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Best Cape York Tours in 2023: Bus, Bike, Tagalong or Ride Along?

Best Cape York Tours in 2023

We have identified as many Cape York tours as we could find and provided a basic overview of what to expect! The table at the bottom will let you compare prices, reviews & more!

Firstly, you may think what follows will be biased for our business. However, we have simply provided the basic information such as prices, review ratings, vehicle types, etc. to help you refine your options.  It can be overwhelming when choosing a Cape York tour. So we hope the below descriptions of each type, and some basic facts will help you have a value for money, enjoyable and safe holiday!

Operators: please if you find any out of date or incorrect information let me know and I will update it.

Author intro: I have lived in Cape York (Bamaga, Coen and Cooktown) or Cairns most my life. Working all over Cape York as an ecologist, I drove some of the worst roads you’d never see on a normal run. Currently, I run a Cape York tour company and have learnt the intricacies of Cape York on many levels. In 2020, I also kayaked to Pajinka, the tip of Cape York. My aim is to help people see and enjoy my favourite place on earth, safely and respectfully.

Why do a Cape York tour?

Cape York tours are a great way of seeing the wild landscape that is ‘Australia’s last frontier’. If you don’t have your own vehicle, or aren’t willing to risk yours, there are great tours with brilliant guides that will make sure you don’t miss a thing!

An average vehicle repair bill for a Cape York trip is around $3,000, especially given you won’t find everything you broke immediately upon returning home. If you need to get towed to Cairns for repairs, add $4,000 to that for a standard sized vehicle. Many quote that you can do Cape York yourself on a shoestring budget and while that is possible, most people we ask haven’t.  The vehicle preparation, modifications, food, fuel, tours, accommodation, repairs all stack up quickly when you add things up. As a Cape York local and someone who loves to tour other regions as well, I know too well the real costs of these trips.

The culture, history and nature you will learn about from your guides will make your trip a story, not just a destination.

One of the best parts about going with a tour company, is not missing anything! For many, this is a trip of a lifetime and something you may only do once. Imagine going to Africa, and not realising there were elephants to see! Quite simply, the guides in Cape York are experienced and know the little secret spots that aren’t in guide books, the tricks to try with animals and a local or two to meet along the way! You will learn far more about the region than you could imagine with a guide.

So what is the best Cape York tour?

Well, that depends. It depends on your budget, your level of adventure and what you prioritise seeing and doing. Below we outline the several main tour types and explain the pros and cons of each, to help you make your choice.

At the bottom of the page is a very useful summary table! We provide an overview of cost, reviews, days and more.

comparison of cape york tour operators

aboriginal man dancing in front of people

The authentic experiences you get on a tour make it well worth the money!

red road with corrugations in cape york

Corrugations can be terrible in Cape York. With around 500km of the main roads still dirt, there are certainly no shortage left to test your suspension!

car crashed on dirt road

Driving on dirt roads is dangerous and inexperience can lead to bad accidents.

Bus Tours

Bus (4WD bus-trucks) tours are a great way of seeing Cape York. Generally the vehicles only have capacity for a maximum of around 20 passengers, much less than your standard coach. There are camping, budget accommodated and premium (fully) accommodated options.

Camping tours are generally smaller groups than accommodated options due to the fitout needing to carry more gear. Both are brilliant options and have professional companies with good reputations running them. Whilst camping tours may be less comfortable than accommodated, they give a good connection to country and save you some money. Accomodated tours however, take the hassle out of setting up a tent and are especially suited for age groups that can no longer camp.

The bus tour companies listed in the table below are:

truck driving through plains

Bus tours are affordable ways of seeing places on a guided tour, depending on your accommodation needs.

wet red dirt road in cape york

Cape York is stunning, but you don’t want to go at the wrong time of year!

Tag-a-long Tours

Tag-a-long tours provide a great option of bringing your own vehicle and having a dedicated guide show you through Cape York. Depending on the company, meals may or may not be included – be sure to check this.

You get the bonus of having a great guide who will make sure you won’t miss the best of the region. However, it is your own vehicle still and you will need to manage those costs too.

