HELP SPREAD THE WORD - Booking camp sites for Cape York Peninsula National Parks

Camping on Cape York Peninsula? Bookings are essential.
From February 2012, all camping in national park and resource reserve camping areas on Cape York Peninsula will need to be booked. Sites will progressively come online—the majority by 29 February 2012. Self-registration will no longer be available.

Camping areas that are changing
All 41 Cape York Peninsula camping areas are moving from self-registration to pre-booked camping e-permits. Camping arrangements for some camping areas may have changed so check online for up-to-date information for these parks and reserves:
• Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL)
Cape Melville National Park
Jardine River National Park, Heathlands Resources Reserve and Jardine River Resources Reserve
• Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park (CYPAL)
• Mungkan Kandju National Park.

Why the change?
The popularity of camping in Cape York Peninsula’s parks and reserves is growing.

In recent times, the demand for camp sites has exceeded availability. Campers have arrived to find camping areas fully booked and have then had to travel many kilometres to find alternative accommodation—a disappointing outcome after a long journey.

Booking a camp site ensures campers a guaranteed site on arrival at their preferred camping area.

How to book a camp site
Campers will need to book a camp site and purchase an e-permit before arriving at camping areas.

A range of options are available to obtain an e-permit:
• Book online at
• Visit a Department of Environment and Resource Management business centre or authorised booking agent
• Phone 13 QGOV (13 74 68). Mobile phone charges may apply.

Camping credits can also be purchased in advance and used to make bookings.

Booking agents are located throughout Queensland. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) have actively sought agents near to, or on, Cape York Peninsula. As arrangements with these agents are finalised, their details will be listed as an authorised booking agent.

Campers may find making a booking difficult once they have left home, or after arriving on the peninsula. Recognising this, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) will be providing additional assistance to campers by providing touch screens to make bookings (subject to availability) at the following ranger bases and QPWS offices:
• Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL)
• Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park (CYPAL)
• Heathlands Resources Reserve
Coen, Cooktown and Weipa.

Credit card and camping credits are accepted but no cash facilities are available.

QPWS is also installing road-side signs at key locations to remind visitors to book and purchase an e-permit. Signs will also be installed at locations where mobile phone services may be available (subject to phone carrier and signal strength).

Campers should book early to avoid disappointment—many camping areas are very popular.

Help spread the word
QPWS wants to ensure visitors to Cape York Peninsula have an experience that lasts a lifetime. Key to this is campers knowing about the changes to camping. QPWS has developed flyers and posters that can be produced on any type of printer. Please join us in spreading the word about these changes by:
• circulating this information to everyone who talks to visitors to the peninsula
• printing a flyer or poster and place in a prominent position.

Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL) is now online. Campers can now book a camp site at any one of the 24 camping areas located in the park. Remember—book early to avoid disappointment.
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Reply By: Wayne (NSW) - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 16:56

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 16:56

Great idea but how will it work.

Just say I have done the right thing and pre booked, but when I arrive at the camp site some one, who didn't know or does not care is already camped there, or I am delayed and can't make it to the pre booked camp site that night. Is there a way to cancel the booking and get a refund.

I just see to many problems.

AnswerID: 477856

Follow Up By: Isuzumu - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 17:21

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 17:21
You have to cancel bookings 14 days prior to get a credit, and that's a feat in it's self. We like to use N/Ps but are hesitant to book to far in advance, going to the Cape that would a problem. As I believe that this system only works well where you have phone and/or internet availability, which is not going to happen at the Cape. Going to be interesting to see how it goes this year.
FollowupID: 753197

Follow Up By: Polaris - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 17:26

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 17:26
Hi Wayne.

Sorry, but I can not answer any of your questions.

My daughter works at DERM Cairns, and she sent me the information that I posted on this new thread.

