Cairns to Cape York Australia by Motorcycle
The time had come to see if we could do it, could we ride our little Royal Enfield Himalayans - Arnie and Franco - 1,000km from Cairns up the rugged Cape York Peninsula to The Tip of Australia. With only three months off-road riding experience and never having attempted a water crossing, we were nervous, scared and excited. There was no telling how far we'd get, an obstacle could stop us in our tracks, we could reach terrain that's too difficult or the bikes might fall apart riding over the corrugation.
Our plan was simple, keep going until we either hit the top or can't go anymore, and hope for the best!
In this post
- The Route
- Cairns to Cooktown via The Bloomfield Track
- Cooktown to Musgrave Station via Lakefield
- Musgrave to Bramwell Station via Archer River
- Bramwell Station to Bamaga via Fruit Bat Falls
- Bamaga to The Tip of Cape York Australia
- Cape York Tip (Pajinka) to Punsand Bay via Roma Flat Track
- Cape York back to Cairns (the easy way)
The motorcycle route we took on our Royal Enfield Himalayans from Cairns to The Tip of Cape York.
Cairns to Cooktown via The Bloomfield Track
In Cairns we stripped the luggage on the motorbikes down to the bare essentials to be as light as possible for the ride up the cape. Riding north we followed the Captain Cook Highway along the coast to Cape Tribulation where the sealed road came to an end. From there we tackled the famous Bloomfield Track in the Daintree Rainforest and faced our first creek crossing at Emmagen Creek. It was a lot bigger than we expected and we weren't super confident we could do it, we were worried about drowning one of the bikes in the creek. But after some time we managed to build up enough nerve to give it a go. My crossing wasn't quite as graceful as Tina's due to a wall getting in my way, but we both made it!
Our adrenaline was pumping as we continued north, crossing a few more smaller creeks and other tricky dirt roads before arriving in beautiful Cooktown to rest up for the night. We both agreed it was the best day we'd had on the motorbikes so far, the creek crossings and the Bloomfield Track were scary and challenging but just to the point we could handle. So much fun!!
Cooktown to Musgrave Station via Lakefield
Day two was another big day on the motorbikes as we continued our journey up to Cape York. The 277km ride from Cooktown to Musgrave Station through Lakefield National Park was one of the toughest we've experienced yet, we thought we knew what corrugated road felt like before but we really got a taste of it here!
The first part of the day we rode the motorbikes to Old Laura Homestead in Lakefield and stopped for a short break to stretch our legs and have a bite to eat. The track there was challenging, it had creek crossings, soft sections and enough corrugation to snap the metal bracket for Tina's P plate. But we were still full of beans and excited about the rest of the ride to Musgrave.
Then the second half of the day wore us down with A LOT more corrugation mixed with soft sand, I came off in a patch of soft sand but luckily didn't do any damage to myself or Franco. It was a much slower ride to Musgrave Station than we'd anticipated because of the poor road conditions, and we realised in the afternoon we wouldn't be arriving until after dark even though we'd left at 8am! The concentration and effort of riding so many hours had completely zapped our energy and we felt like we were running on fumes.
We eventually limped into Musgrave station in the pitch black of night, doing about 30km/hr to avoid hitting kangaroos that were all over the place in the dark, we felt extremely relieved to be out of the saddle after 11 hours of off-road riding.
Musgrave to Bramwell Station via Archer River
Days three and four of our motorcycle journey up the Cape York Peninsula continued to push us to our limits, this road was a long hard slog!
Beginning at Musgrave Station we shook the previous day's bulldust off our gear before hopping back on the motorbikes to travel north. Originally we hoped to ride all the way to Bramwell Station in a single day - 340kms away! But it wasn't long before we realised how ambitious that plan was, the PDR (Peninsula Development Road) wasn't going to have any part of it. Along with large corrugations that made the front suspension sound like a jack hammer, it threw in occasional loose sandy patches to make sure we were paying attention. There was no way we were making it to Bramwell safely in a day, so we chopped the trip in two and stopped at Archer River Roadhouse for the night about halfway, happy to arrive before dark for a change at 4pm.
