Mungkan Kandju National Park is a remote park suited to visitors seeking a wilderness experience. Access to the national park from Cairns is via the Peninsula Developmental Road, through Coen to the Rokeby access road turnoff and then west to Rokeby ranger station in the Rokeby Section of the park. Average travelling times are: Cairns to Coen — 8 to 10 hours; Coen to Rokeby ranger station — 1.5 to 2 hours. These times are only a guide as road conditions vary considerably throughout the year.
It is another 33km to the Archer Bend Section of the park, or 63km to Horsetailer Waterhole, a popular campsite in the Archer Bend Section.
Roads into and on the park are suited only to four-wheel drive vehicles. Most roads within the park are simple bush tracks. Your vehicle should be in good mechanical condition.
All visitors are required to check in at the self-registration shelter, located at the Rokeby ranger station. This provides an opportunity for park users to indicate their travel intentions.
There are no wheelchair-accessible facilities or tracks in the park.
One of four large Cape York Peninsula parks, Mungkan Kandju National Park is a living cultural landscape, rich in significance for the Aboriginal Traditional Owners, the Mungkan, Kaanju and Ayapathu clans. For many thousands of years, they hunted and gathered the rich resources available to them for food and materials. Today the park also has important value as a wilderness area for visitors seeking quiet and intimate contact with nature.
The 457,000 hectares, mostly covered in dry open eucalypt woodlands and melaleuca swamps, extend from the McIlwraith Range in the east to west of the junction of the Archer and Coen rivers. These rivers, which have their sources in the rainforest-clad McIlwraith Range, are major features of the park. The braided channels of the Coen River are fringed with deciduous vine thickets while rainforest lines the Archer River. These riverine areas are important wildlife corridors. Widespread flooding occurs in the summer wet season but by the middle of the dry season, stream flow ceases, leaving large permanent waterholes and lagoons.
Camping and accommodation
Bush camping is allowed in Mungkan Kandju National Park. A number of campsites are provided adjacent to rivers and waterholes. Information about campsite locations is provided at the self-registration shelter at the Rokeby ranger station. No facilities are provided on park.
Camping permits are required and fees apply. Camping bookings and permits can be obtained in advance directly from the QPWS offices in Coen or Cooktown. Alternatively permits can be obtained from the self-registration shelter at Rokeby ranger station. It is preferable to phone the Coen ranger station in advance before camping in the park, as staff can provide up-to-date information to assist your stay.
Total self-sufficiency is essential and recommendations are to travel with another vehicle and have suitable vehicle recovery equipment on hand. Take adequate fuel, food and vehicle spare parts. Take drinking water and a fuel stove. Generators are not allowed. Mosquito nets are recommended for overnight camping. Minimise your use of fresh water and take all rubbish away with you. Bury human wastes (15 cm deep) well away from waterholes. Use no soap, shampoo or detergent in waterholes. Keep your campsite tidy and when leaving, ensure your campsite looks as though you've never been there.
There is limited accommodation and camping available in the nearest town, Coen, 95km south-east of the park. Camping is also available at the Archer River Roadhouse, 75km north of the park. For more information see the tourism information links below.
Things to do
The best way to see the park is to camp at several locations and spend a couple of days exploring around each site. The park has no tracks but you can walk around waterholes or along the Archer and Coen rivers. Equipment such as binoculars, a camera and a strong torch will help you to enjoy your visit. Please remember that crocodiles inhabit this park so visitors must take precautions.
Roads into and on the park are suited only to four-wheel drive vehicles. Most roads within the park are simple bush tracks. Your vehicle should be in good mechanical condition. Carry plenty of fuel as driving on rough roads in low gear uses more fuel than under normal driving conditions. Also carry spare parts and basic vehicle repair equipment to be self-sufficient as no fuel, spare parts or mechanical work are available at Mungkan Kandju.
All visitors are required to indicate their travel intentions at the Rokeby ranger station self-registration shelter when leaving the park. If possible, travel with another vehicle and observe directions about road closures or other restrictions to avoid road damage and vehicle problems. Stay on designated roads at all times.
The best time to visit the park is during the dry season months of June to November. Some late rain is possible during May/June and travel within the park may be restricted because of boggy roads and wet areas.
