Thursday, January 3, 2013

Darwin to Broome: Road Trip the Tropics!

This 4-day trip will take you through some of Australia's stunning outback scenery and past several amazing National Parks. The Northern territory and Western Australia states are not as popular with visitors as Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, but are perfect for those who want to see Australia's more untouched and wild areas.

Day 1: Darwin to Katherine

Darwin is a relaxed and multicultural city, with great markets and historical sites from the World Wars. Have a look around and enjoy the easygoing way of life before setting off, and be sure to visit the markets which boast handicrafts and cuisine from around the world!

Darwin Markets
by Stephen Michael Barret Flickr Creative Commons

This is not a long leg of the trip, but you will want the extra time to explore the impressive Kakadu National Park which covers 19,804 kilometres squared.  Turn off Highway One onto State Route 21 for the Park, which showcases both the country's natural and social history. It has varied landscapes including estuaries, floodplains, lowlands, stone country and more, as well as much wildlife. For a great window into Australia's wetlands, walk the boardwalk over the Yellow Water Billabong, and for those interested in teeth, try a Jumping Crocodile cruise on board the Adelaide River Queen. The land is the ancestral and current home of aboriginal clans, and there are thousands of sites of rock art which presents an amazing historical record of the land and its occupation.

Rock art site in Kakadu
by andrea castelli Flickr Creative Commons

After leaving Darwin and before the turn off to Kakadu, the Manton Dam Recreation Area is the perfect spot to stop for a break, especially for the water sports enthusiasts. There is a designated swimming area and access for boats, jetskis and windsurfers, as well as nice picnic areas. Also along the route is the township of Adelaide River, and the beautiful 3-tiered Robin Falls is a short drive from there.

Katherine is a town situated on the Katherine River, the third largest settlement in the Northern Territory. The town is known for adventure, due to its proximity to the magnificent Nitmiluk National Park, where you can boat, hike, canoe, get in a helicopter and visit the stunning Katherine Gorge. The town itself, despite being one of the state's largest, is small with a single main street. There is an art gallery and a museum, and several holiday parks where you can park your motorhome for the night.

Katherine Gorge
by thinboyfatter Flickr Creative Commons

Day 2: Katherine to Kununurra

Leave Katherine on Highway One heading towards Western Australia. Be prepared for long hours on the road, as this is not a populous part of Australia and you won't come across towns every 50 kilometres! The Victoria Highway, as this part of Highway One is called, passes many of the legendary cattle stations which will give a glimpse into a unique and isolated way of life. It also crosses the great Victoria River, and you can stop near the crossing at the Victoria River Roadhouse for a drink.

Cattle muster by helicopter on a station
by Kate Dixon Flickr Creative Commons

On the border between the Northern Territory and Western Australia is Keep River National Park, a small park with big scenery! There are some amazing rock formations and hikes in the park.

Kununurra is not far over the border. A small town, it is close to several lakes and dams but does not boast much in the way of entertainment! For camping, try Lake Kununurra Holiday Park.

Day 3: Kununurra- Fitzroy Crossing

The drive between these two towns will again hold a lot of scenery and not much civilisation, so stock up your vehicle so you can pull into one of the many rest stops to refuel and rehydrate!

The only town of any size you will come across between the two is Halls Creek, a small town which is a hub for indigenous populations and cattle stations in the area. Nearby is Old Halls Creek, the site of Western Australia's first gold rush. Nowadays people still fossick in the area, trying to find nuggets! The ruins of the old post office and cemetery can still be seen.

Road to Old Hall's Creek
by Harclade Flickr Creative Commons

Just outside of Fitzroy Crossing is the Geikie Gorge National Park, home to a spectacular gorge carved through limestone. Visitors can take cruises through the gorge, or explore on foot.

Geikie Gorge
by Tony Bowden Flickr Creative Commons

Fitzroy Crossing is a town of around 1,500, created by early settlers as a place to ford the mighty Fitzroy River. There is a campground with motorhome sites at the Fitzroy River Lodge, and the Tarunda Caravan Park.

 Day 4: Fitzroy Crossing to Broome

Continue out of Fitzroy Crossing on Highway One, heading toward the coast.

A nice detour is along the Derby Highway to Derby on the King Sound. This town experiences the highest tidal range in the country, with a record high of 11.8 metres! Along with Broome and Kununurra, it is one of only 3 towns in the Kimberley region to have a population of over 2,000. One of the most interesting features of the town is the nearby "Boab Prison Tree," an odd-looking tree whose trunk was actually once used as a prison cell! It is also a very multicultural town where you can learn a lot about the indigenous culture.

Boab Prison Tree
by Claire Taylor Flickr Creative Commons

Broome is just off Highway One along the Broome Road. Two of the major industries are pearling and tourism, so keep a look out for good deals on pearls. A visit to Cable Beach is a great option, a beautiful white sand beach 7km out of town that is washed clean each day by the crazy tides. Check out Broome Caravan Park for a place to stay!

Cable Beach
by Eulinky Flickr Creative Commons

Have a look here for great deals on Darwin Campervan Hire!

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