Overland Australia – 4×4 to Cape York Ride

Overland Australia – 4×4 to Cape York Ride is a recap of my trail bike ride to Cape York on 4×4 tracks. I provide details that include maps, costs, logistical requirements and facts as well as links to additional details and photos. This is a self-guided adventure on a shoestring. Follow the links to dig deeper into the adventure.


This is a 8 day ride from Cooktown to the tip of Cape York (1,230 km) on a Yamaha XT 650 decked out for off-road. I purchased it in Sydney and it was already geared up with an extended range fuel tank, saddle bags and top-heavy fiberglass travel case, knobby tires and high clearance suspension. The only real problem with the bike was that it was heavy if dropped with a full fuel tank and the travel case attached.

And yes, I dropped the bike a few times a day when off-road. To get it back up I had to remove the case and leverage it up on my knee and then further up in stages. A newer 650 or smaller bike would have served better, but opportunity knocked and I purchased it as-is. I also had a few minor maintenance repairs done before leaving Sydney.

I then spent the next two months riding north to reach Cooktown. In that time I rode off-road as much as possible (beaches, forest firebreaks, banana plantations, etc.). By the time I reached Cooktown I felt I was ready.

I packed the bike with a small tent, minimal supplies, a paper map and set out. Note that when I did this a few years ago, the north was much less settled, yet fuel was generally available at 200 km intervals. Today things are easier and improved (based on perspective).

Note for those not inclined to purchase a motorcycle and fit it out for off-road there are a number of package services. Here I have listed three without any preference or endorsement.

North Queensland Trail Bike Adventures

Trapp Tours

Cairns Visitor Center Tours

All the above provide bikes, a support vehicle, pre-defined camping spots and best of all a way back to civilization that does not require to ride back the way you came. I was poor and so my options were limited. I shipped my gear back to Cairns by backfill on a small freighter and then rode back like a bat out of hell with a much lighter bike, which made a world of difference. Plus I already know the route and river crossings. So for me the return was fast and more fun.

This is a side adventure while on my How to Overland Australia Sydney to Cape York trip. The next segment is “How to Overland Australia Sydney to Perth.” These posts also contain the interactive Google maps.

cape york route map4×4 to Cape York Ride Itinerary

Day 1

Start from Cooktown, the last major event north. Follow the Endeavor Valley Rd (later called Battlecamp Rd) west and north along the Endeavor River. Stop to visit Isabella Falls.

First river crossing is at the Normanby River. Rest stops include Lake Emma and optionally camping at Horseshoe Lagoon. Cross the Laura River and stop at Old Laura Homestead for dinner and camp.

Day 2

Follow Endeavor Battlecamp Rd to junction and turn north onto Wakefield Rd. Pass Camp One Twelve Mile camp, Mick Fienn Waterhole, Dingo Waterhole Camping Area, Rinyirru (Lakefiedl) NP to camp.

Day 3

Continuing of Lakefield Rd cross North Kennedy River at the Hann Crossing Camp Area Rinyirru, then cross Saltwater Creek. At Marina Plains Rd turn left (SW). Stop option is Lotusbird Lodge on the lake. Marina Plains Rd turns into Lilyvale Rd and ends at Highway 81 and Musgrave Roadhouse. Eat and camp here.

Day 4

Head north on #81 Peninsula Developmental Rd. Break at Ang-Gnarra Caravan Park. Camp at Coen River crossing. Note that the old Moreton Telegraph Rd is the actual dirt track that I took, but since then the Peninsula Developmental Rd has been improved and is an easier option.

Day 5

Go north on Peninsula Developmental Rd, through Mungkan Kandju NP, cross the Archet River, follow Peninsula Dev Rd until old Moreton Telegraph Rd junction. Turn right. The telegraph Rd is straight and pure sand.

At the Wedlock River crossing you find the Moreton Telegraph Station crossing. I camped here.

Day 6

Continue north and at the Bramwell Junction Roadhouse you can refuel, eat and camp bit the Heathlands Regional Park offers more options (Dulhunty River, Birtie Creek, Cockatoo Creek, (Fruit Bat Falls), Elliot Creek Falls, Sam Creek, Cypress Creek and Nolan’s Brook Creek). At the Norther Bypass Rd & Old Telegraph Track junction the road north becomes Peninsula Developmental Rd again. Interesting side trip to Jardine Ferry Crossing. I camped at Fruit Bat Falls.

Day 7

North to civilization of Injinoo (Cowel Creek), Umagico, Bamaga, Seisia and finally Loyalty Beach Campground and Fishcamp for the night. Pickup supplies and fuel or stay at any of many options in the area. Visit beaches and fish or just chill.

Day 8

More north on Pajinka Back Rd. Pass The Croc Tent at junction. Continue on Pajinka to the end at The Tip Walking Trail Car Park. Walk the final section to reach the tip and top of Australia.

4×4 to Cape York Ride Summary

Day 1 Cooktown to Old Laura Homestead
Day 2 Old Laura Homestead Lion’s Den to Rinyirru (Lakefiedl) NP
Day 3 Rinyirru (Lakefiedl) NP to Musgrave Roadhouse
Day 4 Musgrave Roadhouse to Coen
Day 5 Coen to Moreton Telegraph Station
Day 6 Moreton Telegraph Station to Fruit Bat Falls
Day 7 Fruit Bat Falls to Loyalty Beach
Day 8 Loyalty Beach to the Tip of Cape York (Pajinka)

Return by boat, plane or the way you came. Your choice.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Overland Australia Other Adventures posts:

4×4 Fraser Island Queensland

Hiking Around Moreton Island Queensland

Noosa Everglades Canoe Trip Queensland

Kosciusko Summit & MTB Thredbo, NSW

Back to How to Overland Australia, Sydney to Cape York, East Coast Oz

Or How to Overland Australia, Sydney to Perth, Across the bottom.

Click the big yellow button to become a patron!