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Road Tripping the Savannah Way – Cairns to Broome

29 May 2023

The Savannah Way is a spectacular road trip that takes you through the heart of Australia’s tropical north. Starting from Cairns in Queensland through the Northern Territory to Broome in Western Australia. The journey covers a distance of around 3,700 km, passing through some of the most stunning and diverse landscapes and World Heritage locations in the Australian outback.

The road trip typically takes around 2-3 weeks to complete, depending on how much time you want to spend exploring the many attractions along the way. The best time to make your trip along the Savannah Way is in the dry season of May to September. Attempting the roadtrip in the wet season could result in finding some parts of the road closed due to flooding.

Take a look at some of the key highlights of the Savannah Way road trip.

Cairns

The perfect place to start your journey – Cairns. Located in the Far North of Queensland, Australia. It offers perfect weather, spectacular scenery, and plentiful outdoor adventures for those seeking a unique tropical escape. There’s something for everyone in Cairns—from visitors who just want to take it easy to those who seek an active, outdoor lifestyle. The iconic Great Barrier Reef is surely one of Cairns’ main drawcards. Snorkelling or diving in its colorful underwater world will be an unforgettable experience.

There are numerous unique and interesting wildlife and nature experiences to be had, like the nightly migration of the Ulysses butterflies. The world-renowned Daintree Rainforest is also nearby and can easily be explored in a day trip. Cairns is an exciting and diverse city, with plenty of shopping, dining, entertainment, and nightlife. It’s laid-back, friendly atmosphere makes it welcoming to all.

Daintree Rainforest

The Daintree Rainforest is a large tropical rainforest located in Far North Queensland, Australia. It is one of the largest and oldest tropical rainforests in the world, and is part of the wet tropics of Queensland World Heritage Site. The region is home to an incredibly diverse range of plants and animals. Some species even date back to the age of the dinosaurs. Some of the most notable species include the Green Ringtail Possum, the Southern Cassowary, the Daintree River Purple Olive Python, the Giant White-tailed Rat, and the southern corroboree frog.

Mount Surprise

Mount Surprise is a small rural town in Queensland, Australia, located in the local government area of the Etheridge Shire. It is located approximately 433km northwest of Townsville and 92km east of Georgetown and provides services to the outlying cattle stations and local community. Featuring a variety of historic buildings and local attractions, including a local golf club, bird watching, wildflowers, fishing, camping, bushwalking and there is a general store which also serves as a post office.

Undara Lava Tubes

The Undara Lava Tubes are a spectacular natural phenomenon located in the Undara Volcanic National Park. The area was made up of 19 craters formed from a volcanic explosion over 190,000 years ago. The molten rock formed channels which cooled and solidified to become an extensive system of volcanic pipes, or ‘lava tubes’. A staggered 380-metre section of the caves has been open to the public since 1990. Visitors can explore the tube system and see the red glowing ‘Sunset Cave’ and ‘Cathedral Cave’. There are also modern comforts like a nearby campground and wildlife sanctuary.

This geological wonder is one of the longest lava tube systems in the world. Definitely a must-see on any Savannah Way road trip.

Georgetown

Home to many Indigenous rock art sites and a popular stop for tourists travelling along the Savannah Way. Georgetown has many attractions such as the Gulf Country Savanna Wildlife Park. Here you can explore native wildlife, and the Etheridge Gold Fields, which are about 40kms south of the town. Georgetown is full of friendly and welcoming people and a stunning tropical climate. It is a popular place to experience true outback Queensland.

Hells Gate is a spectacular natural rock formation located about 60 km south-west of Georgetown in Queensland, Australia. The steep red and orange rocks form an unusual natural arched entrance through which a small river flows. It is believed to have been formed thousands of years ago due to the force of lava outpouring from nearby Mount Mulligan. Today, the site provides a great opportunity to explore an intriguing natural landmark, and visitors can walk along the trail around the rocks and take in the view from the lookout platform at the top. The area is popular with bushwalkers and four-wheel drivers, and visitors will find a range of camping and accommodation options nearby. Horse riding is available and visitors can also explore a network of 100 km of trails nearby. The area is home to an array of wildlife including native birds, sugar gliders, wallabies, goannas and kangaroos.

