My Four Wheel Drive Adventure To Cooktown Queensland

4WD Road Trip From Cairns to Cooktown

One of my solo trip highlights in North Tropical Queensland was the four-wheel-drive road trip adventure to Cooktown. Initially, my idea was to drive by myself, but I wouldn’t have been able to drive the Bloomfield track north of Cape Tribulation with my little campervan.

This is one of the most difficult four-wheel tracks in Australia. If you want to experience this part of the Outback, I would recommend joining a guided 4WD tour from Cairns to Cooktown.

4W Road Trip Cooktown
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Four Wheel Drive Adventure Cooktown

Four-wheel-drive through the Bloomfield Track

I picked a small tour operator based in Cairns that operates four-wheel drive tours to Cooktown and specialises in Aboriginal Tours. I was booked on the two-days-adventure-tour.

We left Cairns at 7.00 am, 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.

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Bloomfield Track Landscapes

Crossing the Bloomfield River

The landscape we got to see was magnificent with dense forest, pristine mangrove beaches, top hills and lookouts with stunning ocean views. After crossing the Bloomfield River, we reached our first stop at the Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Community and their Bana Yirriji Art & Cultural Centre. We could visit the artists’ works and get a refreshment from the on-site cafe.

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Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Community

The Lions Den Hotel, the iconic Outback Pub

From this point, the landscape changes dramatically from the 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.

The Lions Den Hotel
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Iconic Lions Den Hotel

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 the picturesque river inlets on the western side. It a great spot for watching the sunset too.

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Ocean View from Grassy Hill

Things to see and do in Cooktown

At first, Cooktown seems to be a tiny place and reminded me of Alice Springs. The James Cook Museum is the biggest attraction in town next to Grassy Hill, but due to their opening times (it closes at 4.pm), I missed out on visiting the museum.

I enjoyed walking along the Cooktown historic centre and taking in its old buildings, displaying the gold rush and mining past. Its gardens and rich vegetation, its relaxing seafront promenade.

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Cooktown Buildings

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 I had to cancel my tour due to flooding. His tours are exceptional. And somehow different from other Aboriginal tours. In a few hours, we learned so much about life, death, birth, survival, and the aboriginal community’s survival.

In the first place, his tour is a lesson in living. Willie’s talk was loaded with energy and love, and 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.

Willie the Elder
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Aboriginal Tour with Willie Gordon

Four Wheel Drive from Cooktown 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.

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Black Mountain Cooktown

To visit Cooktown, I would recommend 2-3 days 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 4WD road trip in Cairns

As a solo traveller, the best way to organize your four-wheel-drive adventure from Cairns is to go on a tour. Still, if you are an expert 4W driver, you can hire a vehicle and do it yourself if you trust yourself expert enough to drive alone on the rough terrain of the northernmost part of the East Coast of Australia.

Here below some of the tools I recommend using for booking your adventure.

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Related Guide: Australian Destinations

First published in 2014, last updated in 2021

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