In October 2011 I took the trusty ABC 4WD from Cairns to the tip of Cape York Peninsula. The roads can be tough going, especially when it rains, and the dreaded corrugations will shake the fillings out of your teeth. It was at the end of the dry season, so it was a hot and dusty journey.
But it’s one of the great road journeys, and while you need to plan and prepare for it, even a novice four-wheel-driver can do it. You’ve got to drive to conditions, and watch your speed. It’s about 1000km from Cairns to the tip. Take your time and enjoy it.
There’s plenty of good maps and road information available online and in guide books. But keep in mind that road conditions change quickly and information can be out-dated. Your best bet is to ask local folk as you go along. Cook Shire Council posts road conditions.
When the first car made it to the top of Cape York in 1928, there weren’t many roads in the region. Two blokes from New Zealand drove a Baby Austin from Cairns to the tip, floating the car across crocodile-infested rivers on a raft. It was an epic journey, commemorated in a display at the Quinkan Cultural Centre in Laura, featuring pictures taken as they slowly made their way north, following the telegraph line.
There’s another reminder of that journey in Laura. Harold Taverner runs the town’s only store, and he’s the proud owner of a model Baby Austin Seven.
Shallyn Bloomfield talks about that first drive up the Cape in 1928.