The Old Telegraph Track (formerly known as The Overland Telegraph Line) is easily one of the most iconic 4WD tracks in Australia. It’s an historic and also gnarly 4WD track which follows the original telegraph line across the Cape York Peninsula. Experienced 4WD enthusiasts Gracie and Brenton Keller recently took on the “Old Tele Track” and emerged out the other end with no regrets.
- Testing your nerve on the 4WD scene
- Miles of red dirt roads
- Billions of corrugations!
- Breathtaking bush camping
- Tropical waterfalls
The Old Telegraph Track
Boasting remarkable terrain with rich history from WWII this grand adventure along the Old Telegraph Track is not for those inexperienced in off-road driving.
The telegraph line operated between 1885 and 1962 and was once the only form of communication for those who lived in Cape York Peninsula.
While most of the Old Telegraph Track follows the original telegraph line, you’ll find yourself drifting and winding with the terrain as seasonal rains change it from year to year.
Palm Creek Crossing
Rising early with the sun we were all too keen to start our adventure with a quick photo op at the iconic Telegraph Track sign at Bramwell Junction Roadhouse.
Shortly afterwards we found ourselves immersed in our first challenge: Palm Creek Crossing. With an entrance steep enough to cause serious nerves and an uphill exit to match, this first challenge certainly called for low range. With a heavy right boot, some high fives and the anticipation from twenty-something onlookers, we made it through. Easily done!
Onwards to a range of creek crossings, each with their own challenges; deep muddy waters, steep rock ledges and pristine waterfall crossings in dense tropical forest. This track offers all varieties of terrain which made it our 4WD paradise.
Next obstacle: Gunshot Creek. This is a section of the Old Telegraph Track which is notorious for thick mud and potential heartbreak.
After taking five to review our hurdle and do some tricky realigning, this creek mudslide mess was ours. No winching needed here!
Fruit Bat Falls
The infamous and incredibly beautiful Fruit Bat Falls required a stop. You can access the falls while you are on the Old Telegraph Track or pop in from the Peninsula Developmental Road Bypass. Camping in this area is paid and needs to be pre-booked.
We chose to continue to our free camp at Sam Creek, which surprised us with its own unique little waterfall. A few nights’ bush camping here would do just fine. We’ll have to come back!
Eliot Falls And Twin Falls
Yet another waterfall oasis beckoned, so it was time to return a few short kilometres south to Eliot Falls & Twin Falls. A boardwalk in the bush opened to roaring crystal-clear waters. Soaking up the rays took up most of the rest of our day before we returned to camp
Smells of smouldering campfire filled our lungs the following morning as we prepared for our last day on the old tele track. Sam Creek our crystal-clear first creek of the day. Followed shortly thereafter by Mistake Creek, Cannibal Creek, Cypress Creek, then Logan’s. All but one test completed and one left to complete; the infamous Nolan’s Brook (Bridge Creek).
Having seen many 4WDs drowned in this creek (and even one while we watched) sweaty palms dominated. To say that we were excited to cross Nolan’s Brook would be a huge understatement. The bonnet dipped underwater and the sandy bottom grabbed. With the tyres down to 12psi and no tyre spinning, we were fine.
As we joined back up to the Peninsula Developmental Road, our Old Telegraph Track adventure came to an end. At the Jardine River Ferry we continued north to explore Cape York and The Tip of Australia. Watch this space for those microadventures, which we’ll write up soon.
We had the time of our lives and we’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
You may be waiting for the kids to have time off school or saving up to take a few months off, but a whirlwind trip is better than none. Once you get as far as Cairns it is easy to go relatively budget from there on.
- Vehicle snorkel
- High clearance 4WD
- First aid knowledge
- Well-equipped recovery kit
How To Get There
From Cairns there are two options:
You can take the trip through the Daintree Rainforest. This will mean you either travel the Bloomfield or CREB track then connect to the Peninsula Developmental Road.
Your other option is to take the Mulligan Highway and connect onto the Peninsula Developmental Road from there.
- Swimming in the fresh waterfalls (watch out for snapping handbags elsewhere within Cape York)
- Photography – Bring your tripod for spectacular night photography
- Exploring some of Australia’s most remote bushland
High level of 4WD experience needed. Difficult track in areas, steep slippery entrances and testing exits.
From Cairns to the start of the Old Telegraph Track, taking the Mulligan Highway (adjoining the Peninsula Developmental Road) is approximately 800km
We tackled the Old Telegraph Track in two sections:
- Bramwell Junction Roadhouse to Fruit Bat falls via the Old Tele Track is 70km
- Fruit Bat Falls to Jardine River Ferry is 82km
Once on the track we suggest at least two days. If you have the time it’s well worth spending a lot longer.
More 4WD madness…