We are George & Shelly, a married couple from Sydney, Australia, who love 4WDing, camping and travelling this great country of ours. We love sharing our adventures and hope to inspire others to travel as well. Join us on our journeys around Australia! If you like what you read, please share our posts with family and friends and don't forget to follow us on social media...... making memories one track at a time
Boxing Day saw us have an early 4am start for our drive to South Australia. Definitely glad we weren’t heading north …. we had no traffic at all in our direction!
We drove just over 1,000km and arrived in Mildura in Victoria where we decided to spend the night. After an early start, a big days driving and the 44 degree temperatures we decided to check into a hotel and make the most of some air conditioning! It was still over 40 degrees at 7pm!
The next morning we left around 7am for our drive to our first destination, Coffin Bay in South Australia. After passing through the quarantine inspection station (which we forgot about!) and saying goodbye to our tomatoes 🍅 we headed to Renmark for coffee and breakfast.
It was another big day of driving and we arrived at Coffin Bay in the late afternoon and headed out to the national park to set up camp …. and what a great campsite we had overlooking Yangie Bay.
The official last night of our Cape York trip was a stay at Cape Tribulation. This is an absolutely beautiful part of Australia, one we have actually visited quite a few times, but have never really taken too much time to explore.
On this stay we chose to spend 2 nights here as Shelly wanted to go Jungle Surfing …. more on this in another blog post!
We stayed in the Cape Tribulation Camping ground (well some of us did, long story!) and will definitely stay here again. We camped right behind the beach, a walk down our sandy pathway through the palm trees and you are on this stunning beach.
Our campsites were nestled in behind these palm trees. Camp fires were allowed on the beach and there were plenty of families set up with dinner and a little campfire, such a perfect spot for it.
Ash & Tas swinging from the vines!
Words really can’t explain how beautiful and peaceful it was to watch the sunset out here. The water was so still, it was like glass.
Cape Tribulation is this special area where the rainforest meets the reef. To basically walk straight from the rainforest onto the beach is pretty amazing. This area of the Daintree National Park is really an area to be explored.
You’ll find Cape Tribulation about 35 km north of the Daintree River and this is where the bitumen ends and the dirt roads start (Bloomfield Track). In fact, the road to Cape Tribulation was only put through in 1962.
The name Cape Tribulation can be traced back to Lieutenant James Cook. As Cook was trying to navigate his way through this area his ship ran into Endeavour Reef, north-northeast of Cape Tribulation. He wrote: “I name this point Cape Tribulation, because here began all my troubles.”
As the area sits right on the fringing reef of the Great Barrier Reef, at low tide you could see quite a bit of coral washed up on the beach.
After pizza and a few drinks in the restaurant we all retired back to our campsite for the night.
We couldn’t have asked for a better end to our second Cape York trip.
From the Lions Den Hotel four of our vehicles headed off for a day on the CREB Track. Our other two vehicles opted for the easier, but equally scenic drive along the Bloomfield Track.
The CREB track was originally constructed as a maintenance track by the Cairns Regional Electricity Board (CREB) to service their power lines. Now it’s a 4WD playground!
Not only will the track test your 4WD and your driving ability, but the scenery is absolutely stunning. For a visually appealing 4WD track, you will find it hard to beat this one.
Looks like a perfect place for a lunch stop …… and the unfortunate disintegrating butterfly event (drones and butterflies don’t go well together!)
The whole CREB Track is only about 70km or so in length and basically runs from the Daintree Village to the Aboriginal community of Wujal Wujal. Assuming you have no issues on the track, you can easily drive this in a few hours …. although there are places to camp should you wish to spend longer.
This track can be one of the scariest drives you’ll do. The track can change in difficulty significantly, the slightest bit of rain and this can change from a scenic drive to a very scary, dangerous drive. Hence why the track is quite often closed. The CREB is very narrow and steep in places and has numerous creek crossings and the clay base means that once the slightest bit of rain falls, the surface offers absolutely no grip at all.
We first drove this track back in 2013 and it was a slightly overcast day and we did get a few spots of rain which added to our apprehension. We weren’t quite sure what to expect of the track as it was, so rain wasn’t something we were excited about! We were definitely able to see why they close this track in the wet.
The track passes through World Heritage rainforest and eucalypt woodlands and the views are spectacular. It really is a rewarding drive, both for 4WDing and visually.
The longest and deepest water crossing on the CREB Track is the Daintree River. It’s not a hard crossing and the base is fairly solid, but it’s always fun!
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
Below is our photo from our visit with Stewy in 2013 compared to 2018. 5 years later and new vehicles for both of us!
The Lions Den Hotel is located 28km south of Cooktown on the Bloomfield Road between Cooktown and Cape Tribulation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A walk along the foreshore is a must, apart from beautiful views there are plenty of monuments and other interesting things to look at.
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.
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.
Just a few dirty 4WD’s sitting in the main street of Cooktown!
Not far past the Aboriginal community of Hope Vale you reach the beautiful Elim Beach and Coloured Sands.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Later that night we all sat around the campfire, chatted, toasted marshmallows and cooked some damper.
We were also joined by the friendly local dogs for much of the night….
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
How sad that a sign like this is even needed ….. what the f**k is wrong with people
The beautiful Chili Beach is located within the Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park. Kutini means cassowary and Payamu means rainbow serpent.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After a great night at Chili Beach, there was nothing better than to wake up to another amazing sunrise to start the day.