Imagine a beach with soft, squeaky white sand, towering paperbark trees, amazing views out to Coloured Sand cliffs and plenty of room to camp under shady trees. This is Elim Beach and quite possibly my favourite camping spot in Australia.
Elim Beach is in a fairly remote location in Cape York that requires 4WD to get to. It is about an hour-and-a-quarter from Cooktown and about 26km from Hope Vale Aboriginal community.
I’d seen photos of the beach before online but nothing could prepare me for just how idyllic it really was. And thankfully there was still room to camp under the trees on the water’s edge when we arrived.
WARNING: Do NOT drive on the beach here!
We made the mistake of driving on the beach and got bogged in the soft sand. Thankfully we took along our Maxtrax, which got us out of trouble.
There are many stories of other visitors who have been bogged in the sand and had to be towed out by tractor, so our big tip is not to drive on the actual beach here.
We set up our camper trailer under the trees facing the water. It was a beautiful view to wake up to every morning.
We made a campfire on the beach and in the evening a few other campers joined us, bringing over their camp chairs and sharing travel stories over beer and toasted marshmallows.
Eddie’s Elim Beach Campground
Eddie’s Elim Beach Camping is run by Thiithaarr-warra Elder, Eddie Deemal and his son Ivan.
Campers can pick any spot they like when they arrive, as the campground doesn’t take bookings.
The beachfront spots are often the most popular, but many campers travelling in groups or with larger vans opt for larger shady areas back from the beach so they can camp together and spread out.
There are no powered sites but there are amenities including flushable toilets and cold showers. In fact, you get used to the cold showers and quickly find them unusually refreshing.
Another tip is to make sure you stock up on any supplies you need in Cooktown as there is no shop here, and not much available in Hope Vale.
Yes there are crocodiles around, even though we never saw any, so unfortunately you can’t swim at this beach.
In the evenings it is recommended you stay away from the water’s edge, just in case, but during the day it is fine.
We had a campfire on the beach and others fished at night off the beach so it is just about being careful. Each day the tide goes right out and you can walk out to the long sandbar.
The sand is white as snow and there are hundreds of starfish and sea cucumbers to see, and sometimes beautiful shells too.
The famous coloured sands
Only accessible by 4WD and a short drive from Elim Beach, permits to visit here are included in your camp fees.
You can only get to it when the tide is out but it’s not far. And the beach isn’t soft sand so you are less likely to get bogged.
The tall Coloured Sand cliffs line the beach and in some spots tourists have scratched their name into the cliff face. We didn’t write our names but we did take a small bag of each of the different coloured sands and filled a jar with the sand as a memento.
You can climb the sand dunes and in some areas toboggan down them.
We only had three days camping at Elim Beach, many travellers only stayed a night, but I could have easily camped here for a week. I will definitely go back as I have totally fallen in love with it.
travel nq fast facts:
- The journey from Cairns to Elim Beach requires a 4WD vehicle. Allow 5-6 hours for the journey.
- Take all your own supplies with you if you’re camping at Eddie’s campground. There are limited supplies available in Hope Vale and the nearest supermarket is an IGA in Cooktown, about 75 minutes drive away.