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.
We have recently been reliving part of our trip to Cape York with our Instagram and social media followers, it was great to go back over the photos and be able to share them with others. It was just one small part of such a great holiday we had.
Weipa Eco sunset tour
For those that don’t know, back in 2013 we embarked on our honeymoon, a 7 week trip from Sydney to Cape York and then to the Northern Territory, South Australia and back home again.
Now 7 weeks of camping and 4WDing around Australia is probably not everyone’s idea of a great holiday, but for us it was perfect. We wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Below is a basic outline of our itinerary
Archer River Roadhouse, Qld
Bramwell Station, Qld
Eliot Falls, Qld
Thursday Island, Qld
Captain Billy Landing, Qld
Chili Beach, Qld
Musgrave Roadhouse, Qld
Kalpowar Crossing, Qld
Lions Den Hotel, Qld
Cape Tribulation, Qld
Innot Hot Springs, Qld
Mt Isa, QLD
Tennant Creek, NT
Wycliffe Well, NT
Alice Springs, NT
Palm Valley, NT
Kings Canyon, NT
Coober Pedy, SA
Port Augusta, SA
Broken Hill, NSW
We had our share of drama’s though, our mates who were meant to join us on part of the trip had to pull out after their engine died in the first few days. All that hard work and planning was gone so quickly. Luckily we managed to meet up with them for a few days on the way back from Cape York before we headed over to NT.
We had a frantic phone call from Weipa to our mechanic back in Sydney when the 4WD wouldn’t engage in our car and he instructed us over the phone as to how to fix this.
At different times throughout the trip we also had a badly cut hand, a dislocated thumb, a bad case of heat stroke and a few episodes of car sickness!.
We had our alternator die about 400km out of Alice Springs and we limped our way there watching the voltage drop in our batteries. We watched as the radio, lights, taco, speedo all started gradually shutting down one by one! Luckily by the time we car eventually stopped, we managed to coast into a servo in Alice Springs, just 5 min from our pre-booked accommodation. We also had a few suspension issues and this all required us to be stranded in Alice Springs for a few days while repairs were done.
Even with all of this, it was a great trip and we made it and that’s all that matters! If anything, we learned exactly what type of people live in Alice Springs, the most friendly, helpful, genuine people. We couldn’t have been happier with the service we received there.
Here is a small extract from our previous blog posts about this amazing trip.
Fruit Bat Falls, Cape York
So what can we say, what an amazing holiday. Couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend our honeymoon. We are so privileged to have been able to spend time in some of the places we did, it truly is a blessing to have been able to travel our great country. The people of outback Australia are some of the kindest, laid back and most genuine people you could ever meet. It really is a totally different world out there. You could not get any further from the hustle and bustle of Sydney if you tried. We met some amazing people on our travels, both in the towns and our fellow like-minded campers. To think that we set up camp and then spend the whole day out exploring, leaving to tent unattended, unlocked, suitcases and belongings inside, chairs and table outside and you come back at night and everything is how you left it. There is a mutual respect and no-one would even think to touch your belongings. Yet at home we close the windows and deadlock the door before driving to the shops for 5 minutes! It really was refreshing being able to live in a world where everyone looks out for each other and respects others and their property …. even if it was unfortunately only for 7 weeks.
Sunset over The Olgas (Kata Tjuta), NT
Camel rides at Uluru
Everyone is amazingly friendly, you rarely pass a car without getting a wave (even from the truckies and coppers!). We even had a truck driver stop his truck and get out to warn us about a huge pot hole on one of the dirt tracks we were travelling on. The road train drivers are equally courteous of fellow drivers, a quick chat on the CB will often let you know if its safe to overtake or warn of any upcoming traffic/road issues. It really does remind you that there are still good people in this world, unfortunately in the city many people are just too busy to worry about anyone else but themselves. Each day we would set up camp and there was always someone walking by, beer in hand, ready to have a chat! Always someone who has been where you are heading and ready to answer questions or give advice and always someone waiting to hear stories of our adventures.
Inside a lava tunnel
We visited some wonderful places, saw some amazing things and experienced so much. We stood on the northern most point of Australia, drank beer in Australia’s most northerly pub (on Thursday Island). We stayed in a refurbished train carriage and went on a tour through million year old volcanic lava tubes at Undarra Volcanic Park. We stayed in an underground motel at Coober Pedy (where 80% of the population live underground), we toured the Rio Tinto bauxite mines in Weipa, learned the history of the gold mines in Tennant Creek and explored an opal mine in Coober Pedy. We saw the sunrise over Uluru and watched the sunset over Uluru and Kata Tjuta from on top of a camel! We travelled in the footsteps of some of our early explorers, we followed the Old Ghan Railway line and we had the chance to drive some of the 4WD tracks on every true 4WDers ‘must do’ list. We drove through bushfires (and even had one surrounding our campground), survived gale force winds and major storm at Captain Billy’s Landing and 120km winds at Port Augusta.
