Visiting Cape Melville safely
Getting there and getting around
Cape Melville National Park (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal land (CYPAL)) is closed throughout the wet season every year from 1 December to 31 July (inclusive)—roads into and on the park become impassable for extended periods and are closed to public access. These dates may vary depending on weather and road conditions. Observe road closures and restrictions, as penalties can apply. Check park alerts and Queensland Traffic or Cook Shire Council for local road conditions. The Bureau of Meteorology provides updated weather reports.
Cape Melville National Park (CYPAL) is extremely isolated and remote. All roads into and on the park are unsealed and suitable for high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicles only—they are not suitable for trailers, caravans, campervans or buses. Roads on the park are rarely maintained and can be very rough. Be prepared for corrugations, washouts, tidal creek crossings and soft sand. The road into Ninian Bay is particularly difficult and vehicles may be scratched by roadside vegetation.
Visitors must be experienced in high-clearance four-wheel-driving and should travel with the necessary recovery gear, winches, spare parts, first-aid, communications equipment, and adequate food, water and fuel. Satellite phones are essential—there is no mobile reception—and personal locator beacons (PLBs) are recommended. Travel with another vehicle where possible. For more information, see things to know before you go and staying safe.
Access to the park is either from the west via Kalpowar Crossing in Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL) or from the south by the coastal route from Cooktown. These routes converge at Wakooka outstation, which is Aboriginal land and camping is not allowed.
Access via Kalpowar Crossing
It is about 70km from Kalpowar Crossing to Wakooka outstation, and an additional 4km to the park boundary. From here it is a further 35km to the camping areas at Bathurst Bay or 37km to Ninian Bay camping area. Sections of this road are extremely rough and it can take up to 5hr to traverse.
Access via Cooktown
The coastal route from Cooktown is around 180km to Wakooka outstation, and an additional 4km to the park boundary. From here it is a further 35km to the camping areas at Bathurst Bay or 37km to Ninian Bay camping area. The road is extremely rough and challenging and can take up to 12hr to traverse. The coastal route can also be accessed by travelling 66km from Old Laura Homestead in Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL) along Battle Camp Road to join the coastal route 45km north of Cooktown.
Alcohol restrictions are in place in many of Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. For the latest information on restrictions, see Alcohol restrictions for travellers.
Roads in national parks are the same as any other public road in Queensland. All vehicles, except those exempted by law, must be registered. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service does not give permission for conditionally registered vehicles (e.g. quad bikes) to be used recreationally by individuals. In many places it is not legally possible to issue a permit.
Surveillance cameras may be used to monitor visitor behaviour and movements throughout the park. On-the-spot fines may also apply.
There are no wheelchair-accessible facilities in this park.
Cape Melville National Park (CYPAL) is extremely remote and visitors must be well prepared and entirely self-sufficient.
A practical working knowledge of basic first aid is highly important when travelling in remote areas. Be familiar with first-aid procedures for heat exhaustion, snakebite and sprained or twisted ankles. Ideally, at least one person in your party should have an up-to-date first-aid qualification. You should carry a well-stocked first-aid kit, and make sure that other members of your party know where it is located. Other important guidelines are:
- Drive slowly and carefully and stay on designated roads and formed tracks—do not drive on salt flats. Driving on the beach can be dangerous, particularly near creek mouths where quicksand can develop, so care must be taken.
- There are various natural hazards in the park. Please take note of all management and safety signs.
- Plan your itinerary allowing adequate time to drive carefully as park roads are unsealed and not maintained.
- Ensure that your vehicle is in good mechanical condition and carry adequate fuel and vehicle repair and recovery equipment.
- Be prepared for delays caused by breakdowns and stranding due to wet weather.
- Always carry adequate drinking water as well as equipment for treating water. Fresh water is extremely limited in the park and should not be relied on as a source of drinking water.
- Ensure family and friends know your itinerary.
- When trail-bike riding, wear appropriate safety gear and be realistic about your riding abilities. Ride to the conditions.
- When cycling, wear appropriate safety gear and be realistic about your cycling abilities. Slow down or stop when approaching other track users. Follow the give-way code—cyclists must give way to walkers and alert others when approaching.
- Be alert for snakes when exploring the area. Wear protective clothing such as long trousers and closed-in shoes.
- Protect yourself from the sun. Wear sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses and a long-sleeved shirt, even on cloudy days.
- Mosquito nets are recommended for overnight camping.
- Dangerous stinging jellyfish (stingers) may be present in the coastal waters at any time, but occur more frequently in the warmer months. Visit Beachsafe for the latest safety and first-aid information.
- Remember to Be Crocwise in croc country.
For more information, please read the guidelines on safety in parks and forests.
Be Crocwise in croc country!
