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Post Info TOPIC: Travel to Cape York


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Travel to Cape York


Have a Jayco Silverline Outback 21ft and want to go to the Cape Any advice on road travel?

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KerryFalchi


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It is quite possible to drive up to the NPA with such a caravan, a number do each year. Whether it is sensible is a personal call. If you time it right & get really lucky you'll get nice freshly graded roads on the dirt sections, but the chances that you'll hit corrugations somewhere are high, & if you are not the lucky type they will be bone jarring horrendous. We towed our little Tvan up the old Telegraph track & returned via the Bamaga Road. The return trip was the one which saw us gritting our teeth. even though our van is built for such stuff. The thought of towing a larger heavier van shaking it's interior to bits would have no appeal to me, but we saw people doing it, & some travelling faster than us. When they passed us we just shook our heads, but I guess it's about personal priorities & some are prepared to sustain damage to take their vans up there. Plenty of places on the way up to leave the van & do the rougher stuff with just the car & a swag/tent/ rooftop tent if you want to. Many do. 

Much of the appeal of the Cape is to be found away from the PDR & Bamaga Road, BUT it really depends why you want to travel up the Cape & what you want to experience. We''ve been up here over 2 years now & there are still many places we haven't been. From our perspective, driving up on the 'main' roads just just to reach the tip & then returning is not much more than 'a long drive' with a few nice beaches with caravan parks at the top.

In case you are interested the Laura Quinkan dance festival is on at the beginning of July '23 (You could take your van there without taking it on any dirt roads) when traditional dance groups from most of the Cape's communities come together for their bi-annual 'dance off'. If interested in saving the cost of tickets & having a 'closer' experience it's worth becoming a festival volunteer. Great stuff.



-- Edited by Cuppa on Saturday 28th of January 2023 08:47:32 PM

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Thanks, Cuppa. Good info. Dont want to wreck the van. How far should I go before I drop the van? Would it be too rough to get to Archer River or Bramwell Station? Kerr Jan

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Some leave vans at Laura.  I imagine Musgrave & Archer River would allow that too. Not sure re Hann River, probably ok there too, but we we bypassed the section of the PDR from Laura to Musgrave, instead going up through Lakefield (Rinyirru) NP (Which btw is probably our favourite area of the Cape, but you need to get off the main road through it & onto the many smaller 4wd tracks  - camping by rivers & billabongs). We'll visit Hann River on our way south from here after the wet. 

How far north of Laura you take your van will be determined by the state of the road at the time & by your tolerance for towing it on corrugations. 

After Laura there is dirt road alternating with ever increasing stretches of bitumen. Other places where folk leave vans are Weipa (expensive),  Moreton Telegraph Station (free) , & Bramwell Junction. Tourism future at Bramwell Station is uncertain at the moment.

Any dirt section can become very badly corrugated, but the worst we encountered was between Bramwell Junction & the junction of the Bamaga Road with the OTT. But that means little, just depends on weather, traffic & when last graded. 

My suggestion, if you have the time,  would be to unhitch at Laura & take the car for a drive north to the next roadhouse/camp site & see what the road is like at the time. If ok, return & get the van. You could do this at each potential 'van leaving spot' , going on with the car only to check the conditions to the next spot. Moreton is the cheapest campground on the cape, the only one with green grass camping (with heaps of room - no defined sites) with hot showers, food & nestled on the banks of the Wenlock River. I'm a bit biased because we spent 7 wonderful months there looking after the place last wet season. If you have your own accomodation there is no need to book at Moreton. No pre-booking is available unless in provided accommodation (pre erected Safari tents with twin beds). 

From Archer River until the turn off to Bamaga the road is all sealed. From there it's around 60 - 90 minutes of dirt road to Moreton. (If you want to go to Weipa & some of the wonderful bush camping spots north of Weipa without the van, Weipa is about 2 to 2.5 hours. Pennefather River, about an hour north of Weipa  was another favourite free camp spot - sand 4wd.) Weipa has a full size Woolies Supermarket. There a 3 smaller supermarkets in the NPA. 

If doing the 'leapfrogging to check out the road ahead & you get as far as Moreton Telegraph Station, if it were me, I'd then leave your van there. Mike & Wendy (owners) will let you tuck it away near to their house.  This will give you the opportunity (if it interests you) to do the OTT (or just the more accessible parts of it like Fruitbat & Twin Falls) plus Captain Billy's Landing  (Wonderful beach walking with lots of rock pools & caves at low tide. Leaving the van at Bramwell Junction will allow you to do the same, but the van will be more 'exposed', there, in sight of the road passing by. At Moreton it would be more secluded.

The track into Captain Billys is a pleasant relief from the corrugations that a 2wd can manage easily - just those anti erosion 'speed bumps' to negotiate, taking you to a most scenic waterside camping area with a shelter, fire pits & a toilet. (National Park). Like all the east coast of the Cape it will be windy during the tourist season though.

