Coronavirus has uprooted holiday plans for thousands of adventurers wanting to travel to Cape York in 2020. On June 1st, travel restrictions across Queensland have been lifted and intrastate travel is now mostly permitted. Except, for Cape York, Yarrabah, Doomadgee and some other remote communities. Social media and news networks are on fire today with many people frustrated at the disparity in travel restrictions for different regions in Queensland. No dates have been set for when Cape York might open either, which makes it hard for holiday planners, tour operators, accomodation providers and locals alike! So, here’s a digest of what we know at this stage…
Update, 13th July, 2020
The Cook Shire Council, which covers most of the Cape has opened to travel to Queensland residents only, from the 1st July, 2020. CSC haven’t updated their website yet, but I would assume they are also now permitting travellers from all other states except Victoria. There may still be roadblocks checking traveller details. Road conditions and closures can be checked on the CSC website here.
Some communities still have restricted access. Access to the Northern Peninsula Area (NPA, inc Bamaga, Seisia, The Tip), north of the Jardine River, Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council, Torres Strait Island Regional Council and Torres Shire Council is now open to travellers except Victorians. Access to Cooktown, Hope Vale, Weipa, Aurukun, Mapoon, Lockhart River, Cape Tribulation and the Daintree is open.
With the recent outbreak in Victoria, this access window may be fragile. As more tourists head to Cape York, local communities may feel threatened and may enforce further restrictions. As an example, Mapoon council CEO has stated that if there are cases recorded in Queensland, anywhere down south, they will reimpose lockdowns again.
Wujal Wujal is also reportedly still closed, with road access potentially blocked north of Cape Tribulation. This may prevent use of the coastal road (The Bloomfield Track) from Cape Tribulation to access Cooktown. The Douglas Shire Council website however states that the track is open.
Cook Shire Council have a Coronavirus and access summary here.
When will Cape York open in 2020 to tourism?
What follows is anecdotal and speculative, but is the best we have to deal with at the moment. A lot of this information is from me personally calling around, so I can make informed decisions about our tours this year. Officials aren’t releasing dates for Cape York which is making it difficult too. So, let’s dig in:
- “Australian Government enacted emergency restrictions on entry to remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities (‘designated areas’) to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)”, made under the Biosecurity Act 2015 (Cth). In short, this was to prevent travellers bring Covid-19 to communities where there are a higher percentage of people at-risk
- June 1, Qld hits stage 2. Unlimited travel and overnight stays (except biosecurity areas). Hiking, camping & other recreational activities in National & State Parks, caravan parks (and private land)
- Locals from Biosecurity Areas were having to go into quarantine for 14 days before entering or re-entering the area.
- As of June 1, people can complete their self-quarantine in their community if they leave an return (unless there are symptoms or other reasons preventing this)
- Essential workers can still get into the Cape with a few guidelines
- On June 12 (see image at bottom), late stage 2 will see Safe Travel Zones outlined – with potential to travel with a region, mostly for residents. They won’t have to self-quarantine if travelling within these zones
- Stage 3 for communities will see entry & quarantine restrictions lifted. Communities under stage 3 will be the same as the rest of Qld. No date has been outlined for this.
What I’ve Heard…
- In community, people are keen to be able to travel as well. Some Traditional Owners are also hopeful of tourism returning soon as tourism supports the shops & businesses that support the community
- I have spoken to policemen, tour operators, Cape York locals and the general feeling is that Cape York may not open until September school holidays for general tourism. Some operators feel that the 2020 tour season is a write-off, with some cancelling all tours for the year
- Peter Scott, Cook Shire Council Mayor, said that the Biosecurity Act will be extended until September for border security reasons, but the Qld Gov. will review this incrementally.
My general feeling at this stage is that the first priority is to get locals in communities & Cape York to be able to travel again. Once that has been done, I feel that FNQ locals will be permitted entry into Cape York at first. Followed then by other Queenslanders. For interstate travellers, I feel this will be later on. At a guess, I’d say July-August for FNQ locals to access Cape York. Things are changing very fast though, so it’s hard to say.
All of this affects me, as well as my clients and friends in Cape York, therefore I’ve done my best above to give some overview of the situation. We still have two tours in August & September I’m hopeful of running, however many clients are from interstate which is more difficult with state border restrictions. I wish you all the best of luck for your holiday plans this year!
Peter Scott for Mayor FB Page (Cook Shire Council Mayor. Cape York is largely Cook Shire)