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Your Ultimate Guide To The Savannah Way

by Meri Gasem

The Savannah Way is Australia’s ultimate escapade connecting Tropical North Queensland to the Kimberley in Western Australia. It begins at Cairns, runs through the tropical savannah of northern Australia and ends 3700km later at Broome. The route was popularised in 2004 when it got a tourist-friendly makeover with additional road signage.

The road takes you through 15 National Parks and 5 World Heritage Areas. You’ll see old gold mining towns, outback cattle stations, the longest lava tubes and Australia’s first pub! You get to encounter unique species of flora and fauna that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

You get to experience the real outback feeling, crystal clear waterfalls and hot springs, astonishing rock formations, a piece of the Aboriginal culture, affluence of wildlife and the spectacular Lost City rock formations.

The Savannah Way is the longest yet most captivating route in Australia. Whether you choose to do the entire length of the course or just a part of it, you won’t be disappointed.

Important Travel Tips

  • Basic Road Info: The Savannah Way is a 3700km long self-drive route driven mainly on Highway 1 and sealed roads, as well as off-road. It traverses through North Queensland, the Northern Territory and the Kimberley Region. The Queensland Government defines it as a State Strategic Touring Route. The Way is easy to follow as it includes extensive road signage, maps and informational centres. However, there are sections of the road up to 700km long without a roadhouse or service station, leading to driver fatigue.
  • Best Travel Time: May to September or the dry season is the best time to do the Savannah Way. If you choose to do the route during the wet season, you’ll find some road parts closed due to flooding. While the original course doesn’t include river crossing, you won’t be able to make some unmissable detours in the wet season.
  • Estimated Travel Time: Allow at least 20 days to experience the authentic charm of the Savannah Way if you decide to do the entire course. You can do most sections in less than 10 days; for the Queensland section, for example, you need 6 days.
  • What To Bring: A high-clearance 4WD is a must, as well as fuel canisters. Fuel can get 40% more expensive the deeper inland you go. Bring spare tyres, sunscreen, extra groceries, drinking water and water-resistant walking shoes. Don’t forget your bathing suit!

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Cairns To Undara

Your Savannah Way adventure starts at Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. Merely 60km west From tropical Queensland, the route takes you through Atherton Tablelands. Drive through the rich macadamia fields and stop for coffee in the region responsible for 70% of Australia’s coffee production. Drop by the Ravenshoe Hotel, the highest pub at 916km above sea level or relax by the Millstream Falls. An hour and a half drive from the falls will take you to Undara Volcanic National Park, settled near the small town of Mount Surprise. Undara means a long way in Aboriginal – the park protects the largest lava tube in Australia. About 190,000 years ago, 23 cubic kilometres of lava ran into a river bed and kept flowing for 160km, ending in the world’s most extended lava flow and lava tube. Settle for the night at some of the camps near the National Park.

Places To Stay

Paid: Undara Experience or Pinnarendi Station Stay & Cafe

Free: Doggers Delight or 8 Mile Creek

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Undara To Georgetown

Take off from Undara, and in 200km, you’ll reach the tiny, sleepy Georgetown. This former gold mining town is the core of the Gulf gemstone region. Visit the exquisite Ted Elliott Mineral Collection at the council building in the centre. Georgetown is your gateway station for Cobbold Gorge. This hidden outback oasis is one of the youngest gorges in Queensland, only 10,000 years old! It’s available for a visit via a 3-hour guided tour only from April to October, and it’s an exceptional experience you shouldn’t miss.

Places To Stay

Paid: Cobbold Gorge Caravan Park or Goldfields Van Park

Free: Routh Creek Campsite or Gilbert River West

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Georgetown To Normanton

The route takes you from Georgetown to Normanton; you can opt for a halfway stop at Croydon. A walk through the old mining town and the visitors’ centre speaks volumes about the history of Croydon. Further down the road, you’ll reach Normanton. Although fairly small and sparsely populated, there’s one must-do activity in Normanton – the historic Gulflander train ride. Don’t miss a photo with Krys, the large crocodile sculpture and visit the Mutton Hole Wetlands Conservation Park. For a unique pub experience drop by at the Purple Pub.

Places To Stay

Paid: Normanton Tourist Park or Gulfland Motel & Caravan Park

Free: Normanton SC RV Camp or Little Bynoe River

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Normanton To Burketown

Taking off from Normanton stop halfway for a quick dip at the Leichhardt Falls, before continuing to Burketown. At Burketown you’ll find the second National Park on the Savannah Way – the Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park. The park is an idyllic oasis in the outback, flaunting dramatic gorge scenery, diverse wildlife, exciting walks, kayaking, and fossils deposits from 25 million years ago. It’s the place where the orange sandstone cliffs are intervening with the emerald blue waters. Stop by some of the bush pubs for refreshment. Don’t forget to try fishing while in Burketown. The World Barramundi Fishing Championships happen here every Easter, but the fish are here year-round for you to catch. If you’re an early riser, you’ll get to experience the ‘Morning Glory’- a phenomenon where the clouds travel more than 60km/h before dawn, from late September to early November.