I would sugest that you contact DERM Qld at the number in the post, and direct your questions in that direction.

cheers ... Polaris
FollowupID: 753198

Follow Up By: vk1dx - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 20:13

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 20:13
Good point Wayne

We tried it and prebooked at Lawn Hill. Not in the Cape but it's still DERM or whatever. Luckily no one was in our spot but if there had been what can you do. There was a list but I can see a certain "type" not bothering about that and just putting up the tent. There wasn't anyone around with authority to do anything about.Campground hosts cannot do anything.

Prebooking also made it hard. We got held up at Innamincka due to weather and had to skip a stay in Mt Isa because we had prebooked Lawn Hill.

I do not like it. Not having mobile phone or internet access when on the road is also a problem.

FollowupID: 753226

Follow Up By: Member - Alan H (QLD) - Thursday, Feb 16, 2012 at 09:01

Thursday, Feb 16, 2012 at 09:01
The worst aspect of prebooking is that "choice on the run" is eliminated. When we travel, we do not have a definate plan of where to camp each night. It is too restrictive that way.

If camps have to be rationed to those who plan to a nth degree, surely this means more campsites are required.

FollowupID: 753267

Reply By: Member - Scott M (NSW) - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 17:13

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 17:13
"Booking a camp site ensures campers a guaranteed site on arrival at their preferred camping area. " - I really wish the was true with National Parks, but experience tells me otherwise. Wish I had your faith

Viz, Lawn Hill year before last - 2 vehicles - rang National Parks at least a week before we were due to arrive and booked 2 campsites for 2 nights. Paid the money via credit card on the call.

Turned up at 3pm after a long drive to find no supervision, heaps of bikkie dippers and NO free campsites. Was informed by other campers when we arrived that it was 1st come 1st served and if we wanted a campsite we should have turned up at 10 am. Attempts to find a NP person failed.

So we wound up driving over the barriers onto the grassed area much to the disgust of the other campers, but had no choice.

Also happened at elsewhere - my experience is most NP systems are chaotic at the best of times.
AnswerID: 477858

Follow Up By: Polaris - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 17:35

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 17:35
Hi Scott.

Digital photos (which contain the date/time stamp) should be sent to DERM if you run into problems like you have outlined.

This isn't something that only happens in Cape York.

There are people who outstay their welcome and will bluff you if they can. If you have the permit for the site - then they must move on. DERM and the police will enforce it if you wish.

Doing the wrong thing, by driving over barriers will get someone like me sending photos of "your" actions to DERM!

FollowupID: 753200

Follow Up By: Isuzumu - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 18:34

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 18:34

This is how well DERM look after people, a while back we were on our way to a DERM coastal park when we run into a road closed sign on a major road, so we could not get to the camp grounds. Knowing we hard lost our money thought we would still do the right thing and tell DERM know that we would now not be using the site even if the road opened the next day. So we rang them on our mobile to do this and the lady said "could you hang on while I turn my computer on" 5 minutes later I told my missus to hang up, we can not afford this. So Polaris your daughter may be a great worker at DERM, but the procedures leave a lot to be desired. This is not a isolated incident for us.
FollowupID: 753206

Follow Up By: Member - Scott M (NSW) - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 18:55

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 18:55

After driving for 8 hours on a hot day and arriving to find that not only were sites overbooked or overstayed - can understand that happens. I would have happily had a DERM representative take us to task for camping in the wrong spot, then we could have equally pointed out to them the inadequacies of their booking system and taking money under false pretenses.

Honestly we tried for an hour to find a local NP / DERM person responsible so we could sort it out, however there was not even anyone at the ranger office. At that stage (5 pm) we weren't in the mood to drive 200k's back down the road or double pay at Adele's Grove.

In the end our attitude was - if they can't bother to provide a service - why should we bother to follow the rules? Our phones weren't in range and there was no public phone we could find. It's not a one way street, particularly when money has changed hands.
FollowupID: 753208

Follow Up By: Member - Scott M (NSW) - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 19:02

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 19:02
"Digital photos (which contain the date/time stamp) should be sent to DERM if you run into problems like you have outlined."

