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Cape York: How To Ride To Australia’s Northern Tip (2023)

Getting to Cape York from Cooktown on an adventure motorcycle is a lot of fun! In fact, it’s even more fun than those who do it by 4×4.

In this guide, we’re going to look at how you can get to Australia’s most northern tip completely offroad.

Cape York Adventure Motorcycle Guide

The best way to experience the journey is on two-wheels in our opinion. Those in beefed up 4×4’s simply are doing it the easy way…and where’s the fun in that?

Cape York adventure motorcycle guide

There is nothing better in life than the sound of a humming 4-stroke in the ears tearing through the rainforest and over the savannahs.

Let’s look at the basics:

Cooktown to Cape York Distance857.6km (shortest route)
Fuel required for motorcycles50 liters minimum one-way
Fuel required for four-wheel drives90 liters minimum one-way
Best time of yearDry season May to September
Are there toilets?Yes, at some campsites
Can I bring dogs?Yes, excluding National Parks
Biggest non-fuel stretchOnly 140kms
Fuel prices$2 to $3 per litre (yikes!)
Alcohol permitted?Yes, but banned in some areas
Travel permits required?Only for camping in some spots
These are accurate estimations for dirt bike riders and not for car/truck travel to Cape York

The best motorcycle to do the trip to Cape York is an enduro motorcycle. Anything in the 250cc to 450cc range is plenty. We personally like Yamaha’s WR250R and KTM’s 450 for this trek.

If you choose a heavier bike, say the KTM 690, then you might feel challenged. Likewise, the BMW F800GS and F1200GS are too heavy to do the Cape York trip unless you stick to the well-formed tracks. There are actually tracks where a 2wd can travel on, as long as they don’t enter the Telegraph Track.

Because you might want to choose a different route on your return leg.

Preparing For The Trip

Any great Australian motorcycle adventure starts with a solid plan. I’d recommend that you pack the bare esssentials.

There are fuel stations regularly along the trip up to Cape York. For that reason, you won’t need to install additional fuel tanks to get you between stops. The longest distance without fuel in the Cape York Peninsula is 140kms. This is doable for a stock standard 250cc trail bike.

You should think about:

  • Packing a suitable adventure tent for the journey
  • Bringing 2 extra spare tubes in your tool box
  • Having your engine serviced and the oil changed
  • Mounting a motorbike GPS to your handlebars
  • Buying yourself a decent set of luggage panniers

and finally, packing just enough food. There are shops/cafes along the way.

Cape York Motorcycle Deaths

We all know about the dangers of dirt bikes, trail riding and extended touring. At any moment, you could be seriously injured or killed.

Unfortunately, Cape York has dangers which have led to multiple deaths over the years to motorcyclists attempting to reach the tip, or on their return journey back down the coast.

There are multiple reports:

It’s unfortunate but it does happen, even for those wearing all of their protective gear and even a neck brace.

Join a Group Trip

There are numerous group motorcycle trips that are run regularly across Cape York. It’s the best way to see the area, and yes, you can bring your own dirt bike if you wish.

There are some really good advantages actually:

  1. You don’t have to carry luggage since there is a support vehicle
  2. You’ll make a whole new bunch of mates to share an experience with
  3. There will be help in river crossings meaning you can see alternative tracks
  4. If you do injure yourself, there is an opportunity to become a passenger in the expedition support vehicle.

I can recommend the following dirt bike tour companies which are based in Cooktown/Cairns:

  • Cape York Motorcycles
  • Fair Dinkum Bike Tours
  • Trapp Tours
  • Outback Adventure Treks
  • Roy Kunda’s Cape York Motorcycle Tours
  • North Queensland Trail Bike Adventures

Generally they supply the bikes and more. You just rock up with your gear and ride. They’ll even cart your stuff for you!

Of all the people who know the Cape York adventure tracks well, it’s Roy Kunda. The reviews about his company are astoundingly high!

In summary

“You gotta do the Cape!” is something you’ve no doubt heard before and something you’ll be sharing with others after you’ve done your trip.

Taking a dirt bike or fully-laden adventure motorbike up to Australia’s highest tip is a true adventure. It’s actually not that hard and you can stay on well-formed gravel tracks for the entire distance, especially along the old telegraph track.

Bring your safety gear and above all else, have fun!

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