Cobbold Gorge

Cobbold Gorge, Image from Tourism Australia.

Cobbold Gorge is an escarpment located in the Gulf Country region of Queensland, Australia. Composed of ancient sandstone that is over 360 million years old and features steep cliffs, deep gorges, and stunning views. Visitors to the area can take guided tours through the gorge, go canoeing, and follow hiking trails. There are also abundant wildlife opportunities in the area, including wallaroos, turtles, and birdwatching. Situated near Forsayth, this area is unique for its diverse geological formations, geological history, rich wildlife and Aboriginal cultural history. Limited 4WD access is available to explore the gorge. If you’re lucky you may spot various species of native wildlife, such as kangaroos, wallabies, goannas, possums, and a wide variety of bird life.

You can also take Aboriginal art and cultural tours through the gorge, learning about the local aboriginal cultural heritage. Cobbold Gorge is a spectacular place to visit. With its rugged surroundings, peace, and tranquillity providing a perfect getaway for hikers, campers, picnic-goers, and nature lovers alike.

Normanton

This Queensland town is the closest settlement to the world-famous Cretaceous-era fossil site at Koorotalka, which is located just northwest. Preserved dinosaur footprints locked in sandstone since the dinosaur era some 135 million years ago. Such sites are extremely rare.

Krys the Savannah King is the star of Normanton. The life-size statue is of the largest crocodile ever caught back in 1957. Make sure you get your selfie with the croc on your way through this Queensland town.

Normanton is also the home of the popular Purple Pub which is a remnant of the historic Normanton Hotel established in 1912. Constructed after significant flooding in the area in 1911. Not only is it a unique kitschy landmark, but also provides rooms and a bar full of cold drinks and snacks.

And we can’t forget the Big Barramundi! Fishing for Barramundi is a popular activity in the area. Many local tour operators and fishing charters offer guided trips for anglers looking to target these large sportfish. So it is no surprise that this fish is celebrated with its six metre long tourist attraction.

Karumba

The town is a popular tourist destination known for its fishing, caravan parks, and aquaculture farms. The town is close to the Palmer River which flows into the Gulf and is a popular spot for birdwatching, boating, and fishing. There are several recreational activities for visitors in and around the area, such as golfing, kayaking, and four-wheel driving. The area also has a number of shops, pubs, and clubs.

If bird watching and fishing are two things you love to do, then make sure Karumba is on your itinerary as you Road Trip the Savannah Way.

Boodjamulla National Park

Formerly known as Lawn Hill National Park, this stunning location is home to the Lawn Hill Gorge, a natural swimming hole surrounded by towering red cliffs. Located 80 kilometers from Burketown it is full of sights and adventure. Go kayaking, hiking, or simply relax and take in the breathtaking views. The park has a significant cultural history and is located in the Gulf Country region. The gorge, an oasis in the rugged sandstone landscape, is a popular spot for bushwalking, canoeing, birdwatching and swimming.

The park forms part of the traditional lands of the Waanyi Aboriginal people, who are the traditional owners of the land and have a close connection to it. The park protects an extensive section of ancient sandstone ranges, deep gorges, spectacular scenery, lush outback oases, rare and endangered species, and over 1,000 well-preserved and documented Aboriginal sites. The main features of the park are the spectacular Lawn Hill Gorge and its three major waterholes, including the lowest, lushly vegetated Adels Grove Billabong.

Borroloola

Borroloola is a town situated on the coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria in the Northern Territory of outback Australia. Established in 1932 as a town for the local Aboriginal population, the town now serves as a popular tourist destination due to its close proximity to the Gulf and its range of landmarks and attractions. Borroloola is known for its unique history, which includes tropical and indigenous culture, nature and wildlife, and its local art galleries. Visitors can find adventure on the river, including fishing, boating, and kayaking, as well as exploring the nearby beaches, waterholes, and historic sites. Enjoy a meal at one of the town’s restaurants, take a tour through the art galleries, and find local products and souvenirs from the markets.

