Tackling the Tele – Lions Den Hotel

For many years the Lions Den Hotel has played an important role as the last stop before Cooktown and the rugged Black Mountain pass.  Nowadays this iconic little pub is on everyone’s bucket list.  Everyone wants to get a photo out the front with ‘Leo the lion’!  If you don’t know how popular Leo is, check out this story to read about when someone stole Leo’s tail!

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The historic Lions Den Hotel has been an important stop for tourists and locals for decades.  After a gruelling few weeks of rugged dirt roads, dust and corrugations as you travel throughout the Cape York region, this is a welcome relief and stop over point for a well deserved drink.

History

In 1875 a young Welshman from Rossville named Jack Ross decided to open a hotel in an area which later became known as Helenvale.  Right on the banks of the Little Annan River, where it joined the Mungumby Creek, Jack and his wife Annie opened the Lions Den Hotel.   The hotel was named after the Lions Den tin mine on the nearby tableland.

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You should take a bit of time to walk around the inside of this quirky little pub, there is plenty of history and decorations and many signatures and stories from travellers adorn the walls and ceiling of the rooms.  Yes, amongst all those signatures we are there too …. somewhere!

Accommodation
Accommodation options range from powered and unpowered camping sites to on site cabins and Safari Tents.

During our visit in 2013 with Stewy, Kristy and Rori we all stayed in a Safari tent for something a little bit different.  They are fully screened to keep the bugs out and come with private deck areas, as well as fridge and tea & coffee making facilities.

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Facilities

The Lions Den Hotel has everything you need from a licensed bar, meals, fuel, ice, souvenirs etc.  The large deck areas are the perfect place to sit and relax and share some stories over a cold beer or two.

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As we were nearing the end of our epic journey our whole group took the opportunity to share a meal and a few drinks together.  As we relaxed on the deck, we all had a great night filled with lots of laughs, a few drinks and plenty of food.

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Early the next morning we were all up ready to head off for a day on the tracks ….. 4 of our vehicles were tackling the CREB Track.  But before that we had more photos to take  ….. like the standard ‘Leo the Lion’ photos, every has to get a pic of their vehicles in front of the sign out the front!

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Below is our photo from our visit with Stewy in 2013 compared to 2018.   5 years later and new vehicles for both of us!

Contact

The Lions Den Hotel is located 28km south of Cooktown on the Bloomfield Road between Cooktown and Cape Tribulation.

Phone (07) 4060 3911     www.lionsdenhotel.net

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During our visit in 2013 there were the most amazing jade vines that were hanging from the trees around the deck of the hotel.  These delicate little blue, green flowers almost didn’t even look real.  They looked like little claws swaying in the breeze.

We had never seen anything quite like it in our lives, they were stunning.  To find something this beautiful and delicate in such a rustic, relatively remote location was amazing.   We found out that they were called Strongylodon macrobotrys, commonly known as jade vine and they are a native of the tropical forests of the Philippines.

This time we were looking forward to seeing these amazing flowers again, but we were informed that unfortunately they were destroyed in one of the cyclones which hit the area, such a shame.


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Tackling the Tele – Cooktown

Cooktown is one of our most historically significant towns.  In 1770, the British explorer, Captain James Cook and his ship HMS Endeavour, ran into trouble as they hit the Great Barrier Reef and caused significant damage to their vessel.  Captain Cook needed to find safe water to repair his ship so he limped it into the nearest river.  After a lengthy stay onshore to undertake repairs, Captain Cook sailed north to Cape York and through the Torres Strait to Batavia.

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The river in which Cook and his men had been stranded in was named ‘Endeavour River’ and apparently this is the only river in Australia that Cook ever named.

A century after Cook’s landing, Cook’s Town was built and a new community grew to support the many miners and families of the Palmer River gold rush.

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Cooktown is one of those beautiful historic coastal towns that you really need to visit to understand the beauty and history of the area.  We’ve found that people either love or hate Cooktown, for us we love it and have visited numerous times on our travels.  There is so much history, some of the old buildings are amazing and the views are simply spectacular.  Cooktown also happens to be Australia’s closest town to the Great Barrier Reef.

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For our visit to Cooktown this time we decided that everyone would split up and do their own thing for a few hours.  We had been to Cooktown a few times previously so we just went for a walk, did a bit of shopping and grabbed some yummy local seafood to eat down on the water.

