Cairns to Cape York Road Trip – The Comprehensive Itinerary

Cairns To Cape York Road Trip
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You can plan a Cairns to Cape York road trip to enjoy the highest adventure. Cairns and Cape York are rich in history, culture and other attractions. Therefore while driving along this route, you will undoubtedly come across relics of history, experience different cultures in communities and explore the wildlife. 

1030.4 KM is the Cairns to Cape York direct drive distance. If you drive non-stop, under normal traffic, you will reach the destination within 17 hours and 20 minutes. But we strongly recommend you break your journey to all those beautiful places that you come across on this route. 

You will get the opportunity to collect more memories by visiting more cities and attractions. Surely all these memories will stay with you for a lifetime. However, we aim to make your job easier. And therefore, we make a whole 7 days itinerary of the Cairns to Cape York trip for you. You can follow these comprehensive details to develop a better plan. 

So, let’s dive into the discussion:   

Cairns To Cape York Road Trip: Itinerary, Places, Distance & Attractions

Cairns to Cape York driving distance is 1030.4 KM following State Route 81. The approximate total driving time is 17 hours and 20 minutes. From Cairns, you can reach Cape York in 3 ways: Plane, Ferry and car. 

The fastest option to reach your destination is by plane. But to enjoy all the other attractions on this route from both ends, car driving is the best option. While driving from Cairns, you will have easy accessibility to visit all the attractions that are situated along this route. 

So, considering this, we are developing an itinerary for seven days. If you can make a plan for 7-9 days, it will be better to explore all the visiting spots in this route. 

We recommend you plan for a minimum of 7 days to enjoy the Cairns to Cape York drive.

Drive 17 Hours 20 Minutes 
Nearest Airport From Cairns Cairns Airport (CNS)

Day 1 

On the first day, start your journey from Cairns. Wake up early in the morning, pack your bag and fully prepare yourself to hit the road. 

Cairns To Port Douglas 

Port Douglas is located north of Cairns. 66.6 KM is the distance between Cairns and Port Douglas following the Captain Cook Highway / State Route 44. The approximate driving time is 1 hour. You will enjoy the drive in Cairns to Port Douglas route along a sealed highway. 

Port Douglas is a famous tourist spot for the incredible Daintree Rainforest, Great Barrier Reef, and Cape Tribulation. During your holiday at Port Douglas, there are many things to do and see. Here you can experience different activities. May to September is the peak tourism season. And during this time, there is an influx of tourists in this city. Based on the mining industry, this city is developing quickly. 

While staying here, you can immerse yourself in Australia’s aboriginal tropical north and the natural wonders. And you can also enjoy the snorkelling adventure. Snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef enables you to discover amazing coral formations. Moreover, you can enjoy swimming in the fantastic marine life. 

Top Attractions In Port Douglas 

  • 4 Mile Beach 
  • Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas 
  • Agincourt Reef, Opal Reef 
  • Trinity Bay Lookout 
  • Flagstaff Hill Lookout & Hill Walking Trail 

Accommodations In Port Douglas 

  • Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort, Port Douglas 
  • Shantara Resort Port Douglas 
  • Mandalay Luxury Beachfront Apartments 

Restaurants In Port Douglas 

  • Epicurean Port Douglas 
  • Melaleuca 
  • Salsa Bar & Grill 

More than an entire day is needed to visit the beautiful places in Port Douglas. Therefore take your time to cover all visiting attractions throughout Day 1. And then stay in a hotel in Port Douglas at night. 

Day 2 

On the second day, wake up at a reasonable hour. Then freshen up, take your breakfast, and move to your first destination on day 2. 

Port Douglas To Musgrave Station 

Port Douglas to Musgrave Station road distance is 388 KM. Along State Route 40 and Peninsula Development Road/State Route 81, you have to drive for 4 hours and 30 minutes. Musgrave Telegraph Station is now a roadhouse. But formerly it was the telegraph station. It is a heritage-listed station. 

In the history and development of Queensland, this station plays an important role. This Musgrave Station is a must-stopping point on your trip to Cape York. Whatever you need, you will get everything here. Everything is available from home to camping grounds to cold beers and style food. On day 2, stay in a hotel in this place. 

Day 3 

Wake up early in the morning on the third day of your trip. Then be ready and start driving to reach your next destination, Coen. 

Musgrave Station To Coen 

The drive distance between Musgrave Station and Coen is 111 km. Roughly the driving time is 3 ½ hours. Reach the Peninsula Development Road first and then hand to the right and head to Coen. Coen is a small town. It is located in the Cape York Peninsula’s Center. And it’s the large Cook Shire Council’s part.

You can spend an entire day or a few hours in this small town to explore its beauties. Stay in this town and at the Exchange Hotel, enjoy your cold drink or meal. Also, you can have lunch in the Great Northern Café. To reach the free bush campsite or Bend, you have to drive for a few KMs. 

Coen allows you to explore the forest greenery and wetlands. After visiting this beautiful town, you can cool yourself off by detouring to the Coen River. Jump in the Coen River and get rid of the whole day’s dust. 

Top Attractions In Coen

  • Cod Hole, Lizard Island 
  • Lizard Island National Park 
  • James Cook Museum 
  • Quinkan Galleries Rock Art 

Accommodation In Coen 

  • Capri by Fraser, Brisbane 
  • Dorsett Gold Coast 
  • The Star Grand 

Restaurants In Coen 

  • Sassi Cucina E Bar 
  • Salsa Bar And Grill 
  • Star of Siam 

On day three, after exploring so many things, stay at night in a hotel in Coen. Before hitting the road again with your Car, treat yourself to a sound sleep. 