The McArthur River Caravan Park is located in the town of McArthur, in the Northern Territory of Australia. It is around nine kilometres away from the larger town of Mataranka. The park offers a range of accommodation options including powered and unpowered sites, a bunk house and self-contained cabins and a range of on-site activities including a swimming pool, children’s playground and BBQ area.

Lorella Springs

Lorella Springs is a 102,000 acre cattle station and eco-resort located about 230 kilometres north of Borroloola, Northern Territory, Australia. The station lies within the catchment of the Wildman and South Norman Rivers surrounded by ancient sandstone escarpments and lush grasslands. The property – which has been restored over the past 30 years – has an increasing number of freshwater springs, the result of decades of careful water management and revegetation programmes.

The property offers travelers an array of activities and experiences such as hot springs, waterfalls, swimming holes, fishing, canoeing, beach driving along the Gulf of Carpentaria, 4WD tours, fishing, bird watching, barramundi boats, swimming holes and horse riding. Lorella Springs is dedicated to protecting and conserving the natural environment, and is regularly researched by professional earth scientists and conservation bodies.

Lost City in Limmen National Park


Located just a 30-minute drive from Lorella Springs is The Lost City. An unusual natural rock formation located in the northern part of the Limmen National Park in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia. The formation is made up of mostly beehive-shaped monoliths and is believed to date back around 10,000 years. The Park is a great spot for bushwalking and canoeing, and the Lost City is an impressive site to explore. There are few walking trails and rock pools scattered around the area.

Daly Waters

A small Australian town located in the Northern Territory, situated about 618km south of Darwin on the Stuart Highway. The town first developed as a popular watering hole for drovers on the regular stock route between Northern Australia and the cattle stations of the south, and is now a popular tourist stopover. Daly Waters has numerous attractions, including a quirky pub, an airstrip, an old post office, historic buildings, a museum, outback camping, and bushwalking. The area is also known for its spectacular sunsets and birdwatching.

Mataranka

Mataranka is a town located approximately 350km south of Darwin, Northern Territory. It is situated on the Stuart Highway, the road connecting Kakadu National Park, Katherine, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs.

Located on the banks of the Roper River, its secluded natural beauty invites nature lovers from around the country. The thermal springs, rumoured to have healing qualities, are a must-see on your Savannah Way road trip itinerary. The nearby Mataranka Falls is a popular swimming spot, and its sandy beach is perfect for sun-bathing. There are also numerous walking tracks available around the town, giving visitors the chance to explore its beautiful landscape.

Mataranka is a major hub for Indigenous Australian culture, as there are several Aboriginal communities in the area. There is also a strong Indigenous Australian presence at the local markets, where visitors can purchase fresh produce, crafts and artwork from local Indigenous artists. With its natural beauty, warm climate and diverse wildlife, Mataranka is the perfect place to stop on your road trip on the Savannah Way.

Katherine Gorge

Nitmiluk National Park, image by Tourism Australia.

A series of thirteen gorges carved by the Katherine River in Nitmiluk National Park, Northern Territory, Australia. The Katherine Gorge area is full of majestic colors, and flanked by red sandstone escarpments, lush palm trees, and clear blue water. It is a popular spot for swimming, canoeing, rafting, and other water activities, as well as photography and nature hikes. Visitors can take a boat tour of the gorges to learn about the region’s history, or venture out into the park to explore the boardwalks, lookouts, and bushwalking tracks. There are also a variety of camping grounds and picnic facilities available.

Kakadu National Park

This protected area in the Northern Territory of Australia, is located 160km east of Darwin. Known for its World Heritage-listed natural and cultural sites, the park contains the largest concentration of Aboriginal rock art in the world. Features include antiquity rock shelters, ancient Aboriginal farming sites and monsoon rainforests. Home to the world’s largest collection of biodiversity, including many endangered species such as saltwater crocodiles, freshwater crocodiles, river dolphins, wallabies, bats, koalas, dingoes and more. It is also home to a rich variety of bird life and a large collection of sea life.

