Bramwell Station Cape York

Bramwell Station’s History

Bramwell Station was the most northerly cattle station in Australia and continues to offer a variety of services to far northern Cape York Peninsula. Located 3 hours northeast of Weipa, 2 hours from  Archer River and 4 hours south of The Tip, the Station is a well-known and well-loved stop for visitors to the Cape over the last 40 years.  The location is convenient being the start of the famous 4WD challenge, the Old Telegraph Line track, fondly known as the OTL.

Rough dirt road conditions are the reason far northern Cape York has been regarded as isolated and remote.  However, since 2002 road construction works have vastly improved access and modern 4WD vehicles travel the main route up to the Cape, via the Peninsula Developmental Road and then the Bamaga Road with comparative ease.  More adventurous travellers can choose the OTL, Frenchman’s and other 4WD tracks to test their skills.

Bramwell was first taken up in the early 1930s as a pastoral lease by Frank Monighan, and then passed on to Rod Heinemann who hailed from the Coen area.  He jointly held it with Rosie and Jack Kennedy during their lifetimes, after which it was kept operational by Rod’s wife Theresa until 2002.  The lease was then purchased by the family partnership of Vince Bowyer and Wendy Kozicka who were already familiar figures in the Cape district, having grown up on cattle properties in central and lower Cape York.

The Heinemann family – some of whom are buried at the homestead’s graveyard site, established a tourism initiative on the property with APT Touring in the 1980s.  They welcomed visitors to the Bramwell Station homestead for the first time – though in those days it was just a few adventurous cars and APT 4WD buses per season. In the early days, Cape York stations including Bramwell only had the cattle industry to rely on and would send their cattle south with droving teams. Rod was one of the regular drovers who moved mobs of cattle to the Mareeba sale yards. Poor seasons and the cattle price slump in the 1970s and 1980s made it difficult to make ends meet for the remote area properties which continued to struggle economically, not helped by long distances and high costs for freight, through the 1990s.

In the early 2000s, there was a surge of traffic coming to the Cape annually for adventure 4WD holidays, so tourism became a more viable industry. Cattle prices rallied and on the back of improved economic opportunities, Bramwell Station diversified and rode the growth wave.

Critical to the infrastructure growth at Bramwell, was the Government’s initiative in the early 2000s to upgrade the road systems in the Cape. Based on Vince Bowyer’s prior roadworks experience, Vince and Wendy formed the Bramwell Station Earthmoving Contracting business in 2003. Cook Shire Council’s support of remote construction businesses allowed Bramwell an income stream which could fund huge changes and developments to the Station over the next 20 years.

Over that period the Tourist Park grew through formalising the campground, the Junction Roadhouse was built, cattle infrastructure was installed on Bramwell and Richardson and the 1.2km all-weather airstrip (equipped with solar lights) was established. The airstrip is used by the RFDS day or night in emergencies as well as passing air travellers and the weekly mail plane.

The Junction Roadhouse

In 2003, Vince and Wendy also opened the Roadhouse at the junction of the Bamaga (Southern ByPass Road) Road and the OTL.

Visitors love the Roadhouse for it’s friendly atmosphere, a place where they can chat to fellow 4WD owners about road conditions and vehicles, and perhaps team up with newly met friends to tackle the OTL together. Those who prefer the easy route, the Bamaga Road, often do the first three kilometres of the OTL to sit and watch the morning traffic attempt the difficult Palm Creek crossing and enjoy the photo opportunities – there are a number of safe good viewing sites at the top of the creek.

Today, the Bramwell Junction Roadhouse is operated by Cape York locals, the Horton family.

Old Telegraph Line Track

The Tele Track, as it is affectionately known, follows the Cape’s gazetted Overland Telegraph Line route straight north through to the Jardine Ferry.  It challenges its users with some serious 4WD skills needed for crossing Palm Creek, Alice Creek and ‘Gunshot’ crossings and many others – but it is always noted, that often less experienced drivers taking their time seem to equally manage to cruise through the challenging obstacles with lots of photo memories and fun.

Today, the Bramwell Junction Roadhouse is operated by Cape York locals, the Horton family.

Bramwell Tourist Park

Just a few kilometres off the Bamaga Road is the main homestead and the Bramwell Tourist Park. The business was first opened for trade by Rod’s wife, Mrs Theresa Heinemann. The original bar where Mrs Heinemann used to serve drinks now houses a pictorial museum of many old people who called Bramwell home.

Today, the Tourist Park has been taken on by Mr Ken Godfrey, a long-term associate of Bramwell and the tourism industry in general. Ken has introduced live entertainment in a very Bramwell style and serves up a very popular fresh food buffet in the Tourist Park’s open-air and spacious bar area. Once again, the internet is beamed in by satellite dish so that all visitors can access their phones and media.

Bramwell Station Today

The Bramwell and Richardson properties are now owned by the Queensland Government after being purchased at auction in 2021. Through the  Cape York Peninsula Tenure Resolution Program, ownership of these properties will eventually be returned to local Aboriginal Traditional Owners.

Parts of the properties will be negotiated to become new protected areas. Bramwell and Richardson connect with other protected areas in the region including Batavia National Park (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land); Bromley (Ampulin) National Park (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land); Michingun Nature Refuge; and Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve Nature Refuge.   The national parks (CYPAL) are owned by the traditional custodians of the land through their Aboriginal corporations.

More information about the Cape York Peninsula Tenure Resolution Program can be found here:

The Junction Roadhouse and Bramwell Tourist Park are vital to the local economy and continue to offer that unique Bramwell hospitality.

Cape York map
Bramwell Station Cattle
Bramwell Station Tourist Park Sign
Bramwell Station's Junction Roadhouse
Bramwell Station's Tourist Park
Cattle at the Bramwell Station