Cape York Air Safari
Cape York. One of Australia’s last frontiers. A place every Australian should visit at least once in their lives. The stunning 13-day Cape York Air Safari takes you to the very tip of mainland Australia, as well as outback Queensland, the Gulf of Carpentaria, Torres Strait Islands and the Great Barrier Reef. It’s an incredible way to see so many iconic locations: magnificent vistas from the air and ground level, interesting characters, unique birds and wildlife. Join us for the adventure of a lifetime!
Tour Itinerary: Cape York Air Safari
First stop on the Cape York Air Safari is near the borders of NSW, SA and QLD, at the Dig Tree, where the explorers Burke and Wills famously set up camp. Learn more about this pioneering pair and their ill-fated expedition. Continue on to Birdsville, where sunset drinks are at Big Red, the first of 1,140 parallel sand dunes marking the edge of the Simpson Desert. Look out over the vast expanse of not very much and you’ll truly know you’ve made it to the outback! To end the day, stay and dine in one of Australia’s most iconic pubs — the Birdsville Hotel.
Overnight: Birdsville Hotel
Flying north towards the Gulf of Carpentaria, your aircraft will land near your cabin at Adels Grove, in Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park, overlooking the stunning Lawn Hill Creek.
Lawn Hill Gorge is one of the most spectacular gorges in the Gulf Country, with luscious tropical vegetation, sheer red cliffs and enchanting green water. Hop in a canoe or boat and float about the gorge, taking in the visual splendour and quiet, enjoy a cooling dip in the gorge. Accommodation and services are basic, but that is more than made up for with the magnificent location.
Overnight: Adels Grove, cabin
The next stop is Karumba, home to prawn, mud crab, barramundi and fishing fleets working in the Gulf of Carpentaria. It’s also known for fabulous sunsets. End the day with a camera in one hand and a glass in the other on a sunset cruise.
Overnight: Ash’s Holiday Units
Continue north up the west side of Cape York to Horn Island in the Torres Strait. Local history experts and tour guides Liberty and Vanessa will meet you on arrival. They’ll take you to the Torres Strait Heritage Museum to view exhibits from the pearling industry, myths and legends of Torres Strait, artwork, artefacts and World War II history of the area. On the In Their Steps WWII tour, walk in the steps of the indigenous and non-indigenous soldiers who served in the area, with insightful and entertaining commentary. Transfer by ferry across to Thursday Island and your accommodation.
2 nights: Island Villas (2 bedroom, 2 bathroom)
Today it’s time for a bucket list adventure – a helicopter to the Tip of Australia. Fly by chopper from Thursday Island to the tip of Cape York Peninsula, the most northern point of mainland Australia. Landing nearby, it is a 200m walk to the coastline where you can snap a photo of the tip of Australia for the memory vaults.
On return to Thursday Island, a tour of the island reveals how its history helped to create today’s dynamic, multicultural community and the tropical lifestyle it offers.
Ferry back to Horn Island to rejoin your aircraft for the flight south to Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef. Take in the breathtaking coastline en-route and fly over some of the world’s most spectacular scenery on the reef.
As the most northern resort on the Great Barrier Reef, Lizard Island is truly secluded from the rest of the world. Exceptional service, facilities, touring and food are the perfect complement to swimming off the beach into the wonders of the largest coral reef in the world – very hard to beat.
2 nights: Lizard Island Resort
Enjoy a leisurely day relaxing on the island paradise that is Lizard Island, with activities at your discretion. Take advantage of the complimentary snorkelling equipment and lessons, stand up paddle boards and sea kayaks and it’ll be hard to stay out of the water. The local reef life will leave you spellbound.
If you’re feeling energetic, a walk to Cook’s Lookout, the highest point of the island with a 360° view, is well worth the effort. Optional tours (at your own expense) include a boat trip and diving on the outer reef.