The next day the hard slog continued up the PDR to Bramwell Station, there was nothing to do but to grind it out over the endless corrugated road until we reached our destination. We couldn't complain though, we came here looking for an adventure and that's just what we got!
On a side note, it felt like the offroad practice was finally starting to pay off, we were slowly overcoming our fear of "giving it the berries" when things got hairy to maintain control, and it actually seemed to do the trick because we didn't have any offs! ...although we still crapped ourselves every time.
Bramwell Station to Bamaga via Fruit Bat Falls
The day had arrived for us to make our final push to The Tip of Australia!
We left from Bramwell Station in the morning and rode the motorbikes north along the Peninsula Development Road (PDR), we decided not to attempt the Old Telegraph Track (OTT) after seeing a recent video of deep creek crossings that would easily drown Arnie and Franco and we couldn't do that to our boys! The PDR was challenging enough for us with its huge corrugations and sand, and to make things interesting we even had some rain! ...but despite the challenging conditions we continued to feel a bit more comfortable on the "corry" and happily didn't have any accidents.
First stop for the day was the beautiful Fruit Bat Falls swimming hole 120km north of Bramwell and about halfway to Bamaga, it was the perfect spot to cool off with a refreshing dip before getting back on the motorbikes. Next we rode 100km to Bamaga via the Jardine River Ferry Crossing, Bamaga is the northernmost town in Australia located only about 30km from The Tip of Cape York (Pajinka), so from there we made a bee line for it!
Bamaga to The Tip of Cape York Australia
The road from Bamaga to The Tip started with corrugation similar to what we'd just come through on the PDR, then turned into more of a 4x4 track that cut through some rainforest and included a few shallow creek crossings but nothing too difficult. At the end it comes out at a beach on the tip of Australia!
We parked next to the beach and did the easy 1km hike to the famous sign at the tip of Cape York that we'd crossed the country to see: YOU ARE STANDING AT THE NORTHERNMOST POINT OF THE AUSTRALIAN CONTINENT.
After taking the mandatory happy snaps with the sign, we had a bit of a dance and sat down to admire the view and let the moment sink in. We rode our little Himmys all the way to Cape York.
Cape York Tip (Pajinka) to Punsand Bay via Roma Flat Track
We'd just completed the long hard slog up the Cape York Peninsula to The Tip of Australia, the hard part was over, or so we thought...
On our way back from Pajinka we decided to stop by Punsand Bay just next door to check out a resort recommended by other travellers, so we punched the address into Google Maps and away we went, completely unaware it was taking us there via the Roma Flat track, a more challenging piece of terrain than we'd ever attempted, bloody Google!
It didn't take long for us to run into trouble and realise this wasn't like anything we'd ridden before, we had multiple tumbles in deep soft sand, I completely bogged my bike in mud at a creek crossing and we had to wrestle it out by hand. We were exhausted and dehydrated from the unexpected extra hours of struggle, at times it felt like we'd been transported into an episode of the Million Dollar Bogan.
We finally rolled into Punsand Bay about 3 hours after we'd left The Tip, a trip that Google said would take only 29 minutes! So much for a relaxing afternoon, that was some hard yakka! ...maybe it was The Cape giving us one last souvenir to remember her by.
Cape York back to Cairns (the easy way)
We had an important decision to make in Cape York, do we ride back down the Peninsula to Cairns, or do we ship the motorbikes down and fly back. We discussed it with Arnie and Franco, and together we decided to go with option number two.
Riding from Cairns to Cape York was a long hard slog for us, we were buggered and needed a break!
So with the decision made to ship the bikes back to Cairns, we cleaned the red dirt off Arnie and Franco as best we could with a garden hose and packed up our gear in Bamaga. We dropped the boys off at Seisia Wharf for an emotional farewell, then headed to Bamaga Airport to board a little plane for a bumpy flight back to Cairns.
For details on the shipping company we used and our flights see How to Ship Motorbikes from Cape York to Cairns.
Sep 15, 2021