Somerset was established as a settlement in 1864 by Governor Bowen
. This was the first European settlement
on the Cape York
Peninsula and was chosen for its geographical importance. John Jardine, who was then Police Magistrate at Rockhampton
, was appointed Government Resident. The settlement was named after the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Duke of Somerset. The provisioning and protection of the new settlement was supplied by the ships "Salamander", and "Virago". John Jardine's sons Frank & Alick conducted a 10 month overland droving expedition to bring a mob of cattle up from Rockhampton
and arrived in 1865 and Frank later took over as the settlement overseer, married and raised a family. The Jardine family encountered many hostile tribes with the large Yardargan tribe to the south being the main menace to the settlement. However, a smaller tribe closer to the Somerset district who feared the Yardagans actually advised the Settlement when the Yardagans were preparing to attack. Frank died here in 1919 and his wife a few years later.
Today, visitors can reach Somerset by 4WD and see scattered ruins of the homestead
, camp on the beach and even drive along the beaches. Somerset Beach is all white-sand, lined by palm trees and mangroves. To the north are some Aboriginal cave
paintings and to the south are the graves of Frank Jardine and his family. The area is now Aboriginal land and although camping is available on the beach (no facilities) you must pay at the self-registration shelter.
The 4WD track starts at the Somerset Homestead
and goes east to Fly Point
, and then south to Vallack Point, Nanthau Beach
, and west past Lake Wicheura
and Lake Bronto back to the Somerset Road.