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.
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).
We had three days of stunning sunsets while staying at Loyalty Beach and took lots of photos, here’s just a few of them!
After leaving the tip we drove a short distance to Somerset, another area of historical significance. Unfortunately there is little left here to share the importance of the area, but with a little research you can find out what really made Somerset so important.
In the mid 1800’s, with significant increases in shipping through the Torres Strait, it was decided to establish a settlement at the top of Australia. In July 1864 John Jardine, a magistrate from Rockhampton, arrived to oversee the establishment of this new settlement, which was completed 18 months later. This new settlement was named Somerset.
The Jardine family homestead was located nearby on top of a hill overlooking Somerset. To this day you can still see the Jardine cannons on the site which mark the entrance to where the homestead once stood.
After later resigning from the role, John’s eldest son, Frank Jardine, took over and served several terms before resigning in 1873.
Frank passed away in 1919 and his Samoan princess wife, Sana, died four years later. Other family members remained in the homestead until they were evacuated during WWII, never to return. Unfortunately the homestead was ultimately burned down by vandals in the 1960’s. It’s sad that this part of history was destroyed.
Both Frank and Sana were buried above the high tide mark on the beach at Somerset. It’s a little hard to find the graveyard as it’s not really marked, but a short walk from the beach and you will see this small area of graves. As well as Frank and Sana there are other family members and other early pioneers of the area buried here. Unfortunately this small grave yard is not well kept and it’s sad that such important people in the history of the cape region are not given a little more respect in death.
We are not sure where John Jardine was buried, but his wife, Elizabeth Jardine’s grave is in the Cooktown Cemetary (pic below from one of our previous visits).
Next we were off to start the 5 Beaches Loop. This takes you on a track which winds along a series of relatively isolated beaches, each separated by headlands. This is one drive well worth doing as you’ll be rewarded with some spectacular views.
We drove down onto the first beach and decided to stop for lunch, another amazing spot. We had the whole beach to ourselves and even managed to fit in a little photo shoot before two of our vehicles headed off back into town.
This isn’t a difficult drive, but it’s a pretty one and gives you another insight into the different terrain and landscape the cape has to offer.
So technically there is a 6th beach on the 5 Beaches Loop, but the entry to this one looked a little sketchy and it was hot and none of us were in the mood for recovering vehicles that day so we decided to head out and back to camp, but not before a drive past Lake Wincheura. This lake is apparently home to many birds and salt water crocodiles, but we saw none! It did look like the type of place you don’t want to be wandering around or camping at though!
As you arrive at the tip you can’t help but notice the abandoned buildings that sit on the edge of the rainforest, slowly being taken over by the bush. We had a very quick look at this on our last visit, but didn’t have any idea of the story behind it at that point. On this latest visit, knowing a lot more about the area and this abandoned resort, we decided we wanted to explore a little further.
This is the remains of the Pajinka Eco Lodge (later renamed Pajinka Wilderness Lodge), which was once a five-star luxury resort located right before you reach the current car park area at the base of the tip. In its day there was a private rainforest boardwalk which guided resort guests towards the tip.
The accommodation consisted of bungalows, each with private bathrooms, bedroom and verandahs. The resort had direct pick ups for Thursday Island tours, offered great fishing charters and one of the more popular and promoted activities was the Indigenous cultural experience offered by a local Aboriginal man. Looking at it today its hard to imagine, but back in the day this would have been one amazing resort located in one of the most spectacular places around.
Now as we started investigating what had happened to this resort we actually found it hard to find too much information. There are a few different stories floating around and it seems a little secrecy as to what the real story may be, but from what we gather the basic story goes something like this …….
The lodge was opened in 1986 by Bush Pilot Airways (later Air Queensland). Ownership subsequently changed to Ansett Airlines and later to Qantas, before reverting back to its native title and being sold to the Injinoo Aboriginal Corporation in 1992.
The resort remained open for a number of years, but apparently things were slowly going downhill. Poor management was reported as one of the key reasons for failure, as well as talk of unpaid wages and clashes between Indigenous staff from different clans. At the ultimate time of demise, it must have been the off-season and the resort was operating on a skeleton staff when a fire broke out in the generator workshop and destroyed the generator shed and numerous vehicles. This had a significant impact on the resort and with no power and no money for repairs there was not much that could be done. Everyone just walked away, literally just walked out and never came back. The bar was left stocked, there was linen on the beds, drinks in the fridge, air conditioners and industrial washers and dryers ……. EVERYTHING was left behind.
Over the years things have been stripped out and taken from the site, I’m sure by locals and travellers alike, the main infrastructure of the buildings is still there, but there is little else. Anything of any value was obviously taken long ago. From what we’ve read, the lodge had a sign up in 2002 saying “closed for renovations” but it never did reopen.
What would have been a beautiful place in an equally beautiful location is now a derelict site which is being taken over by nature. The boardwalk that once led to the tip is barely there and the wood of the structures is decaying and suffering from the elements. The buildings are probably not overly safe to be wandering around in, but we took a look around anyway! You had to be careful where you walked as steps were no longer there, wood was cracking under your feet and there were holes in the floors of some of the cabins (not to mention spiders and snakes and whatever other wildlife was making their home around here!). Most of the electrical power points, lamps, fans had been removed from the cabins, but some did still have their toilets and sinks in tact.
During our last visit there was corrugated iron covering the pool, but this time it was open ….. as hot as it was, this pool was not saying ‘come swim in me’! We’ve heard stories that a salt water crocodile was found in the pool a few years ago, I’m sure there are plenty of things living in that pool!
Apparently there has been talk of reopening the resort over the years, but the site is too far gone now for any refurbishment. This is a fabulous site for a resort and in theory it should be a great business opportunity for someone. But the tourist season doesn’t run for the full year, with most of the Cape York region being cut off and inaccessible during the wet season, so this would add its own set of challenges for the resort. Back in the day, being a luxury resort, I’m sure many guests were flown in by plane, but I can’t imagine it would be a relaxing holiday to be up there in the middle of the wet season. The heat and humidity and rain, and of course being isolated due to flooded roads, would take a little of the appeal away.
In some ways I think this needs to remain exactly how it is, the bushland and rainforest taking over and the remains of the resort now just another page in history. The area has such a magical feeling about it, it is rugged yet beautiful at the same time. To have this area taken over by a multi million dollar resort with masses of people around would really take away from the natural beauty of this area, it would take a little bit of that magic and sense of adventure away.
On Sunday 22nd July 2018 a group of friends donned their matching shirts and made the trek to the northernmost point of mainland Australia ……. 15 people and 6 4WD’s left camp early that morning with a feeling of excitement and anticipation that soon they would be standing on the tip of Australia, this is what the trip had all been about. Months and maybe even years of dreaming and preparation for this trip and we were all now so close to seeing that sign and standing on the tip of Australia.
As you leave the township of Bamaga and take the turnoff to Pajinka you notice the landscape change. As you drive through what is known as the Lockerbie Scrub you are surrounded, and often dwarfed, by the lush rainforest around you. The Lockerbie Scrub is the northern most rainforest on mainland Australia. There is so much diversity in the landscape, one minute you are driving through rainforest and the next you are surrounded by huge eucalypt woodland. This is a really one of the prettiest drives in the area, although the narrow windy road does get a little scary with others driving too fast and on the wrong side of the road. You really have no idea how many near misses we had on this road, during both of our visits.
On the way up you pass the Croc Tent, which you really must stop at. This place is filled with souvenirs, gifts and t-shirts, plus plenty of helpful information on the area and road conditions. It originally opened in the early 80s on land that was once part of Lockerbie Station – opposite the tent are the remains of the old homestead Station, which was established by Frank Jardine. In 1988 the business moved to its current location at the junction of Punsand Bay & Pajinka Road, approximately 17km from the tip of Australia. The current owners, Dale and Lea live on site with their young family and run the store. They could not be more helpful and they know everything there is to know about Cape York. They are so friendly and happy to help so go in and have a chat! Dale and Lea are actually taking a break shortly and our good friends are moving up there to take over the store for a few months, what an amazing experience that’s going to be for them! …. we are maybe just a little jealous guys!
There is no way to explain exactly what it feels like to know you’ve made it, to know you are standing there on the tip of Australia. It’s a feeling of accomplishment, an awe-inspiring feeling as you make your way up the track (which isn’t an easy walk) and take in the spectacular views that surround you. As you make your way down the other side of the hill and see that sign you know you’ve made it, you know you’re about to mark one more thing off the bucket list. It’s at this point that you realise how lucky you are to be experiencing the magic of this area, this is the reward for braving the corrugations, dust and dirt of the past few days!
For George and myself it was our second visit to this point so it was a slightly different feeling for us this time, but it was amazing to see how excited all our friends were and know that we’d shared in that moment and would forever be part of the memories from that day.
Pajinka lies right on the coast and is surrounded by the rocky hill climb on one side and beautiful blue water on the other. Looking to the left you see the beautiful white sand of Frangipani Beach, with the rainforest behind.
Approximately 17km south-west of the tip of Cape York you will find Possession Island. This is where Captain James Cook rowed ashore and formally claimed all of eastern Australia on 22nd August 1770.
Whatever you decide to call it …… ‘The Tip’, ‘Cape York’ or it’s indigenous name ‘Pajinka’, it’s a place that should be on everyone’s must visit list, it truly is spectacular. It’s the remoteness, the unspoiled wilderness, the natural beauty of the area, the people, the adventure ….. it’s all of this rolled into one, it’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been why we love this place so much. It just has this hold over you and you can’t help but fall in love with the area. Once you visit, you’ll understand.