Driving from Cairns to Darwin, Savannah Way
by Sara Jonsson
We are two backpackers planning to drive from Cairns to Darwin. We are not very experienced in driving long tracks and we are a bit unsure of how "careful" we should be. Do you have any main advice?
I think we are going to go by Savannah Way pretty much all the way to Katherine, is that road usually in good condition?
Thanks in advance /Sara and Sara
Re: Driving from Cairns to Darwin, Savannah Way
You don't say what car you will be driving and what time of the year.
If you have a 4WD it should not be a problem in the dry season (say June to October, it may still be bit rough in May).
The section between Normanton and Borroloola is the remotest part and you should take all the usual precautions. Take enough water, make sure your tank is full enough to get you to the next roadhouse, make sure you have a reliable car, a good spare tyre or better two.
The reliable car is the biggest issue, this is a very remote area and there is not much traffic at all! And find out where exactly you can fill up, I think two of the places between Normanton and Borroloola have closed.
The roads aren't usually all that difficult, but they can also be shocking.
The corrugations can be pretty bad at times and there can be bad wash outs just after the wet.
There are also some river and creek crossings. Find out what exactly to expect at the time that you will be travelling, and how much water your car can handle.
I have a page about driving in the outback
that covers all the other things that you should generally be careful of. (There is also a general page about driving in Outback Australia
Take regular breaks. Don't drive around dawn and dusk (too much wildlife on the road).
Take it easy. Even if you have no four wheel driving experience whatsoever, as long as you go slow you can't do much wrong.
The road is usually fairly well maintained, but as with any unsealed roads the conditions vary.
Keep an eye on the road reports and ask people along the way (at the roadhouses) about the state of the part ahead.
It's definitely not a Sunday drive, but as long as you have a reliable and suitable car and a good measure of common sense, you should be ok.
Now, it's hard to judge your capabilities from such a short message, so I say this as well: if you read all of the above and all those thoughts are new to you, if some of it doesn't make sense, if you don't know how to change a tyre or check the oil level in your car, then I suggest you stay on the bitumen.
Most of the Savannah Way is sealed, so just skip that one section and stay south of it on the Flinders and Barkly Highway. It's a detour, but probably quicker anyway, and definitely safer.