chic arcades and well-heeled visitors since rediscovering its glory days.
Port Douglas is a mythical place in the modern day. The neighbourhood is teeming with tourist attractions, including hotels and resorts with manicured lawns, condominium complexes, exclusive golf courses, world-class tennis facilities, enticingly priced eateries, and every kind of Great Barrier Reef excursion conceivable.
Visit the Tourist Information Centre on Macrossan Street as your first stop. Details of the area’s history are detailed on brass plaques that may be found following brochures and maps. At the shoreline of Port Douglas, you may see Ben Cropp’s Shipwreck Museum. Things like cash and ballast may be found on sunken ships. Port Douglas is shown in two locations.
Top Attractions in Port Douglas:
Accommodation in Port Douglas:
- QT Port Douglas
- Peppers Beach Club & Spa
- The Reef Marina Resort
- The Mantra Heritage
- Silky Oaks Lodge
Restaurants in Port Douglas:
- Nautilus Restaurant
- Salsa Bar & Grill
- Zinc Restaurant & Bar
- On The Inlet
- Nu Nu Restaurant
Port Douglas to Archer River
|6 hr 51 min
In the Australian state of Queensland, there is a small community known as Archer River. It is located in the Shire of Cook. According to the census completed in 2016, the town of Archer River has a total population of 22 people.
The Archer River, which runs from east to west through the middle of this inland community and eventually empties into the Gulf of Carpentaria, is the source of the place’s name. In the southwestern part of the area is where you’ll find Oyala Thumotang National Park. This park was once known as Mungkan Kandju National Park and Archer Bend National Park.
Top Attractions in Archer River:
- Archer River
- Archer River Roadhouse
- Archer River Campground
- The Archer River Indigenous Community
- Archer River Rock Art
- The Archer River Billabong
Accommodation in Archer River:
- Archer River Roadhouse
- Archer River Campground
- Archer River Cabins
- Archer River Safari Tents
- Archer River Retreat
Restaurants in Archer River:
- Archer River Roadhouse Restaurant
- Archer River Campground Restaurant
- Archer River Indigenous Community Restaurant
- The Archer River Billabong Restaurant
- The Archer River Floodplain Restaurant
Archer River to Heathlands Regional Park
|3 hr 24 min
A vast wilderness region near the very extremity of the Cape York Peninsula that encompasses a significant portion of the catchment basin for the Jardine River, which is the longest river in Queensland that remains perennial. Low sandy ridges are covered with heath, rainforest, and forests. These ridges are divided by swamps and large coastal dunes are covered in shrublands, vine thickets, and heath.
Top Attractions in Heathlands Regional Park:
- Jardine River
- Sandy ridges
Accommodation in Heathlands Regional Park:
- Heathlands Regional Park Camping
- Wilderness Lodge
- Rainforest Retreat
- Forest cabin
- Riverfront cottage
Restaurants in Heathlands Regional Park:
- Heathlands Regional Park Restaurant
- Jardine River Restaurant
- Rainforest Café
- Forest Bistro
- Sandy Ridges Restaurant
Heathlands Regional Park to Cape York
|2 hr 39 min
The land that can be found to the north of the Jardine river is known as the True Cape York. It is a skinny peninsula that is bordered on the east by the Coral Sea, on the west by the Arafura Sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria, and on the north by the Torres Strait.
There are five Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander villages, each of which offers extremely high-quality services and businesses to travellers, tourists, and those looking to take vacations.
Due to the mistaken belief that Cape York is inaccessible at any other time of year, it used to be that people could only go there during the dry season, which runs from May to November.
Passengers are transported throughout the year by airlines and shipping companies, and hotels, inns, and tour guides remain open throughout the year as well. December and April, which is known as “The Green Season,” are considered best by many people, in fact by almost everyone to be some of the greatest months of the year.
Top Attractions in Cape York:
- Cape York Peninsula
- Jardine River National Park
- Lakefield National Park
- Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park
- Weipa Town
- Torres Strait Islands
- The Tip (Pajinka)
- Quinkan & Regional Cultural Centre
Accommodation in Cape York:
- Eco Beach Resort
- Jardine River Wilderness Lodge
- Lakefield Tourist Park
- Weipa Caravan Park
- Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park Camping
- Bramwell Station Camping
Restaurants in Cape York:
- Wildman Wilderness Lodge Restaurant
- Eco Beach Resort Restaurant
- Jardine River Wilderness Lodge Restaurant
- Weipa Town Restaurant
- Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park Restaurant
How long does it take to drive from Brisbane to Cape York?
The drive from Brisbane to Cape York can take anywhere from 2-3 weeks, depending on the route you take and how many stops you make along the way.
What is the best time of year to make the road trip?
The best time to make the road trip is during the dry season, which typically runs from May to September. The roads are in better condition and there is less chance of flooding.
Do I need a 4WD vehicle to make the trip?
A 4WD vehicle is recommended for the trip, as some of the roads can be rough and difficult to navigate. Some areas may also require a permit for a 2WD vehicle.
In conclusion, a road trip from Brisbane to Cape York is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that offers breathtaking landscapes, unique wildlife, and a chance to experience the rugged beauty of Australia’s northernmost tip. The trip can take anywhere from 2-3 weeks, depending on the route and stops you make along the way.
A 4WD vehicle is recommended for the journey, and there are a variety of camping and accommodation options available along the way. Overall, the road trip to Cape York is a journey that will be filled with memories that last a lifetime.