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What to do:-

**James Cook Museum – Learn all about the story of Cook’s arrival from the perspective of the Guugu Yimithirr people.  Displays also include the anchor and cannon from the Endeavour.

**Cooktown Cemetery – An interesting place to visit with many historical graves, the oldest identifiable grave is that of Rev Francis Tripp who died on the 20 May 1874 at the age of 46 years.  Other gravesites include that of Elizabeth Jardine (wife of John Jardine – one of our earlier blogs went into detail of the Jardine family), Mary Watson and the Normanby Woman.

**Botanic Gardens – Beautiful gardens and plenty of walking trails.  Free entry.

**Cooktown History Centre – This is housed in the oldest building in Charlotte Street and has everything you need to know about Cooktown’s history.

**Fishing – We are not fisherman, but apparently the surrounding rivers and estuaries are the perfect place to catch a meal!

**Grassy Hill Lookout – This is the place for amazing 360 degree views of Cooktown and surrounds.

**The Milbi Wall – This 12 meter curved wall is placed at the location where Captain James Cook and his crew first set foot on land.  This wall features almost 500 hand painted and carved tiles.

**The Musical Ship – This unique interactive musical playground is fitted with many different instruments to help you make your own music.  This is great fun for the young and old!  

 

Cooktown is actually quite a large town with excellent facilities and this offered a great opportunity for people to stock up on anything they needed.

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A walk along the foreshore is a must, apart from beautiful views there are plenty of monuments and other interesting things to look at.

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After a few hours exploring Cooktown, our meeting place was Grassy Hill Lookout.  This is one of the must visit places to take in the amazing views over the Endeavour River and Cooktown.  Grassy Hill is from where Captain Cook was able to map out a course out through the reefs.

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Although this is an old historic town and it seems quite remote when you are there, today your visit to Cooktown is made even easier with the fully sealed highway running all the way into town.  If you are after a relaxing break with great scenery and plenty of history, this is a great place to base yourself to explore the surrounding areas.

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Just a few dirty 4WD’s sitting in the main street of Cooktown!

 


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Tackling the Tele – Elim Beach

Not far past the Aboriginal community of Hope Vale you reach the beautiful Elim Beach and Coloured Sands.

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Hope Vale is a relatively large Aboriginal community which was originally built in the late 1940s as a Mission run by the Lutheran Church.  The church brought Aboriginal people from all over Australia, so today there is a mixture of languages and culture in the community, although Guugu Yimithirr is the language most spoken after English.

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We had never been to Elim Beach before … we had intended on going years ago but didn’t quite make it there.  While planning for this latest Cape York trip I read about this place called Eddie’s Camp, the reviews were great and all of the photographs I’d seen were amazing so I reworked our itinerary to enable our stay at this great place.  I must say that the guys from Eddie’s Camp were very helpful in our planning phase by giving information on travel times, road conditions and suggested routes.

Eddie’s Camp is owned and run by Thiithaarr-warra elder, Eddie Deemal and his son Ivan.

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This is a great little camping ground situated at the stunning Elim Beach.  If you are looking for 5 star camping, this is not your place.  It’s very basic, the owners are very casual and relaxed, there are no powered sites and only cold water showers.

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Little tree frog living in the toilets!

You know what though … THIS IS CAMPING and it suited us perfectly, we absolutely loved our stay at this beautiful rustic little campground.

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After a quick stop in Hope Vale to visit the grocery store we all headed down to Elim Beach, checked in and set up camp.  There is no pre-booking here and no allocated campsites, you simply set up wherever you like.  After setting up we went for a walk along the beach and George and Stewy took the drone for a flight, while some of the others took off in search of the coloured sands.

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Later that night we all sat around the campfire, chatted, toasted marshmallows and cooked some damper.

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We were also joined by the friendly local dogs for much of the night….

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This gorgeous little guy was so friendly and we (well Shelly!) wanted to take him home with us ….. not sure how Gelly & Charli would have felt if we rocked up back at home with a dingo!  Apparently this little guy just wandered into the campground one day and hasn’t left, he’s made friends with the resident dogs and was having a great play with some other campers dogs aswell.

It’s amazing that essentially a wild animal can be so friendly and playful.  When we went to pack up in the morning he’d made himself at home on our mat as you’ll see in the pictures, he wouldn’t get off to let us pack up, i think it was all a bit of a game for him!

