The Gulf Development Road is a sealed road and links the Cairns and Normanton regions. Near Mount Surprise, this road joins the Kennedy Highway (National route 1), bringing the visitor into the Atherton Tablelands through Mount Garnet and Ravenshoe.
The Savannah Way is a themed adventure drive from Cairns to Broome through Katherine. The route traverses some of Australia’s most spectacular scenery including four World Heritage-listed areas and over 15 National Parks and covers almost 3700km. All in all, it’s an excellent length for a 14 day adventure across Northern Australia!
People tend to think the roads of the Gulf are only for seasoned adventurers, but this is no longer the case with the road sealed from Cairns to Karumba. 4WDs, motorhomes, caravans and the family car all travel far and well on the highways here. The best time to visit is year round – the two seasons of the Wet and the Dry have their unique aspects and the ‘green’ season of rains is surprisingly comfortable, uncrowded and has abundant wildlife and waterways. It’s always advisable to check all road conditions and acquire current reports before undertaking your journey.
At Undara Volcanic National Park, stop and marvel at the 160km lava tube system – the world’s longest lava flow from a single volcano. Savannah Guides, a network of professionals across the Top End, lead tours into the caves here. At Undara Experience, guests have the choice of camping or staying in the Lava Lodge’s authentic turn-of-the-century restored railway carriages. A 1960 rail motor, the Savannahlander train, comes from Cairns to Forsayth once a week and can be combined with the Undara tour. Another famous train, the Gulflander, is celebrating its 120th anniversary this year and tracks from Croydon to Normanton each week.
At Mt Surprise Gems, try sieving and learn how faceting is done. Georgetown (with a caravan park, motel, hotel and museum) features the TerrEstrial Centre; home to a collection of over 4,500 minerals, gemstones and fossils. Cobbold Gorge is a spectacular oasis and wildlife habitat accessible by guided tours. Croydon was famous for its gold rush, but the port for the gold was Normanton which is now the major service centre in the Gulf Savannah. Spend time absorbing the history and scenery here and do go fishing!
Karumba, at the Norman rivermouth, is the centre of prawning and barramundi – don’t miss the Barramundi Discovery Centre here or the spectacular sunsets at Karumba Point. Beyond Karumba and Normanton lies Burketown, Gregory, and Boodjamulla National Park’s spectacular Lawn Hill Gorge and the World Heritage-listed Riversleigh Fossil Fields.