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The Great Tropical Drive Discovery Trail

The Great Tropical Drive is a self-drive route that will take you from Cairns and Townsville to some amazing places in Tropical Australia. The Discovery Trail is a loop from Cooktown to Laura to Cooktown.

Cooktown Discovery Trail Summary

Day 1. Cooktown-Laura via Lakefield National Park 136 km, approx 2 hr 30 mins

Day 2. Laura-Cooktown 143 km, approx 1 hrs, 30 mins

Kalpowar Crossing Camping Lakefield National Park. Courtesy of Tourism Queensland
Kalpowar Crossing Camping Lakefield National Park. Courtesy of Tourism Queensland

DAY 1. Cooktown-Laura.

Road conditions unsealed, suitable for 4WD.

A dirt road links Cooktown to Lakefield National Park, past the Endeavour Falls and on through Battle Camp Road. Camping permits and information about the park can be obtained from QPWS rangers at Cooktown, New Laura, Lakefield or Bizant Ranger Stations. Crossing Laura River, you will come upon historic Old Laura Homestead, one of the oldest cattle properties on Cape York. The structure you see today was built in 1892.

You can bush camp in Lakefield National Park (permit required) or continue onto the township of Laura, where hotel and camping facilities are available.

Carry plenty of drinking water and fuel as there are no service stations in the park.

WARNING - CROCODILES. Estuarine crocodiles are present in creeks, rivers and waterholes in this area.

Giant Horse Gallery
Giant Horse Gallery

DAY 2. Laura-Cooktown.

Road conditions sealed suitable for 2WD.

The area surrounding Laura is known as ‘Quinkan country’ and is renowned for its ancient Aboriginal rock art galleries, considered among the world’s finest. The ‘Split Rock’ site about 10km south of Laura is open to the public. To learn more about the region’s history and culture, visit the Quinkan Regional and Cultural Centre to organise a site tour. If you are interested in these areas you will need to contact them prior to starting your trip.

Another of Laura's highlights is the annual Horse Races and Rodeo which are held on the first weekend of July, and the Indigenous Dance and Cultural Festival held every two years.

Follow the Peninsula Development Road south to the tiny township of Lakeland Downs, in the heart of the Laura River Valley. This is now a major coffee and banana growing region.

The final 80 km back to Cooktown crosses four rivers – the West Normanby, East Normanby, Little Annan and Big Annan. Allow time for a few stops in the last 30km – Black Mountain National Park, the historic Lion’s Den Hotel (a 4km detour from the main road) and finally Keating’s Lagoon.

Enjoy the whole Great Tropical Drive

Follow the Great Tropical Drive for 12 days and 2079 kilometres to some of Australia’s best known attractions - the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest, Hinchinbrook Island and Undara Lava Tubes - and be prepared for many unexpected discoveries along the way.

The Great Tropical Drive passes through six unique regions of North Queensland:
Cooktown, Port Douglas and Daintree, Cairns and Beaches, Mission Beach and the Cassowary Coast, Tropical Tablelands and Savannah Country, Townsville, Charters Towers and Hinchinbrook.

Information courtesy of Tourism Tropical North Queensland