Coober Pedy mine tour
We ate camel burgers at Kings Canyon and Crayfish pie at Thursday Island! We felt the magic and beauty of being at the Devils Marbles and we were overwhelmed by the sheer size and presence of Uluru. We saw more wildlife than you could ever imagine, birds, eagles, crocodiles, emus, camels, dingoes, lizards, cows, snakes, goats, horses, dogs, sheep, kangaroos. We even had the awesome opportunity to hold and play with a baby orphaned wallaby at Wycliffe Well.
We swam under waterfalls, bathed in the 43 degree natural springs at Innot Hot Springs and drove through many croc infested rivers.
We were covered in red dirt, went days without a shower, toilets were few and far between at places. We encountered more flies than you could ever imagine (even one in George’s beer … nice surprise!). We got used to eating the odd bug in our dinner and having sand and dirt throughout the car, the tent, the sleeping bags and your belongings was just normal. We encountered a 2 degree night and 40 degree days, wild winds and torrential rain, had dingos stalking us for our dinner and we had spiders living on our chairs. We wore the same clothes more than one day each and washing with baby wipes was the done thing. But we loved every single part of it, it is all part of the adventure! And at the end of the day, every single person you meet is in the same position as you so no one even comes close to caring! So to say that we enjoyed our time away is an understatement, we loved every minute of it and cannot wait to get back out there again.
Palm Valley, NT
So here is a bit of a summary of our trip.
Total KM travelled 13,367 km
Total time away 49 days (7 weeks)
Total amount of money spent on petrol $4,240.20
Average overall L/100km 18.49 (combination of weight, a batch of bad fuel, low & high range off road driving, highway driving, few days of bad headwinds)
What we missed the most while away The kids, the dogs, family and friends
Best Chips n Gravy Archer River Roadhouse, QLD
Best Coffee Cobar, NSW
Best Burgers Archer River Roadhouse, with Musgrave Roadhouse a very close second
Best Pizza Outback Pioneer Kitchen, Ayers Rock Resort & Alfrescos, Broken Hill
Best meal Loyalty Beach. Not just the food, the whole package …. Food, location, atmosphere and service
Biggest surprise How much we loved Alice Springs, could totally see us living there. Also the sheer size of Uluru.
Most Scenic Flinders Ranges, SA and Finke Gorge National Park, NT (Boggy Hole in particular)
Favourite campground (remote) Bramwell Station and Chili Beach
Favourite campground (city) Cairns Big 4 Coconut Holiday Resort – amazing service and awesome caravan park.
Most expensive petrol Jardine River and Bamaga (Cape York) – $2.55 / litre for normal 91 octane unleaded petrol
Most expensive beer $56 for XXXX Gold cans in Weipa
Most expensive place in general Ayers Rock Resort
Most expensive campsite Kings Creek Station ($19 per person).
Cheapest Campsite any of the National Park camping in Queensland ($5.45 per person)
Biggest rip-off Jardine River Ferry Crossing Ticket & Permit ($129 to cross the Jardine river – about 40 meters wide)! don’t have much choice though as the crossing is too deep and dangerous to attempt, and infested with crocodiles!
Biggest Adrenalin Rush Palm Creek, Old Telegraph Track (Cape York)
Best 4WD Track Old Telegraph Track, for its diversity. With the slightly damp CREB track a close second
4WD Tracks driven Old Telegraph Track, Frenchmans Track, Battle Camp Road, CREB Track, Oodnadatta Track (in part), Ernest Giles Road, Mereenie Loop (in part).
States travelled to NSW, Queensland, Northern Territory, South Australia
What exceeded our expectations Boggy Hole & Uluru
Strangest place Wycliffe Well, NT. Did enjoy our night there, but really is quite a strange little caravan park!
Where we wouldn’t go again Captain Billy’s Landing – the corrugations to get there were back breaking and the howling wind, crashing waves and pouring rain made for a not so fun night! Also the Pebbles (Kunjarra) outside of Tennant Creek – if you’ve ever been to Devils Marbles and also seen the Pebbles, you will understand!
Biggest disappointment That Stewy, Kristy and Rori couldn’t complete the Cape York portion of our trip with us, due to their car problems
What we wouldn’t take with us again The kitchen (our smaller table was sufficient and we never took the larger kitchen bench/table out at all!), the toilet/shower tent, so much food!
Best Purchase before the trip Our satellite phone, SPOT tracker
Best 4WD modifications that have made our lives easier for off road travels Rear ARB Air Locker, custom made shelves to replace rear seats, CB radio, Raised King Springs/Bilstein Shocks on Bridgestone tyres & new touring seats.
Scariest Moment Camping at Captain Billy’s Landing – gale force winds, didn’t sleep at all! The severe weather warning of 120km/h winds while camping at Port Augusta, Palm Creek crossing on the tele track!
Nicest people Alice Springs in particular, but Northern Territory as a whole. Although while travelling we had many great encounters with people everywhere!