Driving to Weipa – relax on the way to the Cape York Tip

Drving to Weipa - amazing sunset

Driving to Weipa can be a pretty challenging task if you are not prepared. Many travellers plan Weipa as a halfway point on the way to the Cape Yorks tip. For some, however, it is the final destination for their fishing adventure.

What is the best time to visit Weipa?

As long as there are unsealed sections and no bridges on Peninsula Developmental Highway, getting to the town is only possible in the dry season between April and October.

Once the rain starts to pour the roads are unpassable. However, the best time to be in Weipa is between June and August. The temperatures are milder and there is almost no rain.

We visited Weipa at the end of June and it was great.

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Driving to Weipa – how much of the road to Weipa is sealed

As of 2022, only 200 km of Peninsula Developmental Highway (PDR) is unsealed. For a driver, it means driving between on and off-road sections all the way to the Rio Tinto PDR boundary that is under sole maintenance of this mining company.

Driving on unsealed parts of PDR can be challenging especially during the peak season between May and August.

Importance of Traditional Owners

The name ‘Weipa’ comes from the aboriginal ‘Waypa’ meaning ‘Fighting Ground’. Interestingly, when the town was built by Comalco in 1967, it was called North Weipa by the Queensland Government.

There are eleven Traditional Owner Groups in Weipa: Alngith, Anathangayth, Ankamuthi, Peppan, Taepadhighi, Thanikwithi, Tjungundji, Warranggu, Wathayn, Wik and Wik-Waya and Yupungathi.

The groups are part of the Western Cape Communities Co-Existence Agreement (WCCCA) and support Rio Tinto mining activities in return for land use. The agreement provides employment opportunities, training, cultural heritage and site protection, cultural awareness and support for ranger programs.

Peninsula Developmental Road - PDR
Peninsula Developmental Road – PDR

Weipa is a mining town

Weipa is famous for bauxite mining. Wherever you go in Weipa you see that this is a mining town. It is actually recognised as the largest bauxite mine in the world with deposits that can last for up to two centuries.

Nowadays, the town is popular as a tourist attraction as it offers many activities and is also a base for Cape York adventures.

Where to stay in Weipa

Weipa Camping Ground

Weipa Camping Ground is a caravan park where most people come with their 4WD rigs before heading to Cape York. For some, it is the final destination as you can really relax in this beautiful, warm spot.

The caravan park offers cabins, rooms, villas, lodges and camping sites. They have got the famous ‘Barramunchies’ cafe where you can get the best fish and chips in town or a barramundi burger. It is a very popular place, so arrive early, purchase your meal and sit at the table admiring the sun hiding on the horizon.

In the reception shop, you can purchase basic food, snacks, or ice creams and organise any tour booking.

The location of the caravan park is also very convenient as next door, there is a small shopping centre with Woolworths, so getting supplies is easy without even starting the car.

Barramunchies - Best fish and chips in Weipa
Barramunchies – Best fish and chips in Weipa

Accommodation in Weipa

If you want to have a break from red dust and taste a bit of luxury find your spot in one of the Weipa resorts. There are three options:

  • Anchorage Weipa
  • Heritage Weipa
  • Weipa Motel Resort

What to see in Weipa

Weipa Mine and Town Tour

The best way to learn Weipa history is on a Weipa Mine and Town Tour. It is a 3.5 hours tour where you intake everything about the town and the Rio Tinto company.

Book at the Weipa Camping Ground. The tour departs twice, at 8.30 am and 2 pm.

Weipa Sunset Cruise

The sunset cruise is one of the best activities in Weipa. Bring your hat, water, sunscreen and sunglasses and learn about Weipa history, saltwater crocodiles, mangroves and the region. If you are lucky you will see big crocs which are plentiful in Weipa.

Western Cape Cultural Centre – Achimbun

Western Cape Cultural Centre offers an exhibition showing the history and culture of Weipa and surrounding communities. On-site you can buy souvenirs, coffee or light refreshments. The centre has been refurbished in 2012 and now it is a very popular spot.

The centre is located within walking distance to the wharf, so park your car, visit the cultural centre and go fishing off the wharf afterwards.

Western Cape Cultural Centre - Achimbun
Western Cape Cultural Centre – Achimbun

Weipa Aquatic Centre

If you feel like having a long swim and you want to stay away from crocs visit Weipa Aquatic Centre. It offers an 8 lane, 25 meters pool with beach access and water features for toddlers.

There is always a qualified guard on-site during opening hours. Around, you find a picnic table and BBQ on a large grass area overlooking Albatross Bay.

