An exploration of the incredible Aboriginal rock art sites in Quinkan Country near Laura.
Far North Queensland is blessed with some of the greatest self-drive routes in Australia and Cooktown acts as a hub for driving enthusiasts. The coastal road from Cairns to Cooktown including the Bloomfield Track is renowned as one of the world’s great scenic coastal drives, but the Battle Camp road from Cooktown to Laura passing through Lakefield National Park is less well known but equally impressive in it’s own way.
Drive north from Cooktown through the picturesque farmlands of the Endeavour Valley to the turn off to the Battle Camp road.
After roughly six kilometers you drive over the top of the Isabella waterfalls then start to ascend through the Battle Camp range to Lakefield. The road offers spectacular views, river crossings and passes by the Old Laura Homestead in Lakefield National Park.
New road works have reduced travel time to less than two hours from Cooktown to Laura, our base to explore Quinkan Country – ranked by UNESCO as one of the top ten rock art areas in the world and surely one of Queensland’s best kept secrets.
The Quinkan and Regional Cultural Centre should be your first port of call. This incredibly informative accredited Visitor Information Centre has interpretive displays showcasing Aboriginal culture and the rich pioneering heritage of the region.
Guided tours of the Aboriginal rock art sites should be booked through the centre to the Split Rock, Mushroom Rock and the Giant Horse galleries.
Split Rock is the most accessible site about 12km from Laura returning to Lakeland on the Peninsula Development Road. The site is located in the sandstone bluffs and although interpretive signage explains the range of paintings it is best to take a tour with a local guide from the Quinkan Centre to fully appreciate the artwork. Look out for the dingo ‘leg up’.
Mushroom Rock and Giant Horse can be booked as a combined tour to the sites which are about half an hour drive from Laura. Guides are essential to these ancient sites as the stories depicted are brought to life.
Mushroom Rock depicts a variety of spirits, animals and people and the site has only been partially excavated after archaeologists re-covered the paintings which continue down the rock face beneath the earth.
The Giant Horse gallery is in a stunning location with the rock art painted on a massive overhang overlooking the vast Laura valley – a truly magical setting for a breathtaking volume of artwork including the famous Giant Horse from which the site gains it’s name.
This is a timeless and thought provoking experience which should be on every visitor’s itinerary when visiting Cape York Peninsula.
Nearby the Jowalbinna rock art galleries can be reached via the Olive Vale station – this is the area of the single greatest concentration of art and the Quinkan Centre can provide detailed information on the galleries.
Every year in June Laura hosts a Race day and Rodeo, a great opportunity to experience an authentic Australian country gathering.
The Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival is a bi-annual event celebrating the culture of Cape York’s Aboriginal Communities. This explosion of traditional dancing and displays is an unforgettable experience – the next festival will be held in June 2011.
From Laura you can continue your Cape York Expedition driving north up the Peninsula Development Road towards ‘The Tip’, or alternatively head back towards Lakeland and south to Mareeba or Port Douglas.
For further information see: