North of Archer River on the eastern coast of Cape York is Kutini-Payamu National Park, a remote coastal region that houses Australia’s largest remaining lowland rainforest that leads to lonely sweeping beaches.
|Grading||AWD; suitable for towing camper trailer|
|Time||Minimum two days|
|Distance||164km, Archer River Roadhouse to Chili Beach|
|143km, Archer River Roadhouse to Lockhart River (11km off the track)|
|Best time of year||Dry season (May – October)|
|Warnings||Check road conditions before travelling as the Portland Roads Rd can be impassable after rain, though this is less likely these days, as many sections of the road have been sealed, particularly on the steeper grades. (Civilisation is coming to The Cape, with all its attendant horrors.) Campsites are very popular so book well in advance. Alcohol restrictions apply at Lockhart River, and both Portland Roads Rd and Frenchmans Track are in restricted areas – www.datsip.qld.gov.au|
|Permits and fees||Camping in the National Park requires a permit. Campers must buy an e-permit before arriving: book online at www.qld.gov.au/camping or phone 13 QGOV (13 74 68).|
|Facilities||Archer River Roadhouse, Lockhart River|
||Chili Beach Camping Area, Cooks Hut Camping Area, Rainforest and Gordon Creek Camping areas|
|Important contacts||QPWS Cairns Ph (07) 4222 5303; Lockhart River Shire Council Ph (07) 4060 7144, www.lockhart.qld.gov.au|
The drive in to Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park isn’t a difficult one, other than some creek crossings that can be rocky. From the Archer River Roadhouse, on the Peninsula Developmental Rd, head north for 36km then turn east onto Portland Roads Rd. Follow the well-formed gravel road for 69km to pass the southern end of Frenchmans Track and a further 27km on is the junction to the Lockhart River community.
Image: Archer River Roadhouse
There’s fuel at Lockhart River but it is an Aboriginal community so remember alcohol restrictions apply. Bona fide travellers are okay, so make sure you have your camping permit to prove you’re not staying over in the community.
Continue along Portland Roads Rd for 4km to the camping areas of Rainforest, Cooks Hut and Gordon Creek. A further 28km along the road brings you to Chili Beach camping area.
Frenchmans Track is a popular return route from Kutini-Payamu National Park, because it’s a shortcut that intersects with the Telegraph Road 22km south of Moreton Telegraph Station. However, the Pascoe River crossing on this track is sometimes over a metre deep, even in the dry season, so when calculating fuel requirements allow for extra mileage should this crossing be impassable.
Things to do
Fishing is permitted in the sea, but not in freshwater rivers or creeks inside the National Park.
The Batavia Gold Mine ruins are worth walking around, as much of the machinery, including a huge crusher, is still intact.
Image: Chili Beach
Portland Roads is a hamlet that was once a port for the nearby Iron Range goldfields and then had strategic significance during World War II, with an airstrip and fuel dump.
You can camp at Rainforest, Gordon Creek, Cooks Hut and Chili Beach. There are toilets at Chili Beach and Cooks Hut, but no other facilities. Cape Weymouth, now out of bounds, is under Native Title.
Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park
This is a coastal park that backs onto the heath-covered Tozer Range. Kutini means cassowary and Payamu means rainbow serpent. This Park was originally gazetted as Iron Range National Park in 1981 and the original 33 000 hectares was expanded to 47 100ha in 2000. In July 2011 the Park was renamed Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park. The Park is jointly managed by the Northern Kuuku Ya’u Kanthanampu Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC Land Trust and the Queensland Government.
Image: The view over the Tozer Range from the Mount Tozer Lookout
The Park preserves the largest remaining area of lowland rainforest in Australia. Surrounded by eucalypts and paperbarks, the rainforest is home to birds, such as the eclectus parrot, that are only found here or in similar habitats in Papua New Guinea. Other notable birds include the huge palm cockatoo and the rifle-bird.
Sea birds, including white-bellied sea eagles and pied oyster catchers, can be seen on the waterfront at Chili Beach.