Old Archer Crossing
The 30km drive from Rokeby ranger station north to the Old Archer Crossing winds through open woodland and passes picturesque lagoons covered with waterlilies and fringed with forest. Old Archer Crossing is the historical site of the main access to northern Cape York Peninsula.
10 Mile Junction
A short distance on from the Old Archer Crossing turnoff is Ten Mile Junction (33km from Rokeby ranger station) where Ten Mile Creek joins the Archer River. This is a sandy campsite surrounded by large melaleucas.
The 22km drive from Rokeby ranger station west to Vardons Lagoon passes through open woodland and native grasslands. The road continues on to the Coen River floodplain, passing several lagoons, swamps and creek crossings fringed with dry vine thickets, before reaching Vardons Lagoon.
From the Vardons Lagoon turnoff, the road continues north-west, crosses the privately-owned Merapah Corridor for 8km and re-enters the Archer Bend Section of the park. The road then enters sand ridge country, passing Partridge Yard — remains from the old cattle station days — and Governors Waterhole, overhung by thick vegetation. The road continues past several swamps before reaching the Archer River and the secluded campsite of Horsetailer Waterhole (63km from Rokeby ranger station).
Boating and fishing
Recreational fishing is allowed in all creeks and rivers in Mungkan Kandju National Park, except Peach Creek. Boat access is possible at Governors and Horsetailer Waterholes, however both waterholes are very shallow in places and it is not possible to launch large boats here.
Fisheries regulations (bag and size limits, restricted species and seasonal closures) apply. For details of bag and size limits for popular fish species, see Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries.
Be aware that estuarine crocodiles inhabit creeks, rivers and waterholes in this park. For more information on being croc wise, see Be croc-wise.
Birdwatching - Take short walks around permanent lagoons, swamps, waterholes and rivers to look for waterbirds, notably pelicans, Pacific black ducks, radjah shelducks, jabirus, royal spoonbills and sarus cranes, as well as forest birds such as the palm cockatoo, Australian bustard and orange-footed scrubfowl. The best locations include Langi Lagoon, Old Archer Crossing, Chong Swamp, Pandanus and Vardons Lagoons and several swamps along the road in the Archer Bend Section.
Crocodiles, turtles and frogs and many species of fish, including the popular barramundi, can be seen in rivers and waterholes. When walking along watercourses, also look for antilopine wallaroos and small agile wallabies. Large nesting mounds (up to 10m across and 4m high) of the orange-footed scrubfowl can be seen in the river gallery forests. With a spotlight at night, look for the spotted cuscus, a small possum-like animal, in the rainforest margins along watercourses.
Things to know before you go
Essentials to bring - Visitors need to be self-sufficient with adequate food, water, equipment for boiling water, fuel, spare parts and basic vehicle repair equipment. There are no services available on park. Always prepare for a longer stay than anticipated in case of breakdown or stranding due to wet weather. Ensure that someone is notified of your itinerary and that you have indicated your travel intentions at the Rokeby ranger station self-registration shelter. Most roads in the park are bush tracks. Driving on rough roads in low gear uses more fuel than normal driving conditions. Ensure your vehicle is in good mechanical condition. You also need to bring rubbish bags as no bins are provided, a fuel stove, insect repellent and mosquito nets.
The park is open only in the dry season, usually from June until November. At other times the park is inaccessible.
Permits and fees
Camping permits are required for all camping areas within Mungkan Kandju National Park and fees apply. A tag with your booking number must be displayed at your campsite.
Bookings can be made in person at QPWS offices in Coen or Cooktown or at the self-registration shelter at the Rokeby ranger station in the park.
Permits are required for all commercial activities or group functions within the park.
Domestic animals are not permitted in Mungkan Kandju National Park.
Climate and weather
Cape York's seasons are divided into "the wet" and "the dry". During the wet (December to April) the area can be deluged by heavy monsoonal rains and roads can become impassable for extended periods, preventing access to the park. The best time to visit is during the dry season months of June to November. Some late rain is possible during May and travel within the park may be restricted until June. Extremes of climatic and seasonal variations prevail. Winter temperatures can drop below 10 degrees Celsius, and summer temperatures can soar above 40 degrees Celsius. Daily variation at any time of the year seldom exceeds 15 degrees Celsius. The weather from October to November is very hot and thunderstorms are common.