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Tackling the Tele – Isabella Falls

Not long before the turnoff to Hope Vale you reach Isabella Falls.  These falls aren’t anything spectacular, but after a long, hot and dusty day of driving, it was a welcome relief to be able to stop here and cool off a little.

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Apparently this is a safe swimming hole, meaning no crocodiles, but the water down the creek was quite murky and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are in fact living down there!  Oh well, we had a quick cool off and none of us got eaten!

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This freshwater creek actually runs across the road and then drops down into the waterfall.  There is parking available and it’s only a very short walk down a bush track to the falls.

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Tackling the Tele – Lakefield National Park & Old Laura Homestead

Day 12 saw us leave Musgrave Roadhouse for the drive to Elim Beach.  This was a relatively long drive and there was plenty to stop and look at throughout the drive.  The days drive took us through the Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park, via Lakefield, New Laura, Old Laura and the Battle Camp Road.

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Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park, or simply Lakefield National Park as most people know it,  is another example of the vast and varying landscape of this region of Australia.  During the wet season, this relatively flat area is closed as the various rivers merge and flood the area.

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As the dry season approaches, the water dries up and leaves many lagoons and waterholes, which create perfect little pockets for the abundance of wildlife that makes its home in this area.  Many of the lagoons are filled with beautiful water lilies, as well as many species of birds and of course Mr Crocodile and his many mates!

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The one thing you will notice as you drive through Lakefield is the huge termite mounds, they are everywhere.  At times there are so many of them and they are all perfectly positioned to look like little tombstones.  It looks like you are driving past a giant graveyard!

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Battle Camp Road gets its name from a 1870’s skirmish between an estimated 500 Aboriginal warriors and a well armed force of 130 miners and police who had camped the night on their way to the Palmer River Goldfields.  The Aborigines received a big lesson in the superiority of repeating rifles, over their stone age armoury.  After their loss on that night, the Aboriginies never again attempted a massed frontal assault as a means of ridding themselves of the invaders, instead opting for guerrilla tactics.

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Old Laura Homestead Laura Station was established in the 1870’s to provide beef for the Palmer River Goldfield.  In 1879 a lease was issued to Fergus O’Beirne, who by the time of his death, had built a herd of 8000 cattle.  The oldest part of the homestead dates back to 1892.  It was abandoned in the mid 1960’s and was rebuilt in 1986 after being severely vandalised.

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Tackling the Tele – Musgrave Roadhouse

Musgrave was first built as an overland telegraph station in 1887 and was named after Sir Anthony Musgrave who was Governor of Queensland from 1883-1888.  Musgrave was one of six telegraph stations built to pick up and repeat signals down the wire between Cape York and Cooktown.  Today, this is the only telegraph station on the peninsula that still remains.

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Musgrave Roadhouse is located about half way between Cairns and the tip, so it’s a convenient stop over point.  There is a large camping area of unpowered sites, cabins, amenities block and café and bar.

There is also an old school coin operated public pay phone.  This was entertaining watching as Tas made her first phone call back home on a payphone!  Funny to think that not that long ago these phones were our only point of contact when we were kids, yet a 13 year old had no idea what it was or how to use it as she’s grown up in the age of technology and mobile phones!  Did that make us feel old ….. yeah it did!

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Never one to pass up the chance to play with animals, Shelly couldn’t wait to pat the horses!

We all enjoyed a break from camp cooking and had a meal and a few drinks in the café.

The billabong just behind the camping area is home to quite a few freshwater crocodiles, you can’t see them in this photo, but there were a few in the water and one sunning itself on the bank.

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How sad that a sign like this is even needed ….. what the f**k is wrong with people

 



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Tackling the Tele – Chili Beach

The beautiful Chili Beach is located within the Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park.  Kutini means cassowary and Payamu means rainbow serpent.

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This park is home to the largest remaining area of lowland rainforest in Australia and is also home to an abundance of wildlife.  There are birds living here that are only found in this area and New Guinea.

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Chili Beach would have to be one of our favourite campsites in the cape, it’s just a beautiful area that is nestled in between the reef and the rainforest.  Camping does need to be pre-booked as it’s in the national park and you are allocated your own campsite.  It does get quite windy so you are best to try to get one of the campsites away from the beach, or at least sheltered.

