We enjoy visiting Lockhart River, a coastal Aboriginal community on the eastern coast of Cape York Peninsula. It is an important supply stopover for us when cruising to the top and back, or when we are just poking around diving and exploring the northeast fringes.
Lockhart River is also the name of a river located 14km south of the community. The area barely rates a mention among cruising guides, though, and I don’t know why … it’s the only place up on Cape York to provision and fuel up and has phone and internet reception. The Shire also offers totally protected anchorages, a friendly community, interesting local history, a unique National Park at its doorstep, and an art centre featuring many distinguished Aboriginal artists.
Our last visit was in 2015. We found a safe anchorage behind Lloyd Island then shifted down to the western arm of the river to be close to the fuel barge, just inside the central river entrance. We usually provision on a calm day, parking 400m off the front beach boat ramp and taking our dingy to the beach, then hitching a ride to the Aboriginal community township 3km inland. This time, it was too rough, plus we wanted to balance our ocean life by getting a land-based perspective of the cape, so we hired a vehicle from Lockhart River Car Hire instead. The business owner, Paul, met our dingy a kilometre up Claudie River at a little boat ramp. This was a much easier place to come ashore when the winds were blowing.
We started our tour at the airport, where we learned about the local WW2 history surrounding the big airstrips, which played a key role in the battle of the Coral Sea, and about Operation Blowdown. In 1963, the government decided this was a good place to study what devastation a nuclear bomb would cause in the tropics. This was simulated by loading 50 tons of TNT up a tower and flattening a huge area of pristine rainforest, not to mention ‘killing’ hundreds of plastic dummies!
A drive through nearby Iron Range National Park followed. With its many beautiful patches of rainforest, it’s well-known among naturalists for its many endemic species of birds and reptiles. Our tour finished back at the boat ramp after picking up a dingy-load of provisions. The supermarket is tiny with a limited range of products. Nevertheless, it is the most geographically welcome supermarket we ever encounter.
** As of 2017 Sea Swift no longer provide an all week barge service for refuelling at Lockhart River. In 2019 I met the barge behind a reef out the front of Lockart River. In 2020 the barge asked me to meet them at Portland Roads. To check their schedule click on their web site here. or try ringing Sea Swift Cairns on 07 40351234.