From sea to sea, the trip across the top of Australia along the Savannah Way from tropical Cairns in Queensland to Broome on the WA coast is one of the country’s most incredible Outback journeys.
You’ll need at least two weeks to drive the whole thing comfortably, more if you really want to explore along the way. While there are unsealed 4WD sections, the main route (apart from a 700km section between Normanton and Borroloola) is sealed – but it’s important to note that some sections are impassable during the wet season (November to April).
Hero image credit: Garry Norris
Day 1: Cairns to Undara
3hr 30min | 261km
Hit the road west on Highway 1, winding your way up the rainforest smothered range to the Atherton Tablelands. There’s plenty of places to stop along the way – Mareeba for coffee, Atherton for gold rush history and magical Millaa Millaa Falls for a quick dip.
Undara Experience has a range of accommodation, from huts to tents and even converted railway carriages.
Day 2: Undara to Croydon
4hr | 292km
Start the day with a two hour tour of some of the world’s longest lava tubes. Mount Surprise Pub is good spot to stop for lunch before you head across the golden savannah grasslands that this transcontinental route is named after.
Club Hotel has comfortable motel units, a small but welcome pool and does great steaks.
Day 3: Croydon to Karumba
3hr | 226km
An icon here in Gulf country is the famously purple Purple Pub at Normanton – they do a pretty good pub lunch and you can snap a selfie beside the replica of one of the largest crocodiles (8.63m) ever caught.
Karumba is one of the few towns on this route that is actually on the coast, and is famous for its fishing. If you don’t get any bites, Karumba’s Sunset Tavern is the place to go for fresh caught barramundi and chips. Then, enjoy beachfront accommodation at the End of the Road Motel which offers self-contained apartments perfect for a family getaway. Or stay at Savannah Shores at Karumba Point which has a swimming pool, BBQ and crab cooker for guests to enjoy.
Day 4: Karumba to Adels Grove
5-6hr | 453km
It’s a long day’s drive today but the destination is worth the long haul. Adels Grove is a privately run camping park and resort with serene swimming holes and a restaurant and bar just 10km from one of the outback’s most beautiful spots, the palm filled Boodjamulla, or Lawn Hill Gorge.
Day 5: Adels Grove to Lorella Springs
8hr | 663km
Enjoy big skies and plenty of wide open space as you continue west across the vast Gulf Savannah. Relax at day’s end with a soak in the thermal pool beside the campground at Lorella Springs, one of the best wild swimming holes in the Gulf. Camp or stay in one of the self contained air conditioned cabins and enjoy a drink at the shady outdoor bar.
Day 6: Lorella Springs to Mataranka
6-7hr | 456km
Cool off in Butterfly Springs or wander around the sandstone spires of the Southern Lost City – both in Limmen National Park.
Day 7: Mataranka to Nitmiluk
1hr 30min | 136km
Celebrate the halfway point of your journey with a leisurely drive to Katherine and an afternoon cruising through Nitmiluk Gorge, a dramatic chain of 13 scenic gorges flanked by towering red sandstone cliffs. Then treat yourself to a night of luxury at Cicada Lodge or in one of the safari tents or chalets in the national park.
Day 8: Nitmiluk to Timber Creek
4hr | 317km
By the time you get to Timber Creek, on the banks of the crocodile filled Victoria River, you’ll start to see the boab trees that are synonymous with the Kimberley – there’s a huge one inscribed by explorer Augustus Gregory in 1855 not far from the highway just west of Timber Creek. Wirib Store & Tourism Park offers shady campsites beside the Victoria River as well as ensuite cabins.
Day 9: Timber Creek to Lake Argyle
3hr | 225km
The sandstone domes in Keep River National Park are the same geological formations as the Bungle Bungles, but a lot easier to get to. Explore them on the 7km Jarnem Loop Walk and enjoy a sunset cruise on Lake Argyle.
After dark, choose from luxury lakeview villas, studio cabins or a shady campsite at Lake Argyle Resort & Caravan Park, and have a swim in the infinity pool, it’s one of the most spectacular in the Kimberley.
Day 10: Lake Argyle to El Questro
3hr | 173km
You could spend several days exploring El Questro with its 4WD tours, fishing trips, horse treks, river cruises and helicopter flights, but if you’ve only got an afternoon to spare, take a walk and a swim in beautiful Emma Gorge. El Questro is also home to five levels of accommodation, plus three restaurants, bars and a swimming pool.
Day 11: El Questro to Halls Creek
5hr | 371km
You’ll need a 4WD to explore Purnululu, aka the Bungle Bungles, by road. Bungle Bungle Caravan Park does 4WD tours to Purnululu, or opt for a scenic helicopter flight. The art centre at Warmun is another must see; its founding artists include Queenie McKenzie and Rover Thomas.
Day 12: Halls Creek to Fitzroy Crossing
3hr | 291km
A cruise through Giekie Gorge, particularly in the late afternoon when the rock walls glow in the sun, is a highlight of any Kimberley road trip. You’ll see plenty of freshwater crocodiles and probably a few turtles as well.
Fitzroy River Lodge has a swimming pool, barbecue, tennis courts and plenty of room to camp as well as motel units and self contained cabins.
If you'd prefer to stay more centrally, try the Fitzroy Worker's Camp. Camp kitchens, laundry services and BBQs are all provided.
Day 13: Fitzroy Crossing to Derby
3hr | 257km
Tick the famous horizontal waterfall – created by huge tidal surges flowing between narrow island gaps – off your bucket list in Kimbolton.
The Derby Boab Inn offers affordable accommodation. There is a choice of accommodation types, including a double or single room and family rooms.
Day 14: Derby to Broome
2hr | 220km
Wander through Broome’s historic Chinatown, visit the Pearl Luggers Museum and perhaps a pearl showroom or two. Watch the sun slide into the sea from the back of a swaying camel on Broome’s Cable Beach, followed by a celebratory drink at Sunset Bar & Grill Bar and a night at Cable Beach Club Resort & Spa – after driving all the way across the country, you deserve it!
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