When you prepare for your trip to Cape York, make sure to add Elim Beach to your list. Even if you decide to go no further north than Cooktown, a daily trip to see the famous Elim Beach Coloured Sands is a good idea.
The main activities in Elim beach are camping, fishing, 4WD driving, and of course the coloured sands.
Similar to many places on Cape York, the beach is being patrolled by a local saltie, but fortunately, he wasn’t on duty when we visited the place.
Elim Beach is located on Cape Bedford, in Hope Vale Aboriginal Community, 1-hour drive from Cooktown.
The road to Elim Beach is mostly sealed. Only the final part is a good condition dirt road. It is possible to get there in a conventional vehicle.
Get your supplies in Cooktown as there is no shop in Elim Beach and Hope Vale has limited supplies.
Elim Beach Camping
Elim Beach Campground was usually called Eddie’s Campground. Edward Deemal was a well-known member of Hope Vale Aboriginal Community who managed the place for many years.
Unfortunately, Eddie passed away at the age of 95 in April 2021. Now, the campground is run by his son Ivan.
The best camping spots are right at the beach, but they are pretty small. You can only park your car, and set up a small tent. The view of the ocean is amazing.
If you have a trailer or caravan, it is best to find your spot on the big grassy campground in the middle. Also, if you drive further away, deeper in the bush, you can find a really good private campsite.
The amenities are basic, but there are toilets and bush, cold showers.
Elim Beach Coloured Sands
Apart from the beautiful Cape Bedford beaches, the coloured sands are the main highlight of everyone’s visit. The coloured sand gorges are located between huge sand dunes west of the Eddie’s Campground.
The tall coloured cliffs are best seen in the morning or late afternoon when the light is warmer and the colours of sand make different orange and red tones.
Respect the area and don’t write on the sand walls as they are very fragile and can be damaged easily.
How to get there?
- Exit the campground, turn right and after 800 meters, on the intersection, veer right again.
- After 100 meters there are two options, park your vehicle and get on foot for the remaining 300 meters, or drive on the beach to the coloured sands.
- Driving on the beach can only be done 2 hours before the low tide and 2 hours after, so you have a 4 hours time window.
- After entering the beach, stay close to the paperback tree line and never drive towards the sea (there is a 4WD wreck there to scare you off). This part is where you drive across the freshwater dripping from the bottom of the sand dune.
- After 300 meters you get to a slight point where you can park your vehicle.
- There is a walking track to access two gorges – on the right side gorge, there is a track that leads to the top of sand dunes with a magnificent view out to sea.
- Make sure to leave enough time to drive back before the high tide covers the whole beach.
Elim Beach to Cape Bedford
Apart from the coloured sands, the other biggest highlight for any 4WD driver is getting around the tracks on the way to Cape Bedford.
Getting to Cape Bedford
Once you register at the reception, you get a tracks map as well. It is always a good idea to ask about tracks condition as there are a few boggy areas, where you can get stuck.
The tracks to Cape Bedford or the southern beach have deep sand, so dropping tyre pressure is a must. There are many enter and exit points so having a Hema Navigator and holding a map will definitely help.
Some tracks lead to the beach, some of them lead to the hills which gives you a great lookout over the ocean, and one will get you to the endpoint of Cape Bedford.
Climbing Cape Bedford
There is no walking trail to climb Cape Bedford, but it is possible to get there on your own. The 4WD track will get you to the base of the hill, and from there you have to find your way up.
Cape Bedford Pollution
When you drive on Cape Bedford beaches, you may notice the area is heavily polluted with marine plastic debris. Actually, Cape Bedford is not the only place to have this problem. Many eastern Cape York Beaches are polluted.
The majority of the debris (mostly plastic) has been dumped or accidentally lost from ships or arrives from coastlines and rivers further away. Currents from southern Australia, neighbouring countries and islands bring in all to northern Australia’s east coast.
Parley, a global network of conservationists and scientists organised many volunteer trips to help clean up the beach. Find out more about the Parley clean up project.
Elim Beach Alcohol Restrictions
There are alcohol restrictions in Hope Vale Aboriginal Community. Visit the Queensland Government website to find out more.
Elim Beach Summary
Places like Elim Beach are scarce. The isolation of the community and the natural wonders of Cape Bedford that cannot be found anywhere else make this place very special.
We will be definitely back there to explore other Cape Bedford tracks.
Have you been to Elim beach? What were your highlights? Please drop a comment below.
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4WD Equipment Checklist
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