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Cape York is Australia's largest area of unspoilt wilderness. Located in Far North Queensland, it is a challenge to travel around, but an interesting destination for the adventurous traveller. Although Cape York basically refers to the top end of, this article is about the entire peninsula with the same name.
The west coast borders the Gulf of Carpentaria and the east coast borders the Coral Sea. At the peninsula’s widest point, it is 430 kilometres from the Bloomfield River, in the southeast, across to the west coast (just south of the Aboriginal community of Kowanyama). It is some 660 kilometres from the southern border of Cook Shire, to the tip of Cape York. The largest islands in the strait include Prince of Wales Island, Horn Island, Moa, and Badu Island. The backbone of Cape York Peninsula is the Peninsula Ridge, part of Australia’s Great Dividing Range. To the east and west of the Peninsula Ridge lie the Carpentaria and Laura Basins.
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Other small settlements mainly along the main road are Laura, Lakeland and Coen and also at the northern tip on Thursday Island.
The climate on Cape York Peninsula is tropical and monsoonal, with a heavy monsoon season from November to April and a dry season from May to October. The temperature is warm to hot, with a cooler climate in higher areas. The mean annual temperatures range from 18 °C at higher elevations to 27 °C on the lowlands in the drier southwest. Temperatures over 40 °C and below 5 °C are rare. Annual rainfall is high, ranging from over 2,000 millimetres in the Iron Range and north of Weipa to about 700 millimetres at the southern border. Almost all this rain falls between November and April. Between January and March, the average monthly rainfall ranges from about 170 millimetres in the south to over 500 millimetres in the north and on the Iron Range.
You can reach Cooktown by car, taking the inland sealed road or the much rougher coastal Bloomfield Track. The latter one is only possible by 4wd vehicle and might be impassable during the wet season.
Buses travel between Cairns and several other towns and Cooktown, both along the coast (high clearance 4wd buses) or inland sealed road.
There are two major roads penetrating the Cape York region: the Peninsula Developmental Road (PDR) and the Northern Peninsula Road (also called Bamaga Road and Telegraph Road). Bamaga Road now bypasses the overland telegraph line (OTL) track, which is often referred to as the tele track. The tele track was used for construction and maintenance of the OTL until it was superseded by fibre optic cables, and is now used by four-wheel drive vehicle enthusiasts in the dry season. Many crossings, such as the bridge over the Wenlock near Moreton station, have been upgraded; however, many fords remain.
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