Nitmiluk Gorge, Northern Territory
8-day Savannah Way road trip through the Northern Territory
The Savannah Way road trip showcases Australia at its most magnificent.
The Savannah Way road trip travels all the way across the country’s north from Western Australia to Queensland (or vice-versa). We’ve divided the journey into three sections as it passes through three of Australia’s states and territories. The entire Savannah Way can take upwards of three weeks to complete. You can do several sections independently, but if you’re ready to tackle this epic journey in its entirety, check out our other Savannah Way itineraries. Choose to start in Western Australia along the Gibb River Road, or begin your journey from Cairns on the Queensland coast.
Passing through several ecosystems and endless outback, there’s serious adventure to be found on the Savannah Way road trip. The leg of the journey passing through the Northern Territory offers huge river systems, picturesque escarpments and waterfalls that pour into calm rock pools.
Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime as you drive this eight-day itinerary along the Savannah Way through Australia’s north.
Day 1: Getting to Keep River National Park
Drive about 1.5 hours to Keep River National Park, crossing the border into the rugged expanses of the Northern Territory. Keep River is one of Australia’s lesser-known national parks, and that’s just a part of what makes this place truly special.
Take your pick from two campgrounds within the park: Goorrandalng or Jarnem (payable on-site). There are limited camping facilities at both locations, so be sure to check the Keep River National Park fact sheet for information on what to bring with you.
Set up camp and become acquainted with the ancient landscape that surrounds you; there’s a ranger station a short drive from the park entrance. Ask the local rangers about the local wildlife and the many hikes on offer – there may even be a ranger-guided option.
Day 2: Explore Keep River National Park
Today is your first full day in the Northern Territory, so you’ll have time to seek out the park’s hidden wonders. One of the best ways to explore is on foot. The park is home to stunning walks, including the seven-kilometre (4.3-mile) Jarnem Loop Walk, which will lead to a beautiful lookout across the Keep River floodplain.
The park is also steeped in Aboriginal history. You’re visiting the traditional lands of the Miriwoong and Gajirrabeng people, and their ancient art can be seen at rock art sites like Langgerrbi (Nigli Gap).
Make your way back to camp for a vivid outback sunset. Be sure to keep your eyes (and ears) open for local birdlife; this park is famous for its interesting species like red-tailed black cockatoos and blue-winged kookaburras.
Day 3: Keep River National Park to Timber Creek
From Keep River, drive about 2.5 hours west to the tiny outpost of Timber Creek. The Aussie outback is full of surprises, and with mesmerising boab trees, hidden gorges and red-rimmed escarpments, this town is no exception.
Just before reaching Timber Creek, make a stop at Nackeroo Lookout, where you’ll find panoramic views of the green and red landscape.
Next, drive about ten minutes to Gregory’s Tree, which has cultural and historical significance. As well as being a sacred site to the local Ngarinyman people, the large boab tree is inscribed with the arrival and departure dates of explorer A.C. Gregory. After his boat was wrecked near Timber Creek in 1855, Gregory camped under the boab tree for several months before continuing his exploration of Australia’s north.
Tonight, stay at Timber Creek Hotel and Caravan Park.
Day 4: Judbarra/Gregory National Park
One of Timber Creek’s biggest drawcards lies about a 40-minute drive away along the Victoria Highway. Judbarra National Park is the perfect destination for hiking, fishing and four-wheel driving.
There are several 4WD tracks within the park; expect spectacular boab-dotted ridgelines, impressive gorges and traces of Aboriginal history. Be sure you’re adequately prepared by reading the park’s 4WD fact sheet, where you’ll find advice on the equipment and skills you need to tackle the tracks.
Hikers are also spoilt for choice, with walks that take in Aboriginal rock art, Dreamtime stories and stunning natural surrounds. Try the 1.7-kilometre (one-mile) Judbarra Nawulbinbin Walk, which begins at the Joe Creek Picnic Area, or the three-kilometre (1.9-mile) Escarpment Walk, which passes soaring red cliffs and jaw-dropping lookouts.
Given its proximity to Timber Creek, you can choose to take a day trip to the park, or pack up and set up camp at one of the park’s campgrounds. Sullivans Creek, Big Horse Creek and Bullita campgrounds can be booked on arrival and allow you to explore the park over a few days.
Day 5: Katherine and surrounds
Today, drive about 2.5 hours to Katherine – known as the central hub of the Savannah Way. It’s a great spot to stock up on supplies and take advantage of essential services.
There are several must-dos around Katherine, like Katherine Hot Springs, Nitmiluk National Park and Leliyn (Edith) Falls, so it’s best to spend a few days exploring. Paint your own Rarrk (cross hatch) painting with Top Didj, dine by the campfire on an overnight experience with local guide Marksie, and get an authentic look into the outback lifestyle with Katherine Outback Experience.
If you only have one day in your schedule, be sure to take a cruise down Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge with Nitmiluk Tours. Watching the steep red cliffs pass as you float down the tranquil river is an experience you’ll never forget.
Spend the night at one of Katherine’s caravan parks, or in Nitmiluk Campground.
Day 6: Katherine to Cape Crawford
From Katherine, you have a couple of options for your drive route.
If you are prepared for some off-road experiences, you can head south to Mataranka (stop here for a dip in the thermal springs) before heading directly east and ending the drive in Roper Bar. The drive will take about three hours.
Otherwise, it’s best to head south out of Katherine. Drive three hours until you reach Daly Waters. Be sure to stop for supplies and a cold drink at the famous Daly Waters pub.
Next, head east another three hours to your final destination of Cape Crawford. Stay at the Heartbreak Hotel – an iconic outback post with a pub attached.
Day 7: Cape Crawford to Borroloola
This morning, it’s time to embark on an experience made for your bucket list – a scenic flight over the spectacular Lost City of Limmen National Park. Scenic flights operate from April to October and depart from the Heartbreak Hotel.
The Lost City is a collection of ancient sandstone columns, comparable to Western Australia’s Bungle Bungle Range. Estimated to be more than 500 million years old, these soaring wonders are a sight to behold.
After your flight, make the 1.5-hour drive to Borroloola. The region from Cape Crawford east to the Queensland border is some of Australia’s most remote and remarkable outback. Here, you’ll find a paradise of waterfalls, waterholes and rugged terrain.
Rest and recharge at the Savannah Way Motel.
Day 8: Borroloola to Lawn Hill
Your final stretch through the Northern Territory is remote with minimal facilities, so double up on supplies in Borroloola before hitting the road.
If you’d like to extend your stay in the Top End, head to a family-owned outback station, like Manangoora or Seven Emu Station. Calling ahead to ensure availability is recommended.
Continue your journey toward the Queensland border. Your first stop on the Queensland leg of the Savannah Way is Lawn Hill, a lesser-known national park that’s sure to impress with its red cliffs and emerald waters. The drive will take just under six hours.