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Old Telegraph Track, Cape York

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November 2911 minute read

Like many travellers yet to make the trip, the Old Telegraph Track to Cape York in Queensland had been on my bucket list for years.

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After landing in Cairns and then a quick tour of the Norweld factory, we piled into our four LandCruiser convey and headed north. It was late November, actually just last week. The downside of travelling this late in the season is the heat, but the bonus is it’s one of the few times there are few other travellers.

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We managed to push out the other side of a heavy rain system, and with little traffic and some recent upgrades to the Peninsula Development Road, we made good time and pulled into Bramwell Roadhouse by dinner time. Steve and Isaac whipped up, pulled pork and slaw burgers, and we settled in for our first night around camp.

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With a limited time window, we had thought we would only have time for the northern section of the Old Telegraph Track, but after making a great start, we decided to give the entire track a go.

From Bramwell, the Old Telegraph Track and fun begins in earnest. We wound our way north, crossing Palm Creek, Ducie Creek, Dulhuntie River and Bertie Creeks with plenty of stops to cool down along the way.

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Old Telegraph Track Cape York
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Old Telegraph Track Cape York
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The steep track at Gunshot Creek is one of the icons of the Old Telegraph Track and perhaps is one of the most infamous four-wheel-drive challenges in Australia. It’s far more vertical than I’d imagined, and it’s easy to see why so many vehicles are seriously damaged here. 

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In a vehicle, you don’t mind knocking around the difficult line at Gunshot might be fun, but there’s a good chance you will do expensive damage in tourers, so we took the more accessible lines nearby.

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Further north, Fruit Bat Falls is one of the iconic pictures I’d seen of this area. It’s a stunning spot, so we floated around and cooled down. Again we had the entire falls to ourselves!

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Eliot/Twin Falls is another beautiful spot. There is a fun jump into a narrow slot, and then the flow washes you down to a pool, where it is an easy place to climb back out. The water is crystal clear, and the surrounding forest is lush; it’s magic.

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There’s good camping here, and the guys cooked up another feast out of the canopies, this time mouth-watering steak sandwiches.

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The following section north was my favourite part of the Old Telegraph Track. Again, there were some tight off-road challenges, but Isaac’s 79 Series LandCruiser on portal axles cruised through everything with ease, as did Steve and Ted’s 79 Series Cruisers. 

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The vehicle that surprised us all the most was the 200 Series LandCruiser. It has an extended chassis and sits on 33” tyres, so it is relatively low as it’s more set up for towing and more straightforward tracks (or so we thought). Joel drove the vehicle superbly, and with some careful guiding from Ted, it got through the tricky sections with ease.

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Old Telegraph Track, Cape York 59

At Cypress Creek, the only way across is an incredibly sketchy log bridge. Logs that have broken lie below the bridge, and as each vehicle came across, timbers cracked, and appearing structural timber moved far more than was comfortable. The drive was short and straightforward, yet we were all relieved when the vehicles were across safely. 

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The Old Telegraph Track is known for the water crossings, and it didn’t disappoint. From deep and muddy to crystal clear waters surrounded by rainforest, we came across all types.  

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Nolan’s Brook (Bridge Creek) is one of the more notorious crossings and has a few entry options into a fun crossing. All four LandCruisers in our convoy crossed with ease under their own steam.

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The Jardine River marks the end of the Old Telegraph Track and the technical off-roading. The ferry shuffled us across this narrow but deep waterway before we headed north to Punsand Bay and indulged in a night of air conditioning and local seafood.

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Old Telegraph Track, Cape York 68

We made the short hike out to Cape York at sunset and again with rods the following day. At low tide, it’s a quicker and easier route following the beach, but the trek up and over from the car park is pretty easy too and offers spectacular views.

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From Cape York, we cruised back to Cairns along Bamaga Road, bypassing the Old Telegraph Track. With just five days, early starts, efficient crew and no traffic or congestion, we were back in Cairns after a trip that ran at an exciting pace but at no time felt rushed.

A big thanks to Isaac and Steve from Norweld for making this trip up the Old Telegraph Track happen at short notice. Thanks for the fun trip, Mark, Joel, Baxter, Ted, Doug, Josh, and Alby. It was a pleasure to travel with such a capable yet relaxed crew.

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Avatar Of Mike Collister

Mike Collister has spent his life outdoors. He has represented Australia as a slalom kayaker, guided whitewater expeditions in Nepal, and taught outdoor education and wilderness medicine. He’s paddled the Kimberley’s Fitzroy River in the wet season and across the Bass Strait and is an avid photographer, overlander and camper.