A Savannah Way road trip is an untold adventure waiting to be discovered in every different way, by every different visitor. You can plan this journey, but you can never predict the stories you’ll collect, the expansive landscapes you’ll witness, or the roads you’ll navigate.
Stretching from Cairns to Broome, The Savannah Way road trip – Australia’s longest and arguably most fascinating route – is a journey within everyone’s reach. While much of the road is unsealed and there’s some water courses to ford along the way, the Queensland leg is an achievable route without loads of specialist equipment or experience.
Heading west from Cairns, take the drive up the Kuranda Range and out onto the Atherton Tablelands to Mareeba. Wind your way out through the cane fields, macadamia plantations and mango orchards that this stretch of Queensland is so renowned for.
Day one of your drive is around 4 hours on the road, so with a couple of pit stops you’ll be at Undara just in time to join a guided tour of the area and a satisfying bubbles. Undara National Park is home to world’s longest lava tube system and Undara Experience offers a range of tours, including sunset wildlife spotting.
Head from Undara to Mount Surprise, where you can try your hand at fossicking! Purchase a fossicking licence from The Gem Den – you’ll know you’re in the right spot when you happen across a life-sized checkerboard out front.
Wake to the sounds of local bird calls as morning breaks, pack the car and hit the road to Georgetown. Continue west and take a small detour towards Cobbold Gorge – you’ll know your on the right track when you leave the sealed road behind you.
A guided tour is the only way you can explore this spectacular formation: daily tours include both a walking component and a cruise through the gorge, where rugged sandstone walls soar up to 30m on either side. Active travellers can explore the gorge under their own steam on a stand-up paddleboard.
The old gold mining town of Croydon, with its kangaroo sculptures and ‘true blue’ entrance to the visitor centre, is worth a rest stop before forging on to Normanton.
Normanton is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it type of place, that on first glance seems to be most famous for its purple pub and Gold Rush heritage. But it’s well worth stopping if only to ride the historic Gulflander train, a legend of the outback that was once said to travel ‘from nowhere to nowhere’.
Take a 70km side trip from Normanton to Karumba, where the place to be as the sun goes down is the Sunset Tavern at Karumba Point. You can set up for the night at the Karumba Sunset Caravan Park, before enjoying a fresh feed of mud crab and seafood for dinner.
Up next is a highlight of the trip, Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park. Accommodation – either camping or cabins – is at Adel’s Grove, where you can kayak up the gorge to the idyllic Indari Falls. This is a perfect spot for cooling off after a hot day on the road. It’s home to some iconic Australian aesthetics – red clay and turquoise, mineral infused waters.
Your final day on the road will lead you to Burketown. Most visitors to Burketown come for the fishing – each Easter, the World Barramundi Fishing Championships offers more than $20,000 in prize money!
If you overnight at Burketown – from late September to early November – early risers are treated to the phenomenon called the ‘Morning Glory’. These spectacular rolling clouds travel at up to 60km per hour and extend as far as the eye can see, appearing in the hours before dawn.
There’s plenty to be said for the landmarks you’ll stop at along The Savannah Way, but the front row seats to windscreen views are special in themselves.