From the tip, it is about 140 km to New Guinea across the island-studded Torres Strait. The west coast borders the Gulf of Carpentaria and the east coast borders the Coral Sea. Cape York Peninsula is approximately 137,000 km² in area and it has a population of about 18,000, of which a large percentage are Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.
A completely sealed inland road links Cairns and the Atherton Tableland to Lakeland Downs and Cooktown. The road north of Lakeland Downs to the tip of the Peninsula is sometimes cut after heavy rains during the wet season (roughly December to May). Cape York is a popular destination from May to October for 4WD enthusiasts who come to test their driving skills and their vehicles on the remaining sections of the Overland Telegraph Track.
It is 430 km from the Bloomfield River, in the southeast, across to the west coast (just south of Kowanyama), and some 660 km from the southern border of Cook Shire, to the tip of Cape York.
Some of the world’s most extensive and ancient rock painting galleries surround the tiny town of Laura, some of which are available for public viewing. There is also an impressive new Interpretive Centre from which information on the rock art and local Aboriginal culture is available and tours can be arranged.
There are extensive deposits of bauxite along the west or Gulf of Carpentaria coast. Weipa is the centre for this mining activity.
Although much of the Cape is sparsely populated, there are settlements at Cooktown, Lakeland, Laura, Coen, and Weipa, and Aboriginal communities at Wujal Wujal, Hopevale, Lockhart River, Injinoo, New Mapoon, Umagico, Old Mapoon, Napranum, Aurukun, Pormparaaw, and Kowanyama. Torres Strait Islander communities on the mainland are Bamaga and Seisia.
The main industries are tourism, mining, fishing and cattle.