Driving from Cairns to Darwin

I was hoping you could advise me of the best route to take from Cairns to Darwin in a conventional 2WD. Unfortunately I will have to make the trip in late March which is not ideal with respect to the weather.

I may also be travelling alone and as a young female would prefer a route with plenty of stops and sealed roads. I'm not sure whether I'd be best going via Townsville, Mount Isa as opposed to the Savannah Way. Any advice you have would be most appreciated


PS. You have a great website

Comments for Driving from Cairns to Darwin

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Townsville Mt. Isa is easiest ans safest
by: Birgit

You might be able to make your way from Cairns to Normanton and then down to Cloncurry (beautiful drive) and to Mt. Isa from there, but it's a bit more off the beaten track and parts may flood in March.

Not sure about the other inland options from Cairns down to Charters Towers/Hughenden etc...

West of Normanton you have no sealed options. Stay away from any unsealed tracks in March.

How good or bad the Normanton route would be for you I don't know. If sightseeing and outback is what you're after then it's more interesting than the main highway, that's for sure...

Unfortunately I don't know that part of Australia that well. (I live in the west, not east, but will be over there early 2009 myself. Then I'll be of more help for all the people interested in the Darwin-Cairns drive.)

If your only objective is to get to Darwin quickly and safely, then the Townsville detour is your best option.

But do check with people over there, for example the RACQ in Queensland, if you want to go via Normanton. And definitely get up to date conditions in March before heading that way.

Cairns to Darwin.
by: Ann Wareing

I have travelled on at least three routes from Cairns to Darwin. I find each one is interesting but if I were travelling by myself in March I would go to Townsville, Mount Isa, The Three Ways then on to Darwin bearing in mind you are travelling during the Wet The road is all sealed and most of it is double lane and carries a lot of traffic. The loneliest stretch is between Camooweal and the Threeways.

I have been held up between Cloncurry and Mount Isa several times during the Wet but often not for long. I have also been held up between Mount Isa and Camooweal. The new bridge at Camooweal should stop you from being held up there. I have also been held up at the bridge over the Burdekin between Townsville and Charters Towers.However take bedding, mosquite repellent, food and water and no risks. I have known the Stuart Highway to be covered with water and chewed up by trucks. This is from the Threeways to Darwin.

by: Anonymous


thank you for your comments as we are also looking to drive from Cairns to Darwin in April next year. I can't find the 'threeways' that you mention? are you able to indicate what is near?

we are thinking of coming down from Normanton to Cloncurry and across to Waramungu then up to Darwin, that part from Normanton on is what makes me most nervous as we will have an SUV but still 2WD, any advice is much appreciated


Threeways Roadhouse
by: Birgit

Amal, Threeways Roadhouse is the roadhouse at the intersection of the Barkly and Stuart highways.

With thanks
by: Anonymous

You are a gem Birgit, I love your site and am so grateful for all the energy you (and others) put into it. Each time I read through it I become more and more inspired

Amal :)

by: Birgit

Glad you like it. :-)

by: poli k

For my birthday next year I'm planning a trip in April and just plucked Cairns out of a hat and then typed it in and here your page came up. Thanks so much, going to make the trip easy and will have a cold one for you. Thanks, awesome road trip, yippie.

We did it!
by: Amal

Hi Birgit

Thanks again for your help. We left Sydney late April, drove up past Cairns to Cape Tribulation then down through Atherton, across the Savannah way to Normanton, down to Cloncurry, across to Tennant Creek and then up to Darwin over about 2 months.

The trip was amazing and it was better to wait the extra month rather than traveling in March as it was still very wet then. There are some long stretches of unsealed road on the Savannah Way and then down to Cloncurry but we were lucky to have hit them dry already. 2WD vehicle was fine all the way, petrol stops are at good distances although for anyone doing it the HEMA maps are useful for peace of mind and knowing where the next pit stop is.

Ladies, would suggest taking a funnel in case you need to do a roadside pee as sometimes nearly 200km between loo stops!!!

For anyone who can it's well worth the drive, amazing scenery and beauty in the ever-changing landscape

by: Anonymous

Great, thanks for all the adive on this site! These comments give me peace of mind as I am about to drive to perth from Cairns in a 2wd as a 27 year old female, also single. I will be ducking down to check out Uluru though and then over to Broome (already done Darwin). Great site! I am driving in August.

HELP Lift Needed Mt Isa to Darwin
by: Sue

My son and his girlfriend were driving from Gold Coast to Darwin but have had an accident outside Mt Isa and are now stranded in Mt Isa. It appears the car will be written off.

