THE SAVANNAH WAY - PART 1
CAIRNS TO LORELLA SPRINGS - Here's a full run down of our trip. If you'd prefer to watch the adventure instead of reading, scroll down to the bottom of the article and have a squiz at the video - CHEERS!!
You can download our trip route from TomTom Mydrive & sync it straight to the latest TomTom GPS devices (or download it for most other devices)
We start our Savannah Way Adventure in Cairns - Tropical North QLD
We have been parked up at the amazing Cairns Coconut for a few days enjoying the pools and all the kids activities. We pack up and head towards the Atherton Tablelands, with Lake Tinaroo being our first stop out of Cairns. Up the Kuranda Range we go, a winding and very steep ascent for 15km so do remember to drive carefully and be safe, there has been many caravanning accidents along this stretch of road!
We arrive at the Lake Tinaroo Holiday Park and we are overwhelmed with how much there is to see and do in the stunning Atherton Tablelands. We suggest setting up Base Camp here & day tripping around to witness all these great tours and attractions:
The waterfall trail with Milla Milla Falls | Lake Eacham, Lake Barrine & Paronella Park | The Herberton historic village and Crystal Caves |The Curtain Fig Tree and MaMu skywalk | Coffee Works at Mareeba |
Be sure to spend a few days around this area, it really is beautiful. If you love a good coffee, check out Petals and Pinecones it's a gorgeous cafe located next to the Supercheap Auto in the main street of Atherton.
Do a big shop and load up on as much as you can from the Woolworths in Atherton. This is your last chance to get loads of good stuff at normal prices. Once you head west from here, things get scarce and the prices start to skyrocket!! And fuel up, it's still readily available along the way, but the price does start to jack up, so if you have a long range tank or jerry cans, fill em up!
Powered Site at Lake Tinaroo Holiday Park starting from $39
Next Stop - Woodleigh Station.
Approximately 75km from Atherton you will find another great place to pull up for a night or three. A large station property with river side or homestead camping available. There are flushing toilets and showers available, a communal fire pit and the most epic sunsets. Lots of animals roaming around free range & only a few kms drive to a creek for a refreshing swim. Well worth the stop and some of the friendliest owners. Firewood can be purchased here also ($15).
$20 per night and kids are free.
Next up - WOODLEIGH STATION TO GEORGETOWN
As we leave Woodleigh station, as always we wouldn’t mind a coffee!!! We have come to love a great coffee on our travel days around the country & we had heard good things about a little place called Pinnarendi Station Stay. So we pop in to the Cafe which does a good coffee and some great looking food. You can stay here as well, It has a busy little campground thats spacious with amenities and the owners are your typical genuine cattle property owners. Just great people. .
We get back on the road after our coffee fix and we pass through the town of Mount Surprise and stop for lunch. They have a fantastic playground and some picnic tables alongside the highway as well as a fuel station to top up your tanks. Pushing on to Georgetown, we stop in for some groceries, more fuel and Telstra reception to research our next camp for the night. It's often how we travel, we don't plan too far ahead and just wing it most of the time. We locate our free camp and head West another 20km to a place called Cumberland historic chimney.
The Cumberland Chimney is a free camp and a busy one! With some water views of a wetland lagoon, we sit back and relax after a days driving the Savannah Way. We are treated to another amazing sunset and the kids have a ball playing with all the rocks and sand.
A CHANGE IN PLANS - WE ARE GOING TO COBBOLD GORGE
We decide this morning that we are going to backtrack to Georgetown and head into Cobbold Gorge. It's A 90km detour off the Savannah Way with a dirt track most of the way. As we hit the dirt we pull up to drop our tyre pressure all round to 26psi. The road itself isn't that bad, but it ain't that good either!! With patches of heavy corrugation's, dust holes, dips and a lot of loose rocks that pepper the front of your caravan. But we arrive safely at the Cobbold Gorge Caravan Park and as we drive in we are very surprised to see an infinity pool overlooking a dam as well as a Restaurant and Bar.
We park up in the unpowered section for $37 per night. $15 per person and $7 for kids.
After a refreshing swim, we setup camp, hunt around to find some firewood, light the campfire and enjoy a gorgeous sunset to top our day off.
Justin books a Cobbold Gorge tour which costs $92. He does this on his own and we are glad we made this decision. In our opinion, it's not an ideal tour for kids under 5 (let alone 3). I wont give away too many details but if you decide to do this tour, you’ll be bussed out to the gorge for a three hour tour. A short escarpment walk and boat trip through the beautiful narrow gorge.
$92 per adult, Kids $45 to do this tour or a family $252. A bit steep we reckon...
We head off after the tour and free camp in between Cobbold Gorge and Georgetown in a roadside stop.
