Elim Beach Coloured Sands – awesome camping near Cooktown

Cape Bedford

When preparing for your trip to Cape York, be sure to add Elim Beach to your list of must-see destinations. Even if you decide to go no further north than Cooktown, taking a daily trip to see the famous Elim Beach Coloured Sands is a great idea.

The main activities at Elim Beach include camping, fishing, 4WD driving, and, of course, visiting 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.

Getting there

Elim Beach is located on Cape Bedford, within the Hope Vale Aboriginal Community, and is about a one-hour drive from Cooktown.

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The road to Elim Beach is mostly sealed, with only the final part being a good condition dirt road. It is possible to access the beach in a conventional vehicle.

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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, formerly known as Eddie’s Campground, was managed by the well-known member of the Hope Vale Aboriginal Community, Edward Deemal, for many years until his passing at the age of 95 in April 2021. The campground is now managed by his son, Ivan.

The best camping spots at Elim Beach are located right by the beach, but they are small and only suitable for parking your car and setting up a small tent. However, the view of the ocean from these spots is amazing.

If you have a trailer or caravan, it is best to find a spot on the large grassy campground in the middle. Alternatively, if you drive further away into the bush, you can find a really good secluded campsite.

The amenities at the campground are basic, but there are toilets and cold bush showers available.

Elim Beach - Cape Bedford in dystance
Elim Beach – Nell enjoying the beach walk – Cape Bedford in distance

Elim Beach Coloured Sands

Apart from the beautiful beaches in Cape Bedford, the main highlight of everyone’s visit to Elim Beach is the stunning coloured sands. These sand gorges are located between huge sand dunes to the west of the campground.

The tall, colourful cliffs are best viewed in the morning or late afternoon when the light is warmer and the sand colours display varying shades of orange and red.

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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, one of the biggest highlights for any 4WD driver is navigating the tracks on the way to Cape Bedford.

Getting to Cape Bedford

Upon registering at the reception, you will be given a map of the tracks. It is always a good idea to ask about the track conditions 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 and a map will definitely help.

Some tracks lead to the beach, while others lead to the hills, which offer a great lookout over the ocean. One track will take you to the endpoint of Cape Bedford.

Elim Beach Track Map
Elim Beach Track Map

Climbing Cape Bedford

Climbing Cape Bedford is an adventurous experience, as there is no designated walking trail to get there. However, it is possible to reach the base of the hill by taking a 4WD track.

From the base of the hill, you’ll need to navigate your own path up to the top. The ascent can be steep and challenging, so it’s important to wear appropriate footwear and bring plenty of water and sunscreen.

At the top, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, including the crystal-clear waters of the Coral Sea and the pristine beaches of Cape Bedford. Be sure to bring your camera to capture the stunning panoramas.

Cape Bedford Climb - View from the top-min
Cape Bedford Climb – View from the top-min

Cape Bedford Pollution

When you venture onto the beaches of Cape Bedford, you may notice that the area is unfortunately heavily polluted with marine plastic debris. Cape Bedford is not the only place to suffer from this problem. Many eastern Cape York Beaches are also affected by plastic pollution.

The majority of the debris, which is mostly made up of plastic, has been either intentionally dumped or accidentally lost from ships. Additionally, much of the pollution originates from coastlines and rivers far away, carried by currents from southern Australia, neighboring countries, and islands.

This issue has serious consequences for the local marine environment and wildlife, as well as for human health and tourism. Fortunately, there are efforts underway to combat this problem, including beach clean-up initiatives and education programs aimed at reducing plastic waste.

It is important for all of us to do our part in reducing our use of single-use plastics and properly disposing of waste to help preserve the beauty of our oceans and beaches.

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

Elim Beach and its surrounding area are unique and valuable due to their remote location and distinctive natural features, which cannot be easily found elsewhere. The isolation of the community adds to the sense of exclusivity and authenticity that visitors experience in this special place.

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

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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