Old Telegraph Track

Old Telegraph Track, an iconic 4WD track in Cape York

Old Telegraph Track is a rough road accessible only during the dry season in Australia, located on Cape York, in tropical north Queensland. The road has a length of 350km and it’s definitely 4WD only. The track is generally narrow, with some sections being very rocky and eroded. It’s what’s left of the original telegraph track that was used in the 1880s to connect Cairns with Thursday Island.

The road passes through some beautiful country with several deep creek crossings and very steep and slippery river banks, with several patches of deep sand. Bush camps are set up at most creek crossings. It follows the original telegraph line through the Peninsula, and for much of the Cape’s history was the only available route. Watch out for sudden loose-gravel breaks. And that pavement can ripple like a roller coaster track. The track is fairly narrow, with plenty of turnouts for oncoming vehicles and you can still see old telegraph poles along the track. The surface varies from dirt and sand to rocky slopes, mud and washouts and there are a number of great creek crossings. It’s one of the Australia’s best 4WD tracks.

The Old Telegraph Track has some famous obstacles:

-Palm Creek. This crossing is one of the more difficult ones on the track, so if you manage it without too much trouble, you should be able to negotiate subsequent crossings.
-Gunshot Creek. It's a major obstacle that provides a challenge to most vehicles. It is not advisable to tow campervans or trailers through this crossing – there is a detour track, well signposted, before you reach Gunshot Creek.
-Cockatoo Creek. This crossing has an uneven rocky bottom but is easy if you take the correct line. The condition of the track improves until it reaches the northern bypass road. Canal Creek is the next challenge. The track then crosses some more very eroded creeks, deep water crossing, before it reaches the deepest crossing, Nolan’s Brook. -The track is then sandy all the way to the Jardine River. It is not advisable to cross the river here, due to soft sand and deep water, not to mention resident crocodiles. 

Proper preparation is essential to having a safe, enjoyable trop on this road. The Old Telegraph Track has its reputation because it is challenging enough for the average adventure travellers - not for over experienced four wheel drivers. Many of the original poles are still in place and the Old Telegraph Track (OTT) north follows the original route. The OTT is a rough road and accessible only during the dry season. The road includes some dangers along the track like multiple river crossings (incl. danger of crocs), 350 km "without everything", surmount a two meter high vertical wall, milelong pushing through heavy sand and to manage (to calculate) only 1/3 of your average daily mileage.

The track starts at Bramwell Junction and follows the now defunct telegraph line. It is still possible to locate some of the original steel telegraph poles. There are two bypass roads that allow travellers to get from the Peninsula Development Road to The Tip without having to navigate all of the creek crossings and rough roads. They pass mainly through the highlands to the east and west of the route, and are heavily corrugated which makes for a rough drive. Most visitors take the OTT track north and return via the Bypass roads, but the OTT is an integral part of this memorable journey providing adventure, tradition and stunning scenery. The Telegraph operated from 1885 until 1962 with just two wires sending morse code via repeater stations, old homesteads, along the way. The line was upgraded to radio in WW2 and was still used for telephone cable until 1987 when it was finally dismantled.
Pic&Video: Remote Offroad


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