The park is an essential source of food, cultural practices and spiritual health to the traditional owners in the area. Many of the sites in the park are culturally significant to some of the traditional owners who still visit. Explore the park’s many hiking trails, and take a dip in one of its stunning waterfalls.

Kununurra

Located in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia, approximately 37 kms from the Northern Territory border in the Ord River valley. Established in 1961, following the building of the Ord River Dam, it is the closest major settlement to the Argyle diamond mine – the largest diamond mine in the southern hemisphere. The town is a popular holiday destination due to its unique location and access to Australia’s tropical north, and boasts many attractions including Lake Kununurra, a man-made reservoir created from part of the Ord River; the renowned boab tree in the main street; Mirima National Park,a protected nature reserve with spectacular views and wildlife; the Kelly’s Knob Lookout for stargazing; and Zebra Rock,an outcrop of colourful striped rock rich in zircon, used to create jewellery and other souvenirs. You’ll want to visit Kununurra for its fresh produce, good coffee, art galleries, museums, and unique cultural activities.

Kununurra is roughly a 45-minute drive from the majestic Lake Argyle. The lake is incredible beautiful, contains diverse wildlife, and unique natural features. Lake Argyle is Australia’s largest man-made lake and a mecca for adventure seekers and nature lovers alike. Visitors to the area can explore the lake’s turquoise waters by boat, take a scenic drive around the lake, or swim in its clear refreshing waters.

the area is a great destination for nature lovers wanting to experience the beauty of the East Kimberley region.

Purnululu National Park

Purnululu National Park is a World Heritage Site located in the remote East Kimberley region of Western Australia. The park is home to the iconic Bungle Bungle Range, a series of 20-meter tall beehive-shaped sandstone domes as well as numerous gorges and waterfalls. Purnululu is also home to rare and endemic wildlife species including the Northern Quoll, Red-tailed Phascogale, and the Orange-bellied Parrot. The park is also rich in Aboriginal culture and visitors may explore beautiful sacred sites, rock paintings and other artifacts.

Fitzroy Crossing

This remote town, located in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, was established in 1885 as a police post and telegraph station. Today it is now a major regional centre. It is located at the junction of the Great Northern and Gibb Rivers, and has a population of approximately 1,200 people, most of whom are Indigenous Australians. It is home to a range of services including an Aboriginal medical service, educational facilities, and a large number of stores. Visitors to the area have the opportunity to explore the local caves, rock art galleries and bush tucker areas. There is also a thriving Aboriginal art scene, with several local galleries displaying works by recognised artists.

Broome

The final stop on the Savannah Way is the coastal town of Broome! And it is certainly the perfect location for a grand finish to road tripping the Savannah Way.

Start by exploring Broome’s iconic Cable Beach where you can enjoy the white sand, blue waters, and sunset. You can even try your hand at camel riding! Visit Gantheaume Point and explore the natural beauty of the Broome Peninsula.

Head to the North West and visit the town of Derby and Windjana Gorge and explore the remarkable karst landscape. Take a boat ride to the Horizontal Falls and be mesmerised by the sheer beauty of the falls. Travel back towards Cape Leveque and have dinner at one of the many restaurants there. And if you still have some time, make sure you explore the world-renowned Geikie Gorge National Park.

The Savannah Way is the perfect road trip for those looking for adventure in the Outback. This highway spans thousands of miles through the Australian Outback from Cairns to Broome, taking you through some of the most unique terrain in the country. Along the way, travelers have the chance to explore many Aboriginal communities and take part in an array of activities such as hiking, bird watching, and bush walking. You can also experience Outback pub culture and take in the stunning scenery from the many overlooks. The Savannah Way is an experience like no other and an opportunity to explore the beautiful and diverse landscapes of Australia!

Don’t have your own 4WD? Hire one from us to visit some of the locations on our list above. Make sure your car is approved for the journey and any unsealed roads. Contact us to help you plan your trip.

Feature image by Sean Scott.