Bit hard as there we no numbered sites and no site confirmation when we booked. We asked this question when we booked and was told that there would be sites and the the 'rep' would assist. Had no idea who was in the wrong site ... could have been any one of 30 campers. What do you do - walk around and ask everyone "are you overstaying or in our site?" - would have been told to "sod off!"
FollowupID: 753213

Reply By: Member - Graham N (SA) - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 17:17

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 17:17

As above Great Idea.
As I've never travelled up the Cape how will I know how far I will travel in a day or whether a spot is so nice I might want to camp there for more than one night?
My saving grace is we are probably not going till next year.

AnswerID: 477859

Reply By: Shaker - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 17:25

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 17:25
Unworkable to say the least.
Do the committees & sub-committees that naively came up with this nonsense think that these sort of trips can be planned down to the minute, or that all people play by the rules?

AnswerID: 477860

Reply By: vk1dx - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 17:39

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 17:39
What a real pain in the neck. Thank god we have had one trip up there. We cannot travel that way. A road may be closed . . . . and we cannot get there in time. Nope the Queenslanders have done it again.

AnswerID: 477862

Follow Up By: Member - Scott M (NSW) - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 23:17

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 23:17
Phil, bit like the Permit system....

FollowupID: 753244

Follow Up By: vk1dx - Thursday, Feb 16, 2012 at 07:18

Thursday, Feb 16, 2012 at 07:18
Hi Scott

What "permit system" mate? Not with you.

FollowupID: 753253

Follow Up By: Member - Scott M (NSW) - Thursday, Feb 16, 2012 at 11:39

Thursday, Feb 16, 2012 at 11:39
The Permit system for entry to into 'restricted areas' ie: Aboriginal Lands. Requires you to nominate months in advance what day you will transiting the the area. Bit hard when 50 things could upset your timetable .... most people ignore the the date clauses.
FollowupID: 753283

Follow Up By: vk1dx - Thursday, Feb 16, 2012 at 12:05

Thursday, Feb 16, 2012 at 12:05
Ahhh I now know what you mean. I thought it was some kind of pay now and you get credits to park/use later.

I only struck that once and just told them "between aaaaa and bbbb". Or the like. It worked.


FollowupID: 753288

Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Thursday, Feb 16, 2012 at 15:07

Thursday, Feb 16, 2012 at 15:07
Scott, I know what you mean about the difficulties of the Aboriginal Lands permits and people ignoring the dates. In fact because of the overwhelming difficulty in obtaining these permits I believe many people are simply not obtaining them at all.

I can see the same thing happening with these NP camping permits. If there are no rangers attending to ensure space available for permit holders then there are no rangers policing that campers even have permits. So some people will simply ignore the need for permits altogether and worsen the situation.

If DERM needs income to service the NP campgrounds then change to a system of monthly or yearly entry/camping permits and leave it to first-come best-dressed administration. Maybe not ideal but better than this dog's breakfast.


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FollowupID: 753304

Reply By: pop2jocem - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 17:48

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 17:48
And you thought the National Parks mob were silly. In one action they have cured their problem of overcrowding. Just make the permit system border on being a total PIA and a lot less people will go. Problem solved. Am I a cynical old bastard or

AnswerID: 477863

Follow Up By: Gramps - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 20:03

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 20:03

You are an absolute genius. What other reason could there be for this policy. Straight out of "Yes, Prime Minister".

