If you Google ‘4WD tracks Cape York’ the CREB Track always comes up. It’s one the two tracks from Daintree and Mossman up to Cooktown and from the reading I’d done on the internet it seems to have quite a fearsome reputation. I convinced the rest of the family we had to give it a go and I think they’re actually glad, for once, that they agreed to go.
We had stayed at Cape Tribulation for five nights at Lync-Haven Rainforest Retreat. Trailers are not recommended on the CREB Track and given we weren’t really sure what to expect we decided to leave Mali behind. The nice people at Lync-Haven were happy for us to leave her there for an extra night so we planned to do a loop heading back down to Daintree Village, north along the CREB and then back along the coast to Cape Tribulation via the Bloomfield Track, with one night camping along the way. The Bloomfield Track is the second route to Cooktown and is also 4WD only, although it’s a much easier route and is really only just 4WD.
We headed off after saying goodbye to Lindy’s parents who had been with us for five nights. They were heading to Cooktown but had to go the long way around. We headed back on the ferry over the Daintree River, with Lindy looking rather unimpressed when I told her we needed to ford the same river just a little further upstream. The CREB Track starts just outside Daintree Village where, thankfully, the river is significantly shallower and less wide than at the ferry crossing. We got out of the car to have a look and found a few others there.
Ryan and Sue had just driven the track from north to south that morning and had so much fun they had decided to turn straight around and go back. Maxime was on holiday from France in a 4WD he had managed to hire somewhere and was looking for someone to tag along with. So we ended up all travelling along together and it was fun to have the company of a great bunch of people.
Crossing the Daintree itself was straightforward. It’s about 1m deep (almost to the top of our bull bar) and quite wide but it had a nice solid bottom so wasn’t a problem. Oh, and there are plenty of signs warning that crocodiles live in the river so there’s a bit of added incentive to make it through on the first go.
From there the track goes straight into the rainforest and it’s beautiful. The track itself is red clay and it could be pretty exciting if it was very wet, which seems to be how the track gets its reputation. The local council closes the track if conditions are too bad so you have to check their webpage before you go. For us there had been a steady rain overnight about 2 days before we went and apparently quite a lot of rain about a week before and the track was fine. It was still wet in places and a little slippery but we didn’t have any real problems. It was just great fun driving through a beautiful landscape.
The first hill turned out to be the most difficult and I had to have a couple of goes to get the right line to get over a rock near the top. After that there are a few steep sections, both up and downhill, as the track winds its way through the rainforest but none of it was difficult and bypass roads have actually been built around the most difficult sections. The sense of driving through the jungle was strengthened when Lindy spotted a beautiful python curled up on a fallen tree right beside the track.
After lunch we decided to try out one of the more difficult track sections rather than taking the bypass road. In turned out to be Red Hill, which Ryan and Sue told us was famous, although I hadn’t heard of it. In the direction we were travelling the difficult section is going down the northern side with a number of large moguls and steep drops. Lindy was driving and greatly impressed everyone watching with her skills. And the kids in the car were apparently very excited, although Izzy got a little concerned about how close the side of the road was to her window at one stage!
As we all stood around at the bottom of the hill chatting excitedly about it a pair of cars came down after us and the first guy somehow dislodged one of his coils on the way down. He was in a good mood about it but did seem a little less confident at the bottom then he had been at the top, and his mate turned around and went back to the bypass track.
From there the track gets progressively easier as it heads north. We stopped at a lookout on top of the McDowell Range and saw some power lines for the first time. That’s significant because the track was originally built as an access track to maintain the power lines (CREB stands for Cairns Region Electricity Board), although there’s no longer any power lines along most of the track.
From there the track becomes relatively easy before ending at Yindilli, a lovely camping area we ended up staying at.
Overall we were all really glad we did the CREB and it was nowhere near as bad as most of the descriptions on the internet make it sound, although it could be much trickier if it was very wet and slippery. Everything you read recommends not towing a trailer although they are not prohibited and we heard of a few people towing trailers through the day before. I’m glad we didn’t take Mali; it certainly would have been a little less enjoyable with her and it suited our itinerary to do a loop back past Cape Tribulation. And there’s no way we would have done the most difficult and exciting section (Red Hill) with Mali! Having said that, having now done the track I think we would have got through OK with Mali, although we might have had trouble on the first hill.
Once finished the track we had planned on camping at Roaring Meg Falls. However, when we got there we found signs saying we needed permission from the owners to camp or visit the falls. I suspect most people just ignore that but we didn’t so tried ringing the phone numbers but they were all our of date. So we headed back down the track a little to Yindilli which turned out to be a better camp site. The owner there charges $20 per vehicle to camp in a lovely setting with a basic pit toilet.
We headed back up to Roaring Meg Falls in the morning, having now got the OK to visit. There is a campground but it’s not as nice and the toilet is dilapidated and closed (apparently there are plans to improve the facilities and make it a more formal campsite). From the car park there are two walking tracks, one to a lovely swimming beach on the river and the other to the falls themselves. We ended up spending the whole morning there with a couple of hours at the beach and then walking down to see the falls. As it is a sacred site, we weren’t allowed to take any photos of the falls so you’ll just have to visit yourself – they are very impressive and well worth the walk in.
After Roaring Meg Falls the track becomes really more of a country road, although it has a couple of shallow creek crossings. Then we joined the Bloomfield Track to head south back to Cape Tribulation. The Bloomfield is 4WD only but it is really almost a 2WD road. It’s unsealed and the only reason it’s 4WD only seems to be a couple of easy creek crossings and some steep hills. It is a lovely drive though through the rainforest (no pythons though!)