Cairns to Cooktown
That road goes through Kuranda, Mareeba, Mount Molloy and Mt Carbine, and later past Palmer River Roadhouse and through the small township of Lakeland Downs, before it turns onto Mulligan Highway towards Cooktown.
I remember this road when its Cooktown end was still unsealed, but since 2006 it has been sealed all the way, and now it is the easiest and least "remote" road in the whole Cape York. The whole way is an easy 2WD drive, and there are plenty of stops that sell refreshments, snacks and fuel.
Cairns Cooktown Road
Its coastal alternative may be easy from Cairns to Cape Tribulation, but from Cape Tribulation to Cooktown it is rougher and includes the famous Bloomfield Road.
Cairns is a lovely city, and if you are not coming back to this part of Australia, I really recommend to spend a few days in Cairns. It's tropical, colourful and relaxed, and it has a good swimming lagoon, and some great shopping, restaurants and nightlife.
The Inland Cairns Cooktown Road
To get inland from Cairns, you cross the Great Dividing Range on a road surrounded by rainforests that winds up to the mountains and then back down in the other end. Up in the middle of it is the Rainforestation Wildlife Park, and the lovely small rainforest village Kuranda.
Not long after Kuranda the mountain range and the rainforest end, and you drive past the small township of Speewah towards Mareeba - the centre of the surrounding farmlands. It wasn't originally a touristic town, but now there is a surprising amount of things to see.
Cairns Cooktown Road - Mt Molloy and Mt
After Mareeba the road to Cape York turns north towards Mt Molloy. You first pass Biboohra, where you can turn right to a tropical fruit winery and left to Mareeba Wetlands. Further north you pass the Lake Mitchell before you get to Mount Molloy.
North of Mount Molloy, there is a free camping site at Rifle Creek. After that, the road continues, flat and straight, through the open eucalypt woodland towards Mt Carbine - a tiny township with a pub and a roadhouse that sells fuel and basic supplies. If you turn into the town there is a caravan park and a mining monument.
Palmer River Roadhouse
North of Mt Carbine the road climbs across a mountain range where there are good views from Bob's Lookout. About 20km north of the mountain range is a turnoff to Palmer River Goldfields. Palmer River Roadhouse has a restaurant and a beer garden, and some great camping.
Cairns Cooktown Road - Mulligan Highway
About 30km north of the Palmer River Roadhouse is the small township of Lakeland Downs, more commonly known as Lakeland. It has a roadhouse, a hotel and a caravan park. If you turn left after Lakeland you come to Laura, if you continue north you come to Cooktown.
If you like history, Cooktown is easily the greatest town to visit in the whole Cape York. It is absolutely packed with history, has one of the best museums and most interesting cemeteries in the whole Australia, and some great walks with views over the blue waters of Coral Sea. It is a must to do on your Cape York trip.
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