FollowupID: 753225

Reply By: SDG - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 18:23

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 18:23
I found this to be happening a few years back when travelling around Queensland. Mostly on the coastal areas. When i researched where to stay I picked places that I could pay at when I arrived. I found more and more places where changing as I was travelling around that needed to be prebooked (mostly online)and pre payed.
I don't travel with a computer, and I don't use credit cards. Makes travelling a little harder.
AnswerID: 477869

Reply By: wjh41 - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 18:38

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 18:38
So,Are they going to paint camp sites on the ground and put numbers on them? Wally
AnswerID: 477871

Follow Up By: "crack-a-tinnie" - Sunday, Feb 19, 2012 at 14:39

Sunday, Feb 19, 2012 at 14:39
Well Wallace,
It shouldn't really bother you, the last two trips you organised, we all went, but you didn't go...........
Birdsville Races, Deni Ute Muster...... :-)
FollowupID: 753621

Reply By: gke - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 18:40

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 18:40
The Qld system suits those who travel on an itinerary, but as retirees who wander without an itinerary we have hated the online system ever since it was introduced. It is inflexible, and just try to extend your stay if you find a lovely N.P. that has no 3G coverage!
Cheers, Graham.
AnswerID: 477872

Reply By: didjabringabeer - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 19:16

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 19:16
Well thats proberly stopped me from getting up to the tip this year.Leaving Perth
and doing Broome,Bungles,Darwin,Kackado,Kurumba got no idea of the date I will
get to Cooktown. Will turn around there or come down the centre and back to Perth. Brian
AnswerID: 477877

Follow Up By: Member - OnYaBike - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 23:13

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 23:13
There are alternatives to National Parks. You can camp at Lakeland, Laura, Hann River, Musgrave, Coen (donation at Charlie's Mine), Archer River, Weipa, Moreton, Bramwell, Jardine Crossing and Seisia or Umagico. And that's just paid camping.
You can free camp on a first in basis elsewhere and if you miss a spot don't have to worry about money back. Last year we spent a delightful couple of nights on the Wenlock at Moreton just up from the bridge.
Your Jardine Ferry fee entitles you to camp within the NPA say at Mutee Heads or Somerset.
So don't be put off, just come!
FollowupID: 753242

Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Thursday, Feb 16, 2012 at 09:40

Thursday, Feb 16, 2012 at 09:40
Don't be put off Cape York Didja. As OnYa says, there are plenty of camping alternatives to NPs. In fact you could be better off avoiding the NP camping sites. On our last trip we stopped at the campsite at Twin Falls or somewhere and the condition of the toilets was atrocious. No ranger appeared to complain to. This new bureaucratic booking system has ensured my avoiding them altogether.

No, don't dump the Cape York trip. It's a great experience.


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FollowupID: 753271

Reply By: AlbyNSW - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 19:44

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 19:44
What a terrible idea!

We are now even further regulating the free spirit of camping. Why can't you just hit the track and pull up when you feel like it and if it is too busy just move on and find another spot.........that's camping, I don't want to be keeping appointments with a govt dept when on holidays.
AnswerID: 477880

Reply By: Isuzumu - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 20:51

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 20:51
With a State Election coming up here in Qld shortly I am going to start lobbying my local candidates on this matter and let them know that this is a very silly management system.
AnswerID: 477886

Reply By: Member - Josh- Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 21:23

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 21:23
On our way to Cape York a couple of years ago we tried to book a site by the coast. We rang on the sat phone And after 5 mins of stuffing around they told their computers were down and there was no way to book. I asked if we could camp anyway and pay the ranger. "NO you can't" was the reply. You will get fined. So we left and paid for a site else where (not a derm site).
Later on we were told there was self registration for the campsite at 1770. When we arrived there was a sign saying you had to book with a phone number. Rang them to be told again the computer was down and we would have to go to the ranger station or wait for the ranger to come by. She couldn't tell us where the ranger station was though. We camped for 4 days along with several other people who hadn't paid. Never saw a ranger the whole time.
As stated, on trips like Cape York you don't always know the exact date you will arrive for various reasons. Just more desk jockys keeping themselves in a job.

