The eastern side of the Tip of Cape York features pristine 4WD access beaches, historical ruins and more for off-road travellers to enjoy as part of a journey to the northernmost point of the Australian mainland.
|Grading||Difficult – low range gearing and high ground clearance..|
|Time||Two days minimum|
|Distance||80km, Seisia return|
|80km, Seisia return; 74km Seisia to Bamaga|
|Best time of year||Dry Season (May – October).|
|Warnings||Crocodile infested estuaries and beaches. Alcohol restrictions apply.|
|Permits and fees||None apply|
|Camping||Seisia Holiday Park; bush camping at Nanthau Beach; Somerset Beach|
|Important contacts||Bamaga Information Centre Ph (07) 4069 3211; Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council, Seisia office Ph (07) 4048 6700; Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council, Bamaga office Ph (07) 4090 4100; Jardine River Ferry Ph (07) 4069 1369|
From Seisia the road runs through Bamaga and back up towards The Tip, or you can take the back track that runs through rainforest and savannah, coming out south of the Croc Tent at Lockerbie.
A track about 11km south of The Tip turns off to the east and runs out to the old Somerset ruins where there is basic camping and plenty for the history buff to explore.
South along the coastline (and signposted roughly) is a track out to Nanthau Beach via Fly Point and Vallack Point. This coastline is spectacular, with rolling hills, sandy beaches and ruddy headlands.
Image: Heading down to the beach at Somerset
Things to do
Despite the rich history of the area, the beautiful scenery and the sheer volume of travellers heading to The Tip each year, the facilities here are almost non-existent. The Somerset ruins show one part of the region’s history, and a sandstone cave to the north of the homestead site on the coast houses Aboriginal paintings that tell a much longer historical narrative. This may be the only known Aboriginal gallery north of the Quinkan sites around Laura.
Image: On the beach at Somerset near the Tip
Camping is available at Somerset overlooking Albany Island, with a toilet block and shelter. A tinnie can be launched here in the calm waters of Albany Passage, but the tides over the surrounding reefs can be treacherous. The beach run out at Nanthau is great for beachcombing or just camping away from the crowds of The Tip. The fishing yields queenfish, trevally and salmon.
One of the earliest settlements on the Cape, Somerset was established in 1864. John Jardine was placed in charge of the settlement, and after an epic ten month cattle drive from Rockhampton to Somerset, his son Frank Jardine would continue the family connection to this settlement until 1873.
As much a military outpost as a sanctuary for sailors wrecked on the numerous reefs and straits of the waters, the settlement definitely proved its worth to many stranded men. The graves of Frank Jardine and his wife remain in the shade of the trees along the beach at Somerset.