Day 4 

So, the fourth day is another new day. And it’s time to explore another scenic drive to Lockhart River from Coen. 

Coen To Moreton Telegraph Station 

So after spending quality time in Coen, your next destination is the Moreton Telegraph Station. Following the Frenchman’s road, the Coen to Moreton Telegraph Station distance is 190 KM. Drive for 2 hours 19 minutes to cross this distance. 

On the Wenlock River bank, this Moreton Telegraph Station is located. This place is perfect for breaking your journey to Cape York. Moreton Telegraph Station route features water crossings, varying sand tracks, and technical driving. It’s one of the most testing tracks on the way to Cape York. 

You can enjoy a peaceful environment at the Wenlock River bank at the perfect camping ground. This is a historic site. By staying overnight here, you can enjoy camping. Therefore we recommend staying here at night on the fourth day and enjoying camping at the campsite. 

Day 5 

On the fifth day, start your journey from the Moreton Telegraph Station and reach another destination Bramwell Station. 

Moreton Telegraph Station To Bramwell Station 

Bramwell Station is located very close to the Moreton Telegraph Station. The distance is only 37.2 KM. This is a must-visit place in your Cape York road trip adventures. On the Bramwell Station route, one of the worthy places to take a break is the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve. Also, you can visit the wetland conservation centre here. 

This conservation property is the home to shy native wildlife and spring-fed wetlands and vulnerable plants. Along the way, you can also participate in the AATT or APT tour. Remember to capture the beautiful photographs in the crocs. 

While driving alone on this scenic drive, you will encounter the bitumen sections also. Bramwell station includes a camping ground, accommodations, live entertainment, a bar, etc. Overall it’s a popular tourist attraction. So, spend a well adventurous day in Bramwell. Then take your dinner and stay here at night. 

Top Attractions In Bramwell Station 

  • Bramwell Station Tourist Bar 
  • Caves in Bramwell 

Accommodations In Bramwell Station

  • Bramwell Station Tourist Park 

Day 6 

After spending a good night at Bramwell Station, the next day woke up early. And then start driving to your next destination. 

Bramwell Station To Bamaga 

The distance between Bramwell Station and Bamaga is 212 KM. And the driving time is nearly 6 hours. Take the Old Telegraph Track road to reach Bamaga. Bamaga is a small town. It’s located in the region of the Northern Peninsula Area. 

Bamaga is a worthy place to visit along your Cape York road trip. An isolated settlement in Australia is Bamaga. And its permanent residents are the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. 

Top Attractions In Bamaga 

  • Jardine River National Park 
  • Bamaga Tavern 
  • Cape York Custom Sportfishing 
  • Off-Road Adventure Safaris 
  • The Croc Tent 

Accommodations In Bamaga 

  • T I Motel Thursday Island 
  • Wonga Beach Hotel 
  • Island Villas 
  • Cape York – Private Holiday House 

Restaurants In Bamaga

  • Loyalty Beach Campground & Fishing Lodge 
  • Cooktown Bowls Club 

On day 6, stay at the Bamaga. 

Day 7

So, day 7 is the last day of your trip. And on the seventh day you will reach your Cape York destination after exploring all these beautiful places. 

Bamaga To Cape York 

Following the Pajinka Road, the total driving distance from Bamaga to Cape York is 34.5 KM. The approximate driving time is 46 minutes. Cape York is located in North Queensland, Australia, a large peninsula. A road trip to Cape York is full of adventure. 

Your time for exploring Cape York city is well worth your effort. Cape York showcases its wild best. Australia’s one of the best off-road destination is Cape York because of its natural attractions and rugged landscapes. 

Top Attractions In Cape York 

  • Roko Pearls 
  • Kutini-Payamu National Park 
  • Jardine River National Park 
  • Split Rock Aboriginal Art 

Accommodation In Cape York 

  • Cape York Peninsula Lodge 
  • The Greenhouse 
  • Weipa Camping Ground 
  • Merlina Station 

Restaurants In Cape York 

  • Barramunchies 
  • Seisia Kiosk 
  • Albatross Bay Resort 
  • Bamaga Bakehaus 
  • Paperbark Restaurant 


Is the road from Cairns to Cape York sealed? 

No! All the way from Cairns to Cape York is not sealed. Rather some sections at the tip of the Cape and on the way to Pajinka are sealed. Mostly the road is unpaved. 

Can you drive a normal car to Cape York? 

Yes! You can drive to Cape York in a normal car. Cape York is a full-wheel driving destination. But if you don’t have a heavy-duty and fully-rigged vehicle, then it’s okay also. 

What is the best time of year to go to Cape York? 

May – October is the dry season, and it’s the year’s best time to visit Cape York. During this season, around 30 degrees Celcious becomes the maximum temperature. As the season progresses, the days become more humid and hotter. So for the road trip, May-October is a perfect time. 

Final Words 

You must cross a long way to complete your Cairns to Cape York road trip. Hopefully, you understand that already. But one interesting thing is that this journey will always be exciting if you take a break at all the beautiful places while driving. Visiting the historical attractions, places, and cities will eliminate all your boringness and tiredness. 

However, this above-described itinerary is completely flexible. We developed a standard plan so that you can cover all the routes from Cairns to Cape York. But according to your requirement, you can bring changes to the itinerary and add or reduce the places to visit.

Hi, I'm Md Abid Hasan. The owner & content editor of is a travel blog that covers road trips, day trips, and destinations guide.

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