Set out on an epic journey linking Australia’s east and west coasts across some of its most remarkable and rugged terrain this autumn.
The Savannah Way is the longest recognised touring route in Australia, linking Cairns in Tropical North Queensland with Broome in Western Australia’s Kimberley region, and stretches roughly 3700 kilometres. Arcing across Australia’s northern reaches, this is the unorthodox Aussie road trip – away from the typical coastal hubs and urban commotion, through the remote wilds of the Gulf Savannah, skirting the tip of the Gulf of Carpentaria, on through the Northern Territory beneath Kakadu National Park, and across the plains of the Kimberley where the journey ends in Broome.
The route joins the dots between the natural wonders of the Top End, including four World Heritage–listed areas and 15 national parks. Much of the journey is like trekking through a living oil painting of swaying boab trees, seasonal rivers draining into the gulf, waterfalls plunging into deep gorges, small outback towns of little more than a handful of residents and the obligatory pub, and the endless frontier landscape of the Kimberley. The isolation and the distance out here overpower the senses. Day-to-day concerns are carried off on the dusty breeze as you hurtle along highways that spear the horizon, with the constant feeling of being on the way to elsewhere stirring the inner explorer.
While it might get the job done, the Savannah Way isn’t ideally traversed in the family wagon, especially if you want to veer off the beaten track – which is where a good chunk of the enticing destinations hide. The western half of the trek is nearly all sealed roads, but the Cairns to Katherine half can get adventurous. From Normanton in outback Queensland, unpaved tracks edge along the Gulf of Carpentaria through Burketown and Nicholson, into the Northern Territory and past the little fishing village of Borroloola, before crossing the Roper River. You don’t hit a paved road again until you reach Roper Bar, a small settlement just beyond that. This off-road section covers almost a third of the route.
Most trekkers on the Savannah Way typically start out in Cairns, but for a quieter starting point, you may choose Mareeba. Known as ‘The Gateway to the Savannah’, 65 kilometres west of Cairns, Mareeba is surrounded by hundreds of tobacco plantations, as well as mango, avocado and coffee farms. It’s also never far from the multitude of lakes, waterfalls and parklands contained within the Atherton Tablelands region.
This is a sneak peek! To read about the rest of the journey, check out the Autumn 2023 edition of Caravanning Australia.