Road trip: The Savannah Way

Adels Grove Savannah Way my nrma road trips
Adels Grove Savannah Way my nrma road trips
4493km
Adventure
Nature
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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

Stop 1: Cool off in Millaa Millaa Falls

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.

Milaa Milaa Falls Savannah Way my nrma road trips
Millaa Millaa Falls (Photo credit: Darren Jew)
Stop 2: Stay in Undara

Undara Experience has a range of accommodation, from huts to tents and even converted railway carriages.

Day 2: Undara to Croydon

4hr | 292km

Stop 1: Savour lunch at Mount Surprise

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.

Stop 2: Sleep in Croydon

Club Hotel has comfortable motel units, a small but welcome pool and does great steaks.

Day 3: Croydon to Karumba

3hr | 226km

Stop 1: Dine with a crocodile in Normanton

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.

Purple Pub Savannah Way my nrma road trips
Purple pub, Normanton (Photo credit: Tourism NT)
Stop 2: Catch your own dinner and stay in Kurumba

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

Stop 1: Camp or glamp with river views

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.

Adels Grove Savannah Way my nrma road trips
Adels Grove (Photo credit: Garry Norris)

Day 5: Adels Grove to Lorella Springs

8hr | 663km

Stop 1: Soak and stay at Lorella Springs

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

Stop 1: Explore Limmen National Park

Cool off in Butterfly Springs or wander around the sandstone spires of the Southern Lost City – both in Limmen National Park.

Stop 2: Discover more hot springs and stay in Mataranka

Mataranka is another Top End spot where you can chill out in hot springs. At the end of the day, you’ll find Bitter Springs Cabins and Camping just a short walk from the thermal pools.

Bitter Springs Underwater Savannah Way my nrma road trips
Bitter Springs (Photo credit: Jane Burhop - Common Ventures; Tourism NT)

Day 7: Mataranka to Nitmiluk

1hr 30min | 136km

Stop 1: Take it easy at Nitmiluk Gorge

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.

Cicada Lodge Savannah Way my nrma road trips
Cicada Lodge (Photo credit: Shaana McNaught; Tourism NT)

Day 8: Nitmiluk to Timber Creek

4hr | 317km

Stop 1: See the Boab trees of Victoria River

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.

King George Falls Savannah Way my nrma road trips
King George Falls (Photo credit: Chris Searl)

Day 9: Timber Creek to Lake Argyle

3hr | 225km

Stop 1: Cruise the rest at Lake Argyle

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

Stop 1: Experience the best of El Questro

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.

Emma Gorge Savannah Way my nrma road trips
Emma Gorge (Photo credit: Tourism Western Australia)

Day 11: El Questro to Halls Creek

5hr | 371km

Day 12: Halls Creek to Fitzroy Crossing

3hr | 291km

Stop 1: Float along Giekie Gorge

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.

Savannah Way Geike Gorge
Giekie Gorge (Photo credit: Tourism Western Australia)
Stop 2: Stay at Fitzroy Crossing

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

Stop 1: See a horizontal waterfall

Tick the famous horizontal waterfall – created by huge tidal surges flowing between narrow island gaps – off your bucket list in Kimbolton.

Horizontal Waterfalls Savannah Way my nrma road trips
Horizontal waterfalls (Photo credit: Tourism Western Australia)
Stop 2: Stay in Derby

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

Stop 1: Explore and stay at Broome

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!

Pearl Luggers Savannah Way my nrma road trips
Pearl Luggers (Photo credit: Tourism Western Australia)

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