Free camping on Peninsula Developmental Road (PDR) is something that we always look for. It seems the best two places to free camp are Coen free camping – The Bend and Archer River camping.
Coen free camping location
The Bend Campground is located 3.5 km north of Coen. The campground is called The Bend as the Coen Creek has a 90 degree right turn where the campground is.
There are no signs. Set your odometer in town and drive 3.5 km north. Look for a dirt road on the right, and cars in distance. Coen Creek is located 100 meters from the PDR, so if you drive fast you may miss it.
The Bend has two parts
The Bend Campground is cut by Coen Creek dividing it into two parts.
The part before the creek is accessible by conventional vehicles, but be aware of big holes and washouts when you try to find your spot.
The get to the second part of the campground, you have to cross Coen Creek. During the dry season, the crossing is only 20 cm deep so there is no problem for any 4WD.
When you approach the crossing veer sharp right and go through a little island. Note that on the other side there is deeper sand and are spots you can get stuck. Drop tyre pressure if required.
The best spots at Coen Creek Campground are located after the creek crossing.
There is plenty of space to set your camp, but note that during the season it gets busy pretty quick. As a rule of thumb, arriving always before 3 pm is a good idea.
The fires are allowed and splashing or swimming is a must as the area is croc free.
Can you drive with the caravan over the crossing?
This is strictly depending on your rig size. As I mention, there is a sharp right turn, once you approach the crossing, so big rigs would not be suitable to squeeze through the corner.
We had seen many small to medium caravans crossing the creek and coming back without a problem.
Before driving with a caravan assess the crossing by yourself.
Coen hidden campground
If you feel adventurous you may try to find the hidden campground. You need a 4WD and low range to get there.
When you cross Coen Creek, veer slightly left and go straight – there is a dirt track going up on the hill. Check the condition of the track as often after the rainy season, there are many washouts.
This is the only difficult part. Once you are on the top go along the track, veer left on the V intersection and after 200 meters you will get to a small campground that ends the track.
This spot is well isolated from the other parts so if you look for privacy this is the place to stay.
There is a small waterfall behind the hidden campground. To reach it, walk 200 meters east.
Coen Heritage House
Coen is a very small town. It serves as a hub of basic services with facilities including a fuel station (actually two), 2 shops, a cafe, a medical centre, a hotel and camping.
One of the local attractions to not miss when you pass the town is Coen Heritage House. The house has small displays about the local history and the gold rush in the 19th century. One of the most interesting things to learn is the building of the telegraph line.
There is a collection of mining equipment that previously belonged to the mining museum in Weipa.
The Bend camping – our experience
We camped at The Bend twice – on the way up to Cape York, and on the way back.
The first time, we camped without crossing the creek. We actually set up our camp next to the crossing, so we could see how others do it and learn from it.
On the way back, we cross the creek with the trailer and we found a beautiful spot right on the beach. It was early afternoon, so we had plenty of time for swimming and campfire cooking.
It was of our best nights at Cape York!
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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