Darwin to Cairns by boat: Standing on the top of Australia

Standing on the top of a continent is not something most people get to do. Luckily I’m not most people…

The most northern point of Australia sits tantalisingly close to Cairns. Well, close in Australian terms, about a 2000km round trip away. Unfortuantely due to the slightly unsealed nature of the roads it’s a rather difficult journey and not one taken lightly or without plenty of supplies and a beast of a 4WD. Although we love our little Suzuki there’s no way in hell she’d make it to the top in one piece, and so an adventure to Cape York was shelved until we’d upgraded/won the lottery and could afford to take the $1400 day tour.


^^^Disclaimer, this wasn’t our boat.

Thankfully our route back to Cairns took us right over the top of Australia (you probably worked that one out already, I mean we didn’t sail through Australia) and it was no trouble at all to moor up for an hour or so to get a photo or six hundred.


Anticipating bad weather that would require a lot of motoring we had to make a fuel stop somewhere and spent the night before rounding the tip in Seisia, the most northern settlement on mainland Australia. It made Gove look like a metropolis! Pulling in after dark all we could see were the lights from Trinity Bay a huge ship that makes weekly trips between Cairns and the far north. A little piece of home!


In the morning we awoke to familiar red land and green vegetation and headed to land to get fuel and supplies (coffee, beef jerky and sunglasses if you were wondering). Seisia is as strange and lovely a little place as you’d imagine somewhere so isolated to be. The population is largely made up of Torres Straight Islanders and while the boys were waiting with fuel for the girls to finish shopping (hello gender stereotypes) they saw a small boat pull up with a turtle that had been caught. I’m not one to talk really, having sampled turtle after a nice aboriginal man offered it to me, but still poor turtle!


With tanks and cupboards full it was then time to pull anchor and set off for the last big leg of our trip. One last Facebook post to let everyone know all was well, and we were off!


It didn’t take long to reach the tip of the Cape as we were thankfully shielded by the worst of the weather, something that was to change fairly rapidly after our brief stop.


^^^Me and Wolverine Oh no, wait, just Mikey and his terrible beard.

The beach itself at the Cape is truly stunning. A great sweep of white sand framed by rocky dunes and with deeply blue water despite the choppy conditions. Unfortunately there are also a few patches of lovely mud which I successfully managed to find more than anyone else it seemed. Even with muddy ankles it’s still a beach you would happily visit even if it didn’t have the tittle of ‘most northern beach in Australia’ and it was a shame that with the tide going out we were absolutely on a tight schedule. It was also strange to see so many people around. We saw lots of big 4WDs, so we’d clearly arrived for peak tourist picture time!


I don’t know what we expected to find after scrambling up some rocks, but something a bit more impressive than this sign at least! Come on guys, we’ve sailed thousands of miles to get here where’s our celebration parade and fireworks??


We arrived at the same time as a large American family (yes, double meaning there) and begged to get first go with the photo opportunity. I think “our boat is anchored out there and if we don’t get back soon the tide will go out and we’ll be stranded” is actually quite a decent queue jumping excuse, to be honest.


They watched, quite amused, as I took photos on my phone and Go pro, then videos, then Mum used her iPad, then phone, then camera… Mikey had the decency to look embarrassed for us at least. I’m not sure how much he appreciated Mum asking if i wanted a photo by myself just in case we ever got divorced. Thanks for the vote of confidence Mum!


Being a man it didn’t take Mikey long to sneak off and take pictures of boobies.


What? They’re birds! You cheeky thing…

Conscious of time after making sure to get at least 3487 photographs we ran back to the boat. Partly from fear of being stranded, partly because the sand was hotter than hell and we’d neglected to bring our shoes.


Getting to stand at the top of Australia was a real highlight of the trip for me, and one of the main reasons I’d been so keen on coming along for the trip. I’ve now visited the most Eastern point in Cape Byron and the most northern here; one day I hope to have a lovely photo frame with 4 pictures in from each of the extreme points of Australia. It also felt like we’d really earned getting there and I’m glad I didn’t cave in and do a day trip. There’s no sense of achievement to be had when you’ve been flown along the coast!


Once we’d dragged the dingy out of her muddy resting place we were off, officially on the home stretch and heading for Cairns with our nose pointed into 25 knts of wind and our speed averaging 4knts… It was going to be a long few days!


This post is one of many about my experience of sailing from Darwin to Cairns. Click here for the rest of them!

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