The tag-a-long tour companies listed in the table below are:

people in front of 4wd vehicles

Tag-a-long tours combine the best of both worlds…being able to take your own vehicle and having a guide with you!
Credit: Cape York Guided Tours

Ride-a-long Tours

There are a few options with ride-a-long tours. Some companies like No Limits and Australian 4WD Adventures provide their own 4WD vehicles for you to use and run it like a tag-a-long tour. The others are generally where you can ride-a-long in one of the operator’s vehicles for a set price.

Hiring someone else’s vehicles means you won’t damage yours and still get to experience the adventure of the drive yourself! Ride-a-longs are great as you’ll be with a guide and an adventurous group of people in their own vehicles in tow.

The ride-a-long tour companies listed in the table below are:

4wd vehicles crossing deep river

Similar to a bus tour, but with a tag-a-long crew!
Credit: Far North Escapes

Motorbike Tours

This would be the most adventurous of the category! Generally, this is the choice for those with motorbiking experience, although many have gone on these tours with very minimal experience. These tours will have you seeing all of the top Cape York 4WD tracks and outback roads.

Most of them are shorter tours (6-7 days) with a fly out from the top. They are camping tours and are a great way to see the Cape. Motorbike tours are less focused on the information of the area and more on the riding and adventure of the outback.

The motorbike tour companies listed in the table below are:

people carrying motorbike in creek

Motorbike tours amp up the adventure level and offer a different way of seeing Cape York!
Credit: Ellwood’s Motorcycle Adventures

Travel Agents

Travel agents are a great way to reduce the confusion of what tour to book and to aid in the entire booking process. The downside is, especially since Covid, it can be more difficult to arrange cancellations/postponements.

You also won’t be talking to someone who knows the tour specifically and they may not have done it themself. Travel agents take a commission of about 25% of the total price of the tour, money the tour operators lose. If possible, always book direct and support the team on the ground!

The travel agents listed in the table below are:

Travel agents can simplify the booking process, reducing stress.

The Summary Table

The table below was designed to provide basic information on the best Cape York tours out there. It is broken into sections based on the type of tour. Shown are what vehicles might be used (not all are listed), roughly when some were established and where they are based.

It compares the type of accommodation, the maximum number of passengers taken and the length of the tours.

The price is then broken into single or twin. Bikes are all single, however many accommodated tours have cheaper rates for twin share, as 2 people can share a room.

What follows is the price per day (tour price ÷ days). As many tours are different lengths, we think this is a good metric to rank based on price.

The table below is ranked according to twin price per day (except bikes) for each tour type.

For each section, the highest and lowest prices are highlighted green and red with a dotted line showing the comparison selection.

Finally are the reviews, most sourced from google, except where Facebook (FB) or TripAdvisor (TA) were used due to a lack of a Google Business listing. The number of reviews left are beside it. The top 10% and bottom 10% have been highlighted.

comparison of cape york tour operators

An overview table to strip everything back to the bare basics.

For a taste of what is included in a 15-day Cape York tour, or for inspiration, check out our itinerary by clicking the image below.

itinerary for cape york tour

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About Us

We honestly believe our tours are some of the best tours in Australia! Our Cape York and Gulf Savannah tours are extensively researched and field tested to bring you the best tours you could imagine! We are adventurers and travellers at heart but also perfectionists, and we want you have to have the holiday of a lifetime! They are relaxed tours, not tick-n-flick! We believe these tours are the most comprehensive, best value tours for all of these regions. I’ll buy you a coldy if I’m wrong!

Our tours are camping  orientated to be more authentic and our camp gear is high quality. Our tour trucks, ‘Zeus’ & ‘Herc’, are equipped with comfy seats, fridges and powerful AC! We are super excited with the tours we’ve produced for 2023 & we can’t wait to share the adventure with you! We aim to make our tours senior friendly and we craft each tour with that in mind!

We also run leadership development camps for youth, speak in schools and do photography tours and lessons. Customised bookings, bus hire and bucks & hens parties are also welcome!

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