Crocodiles occur in all rivers, creeks, swamps, wetlands, waterholes and along beaches of Cape Melville National Park (CYPAL). Crocodiles are dangerous and attacks can be fatal. Never take unnecessary risks in crocodile habitat. Visitors are responsible for their own safety, so please follow these guidelines and always Be Crocwise in croc country.
- You need to take responsible for your own safety in Croc Country.
- Expect crocodiles in ALL north Queensland waterways, even if there is no warning sign. Warning signs are only placed in areas where crocodiles are known to frequent. Ignoring signs that are there to protect you puts your life at risk. But note that just because there are no signs, does not mean there are no crocodiles.
- Just because you can’t see a crocodile doesn’t mean there is not one close by. Crocodiles can be very patient, and can stay underwater and unseen for up to four hours without even a breath.
- Stay well away from crocodile traps. Crocodile traps are designed to attract hungry crocodiles so avoid fishing and boating near them and never interfere with them. People who deliberately interfere with the operation of crocodile traps face penalties of up to more than $15,000.
- Leave the lure. People have been attacked while recovering a fishing lure, even though they didn’t see a crocodile there all day.
- The smaller the vessel, the greater the risk – crocodiles have taken people from small vessels such as kayaks. Canoes, kayaks and other small craft are not suitable in crocodile habitat areas.
- Camp at least 2 metres above the high water mark and at least 50 metres from the water’s edge. Crocodiles have attacked people in tents pitched too close to the water.
- Bin your food and fish scraps – don’t leave food, fish scraps or bait near the water, around your camp site or at a boat ramp. Crocodiles will be attracted by an easy meal, and this puts subsequent visitors to the area at risk.
- Don’t be the bait. Keep your arms and legs inside your boat at all times when fishing.
- Your boat is your barrier. Keep the boat between yourself and the water when launching or retrieving it.
- Crocodiles can lunge at people and animals at the water’s edge. They are ambush predators, and you may not see them. Stand back from the water when fishing or cast netting and never stand on logs or branches overhanging the water. Wash dishes and prepare food well away from the water’s edge.
- Be extra cautious at night, dusk and dawn. Crocodiles are more likely to attack during these times.
- Breeding female crocodiles will defend their nests aggressively. September to April is breeding season for crocodiles – stay away and keep children away from crocodile nests.
- Crocodiles are more likely to hunt prey during the warmer months of the wet season. Be extra vigilant with your children and pets near waterways at this time.
Crocodiles fill an essential role as key predators in the aquatic and estuarine ecosystem. This park is one of only six key areas for estuarine crocodile conservation in Queensland, and is crucial to the long-term conservation of the species on Queensland's east coast.
For more information, see crocodiles—Be Crocwise.
Essentials to bring
Preparation is the key to a safe and enjoyable visit. Make sure you bring:
- adequate food and drinking water
- always prepare for a longer stay than anticipated in case of breakdown or stranding due to wet weather
- fuel, spare parts, vehicle repair and recovery equipment
- first-aid kit
- sunscreen, hat, sunglasses and protective clothing
- insect repellent and mosquito nets
- fuel or gas stove for cooking
- rubbish bags—no bins are provided
- satellite phones are essential and personal locator beacons (PLBs) are highly recommended.
Cape Melville National Park (CYPAL) is closed throughout the wet season every year from 1 December to 31 July (inclusive)—roads into and on the park become impassable for extended periods and are closed to public access. These dates may vary depending on weather and road conditions. Camping areas and roads may also be closed at other times after heavy rain. Check park alerts and Queensland Traffic or Cook Shire Council to enquire about local road conditions. The Bureau of Meteorology provides updated weather reports.
A Restricted Access Area has been put in place to protect cultural resources and property. Entry to the Iipwulin (Ninian Bay) Living Area is prohibited.
Sections of the park may be closed periodically for management purposes. Do not enter these areas and obey all signs.
Permits and fees
Camping permits are required and must be booked in advance. Fees apply. A camping tag with your booking number must be displayed at your camp site.
- Find out more about camping in Cape Melville National Park (CYPAL)
Permits are required for commercial and some organised group activities. See park permits and policies for more information.
Domestic animals are not permitted in Cape Melville National Park (CYPAL). Penalties apply.
Climate and weather
Cape York Peninsula has a tropical climate. The best time to visit is during the drier months of July to September when the daytime temperature averages 28ºC. From October to December it can be very hot and thunderstorms are common. The wet season, usually from December to May, can see the area deluged by heavy monsoonal rains and roads becoming impassable for extended periods, preventing access to the park. Average maximum temperatures at this time are around 33ºC with very high humidity. For more information, see the tourism information links.
Fuel and supplies
The nearest fuel, meals, supplies and mechanical repairs are available at Laura or Cooktown. From the camping areas, Laura is around 200km (up to 6hr drive) and Cooktown is around 220km (up to 12hr drive). For more information, see the tourism information links.
- UPDATE some camping areas are open, Cape Melville National Park (CYPAL) 1 December 2021 to 30 September 2022