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We arrived at camp and met up with Jim & Jacky and Graham & Nolene who had already arrived, set up and were in relax mode!  We all set up camp and then took our camp chairs out onto the beach and spent the afternoon sitting out there with a few drinks in hand.  George took the drone for a flight and the kids had fun exploring the beach.

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It’s such a beautiful area, but like many places up there, its torture looking at the beautiful blue water and knowing you cannot swim due to the stingers, crocodiles and sharks.

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After a great night at Chili Beach, there was nothing better than to wake up to another amazing sunrise to start the day.

 


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Tackling the Tele – Frenchmans Track

After leaving Captain Billy Landing we were on our way to one of our favourite campsites in the whole of the Cape region – Chili Beach.  First up it was a stop at the Bramwell Junction roadhouse for a few of the vehicles to top up fuel (and our tummies!)

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There are two ways you can reach Chili Beach, down the main road or via the more exciting 4WD track, the Frenchmans Track – I’m sure you can guess which way we chose to go!  Two of our vehicles took the main road to Chili Beach, but 4 of us wanted a little more fun.

Not long after starting out on the track we hear over the CB “ah, hang on guys I think we’ve got a flat” …. not too bad, 10 days into the trip and the first flat tyre on any of the vehicles.  After a short stop on the track while Stewy did a tyre change we were all on our way again.

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This can be a difficult track and it’s recommended for experienced drivers with high clearance 4WD’s, but it’s definitely a lot of fun.  It’s not so much the track itself that is difficult, it’s the river crossings.  Generally it’s well into the dry season before tackling this track is even possible, due to the depth of the river crossings.

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This track crosses the Wenlock River and the Pascoe River.  The entry/exit banks can be a little challenging and many say that the Pascoe River crossing is the hardest of all on the Cape as it’s very deep and the current is quite strong.  The depth of the Pascoe can easily be 700mm or so.

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If you are interested in reading a little of the history of the Frenchmans Track click here and you will be taken to the Cape York Australia Trip Planner page.  For anyone planning a visit to Cape York, this page is a great source of information, written and constantly update by a Cape York local.


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Tackling the Tele – Captain Billy Landing

Our last visit to Captain Billy Landing was by far our worst night of camping we have ever had, there were thunderstorms, torrential rain, cyclonic winds and the road into the campground had more corrugations than the rest of the cape put together, it really was horrible!  The view once you were there was nice, but even that didn’t make up for it and we vowed never to return again ….. yet 5 years later we found ourselves back in this exact same spot!

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To our surprise, this time the road in was amazing and the wind (which this area is renowned for) wasn’t even that bad, we actually really enjoyed our stay this time.

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We arrived relatively early in the day and it was quite hot at camp, so a few of us found some shallow little pools on the water’s edge to sit in and cool off …. always with a watchful eye out for crocodiles which are plentiful in this area!

Some of the boys and the kids went for an explore down the beach and saw a huge crocodile slide going into one of the creeks, it’s scary thinking of what may be watching you!

And speaking of things watching you, we had a large snake near the toilet block and another smaller one in the shelter watching us cook dinner.  Of course Shelly had to climb up to check him out and take photos!  He looked very similar to our little pet snake Sam.

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Dinner Time!

Captain Billy Landing gets its name from a nearby creek, which itself was named in 1880 after an aboriginal man who called himself Captain Billy.

This area itself was an experimental cattle export site.  As you drive in there is an area of grassland which is the site of an old cattle paddock, where cattle were rested prior to being shipped off to market.  You can still see the concrete ramp near the shelter which was installed to allow the loading of the cattle onto barges for transport to market at Bamaga & Weipa.

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We had the whole campsite to ourselves

A few of us rose early and braved the wind to watch and photograph the sunrise which was beautiful.  No better way to start your day than with a view like this.

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Tackling the Tele – Loyalty Beach

Our last night at Loyalty Beach was spent with a group dinner at the bar/restaurant.  Every Sunday they have Fish ‘n Chip night and this was the perfect way to end our stay at this great caravan park.

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Beers and laughs and yet another amazing sunset as we sat eating fish and chips served old school style, wrapped in paper …. this was definitely a great night and the perfect way to celebrate our journey to the tip (not that the trip was over, but we were now ready to start the journey back south).

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We had three days of stunning sunsets while staying at Loyalty Beach and took lots of photos, here’s just a few of them!

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