One of the highlights of my solo trip in North Tropical Queensland was the four-wheel-drive adventure to Cooktown. Initially, my idea was to drive by myself, but with my Jucy campervan, I wouldn’t have been able to drive the Bloomfield track, north of Cape Tribulation.
This is one of the most difficult four-wheel tracks in Australia. So, if you want to experience this part of the Outback I would recommend joining a four-wheel drive tour from Cairns to Cooktown.
4WD on the Bloomfield Track
I picked a small tour operator, based in Cairns that operates four-wheel drive tours to Cooktown and are specialised on Aboriginal Tours too. I was booked on the two-days-adventure-tour. We left Cairns 7.00 am in the morning and after reaching Cape Tribulation, on sealed roads, we drove onto gravel roads of the Bloomfield Track. As this four-wheel-drive track stretches through the Daintree Rainforest on steep, corrugated and bumpy dirt roads, it’s definitely not something for novice four-wheel drivers like myself.
Crossing the Bloomfield River
The landscape we got to see was magnificent with dense forest, pristine mangrove beaches, top hills and lookouts with stunning views of the ocean. After crossing the Bloomfield River we reached our first stop at the Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Community and their Bana Yirriji Art & Cultural Centre, where we could visit the artists’ works and get a refreshment from the on-site cafe.
The Lions Den Hotel – Iconic Outback Pub
From this point, the landscape changes dramatically from rich vegetation of the forest into a barren dry land with outback colours. We drove for 60 minutes to the iconic pub, the Lions Den Hotel. An excellent Pub with superb Aussie memorabilia from the gold rush and miners past. Apparently it is one of the oldest pubs in Australia. Next to the pub, there is a campground where you can stay overnight and swim in the Annan River.
Discovering Cooktown in half day
Although the Bloomfield track is only 100km long, it took us nearly 4 hours on our 4WD trip to get to Cooktown. We arrived in Cooktown early in the afternoon with plenty of sunshine to take in the landscape from Grassy hill. This is the main lookout in Cooktown that offers a majestic 360°view of the ocean on one side and of the picturesque river inlets on the western side. A great spot for watching sunset too.
What to see in Cooktown in half day
At first, Cooktown seems to be a very small place and reminded me of Alice Springs. Next to Grassy Hill, the James Cook Museum is the biggest attraction in town, but due to their opening times (it closes at 4.pm), I missed out on visiting the museum. I enjoyed walking along Cooktown historic centre and taking in its old buildings, its displays of signage of the gold rush and mining past. Its gardens and rich vegetation, its relaxing seafront promenade.
Aboriginal Discovery Tour with Elder Willie Gordon
The Aboriginal Tour on the following day was definitely the highlight of my 4WD tour in Cooktown. I had heard much about Willie Gordon’s tours. Three years ago I was booked on his tour but due to flooding, I had to cancel my tour. His tours are truly special. And somehow different from other Aboriginal tours. In a few hours, we learnt so much about life, death, birthing and survival of the aboriginal community.
In the first place, his tour is a lesson in living. Willie’s talk was loaded with energy and love, it triggers deep emotions in everyone taking part. The stories he told us hooked me up and made me think over many things. I can highly recommend going on Willie’s Gordon Tour.
They are available as The Bama Way Tours. I will write a separate post about Willie’s Gordon Tour.
Four Wheel Drive Back to Cairns on the Highway
On the way back from Cooktown to Cairns, we drove on the highway, a fully sealed road, which was everything but boring. This 300 km highway goes through beautiful landscapes, sweeping plains, ranges. The highlight is the Black Mountain, a stunning rock formation with a mysterious story of the Aboriginal Juju Yalanji People. We learned about the special story from Kathy, our driver and guide tour.
To visit Cooktown I would recommend 2-3 days if you want to make the most of this place. There is a beautiful Mount Cook Hiking trail, if you have more time to spend in Cooktown is definitely worth it.
How to organize your road trip from Cairns
The best way to organize your four-wheel-drive adventure from Cairns is to go on a tour or if you are an expert 4W driver, then you can hire a car and do it on your own. Here below some of the tools I recommend using for booking your adventure.
Australia Itinerary Travel Book
If you like to travel around Australia and want to create the perfect itinerary for your trip, for only 19,90 USD you can get a copy of Your Australia Itinerary Guide.
TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES
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