Cairns to Lawn Hill#savannahway
North Queensland | The Savannay Way
Overview Cairns to Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park
The Gulf Savannah
The Savannah Way’s eastern point is Cairns, a popular destination surrounded by rainforest and reef. The route westward to Boodjamulla National Park (formerly known as Lawn Hill National Park) via Burketown.
Sealed roads and towns in relatively close proximity make this a comfortable route for all vehicles. Of course there are plenty of side routes and loops including unsealed road adventures as well – most of these are well maintained roads with the occasional shallow creek crossing making four wheel drive preferable.
7 Day Itinerary: Cairns to Lawn Hill – 1,254 klms
Day 1 – Cairns to Mareeba, Atherton Tablelands
The journey begins in Cairns, the gateway to Queensland’s tropical north and Great Barrier Reef and a buzzing coastal city famous for its picturesque esplanade, lively bars, vibrant food scene and laid-back lifestyle.
Travelling from Cairns to the cool, elevated Atherton Tablelands, a blend of the best attractions of the tropics; a combination of nature and lifestyle at its finest. Among the World Heritage listed rainforests, national parks, mountains, rivers, lakes and waterfalls are some of Australia’s richest agricultural lands and charming small townships. Biologists have described the spectacular rainforests of the Wet Tropics as the “greatest celebration of life on earth”.
Explore Kuranda – the Village in the Rainforest, just 27 kms from Cairns via the Kuranda Range.
Mareeba is a food lovers paradise producing more than 70% of Australia’s coffee. Pick up some local produce including coffee, wine, fruit and vegetables and ensure to drop into Mareeba Heritage Museum and Visitor Information Centre for more information on this diverse region.
Alternate route: Cairns to Chillagoe
Travel via Chillagoe for an additional experience with unsealed roads.
A former mining centre, Chillagoe is renowned for its marble, Australia’s finest, and limestone caves that have regular tours.
Day 2 – Mareeba to Undara
Leaving Mareeba, travel south through the southern parts of the Atherton Tablelands home to world heritage listed rainforests and spectacular waterfalls.
Undara Volcanic National Park is home to one of the world’s longest flows of lava originating from a single volcano, dating back some 190,000 years. The flow has created a vast network of lava tubes and underground caves. There are guided tours daily and must be booked. The Archway Explorer is a great introduction to the caves and, as it follows boardwalks, is suitable for all fitness levels.
Stay the night in one of the 15 Queensland Rail carriages meticulously restored in 2016.
Alternate route: Chillagoe to Undara
Via Herberton Pedford Road and then onto the Kennedy Highway, The Savannah Way.
Day 3 – Undara to Cobbold Gorge
Travelling from Undara, visit Mount Surpise – home to semi-precious gemstones and fossiking experiences.
Georgetown was established when gold was found around the Etheridge River in 1869, and is full of charming heritage buildings and surrounded by spectacular outback scenery. Georgetown is an administrative and cattle centre for the Etheridge Shire with a history of gold, silver, copper, lead and tin mining throughout the district.
Visit the incredible TerrEstrial Centre, a modern display of over 4,500 gemstones and minerals from around the world.
From Georgetown, head west again then take a small detour off the main route to head to the geological wonder that is Cobbold Gorge, Queensland’s “youngest” gorge, at about 10,000 years old. A guided tour is the only way you can explore this spectacular formation: daily tours, led by an extremely knowledgeable Savannah Guide, include both a walking component and a cruise through the gorge, where rugged sandstone walls soar up to 30m on either side. Active travellers can explore the gorge under their own steam on a stand-up paddleboard.
Stay overnight at Cobbold Village, home to an infinity pool with a swim-up bar and a variety of accommodation including motel-style rooms, self-contained cabins and camping/caravanning area.
Day 4 – Cobbold Gorge to Karumba
Leaving Cobbold Gorge, travel back to Georgetown and then onto Croydon (232 klms), a town with a big history that started with the discovery of gold in 1885. Enjoy living history through interactive and static displays and by visiting the businesses still operating from the 1880’s.
155 klms from Croydon is Normanton, a goldfields port that is now an administrative centre and home of the fantastic Gulflander Train, one of Australia’s great rail journeys.
Karumba is 71.6 klms from Normanton and is highly regarded as the prawn and barramundi fishing capital of Australia at the mouth of the Norman River. Stay overnight in one of the many caravan parks and relax an enjoy spectacular sunset views and local seafoods.
Day 5 – Karumba
Start the day by visiting Les Wilson Barramundi Discovery Centre and Hatchery and discover amaging secrets of the Southern Gulf Barramundi, the fishing industry, the people and the stories of the Gulf Savannah.
Karumba beach is the only beach in the central Savannah accessible by sealed road and well known for fishing all year round. There are a number of fishing charters and fishing guides or take a wildlife cruise along the Norman River.
Day 6 – Karumba to Burketown
Burketown is the oldest settlement in the Gulf boasting a rugged frontier history of “Gulf Fever” devastating the pioneers and home to Yagurli Tours. Yagurli Tours offers an Indigenous perspective on Burketown. Run by the Gangalidda and Garawa peoples, tours include a fishing charter, a cruise along the Albert River at sunset and a stargazing experience, where a Gangalidda elder explains the significance of the night sky. This is a must do experience of the Gulf Savannah.
Day 7 – Burketown to Boodjamulla National Park (Lawn Hill)
Leaving Burketown, travel the Gregory-Lawn Hill Road to Boodjamulla National Park (formerly known as Lawn Hill), one of Queensland’s most beautiful reserves.
Lawn Hill Gorge carves a vibrant ribbon of green through the surrounding plains, a rich emerald oasis surrounded by sandstone peaks and fringing rainforest. The area is a sacred place to the Indigenous Waanyi people, who believe the Rainbow Serpent (Boodjamulla) formed the gorge.
10 klms brom Boodjamulla National park, Adels Grove offers plenty of accommodation options including two camp grounds, pre-erected tents, bunkhouses and rooms with ensuites. There’s a restaurant onsite, a nice deck to enjoy a sundowner and the spring-fed Lawn Hill Creek, ideal for swimming and canoeing.
This is truly spectacular country and well worth an extended stay.