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Hope Vale and Elim Beach

Set in a picturesque valley, Hope Vale Aboriginal Community has a wonderful cultural centre, and is gateway to one of the most spectacular sand dune environments on Cape York. Hidden in the hills surrounding the township are the Nugal rock art sites, set in a beautiful, ancient country with giant rocks and stunning views.

Aboriginal rock art tour
Aboriginal rock art tours

Hope Vale Aboriginal Community is in a beautiful rural setting, 46 kilometres north-west of Cooktown. This is the traditional country of the Guugu Yimithirr, a tribal nation which stretched from the Annan River in the south, to Princess Charlotte Bay in the north.

Although the township was built in 1949, the original community dates back to 1886, when the Lutheran Church first established a mission at Elim, Cape Bedford, to protect the Guugu Yimithirr from the devastating effects of the Palmer River Gold Rush. Hope Vale remained under mission control until 1986, when the community became the first in Queensland to receive community land under a Deed of Grant in Trust, and the right to self-government.

Today the community has a population of around 1,500 people, with its own school, hospital, church, supermarket and service station. It is also home to many talented artists and musicians. The new Hope Vale Arts and Cultural Centre “The Nganthanun Bamawi Bayan Gallery” is well worth a visit. It exhibits local work as well as providing support for the numerous local artists, craftspeople and dancers. Visitors are welcome and a fantastic collection of locally-produced art is available for purchase.

To learn more about about this beautiful area, and experience Guugu Yimithirr culture first-hand, you can join Nugal-warra Elder and story-keeper, Willie Gordon, on a magical tour of his ancestral rock art sites, or enjoy a bush feast with Irene Hammett, a Bulgun-warra woman with a wealth of stories about her childhood in the area. Both tours should be booked in Cooktown.

The drive to Hope Vale takes about 45 minutes on a partially unsealed road. Please do not carry alcohol in your vehicle, as restrictions apply.

Be dazzled by the Coloured Sands at Elim Beach

Coloured Sands Elim Beach
Coloured Sands Elim Beach

The stunning beach at Elim is home to the famous Coloured Sands, and a popular spot for Hope Vale people, many of whom have a shack here and visit at weekends to go fishing. It is also a popular camping spot, and the Elim Beach campground belonging to Thiithaarr-warra Elder, Eddie Deemal, is right on the water's edge with fabulous views to Cape Bedford, providing the perfect base from which to explore the area.

The mesmerising dune formations of the Coloured Sands are a 300 metre walk along the beach. Driving on the beach should NOT be undertaken in a 2wd vehicle, and only in a 4wd vehicle with extreme caution at low tide.


Courtesy Kathi Gibson
Courtesy Kathi Gibson

The drive from Hope Vale to Elim takes about an hour on a partly sealed road which winds through white silica sand hills, rugged escarpments and heath lands. 

Please ensure you have your own supplies with you, and check local tides and current road conditions prior to departing Hope Vale.