The iconic trek to the tip is a big bucket list item for many around Australia, but it’s also a trip planned with much trepidation! It’s remote, there are crocs, it’s rough going, will it be ok to take the kids? Can we take our van? Will it be too hot? The list goes on….
Having done the trip ourselves last year we find ourselves being asked these questions by other families and travellers so we thought we’d share what we did with our 2 boys who were 4 and 6 at the time and what we might do differently if we did it again.
Firstly, we were lucky enough to join another 2 families for the trip who were as keen as us to tackle The Old Telegraph Track. We often say we wouldn’t have been quite as brave and adventurous on The Old Tele if we had done it alone.
Info about Tele track
We opted to travel with just the swags and our humble Toyota Ute and left our van with Adam’s brother in Mackay. We met our convoy companions at Mount Carbine (caravan park) where it was free to leave caravans. We would definitely use this option next time as we took another 5 weeks to get back to Mackay after completing the cape which is rather more time than we planned to camp in just swags! 🤣
We left Mount Carbine for Coen on the 18th September. The distance, 423kms, 6hrs of driving on a mix of bitumen and badly corrugated road, just south of Coen being the worst, and arrived early afternoon. The camp we picked was a free camp called The Bend South Campground (wiki) by the river. We weren’t sure what to expect at first but once we set up and taken a look around it was quite idyllic and fascinating to explore. The camping area was part of the river bed in the wet season but with only a shallow river remaining in the dry. The kids loved foraging for quartz in the river bed and we spent hours floating in the stream with pool noodles during the hottest time of the day. We enjoyed this spot so much we stayed 2 nights instead of the originally intended 1!
Town and fuel info
From Coen we headed to Bramwell Station stopping only at Archer River Roadhouse and Moreton Telegraph Station for a look around! We left Coen as early as we could and the 231 kms took between 3 and 4 hours.
Bramwell Station had plenty of space. There was a huge grassy paddock with a few trees for shade and even some shelters. We quickly grabbed a shelter and set up our tents around. It’s was pretty hot but thankfully there were plenty of showers and even washing facilities if needed. The kids had plenty of room to run around and there is a bar and restaurant but bookings are essential if you want to eat. We spent the evening with a few wines, sat under a huge mango tree and watched the sun go down. There were plenty of roos to be spotted and it turned out to be the perfect place to chill before tackling the Old Telegraph Track.
*Unpowered $25 pn
The Telegraph Track
The start of the Old Telegraph Track is just beside Bramwell Road House, a quirky last stop for fuel and breakfast/lunch before hitting the road! Adam would recommend the burgers!
Make sure you have WikiCamps loaded and it’s a pretty good little tool to use so that you know what to expect. The OTT is basically a straight line with obstacles! As soon as you enter it gets bumpy and rocky so make sure you start early as it’s slow going. WikiCamps should also have reviews of recent conditions which is extremely helpful as the track, especially the water crossings can vary from year to year depending on the wet season. It’s definitely worth doing your research before your trip.
Palm Creek was the first big crossing we hit and one of the most memorable of the whole trip. There wasn’t a drop of water but the descent into the creek was pretty steep. To say we were a little nervous about tackling these creek crossing would be an understatement but there is always and easier track nicknamed “Chicken Track” for those not confident. Make sure you get out and assess the crossings before you charge in. It’s always good to know exactly what your up against and have a plan to tackle it.
Being the first crossing we pondered at Palm Creek for quite a while but eventually we all passed with no issues and had a lot of fun! Palm Creek set the bar for the rest of the trip, we forged ahead with renewed confidence!
From there we crossed Juicy Creek, Alice Creek, Dulhunty River and Bertie Creek until we came upon the infamous GUNSHOT!
Now, if you have never heard of gunshot creek I would give it a quick google! We had absolutely no intention of doing the vertical drop that makes this crossing so famous, but our buddy took his Navara down! It was definitely a high of the trip. There was so much adrenaline flowing just watching and we drew quite a crowd! Thankfully the deadly looking drop was completed without incident just an alarming crunch! It was 50% crazy and 50% awesome, quite something to watch! Everywhere we stopped after that people were talking about the guy who took his Navara down gunshot! 😂
We crossed to the right of Gunshots vertical drop and entered the water down a slightly steep slope, keeping left as we exited. The water only reached the side steps of the UTE.
We finally pulled up at Cockatoo Creek campground after 6 hours on the OTT but having barely traveled more than 50km! We set up around an undercover picnic area and relaxed down in the river to cool down after the days adventures! Cockatoo creek even has toilets but I’m not sure they are regularly cleaned.
Our first stop the next day was Fruit Bat Falls. These falls are accessible from the PDR (Peninsula Development Road – main road up to Cape York) The falls are large and spectacular and photos just don’t do them justice.
The second day on the OTT the water crossing began with Canal Creek.
Twin and Elliot Falls
Sams creek was a fabulous spot mainly due to the glorious private water hole just a few metres from the water crossing. It was a fantastic place to chill and cool off with a little waterfall at one side and stream at the other. After 2 hectic days of driving we opted to stay here 2 nights and day trip to 2 other spectacular waterfalls, Twin falls and Elliot Falls.
Elliot Falls was definitely another highlight of the trip. The falls dropped down about 5 or 6 metres (at the time) into a small gorge with emerald green looking crystal clear water. We each took turns taking the plunge and leaping from the top into the beautifully cool water. It’s a great idea to take pool noodles to all these locations, they will get used!
Twin falls was at the same location just a short walk away. These are much better for smaller kids with a shallow pool and different levels for climbers! There really is nothing better on a hot day that chilling in the free flowing water of a beautiful waterfall!
Our final day on the track was leading us towards the final 2 water crossings, Logans and Nolan’s. These 2 were the ones we felt most nervous about and that had the highest water levels.
After completing the Tele track our only worry was reaching the Jardine river in time to catch the ferry! The road were roads again and we were on our way to the top.
We stayed 2 nights at Alau beach, a stunning spot where the red dirt turns to white Sand before meeting the turquoise waters of the ocean. This camp was rustic but our first hot showers in a while and first serious croc warnings! 😳 There was also a pool which was amazing given the latter!
We day tripped from here to The tip, the crocodile tent and Punsand Bay for lunch.
The croc tent is an epic store full of hoards of Cape York memorabilia! It’s very hard not to spend here! We all ended up with something new to don for our trek to the tip!
From the croc tent it takes (how long) to drive to the Tip car park. From here the walk to the tip is about 30
Punsand bay was a treat! So much so that we decided to relocate from Alua bay to there for another 2 nights! This places has such a holiday vibe with the “Corrugation Bar” and pool set amongst the palms with beach views.
We were on an absolute high when we stopped in for lunch as a celebration for making it to the tip, we had a fantastic lunch and couldn’t help but notice the helicopter landing on the beach! Before we knew it we had all booked ourselves on an aerial tour of the tip! Drone the skies we saw crocs, dolphins, turtles and an epic view of the tip of Australia!