Further north in the NPA, if you are confident driving narrow sandy tracks with lowered tyre pressures the many free camping spots at the mouth of the Jardine are superb.  There are other places too, easier to get to, both free, low cost & caravan parks. The small low cost camp site at Somerset is lovely, on the eastern side of the Cape, but well sheltered from the non stop South easterly winds. 



-- Edited by Cuppa on Sunday 29th of January 2023 11:27:37 AM

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kerrjan wrote:

Dont want to wreck the van.


 hi kerrjan

I have a Silverline and although I havent yet ventured to the Cape, I have done a fair bit of dirt road and track mainly in SA and a bit in NT.

After my first venture off the smooth stuff I realised that it was imperative to have everything secure.

It was after my first couple of hours that I got out some tools and went over every screw, nut and bolt on the van. I should have done that prior to departure.

Dont forget to lower your tyre pressures, it will make a big difference. I would carry an extra spare for both van and car.

A check of fittings and fixtures on your car is wise as well.

Check the weather, I would only go after the wet has began to dry and the roads have been graded.

Drive slowly there is generally nothing to gain by hurrying.

The cupboards in our van travel extremely well but secure your fridge door. There is no fun at all in cleaning up that mess.

Oh and when you get back be quick in extending the slide out and with a pressure cleaner and or a high pressure compressor make sure you blow out the runners and mechanism that is inside the cut out area that holds the slide out. Brakes will need a good clean out as well.

When the slide out tracks are clean and dry, relube it with the recommended silicon spray. It is not advisable to use WD40 as dust will stick to it.

These are the items that caused me problems when off road so I hope these hints may help toward a problem free run off road.

Enjoy your trip.



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Have done plenty dirt and corrugation never a problem I live in QLD and know that the cape is a hole different story so best to get best info Cuppa how is the last 60klms to Moreton telegraph station

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KerryFalchi


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kerrjan wrote:

Have done plenty dirt and corrugation never a problem I live in QLD and know that the cape is a hole different story so best to get best info Cuppa how is the last 60klms to Moreton telegraph station


 Variable is the best I can say, like any dirt road. In the busy periods it can go from a smooth highway to corrugated hell in 10 days or less. We drove it a few times before the end of the season & before it had had it's final grade & best I can say is that I've travelled on far worse.  After it had had it's wet season grade, & before it got wet it was an 80kph road. Travelled it again at the end of the wet season after the first rough grade - at that time it was better than I expected. Quite good really, but very slow due to the numerous water crossings, which during the dry you could barely imagine. . On a scale of 1 to 10 - on my combined experience of it where 1 is 'horrendous shaking your fillings out & car falling apart & 10 = billiard table smooth  I'd give it a 5. But no guarantees. 

Take note of dip signs. Most are mild enough to make you wonder why the sign, bit there are a couple which catch the speedsters out. 



-- Edited by Cuppa on Sunday 29th of January 2023 10:23:40 PM

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Thanks Cuppa weather permitting I will be there early May Moreton will be as far as I will take the van all things being equal and do the rest in my Sahara All your local knowledge will help me make a decision when I get to Laura and chat with the locals

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KerryFalchi


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Back in 2017 we took our JB Gator to Seisia. The van travelled reasonably well, but we did suffer some damage on the badly corrugated roads. Most of which could have been avoided if some fittings had been more securely installed during manufacture and if I had checked for loosening screws, nuts, etc. There was at that time a surprising amount of bitumen (a relief). Another surprise was the extraordinary speeds by some drivers overtaking and passing us as we travelled to the conditions.

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Feel free to drop me a line as the time approaches if you wish. We will be driving out from Lockhart River, going south, once the rivers are passable so  will be monitoring conditions as best we can. If you have flexibility with dates it's useful. We were unable to get from Moreton to Lockhart until 9th May last year, & that still involved driving two rivers at 800mm, not something I'm keen to repeat. Roads then were not corrugated, just slow going because each of the little water across the road places were rough & a bit washed out. Felt like we spent more time slowing down than speeding up.  Not sure how many places there were with the water crossing the road (not including river crossings), between Moreton & Lockhart as we gave up counting at 70. One thing about coming up that early is that all the crossings on the OTT will be deeper & less predictable. (They can change a lot from season to season). It's great seeing everything green & lush though. 



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Thanks Cuppa I was leaving on 16-4 and arriving in Cooktown 4-5th Yes I am flexible on my travel dates so I will be looking forward to hearing your valued information

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KerryFalchi


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Well, I must say that this has been a very interesting topic.

We have all learned how to handle the travel problems that may be encountered on a trip to the top.

It was good for us all to read the details as the info would be lost had the itinerary and the conditions had just been related to the OP on an email or Messenger.

Great detail Cuppa and a great enquiry from kerrjan.

Thank you.

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