Cooktown is your next destination, where Captain Cook sought refuge when his ship, The Endeavour, sustained severe damage during his 1770 expedition. Tour the many historical sites and learn how Cooktown prospered in a gold rush, dwindled, and then rose again to become an important base in World War II.
A sunset cruise makes for a wonderfully peaceful way to end the day. Nibble on a gourmet cheese platter, sip on a drink and listen to stories about Cooktown.
Overnight: Sovereign Resort Hotel
Fly to Laura for a private tour of various rock art sites. Quinkan Country contains a large and dramatic body of rock paintings. These galleries, between 15,000 and 40,000 years old, are listed by UNESCO as being among the top 10 rock art sites in the world.
After lunch in Laura, fly over the vast Queensland countryside, arriving at Longreach in the late afternoon. Explore the historic homestead at Camden Park Station, enjoy the expansive view from the verandah and gain an insight into the history of grazing in the outback, then be treated to a wonderful meal in a circa 1920 shearing shed.
2 nights: Saltbush Retreat
Your day in Longreach begins with a glide down the coolabah-lined Thomson River with its abundant birdlife. Then onto the fascinating Stockman’s Hall of Fame, where the Australian Stockman’s Experience will take you on an adventure that depicts the rugged, harsh and sometimes humorous antics of life in the bush. Spend some time at the Qantas Founders Museum, with its impressive collection of aircraft, sunset drinks and the luminescent light show. Dinner is a delicious BBQ at Saltbush Retreat in their stunning outback garden.
Next is Carnarvon Gorge, an oasis in the semi-arid heart of Central Queensland. Carnarvon Creek has carved a winding course through sandstone over millions of years to form a spectacular steep gorge with narrow, vibrantly coloured and lush gorges. Land close to the gorge, then take a guided walk to Mickey’s Creek, Warrumbah Gorge and a side gorge so narrow that you can touch both walls at the same time.
Wallaroo Outback Retreat (11 May, 18 May, 19 Jul, 04 Aug). Head back to the aircraft and fly on to Wallaroo Outback Retreat. Nestled amongst the magnificent sandstone cliffs of the Carnarvon Ranges, Wallaroo is a 72,000-acre cattle property with beautifully appointed glamping tents - wake up amongst the towering eucalypts listening to the magical sounds of the bush in crisp white linen on deliciously comfortable beds. Enjoy a yarn, a glass of wine and some camp oven cooking around the rustic fire pit while spotting for rock wallabies against the cliffs. Your tour guide is also your cook at the retreat.
Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge (06 Jun, 18 Jun). At the front gate of the Carnarvon Gorge National Park, the lodge is set on 100ha, looped by Carnarvon Creek. Stylishly appointed cabins in the bush provide a wonderful base for touring into the gorge. In the evening, cast your eyes upwards for a tour of the stars. The Carnarvon night sky is incredibly clear, allowing for some pretty spectacular viewing.
2 nights: Wallaroo Outback Retreat or Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge
Wallaroo Outback Retreat explore some of the Wallaroo highlights by air-conditioned 4WD. Staying on the property, you’ll see a large array of aboriginal sites such as the Axe Factory and the Date Site, some incredible rock formations, lookouts and Rainbow Cave – the créme de la créme of Wallaroo.
Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge take a long, guided walk. The Moss Garden, one of the best-known sites at Carnarvon Gorge, is a great example of how the spring systems work and is nestled amongst one of the best patches of remnant rainforest in the National Park. If you choose not to do the full day tour, you can spend more time this afternoon around the grounds, or go on shorter walks around the resort. Perhaps sit on the private verandah of your cabin, drink in hand, and do a spot of wildlife watching.
Sadly, it’s the last day of your Cape York Air Safari. Your final stop is Charlotte Plains, a 27,000ha sheep station. Take a tour, meet the owners, lunch in the historic homestead and listen to the stories of existence on this remote station. For the enthusiastic, there may be time for a hot bath in the open air, heated by thermal artesian water.
Back in the air, head for home where you’ll arrive in the early evening.