10 May 2023

Cape York preparing for a bumper tourist season

| Matt Nicholls
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Weipa Camping Ground owner Brooke Quartermaine said she was confident that tourists would return in greater numbers than ever before, providing the coronavirus numbers are controlled.

“We’re optimistic about next year and our bookings are looking really good,” she said.

Ms Quartermaine said only a late rush of tourists saved this year from being a disaster.

The Weipa tourism market had to think on its feet when COVID created havoc around the country.

Western Cape Eco Tours owners Dave and Lisa Hill took the boat out of the water and found other work to keep themselves afloat.

It was similar for Hardus van Wyk and his partner Megan Hall, who managed to lease out their bus that would normally be used for the Weipa Mine and Town Tours.

Fishing charter operators also did it tough. Most were forced to cancel the bulk of their bookings and reschedule them for next year.

“Everyone had to think on their feet but I think we all managed to get through,” said Jaime Gane, who operates Far North Fishing Weipa with husband Kurt.

The positive is that 2021 shapes up to be bigger than ever before.

Dave Hill from Western Cape Eco Tours said bookings had gone through the roof in 2021.

“We’ve got all the tour groups and bus companies coming up and they are getting massive interest in Cape York,” he said.

“Some of them are scrambling to find more buses so they can get more people up here.”

The sunset tour is one of the most popular Weipa experiences but Mr Hill said he wouldn’t hesitate to run up to four tours a day to cope with demand.

“Our suggestion is to book in advance but if people are flexible about their time we should be able to get them on a tour.”

Finding enough space for the tourists to camp and stay could be the biggest challenge.

Mr Hill said he was concerned that there wasn’t a designated overflow area to accommodate all the visitors in the peak period.

“It could damage Weipa’s reputation as a tourist destination if people come all this way and there’s nowhere for them to camp,” he said.

“We want them to support the Weipa Camping Ground first, but if that gets full there needs to be a space opened up.

“Hopefully that camping space at Evans Landing is ready in time for this tourist season.”

Ms Quartermaine said her camp ground did get full at times, but usually only in the busy school holiday period.

“On the week that Victoria, NSW and Queensland clash with their school holidays we do get full, but if people book we usually find a way to accommodate them,” she said.

“We think next year will be really busy but we don’t think it will be a major problem outside of those couple of school holiday periods.”

Ms Quartermaine said it was more important to Cape York operators that the roads were kept in good condition and left open.

“There needs to be an effort by the state government and Cook Shire Council to let people know about road conditions and let them know we’re open for business,” she said.

“We get so much rain every year which scares some people, but we are used to it.”

Hardus van Wyk said Weipa Mine and Town Tours was well booked for next year and urged visitors to get in early to avoid disappointment.

“We can only run a couple of tours a day so we ask people to book so they can get on,” he said.

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