A 3700 km stretch, driving the Savannah Way is no walk in the park. It’s known as Australia’s adventure drive for a number of reasons – five national parks and 15 World Heritage areas are two of them. The rest? You’ll have to experience for yourself.
We’ve mapped out a 10-day route, but the truth is you can take as long as three weeks to explore the uncharted terrains of the outback if you have the time. Hire a car and set off across the tropical savannahs of northern Australia all the way to the natural splendors of Broome.
Day 1: Cairns to Normanton
680 km | 8.5-hour drive
Don’t leave Cairns without a trip to the Great Barrier Reef. And if you have a few days here, why not experience some of these 5 awesome day trips around Cairns. Once you’ve explored one of Australia’s most iconic destinations, set out to Normanton, the Barramundi capital of Australia.
If fishing isn’t your thing, take a ride on the historic Gulflander train and enjoy a half-day trip to Croydon and back, taking in the spectacular country before finishing the day with a meal and a pint at the infamous Purple Pub. (Yes, it’s actually purple.)
Day 2: Normanton to Burketown
210 km | 7-hour drive
Next, you’re heading to Burketown, which sits on the dividing line between the wetlands to the north and the Gulf Savannah plains to the south.
An overnight stop here is recommended if only to witness the Morning Glory cloud – a spectacular and rare meteorological phenomenon that can stretch up to 1,000 km. Savannah Lodge is a tropical oasis and a perfect place to cool down and unwind for the night.
In the morning, Lawn Hill Gorge in Boodjamulla National Park is a must-stop for the emerald waters, lush vegetation, and abundant wildlife you’ll experience here.
Day 3: Burketown to Borroloola
520 km | 8-hour drive
Today you’re crossing the border and entering the great NT. Your next stop is also the gateway to the Gulf: Borroloola. One of Australia’s most remote towns with a lawless frontier past, there’s a lot of character that remains here.
You’re in a pretty isolated part of Australia now, so make sure you’re safe with these tips for exploring such remote territories.
Day 4: Borroloola to Roper Bar
720 km | 10.5-hour drive
You’re right in the thick of it. The trek to Roper Bar involves a longer, rougher, and more unsealed experience so a Mitsubishi Outlander or Mitsubishi Pajero would be ideal choices of hire car. Both can handle the extra grunt of the outback.
Day 5: Roper Bar to Katherine
290 km | 5-hour drive
By now you’ve covered more than half of the epic Savannah Way. Katherine is the perfect place to stop – perhaps spend a few days taking in all the incredible natural wonders here including Nitmiluk National Park (where you’ll find Katherine Gorge and Edith Falls) as well as all the rich Aboriginal Culture found through tour experiences and local galleries.
Day 6: Katherine to Kununurra
515 km | 6.5-hour drive
You’re in WA now and deep in the heart of the Kimberley region. Surrounded by six national and conservation parks as well as the vast inland sea of Lake Argyle, Kununurra is a stop not to be missed.
If you have to pick just one of them: the Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungle Range) is probably the most impressive, featuring many gorges and creeks that have been used for thousands of years.
Want to see more of Western Australia? Here’s another inspiring itinerary for you: The Cape to Cape Road Trip
Day 7: Kununurra to Halls Creek
340 km | 3.75-hour drive
Nearby sites such as Wolfe Creek Crater (the world’s second largest meteorite crater), China Wall (a quartz vein in the ground), and many Aboriginal community art centres are just three reasons to include Halls Creek as a Savannah Way stop off. There are also plenty of swimming holes and billabongs to take a dip in after all that driving.
Day 8: Halls Creek to Derby
545 km | 6-hour drive
Coming up to the final stretch now. After a long drive, your next stop is Derby: the Kimberley’s oldest town. Known for its famous boab trees lining the streets and Australia’s highest tidal range (11 metres). Check out the Buccaneer Archipelago that consists of around 1000 small islands boasting secluded white sandy beaches.
Day 9: Derby to Broome
220 km | 2.5-hour drive
Your final stop is Broome. Time to unwind in what was once the pearling capital of Australia. Get a feel for Broome’s heritage as you explore the seemingly small, yet busy town in Old Broome. Then hop on a camel in Cable Beach for a sunset ride with a difference. End the day with dinner in Chinatown – our top pick? The Aarli.
What an adventure! Tick that one off the bucket list and pat yourself on the back. And of course, for any trekkers wanting to go the opposite way, Thrifty can make it happen with our excellent range of vehicles available from our Broome car hire location.
So, what are you waiting for?