Is there anyone with plenty of room in a vehicle such as van or even truck that can give them a lift the rest of the way (before 2nd August 2011) as the car back seat & boot are full with their gear also, they will pay towards traveling costs, they now just don't have a car after hitting a Roo

Please email me if you can help niblet10@optusnet.com.au
Dated Thurs 28th July, 2011

URGENT LIFT needed Mt Isa to Darwin
by: Sue

I have placed a previous post here requesting if anyone can offer a lift Mt Isa to Darwin.

PLEASE I hope some kind-hearted person can help these 2 young people only aged 20 & 21 who are stranded in Mt Isa.

Darwin to Cairns i Jan 2012
by: Anonymous


I am sitting at the hairdressers using my new Christie pressie and have just discovered your site!

My son is in Darwin & wants to drive to Cairns in the first week of January. I'm pretty sure getting past Katherine will be a problem. Can someone please tell me where else is it likely to have flooding over roads? I would much prefer him to fly! Any tips I can pass onto him would be appreciated.


Road Trip
by: Quinnys

Any info on the trip from Cairns to Darwin 2nd week in August? While leaving Cairns, I would like to travel the Savanah but would also like other suggestions. Towing a small jayco :)

Road Condition - Mt. Isa to Darwin
by: Anonymous


How is the Mt. Isa to Darwin road condition during December? I am planning to drive to Darwin in the 2nd week of December and would like to know if there are areas which will be affected by heavy rain that could jeapardize my travel?


Cairns to Darwin June 2014
by: Anonymous

Two friends and I are planning to go in two weeks, any advice appreciated. May 2014

Cairns to Drwinat
by: Joe

Please advise which is the best month to drive, also
the best route?

Darwin to Townsville
by: JJ

I would like to know what are the best accommodation places from Darwin to Townsville to stay overnight. Can you please let me know places of interest to see along the way. I will be in a sedan 2 wheel drive car in July 2016 next year.

special trip
by: Rick

First of all many thanks for the whole web site of yours and all very useful informations. I have worked several years in Europe and am now planning to move back home, Melbourne. Semi- retired I will have plenty of time, my idea was to fly back in April or May, first to Darwin. Buy a second hand minivan there, bit fixed and get bed and all necessary gear and drive slowly to Townsville, Cairns, Brisbane, Byron Bay and continue up to Melbourne and there sell the minibus. Does it sounds like a very crazy plan to you or could be this done? Many thanks, Rick

sounds good to me
by: Birgit

Rick, that does not sound crazy at all to me but rather like a great trip :-)
Buying and selling cars obviously can cause delays and trouble, but since you are in no hurry to get anywhere and in no hurry to sell in Melbourne, unlike travellers who have to leave the country, I can't think of any reason why you shouldn't do it that way.

kids stranded in Mt Isa
by: Anonymous

Did they get a lift? I plan to go through June school holidays. Myself and teenager

Rockhampton to Darwin road trip
by: Addy B

Travelling from Rockhampton to Darwin in the next couple of days (August 2016) and also wondering where are the best places to stay the night and space out driving times. Hoping to get there in with 3 overnight stops - 4 at the most as on a time limit with work. Really appreciate any advice including rest/fuel stops.

by: Doug

Hi, I drove from Port Douglas to Darwin in 1991 and it'll be a trip I'll never forget, it was an absolutely brilliant time and I would love to do it again. Good luck to anyone that's going to do it and you'll be knackered at the end of it, take plenty of water and beer and food, and a few spare wheels. You'll have the time of your life's. Good luck to you all.

Darwin to Cairns 26th April
by: Anonymous

Hi, I will be driving my Ford XR6 to Cairns from Darwin in late April. Can anyone tell me if the roads are ok?

Darwin to Cairns
by: Anonymous

Never stay at Three Ways. It's disgusting and looks like something out of Wolf Creek (Australian horror movie). Stay at the Barklay Homestead on the Barklay highway. Nice pool, cold beer and clean rooms or camping facilities. Also an espresso coffee machine in the morning before the big drive.

From Three Ways to Cairns
by: Anonymous

Hello, we are renting a camper in June for one month, starting from Darwin and visiting the national parks we want to to drive to Cairns, following the route that you mentioned (via Mont Isa, Normanton). Could you recommend places to spend the night, and if there is something interesting to visit on the route, about nature.
More or less how long is this drive route?

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