Laura
Collage of Laura.

UNESCO rates the aboriginal rock art at Quinkan, just ouside Laura, as among the best in the world. If you've been disappointed by faded, sketchy images of painted hands or roughly carved kangaroos, don't despair, the rock art at Laura is vibrant, prolific and unique.

Laura is an indigenous community on Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, one of the more remote areas of Australia. Essentially still a wilderness area, towns up here are small and marginally serviced. The region experiences typical tropical weather patterns with warm dry winters and hot, wet summers. In the wet season roads often become impassable due to mud and swollen river crossings. Being stranded in places like Laura or nearby Lakefield or Cooktown can mean being stranded for some time. It's thought that much of the rock art here arose from people sheltering under cover from the unrelenting wet season.

White settlement at Laura is comparatively recent, beginning in the early 1870's. Aboriginal settlement is a completely different matter with estimates of habitation ranging around 50,000 years. The region is known as Quinkan country after the stick like figures found among the rocks, crevises and ledges and some of theses images are guessed to be painted over 10,000 years ago. Quinkans live in cracks and crevices and are disciplinary spirit figures designed to impart a threat or warning. Aboriginal culture is particularly strong throughout Cape York, evidenced by a biennial event that brings indigenous folk from across the top end for the Laura Aboriginal Dance and Cultural Festival.

Not only is Laura rich in aboriginal cultural but European settlement has left a strong legacy of mining, pastoral and railway history. Laura was the wife of Archibald MacMillan who explored the district in 1873 and named the local river in her honour. A year later pastoralists drove cattle into the district to graze and settle. Laura became a vital supply depot for these early pioneers and then for the swarms of miners who arrived at Cooktown and made their way to the rich goldfields of Palmer River. Laura became the end of the line for the railway from Cooktown although it had been designed to push on to Palmer River. The line was closed in 1961

Lakefield National Park, known by the aboriginal name of Rinyirru, is a picturesque example of northern eco-divesity. Waterholes, wetlands, floodplains and open, wooded grassland all combine to form a massive habitat for a vast array of wildlife.

Laura is accessible by regular two wheel drive vehicles most of the year but Cape York is an iconic 4WD destination and exploring the tip of Australia is considered a rite of passage for devoted off-roaders. If you want to visit some of the most beautiful and remote destinations Queensland has to offer, then a well prepared four wheel drive is the only way to go.


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