COBBOLD GORGE TO NORMANTON - 387KM
The drive into Normanton is fairly uneventful, just a lot of kms and not much to see. There is a few good free camps along this stretch of highway though if you need to pull up. Just check wikicamps as you go.
We arrive in Normanton and we do a drive by of the free camp just over the bridge before we decide on staying there. Sometimes, free camps in remote areas can be a bit dodgy so we like to scope them out before we make the call to setup. To stay here, you will need to visit the info centre in town and fill out a permit. They only allow a certain number of vans to camp here and it's only throughout certain times of year as well. Great TV reception here as well as Telstra service to research your travels. The camp is set on a river bank so keep your kids well away from the waters edge (Crocs). We catch up on some work and touch base with family as we’ve been out of service for a while & the kids loved being able to watch ABC Kids again.
We decide to stay in Normanton for a few days. It's very hot and the free camp is not much more than a dustbowl, so we move to the caravan park as it has a massive pool that we spend hours in. We later discover that Normanton also has an excellent public playground and splash park only a kilometre away so check that out if you have kids!
There are several mini marts and grocery stores here but the first one as you drive in before the BP is your best one! I’d recommend stocking up here as much as you can. It is expensive but there really isn’t much choice from here on in.
THINGS TO CHECK OUT - A visit to the famous Normanton Crocodile ‘Krys’ which is a replica of the largest crocodile ever in the world!! Found near Normanton(SCARY) & The purple pub is a great photo opportunity.
We park up in the unpowered section of the caravan park for $26 per night for our family, get some washing done and relax poolside.
NORMANTON TO LEICHARDT FALLS - WHERE THE DIRT STARTS!!
So this is where we reckon the real Savannah Way starts! The dirt!! From Normanton, you take the turn off towards Burketown and things really start to get remote. First thing you'll hit will be the Burke & Wills monument for some history and chat to the kids about it all. They think it's pretty cool that these historic explorers did all this travel with horses and camels! You'll find this only about 20km from Normanton, so this part is all sealed road.
We are headed for a free camp that we have heard a lot about called Leichardt Falls. A gorgeous free camp set on a clifftop over looking the Leichardt River, no water running over the falls while we were there but it's a beautiful setting with magic lagoon views and a real atmosphere about it. We chill here for the afternoon and soak up a campfire and yet another magical sunset. Justin throws a line in but no fish this time! (Watch the Savannah Way vid at the bottom of the article to see more about Leichhardt Falls.)
There is only 60km of gravel road between Normanton and Burketown and it seems to be regularly maintained.
Arrive in Burketown - The Barramundi Capital Of Australia!!
We cruise into Burketown & hit up the Bakery to grab ourselves a coffee. Justin check's out the Butcher called Burketown Road Kill Butcher and grabs some great T-Bones which we chuck on the Ziggy later that arvo(Check out the vid below). We decide to head out to Albert River Free Camp which is about 20 minutes out of town. After driving through a small gate on the left, we are on nothing but mud flats!! It's a bit nerve racking towing a 2.8Tonne van across tidal mudflats, but we drive for around 8km to get to our campsite and only cross one boggy patch that took a bit of right boot and low range to get through(It wasn't so easy getting back out - watch the full Savannah Way vid to see why). There is service out here so you can book your site online at www.burketown.com.au. It costs us $35 for the night. This includes your $25 fishing licence and $10 for camping. We set up on the bank overlooking the river & Justin gets straight into fishing. We crank up a campfire and watch another amazing sunset!!!
WE REALLY ARE BEING SPOILT WITH THESE OUTBACK SUNSETS!!
WE DRIVE THROUGH THE GATES OF HELL!!
The drive from Burketown to Hells Gate Roadhouse is a sealed road all the way! WOOHOO!! When we arrive, we are surprised to see so much grass. There is plenty of room to camp out the back. They also have a cafe, but give the coffee a miss!! It's only a pod machine with longline milk and they charge ya $5!! YUCK. We park up in the unpowered section for $26 (kids FREE). It's a nice stop with plenty of other travellers passing through. The bar does a happy hour of an afternoon and the mechanic Timmy does a fire twirling show of a night time. (More info in the full Savannah Way Vid)
If your keen to push on, there is a good free camp called Hahn Creek Billabong only a further 25km down the road.
NOW WE ARE HITTING THE ROUGH STUFF
Once we leave Hells Gate, it's a 320km test of your corrugation endurance! The dirt road hits us with some wicked rough stuff and we really start to question our decision to tow the van along this stretch of road. The rough stuff continues for about 40km and in some parts we are down to just 10km/h.
We make it to the border crossing into the NT and eventually the road eases up just a bit. We have our tyres down all round to 26psi and are managing well doing about 80km/h. There are a few free camps along this stretch but we decide to smash out the rough stuff and make it through to Borroloola.
