The Old Coach Route is a 4WD-only road with some challenging climbs, curves, and twists and is quickly earning a reputation as Cape York's roughest track. It's not hard to understand why with its incredibly steep climbs, loose rocks that will require you to use every bit of traction, and several rock step-ups. The fun doesn't stop there, though. You'll quickly discover why Old Coach Road has such a bad reputation once you pass Maytown.
It is a reasonably simple 81 km journey along a graded dirt road from the Mulligan Highway turn-off to The Palmer River Crossing. This abruptly changes the moment you cross the Palmer River.
You'll be in low range for the following 55km of the road, which quickly gets steeper and rockier, and it'll take you around 8 hours to get to Laura.
Take the left fork, which leads to the folders hotel site, if you want a real challenge. This is the most difficult section and connects back to the main track after a steep climb and a fantastic vantage point.
If you want to go with a less technical route, take the right fork in the direction of Laura.
The Old Coach Road's dramatic vistas go hand in hand with its steep hills and gullies, which are sure to please the passengers as well.
The history left behind by the 19th-century gold rush is extensive in this region. It would be simple to spend an entire day exploring the plethora of tracks at the southern end of the Old Coach Road given the numerous remnants of what once was a thriving community dispersed throughout the area, including Maytown ruins and sizable mining equipment.
Soon after crossing the Palmer River, you will come across the ancient Maytown Ruins. All that is left of the abandoned houses are the foundations and mounds of bricks beside the main road, which are still clearly visible gutters constructed of local slate. Plaques that list the previous uses of the now-vacant lots are placed at each of the historic locations. On the site of the former hotel, a replica of a historical structure with artefacts and a guest register have been built. Numerous pieces of abandoned mining equipment that were too expensive to remove when the gold deposits started to run low can be found all around the Maytown Ruins.
With a pick and a shovel, people built this entire track. The ramp that we ascend on the first ascent is completely hand-filled with rock batter on the sides to keep it together. You can see where waggons and coaches ran their steel rims on the inside of the curve and smoothed it out because the cuttings are made out of solid rock.