Fishing Charters

Weipa is titled the barramundi capital of Queensland. As such it is on the bucket list for many anglers as fishing is great here. If you did not have luck catching any good size around Weipa (see below) find yourself a charter and you won’t be disappointed.

  • Weipa Fishing Adventures
  • Far North Fishing
  • DJ’s X-Stream Fishing Charters
  • Eclipse Far North Old Fishing Charters
  • Weipa Sports Fishing – offers Heli fishing too

Where to go fishing in Weipa

Weipa is famous for fishing and you perhaps heard many fishing stories from your mates who had been to Weipa already. The coastline in Weipa is quite big so there are many places to go fishing.

Remember that all waters around Weipa are crocodiles infested so always be cautious and stay away from the water edge.

Red Beach

Great fishing location on the northern part of Mission River on the left of the Mission Bridge. Wait for a high tide to catch a king salmon, queenfish or barramundi.

Mission Bridge

Mission Bridge, located north of Weipa, is a one-lane long bridge that goes over the Mission channel.

You cannot fish off the bridge due to safety reasons but great fishing can be done from under the bridge, especially on the southern part.

Park the car on the east part of the bridge (accessed by a dirt road off the Andoom Rd) and find a nice spot there.

During the day you can catch golden trevally, bream, or queenfish. Stay late and try finishing in darkness to get salmon, mangrove jack, black jewfish, barramundi or golden snapper. Look for bright lumps that attract baitfish that attract predators.

Driving to Weipa - Mission Bridge
Weipa – Mission Bridge

Evans Landing

For those who don’t have a boat, there is a small pier and boat ramp at Evans Landing. The wharf is set 2 meters over water, so fishing so you don’t have to worry about the saltwater crocodiles.

Note, that the wharf is often closed due to ships staying there to load the cargo.

What to see around Weipa

Mapoon

Mapoon is located 88 km north of Weipa. It is a small, Aboriginal town but we recommend visiting it as it has a few interesting things to see.

The dirt road to Mapoon is well maintained and if you drove to Weipa on the big corrugations, the road to Mapoon feels like a highway.

The first thing you see when you arrive in town is the wild horses that walk around everywhere. The town itself has a general store, cafe and cultural centre.

When you drive further north you get to Cullen Point Campground. The campground is located almost on the tip of Cullen Point close to the beach entrance. It is a quiet spot, so if you look for camping away from people this place is perfect.

Mapoon - Callum Point Campground
Mapoon – Callum Point Campground

When we visited it in June, we saw crocodile marks on the sand, but we heard it is common for crocks to rest on the beach. I must stay, this place felt pretty wild and isolated.

Going back from Cullen Point, only 1 km from the campground on the left there is a historical site called Old Mappon.

In 1963, the Aboriginal residents of Mapoon were forcibly removed by the government as the place was meant to be used for mining. Most of their homes were destroyed, and people had to start leaving in the new Mapoon.

Old Mappon
Old Mappon

Can I take my caravan to Weipa?

Yes. For many people, Weipa is the final destination. However, those who are going to the Cape York tip, often leave their caravan in Weipa and drive further north only in their 4WD.

Peninsula Developmental Highway (PDR) is a pretty good road in comparison to other roads leading to the northernmost tip of Australia. Mainly, due to big corrugations caravans are not suitable for it.

During our Cape York trip in 2021, we saw a few caravans, but we really don’t recommend them, unless they are fully off-road heavy-duty structures.

Travel Spiced Life

Another option going to the tip is to leave the caravan in Bramwell and drive further north with the 4WD only.

Driving to Weipa – Summary

Weipa is a good place to stay and relax before heading north for Cape York. Also, it is the last stop to get supplies at reasonable prices from Woolworths.

Fishing here is great, but the best option to get a good catch is on a fish charter.

We spent four days in Weipa, before heading north. The best for us was the sunset tour and we recommend booking one early when you get to Weipa.

And evenings at Barramunchies are great!


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4WD Equipment Checklist

GPS Navigator or compass

Maxtrax – if you get bogged, you can use it for additional traction

Tire Deflator – deflate tires quickly when going on dirt or 4WD

Air Compressor – inflate tires quickly after going back on bitumen (we use MM)

Tire Repair Kit – to fix the tire by yourself when you don’t have access to the tire shop (we use Oztrail)

UHF Radio – for communication with your mates and in emergency

Full Recovery Kit (with Dampener Blanket) – must-have if you are going on real off-road

High Lift Jack – useful if you do serious 4WD tracks

Shovel – useful if you get bogged, also good for campfire cooking

Fuel funnel with water filter – additional protection when fueling up in dodgy places

Additional fuel canisters


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