AnswerID: 477887

Follow Up By: Member - Scott M (NSW) - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 23:16

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 23:16
Josh, had a similar experience in both QLD & WA. Fair dinkum, could organise a ....................
FollowupID: 753243

Reply By: Member - John - Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 22:10

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012 at 22:10
another reason not to visit Cape York............. not very user friendly. How can you guarantee making it to a park on the due date, bet they won't refund the money paid in advance, bizarre............
John and Jan

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AnswerID: 477895

Reply By: The Rambler( W.A.) - Thursday, Feb 16, 2012 at 00:16

Thursday, Feb 16, 2012 at 00:16
For many years I have travelled all over Aus. and Tasmania and have NEVER booked a site in ad vance and have no intention to start now.Ihave done 3 trips to Cape York including Cape Melville( a large section of the beach is not N.P.), Vrilya point,Chillie Beach,Shelburne beach etc.etc.Ido most of my campng in the bush and very rarely see a ranjer to give me any hassles.Of course I have been to the odd bush campsitewhich was too crowded for my liking and I just move on.Ican tell you that there is a lot of open space between the so called designated camp grounds.Soon they will tell us where,when,and how long we can camp----not for me.
AnswerID: 477902

Reply By: Member - Beatit (QLD) - Thursday, Feb 16, 2012 at 17:04

Thursday, Feb 16, 2012 at 17:04
Hi Polaris,

I have to be upfront and say that I don't believe in paying for NP usage BUT I always have. I am not about ranger bashing because these guys (and gals) I'm sure try to do a good job.

This latest development has to be the dumbest idea their decision makers have come up with. It has already been pointed out here that people travel using loose arrangements and that CY is a long way away for most travellers. I'm sure that a better system could be devised to serve us the users. The current system only serves DERM but we have come to expect nothing more from this organisation.

It is clearly unacceptable for campers to be held to ransom this way, limited facilities, limited visible rangers and the threat of fines for not complying with a broken system. I cannot imagine that it should be too difficult to work out a better sytem, maybe a credit system, maybe a season pass or smart cards - my goodness do I feel like I'm doing their work or what.

I could go on about "marine park closures" and DERM arrogance. There is a lack of reasonable thinking in this agency and we can only hope that this changes with the new government - not long now!

Kind regards

AnswerID: 477928

Reply By: Member - John N (SA) - Thursday, Feb 16, 2012 at 17:41

Thursday, Feb 16, 2012 at 17:41
This has been a very useful thread - thanks Polaris. I have been trying to understand the booking system in preparation for a club trip later this year and couldn't see any room for flexibility in case of mishaps or delays - just grief if something went wrong. I've taken the advice of Onya & others and modified the itinerary to bypass camping in the Nat Park. I feel better supporting local business folk anyway.


AnswerID: 477931

Reply By: Motherhen - Thursday, Feb 16, 2012 at 23:38

Thursday, Feb 16, 2012 at 23:38
While they are trying to overcome pressure on camp grounds, it can never work in an area such as the Cape where travel times are unknown, particularly for those going for the first time. It is not like you are booking at the beach for your Christmas holiday.

Also, although DERM booking website gives an indication of size, we cannot be certain we can manoeuvre our rig into amongst the bollards.

When touring in 2009, i was going to boycott any campgrounds requiring booking. The first one we wanted to visit was Porcupine Gorge. They had an on line section and a self registration section. We didn't risk it and bush camped along the way.

For Mt Moffatt i broke my rule and thought it wise to book - it is a large open ground with no bollards. There is no self registration at the campground or the park entrance, and those without bookings had to travel some way down a sandy track to the Ranger Station. Booking the day before was easy, as we were at Injune only a short drive away, and with internet reception.

Next was Girraween - school holidays and filling fast when i looked it up. We could only get two nights there as it was fully booked for the weekend. We went to a CP nearby to get there early to be sure of a caravan place and that was wise as soon the section was full - packed in so no-one could move - we all had to leave at the same time to get out. One of the bad dust storms hit is us the morning we were to go to Girraween, and normally we wouldn't had driven in those conditions - but had to as we only had two days - the first of which was not good for sightseeing due to the conditions.

WA is also trialling a booking system on the most popular parks. Again, OK for people booking for the annual holiday, but no use to people like us who are touring an an unknown time frame and normally never book anything.


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