As a sailor, surfer and diver, it’s little wonder that when Dave Bristow, photographer and co-author of 100 Things To See In Tropical North Queensland, was asked to name his tropical top five, all of them where on the water.
Dad to nine-year-old Maya, Dave might be riding out COVID-19 in Darwin (where some seriously big crocs ensure he has had very little water play) but he’ll be sailing east as soon as the winds allow, to revisit all these favourite spots off Cape York and Cairns. Read more about all of them in Dave’s book. It’s the only guide to TNQ written by locals for travellers who aren’t tourists. Scroll to the bottom for details.
The number one spot goes to this top tropical isle that also rates as the easiest and most affordable island to flee to out of Cairns. It’s accessible by fast cat (for $211 per family, return), your own tinny or on a jet ski, and the clincher is that you can camp there too.
Beachfront sites on Welcome Beach cost $37 per group, per night, and it’s here that green and hawksbill turtles graze on the sea grass, to the immense delight of photographers like Dave. Stroll over to Nudey Beach for the best snorkelling, or paddle your sea kayaks north past the unmistakeable Bird Rock towards Little Fitzroy Island where wild things feed in the swiftly flowing current and there are top little curls of uber white sand.
Dave loves to yarn about the year our family set sail for Cape York, reached Lizard Island and stayed for three months. We never did get to The Tip, and nobody cared. Maya was two and learnt to snorkel with a noodle wedge under her arms, and we’d anchor the dinghy in the middle of the Blu Lagoon and jump overboard with her.
This faraway reef-fringed isle north of Cooktown gets the nod for its amazing diving too and the distinct lack of crowds. Beachfront campsites on baby-blue Watson Bay cost campers just $6.65 a night and the step-off-the-sand snorkelling is free. The clincher is that you have to fly in from Cairns with all your gear, but if getting cast away is your dad’s kind of perfect, this is the escape for him. From the campground you can explore on foot and discover lonely Coconut Beach, snorkel the Blue Lagoon (below) and enjoy Happy Hour over at the resort.
The biggest fish Dave ever caught off Cape York was snared off this little-
visited strip of the finest white sand in the north. Getting there is a very worthy four-wheel driving adventure in its own right, but when you arrive, you’ll discover the incredible fishing – huge Spanish mackerel, barramundi and mangrove jack off the point – and some breezy, palm-fringed beachfront campsites too. There’s even a freshwater spring to top up your washing water supplies and beautiful beachcombing too.
What Dave reckons really rocks about this island is the incredible fishing –
huge catches of golden trevally, queenfish and flowery rock cod reeled in with very little effort. And the mind-blowing Indigenous rock art galleries you can walk to, and the dugongs and green sea turtles that surface in Owen Channel.
Oh, and the historical discoveries you can make at Fredrick Point: unmarked graves and old wells, the autographed rock and Indigenous shell middens. But getting back to the fishing…Dave declares it one of the best places on Cape York to angle, and for Dad’s exploring nearby Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park, this group of eight islands is a stone’s throw away, just 11km off the mainland via Bathurst Heads.
Getting to The Tip is monumental, no matter how you arrive, but it’s not just a milestone, Frangipani Bay is also a top place to camp and fish if you linger after that Insta-worthy moment at the edge of the country. Free camp here and walk the entire length of Frangipani Bay, cast a line off rocks at The Tip, and take your tinny across the channel at slack tide to York and Eborac Islands. All this great exploring deserves a couple of days, so Dave says to pack plenty of drinking water and a stack of lures.
Where would you rather spend Father’s Day this year?
Read more about Dave’s adventures at wildetravelstory.com