Darwin - Katherine - Timber Creek - Kununurra - Halls Creek - Broome
Cut a line between the desert and tropics on this rugged outback adventure between Darwin and Broome. You'll see palms sprouting from rust-red cliffs, crocodiles baking in gorges and boab trees bursting with fruit. Cruise through Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park and see Aboriginal rock art in Keep River National Park. Canoe down Ord River and huge, man-made Lake Argyle. Explore the Bungle Bungle Range in Purnululu National Park, bushwalk to Mitchell Falls and visit the Argyle Diamond Mine. See the bulbous Boab Prison Tree near Derby and swim from Broome's Cable Beach, with its warm waters and soft dreamlike sand. The Savannah Way also has many bird watching opportunities, so pack binoculars and a field guide.
At a glance:
Drive a half-day drive south from Darwin along the Stuart Highway to the outback township of Katherine. Just nearby are the rugged landscapes, dramatic waterfalls and lush gorges of Nitmiluk National Park. Coast through Katherine Gorge on a canoe or boat tour or soar above the spectacular series of gorges on a helicopter. Camp at the gorge or stay overnight in Katherine township. You can extend your trip with a four to five day trek on the Jatbula Trail between Katherine Gorge and Edith Falls. See the limestone Cutta Cutta Caves or travel south to Manyallaluk for an Aboriginal cultural tour.
Turn off the Victoria Highway for the Flora River Nature Park. Here you can canoe past lush vegetation and tufa dams and walk floodplain and savannah woodland. Further down the highway is vast Gregory National Park, where you can follow the Escarpment Lookout Walk for stunning views or the Joe Creek Walk past rock art and palms. Cruise down the Victoria River at sunset, spotting saltwater crocodiles and boab trees. See thousands of crocs up close at the Coolibah Crocodile Farm and climb to Kuwang Lookout for a view of Stokes Range. In the southern part of the park, you can walk to Limestone Gorge and four wheel drive the rugged 90 kilometre (56 mile) Bullita Stock Route. Camp at the historic Bullita Homestead or stay overnight at Timber Creek.
Many kilometres of boabs and savannah past Timber Creek you’ll find the half a million acre Bullo River Station. Here you can fish, muster cattle, catch bulls and do a helicopter tour. Just before the Western Australia border you’ll hit Keep River National Park. See the Aboriginal rock art at Keep River Gorge and the Rainbow Serpent painted on rock at Nganalam. Over the border is Kununurra, where you can cruise Ord River and vast, man-made Lake Argyle. Take a scenic flight over the beehive mounds of the Bungle Bungles, the distant Mitchell Falls or the huge Argyle Diamond Mine. Discover scenic walking tracks and a mini Bungle Bungles in Mirima National Park and a bird bonanza at Lily Creek Lagoon.
On the way to Halls Creek you can detour through Wyndham, Western Australia’s northernmost town, or the million acre El Questro Station. Further south in Bungle is World Heritage-listed Purnululu National Park and the towering orange-and-black striped rocks of the Bungle Range. See them by four wheel drive, foot or flight. Follow the Domes Walk to Cathedral Gorge in the park’s south or hike to Mini Palms Gorge and Echidna Chasm in the north. Stop in the old gold prospecting town of Halls Creek. From here you can swim in gorges and springs, see the work of local Aboriginal artists and visit Wolfe Creek Crater. Left by a meteorite, it is almost 1 kilometre (.6 miles) wide and 50 metres (164 feet) deep.
From Fitzroy Crossing, you can cruise through Geikie Gorge with local Bunuba Aboriginal guides or burrow through the underground passage of Tunnel Creek. Travelling into Derby, you’ll pass the bulbous Boab Prison Tree, reputedly once used as a prisoner lock-up. See tides as high as 11 metres (36 feet) on Derby’s town wharf or fly over the horizontal waterfalls they create in Talbot Bay further north. Cross the Fitzroy River into Broome. Explore the town’s exotic pearling heritage in Chinatown and take a sunset camel ride down Cable Beach. Further north you can visit lighthouse-tipped Cape Leveque. Stop at the Aboriginal community of Beagle Bay and see the small Sacred Heart Church with a mother-of-pearl altar. For birdwatching, head to the world-renowned Broome Bird Observatory on Roebuck Bay.