Explore the Cairns to Darwin Road Trip: Eastern Savannah Way


Embark on an unforgettable 2600-kilometre road trip from Cairns to Darwin along the eastern side of the Savannah Way, a journey filled with diverse landscapes and captivating stops.

Day 1: Cairns to Undara

  • Distance: 260 kilometres (approximately 3.5 hours)
  • Start your adventure by driving south from Cairns along the Bruce Highway. Head towards Route 52, which takes you through the lush Atherton Tablelands.
  • Along the way, take in the beauty of Lake Eacham and visit Little Millstream Falls near Ravenshoe.
  • Continue west on Route 1 (National Highway) to reach Undara Experience. Arrive in time for a sunset wildlife tour.
  • Accommodation options at Undara range from cabins to converted railway carriages and a campground.

Day 2: Undara

  • Enjoy a Bush Breakfast in Undara Volcanic National Park, where ancient volcanoes dot the landscape.

Day 3: Undara to Cobbold Gorge

  • Distance: 250 kilometres (approximately 3.5 hours)
  • Continue your journey westward and discover the fascinating Tallaroo Hot Springs, a geological wonder in Outback Queensland.

Day 4: Cobbold Gorge

  • Explore the heart of the Gulf Savannah region at Cobbold Gorge, a remarkable Outback Queensland destination.
  • Join a guided day tour to cruise amid sculpted red sandstone cliffs, walk along the gorge’s walls, and cross Australia’s first fully glass bridge.
  • Spend your afternoon bushwalking, bird watching, kayaking, mountain biking, or even treat yourself to a helicopter flight.

Day 5: Cobbold Gorge to Croydon

  • Distance: 230 kilometres (approximately 3 hours)
  • Hit the road again, passing through the charming town of Georgetown on the Etheridge River, a former gold mining settlement.
  • Stop for a meal and visit The TerrEstrial Centre to explore the Ted Elliott Mineral Collection, featuring over 4500 minerals, gems, crystals, and fossils.

Day 6: Croydon to Karumba

  • Distance: 225 kilometres (approximately 2.5 hours)
  • The Savannah Way follows the Gulf of Carpentaria coastline, offering glimpses of the coast.
  • Pass through the Mutton Hole Wetlands north of Normanton, known for its stunning birdlife, including brolgas and black swans.

Day 7: Karumba to Burketown

  • Distance: 370 kilometres (approximately 4.5 hours)
  • Make a quick stop in Normanton to capture a photo with its eight-metre crocodile (a replica) and visit the vibrant Purple Pub.

Day 8: Burketown to Seven Emu Station (NT border)

  • Distance: 420 kilometres (approximately 7.5 hours)
  • Continue westward, refuel at Hells’ Gate Roadhouse, and cross into the Northern Territory.
  • Reach Seven Emu Station, a working cattle station accessible by 4WD, overlooking the Robinson River.
  • Engage in birdwatching, fishing, and immerse yourself in Garawa culture through conversations with the Shadforth family. Check road conditions before visiting.

Day 9: Seven Emu Station to Daly Waters

  • Distance: 484 kilometres (approximately 8.5 hours)
  • Prepare for a long drive with only two towns along the way: Borroloola (for supplies) and Arnold.

Day 10: Daly Waters to Katherine

  • Distance: 280 kilometres (approximately 3 hours)
  • Head north and make a stop in Larrimah, home to a historic bush pub, or visit Mataranka, famous from the 1908 novel “We of the Never-Never” by Jeannie Gunn.
  • Explore Elsey National Park, known for its turquoise spring water pools and diverse landscapes.

Day 11: Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge

  • Spend the day in the stunning Nitmiluk National Park, featuring a series of remarkable gorges.
  • Stay for the sunset when the cliffs radiate a red hue.
  • Enjoy a river cruise, paddle a kayak, or embark on hiking trails.

Day 12: Katherine to Litchfield National Park

  • Distance: 280 kilometres (approximately 3 hours)
  • En route, don’t miss Leliyn (Edith Falls) in Nitmiluk National Park, where you can swim and hike.

Day 13: Litchfield National Park

  • Discover Litchfield National Park’s waterfalls and waterholes accessible via sealed roads, such as Florence Falls and Buley Rockhole.

Day 14: Litchfield National Park to Darwin

  • Distance: 140 kilometres (approximately 1.5 hours)
  • As you approach your final destination, consider a stop at Berry Springs Nature Park for a refreshing swim in its blue-green woodland pools.
  • Visit Territory Wildlife Park to observe a wide range of outback animals, including nocturnal creatures rarely seen in the wild.


Embarking on this Cairns to Darwin road trip allows you to experience the diverse landscapes and attractions of the eastern side of the Savannah Way. This 14-day itinerary provides an overview of the remarkable places you’ll encounter along the route.