We stay at the caravan park here at the Loola! In the unpowered section for $25. You'll probably be needing to stock up on supplies by now, so head to the Malandari Supermarket for some groceries. Be prepared for some outrageous prices, but this is your last chance before Lorella Springs to stock up.
There is very limited supplies at Lorella Springs and what they do have is 10 x more expensive than Borroloola so LOAD UP!!
Now we are into "Top End Fishing Heaven" - If you have a boat that is!!
King Ash Bay is our next stop. A fishing village and caravan park that gets overrun with a plague of the silver haired generation at this time of year..(just joking oldies) The trek out here from Borroloola is mostly bitumen except the last 30km which is pretty corrugated, however a grader does maintain this road at times so you might get lucky and have a smooth run in. Compared to the rough stuff from Hells Gate though, this road is bliss!!
Plenty of river side camping at King Ash & also powered sites are available. There is some great facilities with a Bar and Grill for happy hour and a good feed, a boat ramp for those lucky enough to have one and plenty of people around to have a beer with!
We camp in the unpowered section for $22.50 and kids under 14 are FREE.
GET LOST..... at the "Southern Lost City"
On the way into Lorella, we were checking our trusty WikiCamps app to see what else was around and we saw there is a heap of good National Park Sites between the Turnoff to Lorella Springs and Roper Bar in the Limmen National Park. So last minute decision, lets go and check one out! The first camp is only 12km from the turnoff to Lorella and it's a deadset pearler!! The Southern Lost City has these striking sandstone formations that are definitely a sight to see. There is Fire pits, spacious area's to pull up in, picnic tables, toilets and a beautiful sunset as always!
The campground is superbly maintained and cheap as chips at $7.70 for the family.
Pull on your runners, hiking boots or thongs if your like Justin and take the walk around the Southern Lost City. An easy walk through these tall, beautiful pillars. They are amazing, unique sandstone formations with a lookout at the halfway point of the walk. This gives you a great view of the landscape that surrounds you, it's pretty EPIC!
The walk only takes around an hour max and is well worth it!
The Kingdom of Lorella
A million acre, untouched wilderness sanctuary located in the NT. With waterfalls, swimming holes, hot springs, 4WD tracks and fishing spots, it really is an adventurous property.
The Journey into Lorella Springs is only a taste of whats to come. There is sooooo much to do here that your brain will hurt just trying to plan out your adventures!! (nothing a few cold beers won't fix though!!)
Let's Start at "The homestead". This is the main camping area for Lorella. It's a huge area that's set out on a small island surrounded by the waters from the Hot Spring. So much room here to camp in your own space and have a campfire under the stars. The Homestead has a restaurant and bar which is only walking distance from the campground and they have a happy hour every afternoon which is a great place to meet other travellers and get some hot tips on places to go and road conditions.. Some small supplies can be purchased here at the bar, but the remote prices will hurt so be sure to stock up well before heading into Lorella Springs.
HOT TIP!! - TAKE 2 COLD BEERS WITH YOU ON YOUR WAY TO HAPPY HOUR. STOP IN AT THE MAGICAL HOT SPRING, SMASH THEM 2 BEERS DOWN WHILE FLOATING AROUND AND WASHING AWAY THE DAYS DUST. THEN MOVE UP TO THE BAR FOR A COUPLE OF PERFECTLY CHILLED BUNDY TINS. WHAT A PERFECT WAY TO END THE DAY!!
You are spoilt for choice with things to do and see, but we reckon if you can, the best way to see Lorella is to camp your way around in a big loop. Set yourself up with an offroad camper, or base camp your caravan at the homestead and tent/swag your way around the property hitting all the hotspots. Doing this will save you a heap on fuel! If you day trip out from the Homestead you will be doing a lot of km's on the same roads and fuel here is $3 per litre.
CAMPING FEES PER NIGHT - $20 PER ADULT & $5 PER KID (5-15)
Some of our favourite places to visit on the property were Nanny’s Retreat, Alaska Pool, Nudie Hot Spring, Magical Hot Spring, Secret Fishing spot and Stockman’s Swimming Hole. A few other areas were closed due to it being the end of the season. If you can, try and get there at the start of the season - around April/May when the waterfalls are flowing. We were well aware that we were late in the season and Lorella didn’t disappoint, we just didn’t get to see it in all it's glory.
WE WILL DEFINITELY BE BACK!!
LORELLA SPRINGS WILL GET IN YOUR BLOOD AND HAVE YOU DREAMING OF YOUR NEXT VISIT!
HERE'S THE FULL VIDEO!!
OUR SAVANNAH WAY ADVENTURE FROM NORMANTON TO LORELLA SPRINGS!!
If your short on time or not real keen on reading, you can watch this video and find out heaps of info for your own travels RIGHT HERE!