Places To Stay

Paid: Burketown Caravan Park

Free: One Mile Creek – Beames Bridge or Leichhardt Falls Camp

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Burketown To Borroloola

The Queensland leg of the Savannah Way ends, and the Northern Territory begins. At Borroloola, you’ll find the third National Park and the Lost City-impressive towering sandstone formations spread out on over 8 square kilometres. An hour-long walk through the wildlife-rich Limmen National Park will take you to these 5 to 40-metre high rock formations. Since they’re off the beaten path, it’s never crowded. You can spend the night here, make a detour to Lorella Springs Wilderness Park the next day for another 4WD challenge, or continue to Cape Crawford.

Places To Stay

Paid: McArthur River Caravan Park or Southern Lost City Campground

Free: Wearyan River or Ryans Bend

Read Next: Every Free Camp You Need To Know About In Northern Territory

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Borroloola To Mataranka

From Borroloola to Mataranka, you’ll reach Elsey National Park, an oasis with crystal-clear springs, picturesque walking tracks and historic sites. Mataranka Thermal Pool and Rainbow Springs are located outside of the national park, a 20-minute walk from the carpark, and are pretty popular. Bitter Springs are more secluded, not as packed and settled in Elsey National Park. Both locations are perfect for unwinding after a long drive. Take the Botanic Walk around the Mataranka Falls to stretch your legs before ending the day.

Places To Stay

Paid: Little Roper Stock Camp or Mataranka Homestead Tourist Resort

Free: Warloch Rest Area or Stirling Mill WWII Rest Stop

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Mataranka To Katherine

Katherine is the centre of the Northern Territory and just 110km west from Mataranka. The real gem of the region is the Nitmiluk National Park, the Katherine Gorge and Edith Falls and the Katherine Hot Springs. For an authentic Aboriginal experience, visit the Top Didj & Art Gallery and learn how to make a fire! If you’re feeling more adventurous, hit the Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park, explore the limestone landscapes and the various species of bats. The real challenge, however, is the Jatbul Trail, a five-day walk suitable for avid hikers.

Places To Stay

Paid: Boab Caravan Park or Riverview Tourist Village

Free: Emungalan Gravel Pit or Edith Bush Camp

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Katherine To Kununurra

It’s time for your second border crossing, this time entering Western Australia. Kununurra is also the west starting point of the Gibb River Road and gateway to Western Australia’s wilderness. You can visit Mirima National Park, explore Ord River at sunset or visit the El Questro Wilderness Park to dip in the Emma Gorge. If you’re willing to take the edge off with a nice glass of Ord River rum, drop by the family-run Hoochery Distillery for a one-of-a-kind experience.

Places To Stay

Paid: Hidden Valley Caravan Park or Kimberleyland Waterfront Holiday Park

Free: Button’s Crossing or Cockburn Rest Area

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Kununurra To Halls Creek

Somewhere on the middle of the road between Kununurra and Halls Creek, stop by the dramatic sedimentary formations known as the Bungle Bungles. Formed 360 million years ago, they are the most fantastic site in the Kimberley region. Are you feeling like treating yourself? Take a scenic flight over the stunning rocks. Continue your journey down to Halls Creek, where you can see Wolfie Creek Crater, formed when a meteorite hit the earth 300 thousand years ago. Walk to the striking formation of white quartz called the China Wall, and end the day at the Mary Pool, part of a cattle station with some friendly cows roaming around occasionally.

Places To Stay

Paid: Old Halls Creek Lodge or Bungle Bungle Caravan Park

Free: Caroline Pool or Little Panton Bore

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Halls Creek To Fitzroy Crossing

Fitzroy Crossing is the hub for the communities in the Fitzroy Valley and the ideal place to cross the Fitzroy River during the wet season. It’s home to Geikie Gorge National Park that you can explore on foot or by cruise. The Mimbi Caves are another unmissable spot, an insight into the local Aboriginal country. Drop by the visitor’s centre to see the two impressive Aboriginal art galleries. Rest up and get ready for the last stretch of your Savannah Way escapade.

Places To Stay

Paid: Fitzroy River Lodge or Mimbi Caves Campground.

Free: Ngumban Cliff Rest Area or RAAF Boab Quarry.

Read Next: 7 Incredible Broome and North West Experiences To Have On Your Big Lap

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Fitzroy Crossing To Broome

The Savannah Way ends at the tropical beaches of Broome – what better way to end a weeks-long adventure? Take a pearl farm tour, visit the Malcolm Douglas crocodile park or explore the dinosaur footprints at Gantheaume Point. Enjoy a camel ride at sunset at Cable Beach or just lay in the sun and listen to the waves. Tick that box; you did the Savannah Way, one of Australia’s greatest, adventure-filled drives!

Places To Stay

Paid: Broome Caravan Park or Broome’s Gateway Pet-Friendly Caravan Park

Free: Nillibubbica Rest Area or Willie Creek Camp

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Read Next: 96 Things To Know About Your Big Lap

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