The Savannah Way – Road Trip Broome to Cairns

You can enjoy several incredible road trips in Australia, but few can compare to The Savannah Way for the sheer ruggedness and diverse landscapes you witness.

Taking you on an incredible journey from Broome in Western Australia to Cairns in Queensland, this route covers more than 3,900 km, guiding you through the width of the Northern Territory.

Along the way, you’ll encounter a variety of landscapes, cultures, and natural wonders that few other routes can offer. From the beautiful beaches of Broome to the ancient rainforests of Cairns, it promises a remarkable coast-to-coast adventure.

So, join us as we reveal the ins and outs of this epic Broome to Cairns road trip, outlining what makes it such an exceptional experience.

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What is the Distance Between Broome and Cairns?

As mentioned, if you intend to drive the Savannah Way, you will cover at least 3900 km.

DriveDistanceEstimated Drive TimeWhere to Stay
Broome to Kununurra917 kms (570 miles)12 hours 41 minutesKununurra
Kununurra to Katherine514 kms (319 miles)5 hours 25 minutesKatherine
Katherine to Mataranka108 kms (67 miles)1 hour 8 minutesMataranka
Mataranka to Daly Waters168 kms (104 miles)1 hour 45 minutesDaly Waters
Daly Waters to Tennant Creek407 kms (253 miles)4 hours 15 minutesTennant Creek
Tennant Creek to Mount Isa661 kms (411 miles)7 hours 4 minutesMount Isa
Mount Isa to Undara Volcanic National Park926 kms (575 miles)9 hours 54 minutesUndara Volcanic National Park
Undara Volcanic National Park to Cobbold Gorge225 kms (140 miles)2 hours 58 minutesCobbold Gorge
Cobbold Gorge to Karumba457 kms (284 miles)5 hours 23 minutesKarumba
Karumba to Normanton70 kms (43 miles)47 minutesNormanton
Normanton to Atherton Tablelands613 kms (381 miles)6 hours 44 minutesAtherton Tablelands
Atherton Tablelands to Cairns94 kms (58 miles)1 hour 21 minutesCairns
Estimates only; times will vary based on traffic and road conditions

However, it’s important to note that this is just a guide, as the drive to Far North Queensland doesn’t account for detours, side trips, or stops along the way. Given the vastness of the Australian continent and the numerous attractions, national parks, and cultural experiences you can encounter during this journey, many travellers choose to extend the distance by exploring various points of interest along the route. 

Ultimately, driving Broome to Cairns on a Savannah Way road trip is not just about reaching a destination; it’s about savouring the unfolding adventure as you traverse this remarkable expanse in Australia.

How Long is the Drive from Broome to Cairns?

If you want to drive from Cairns to Broome, you can do it in around 42 hours of non-stop driving time. That is how long the Savannah Way road trip is! Clearly, then, you must devote some time to doing it.

Most travellers tackle the journey leisurely, taking anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks to complete. Doing this allows them to explore the numerous natural wonders, cultural encounters, and iconic landmarks that dot the Savannah Way. It can also incorporate rest or non-driving days when they want to linger in one place.

Ultimately, your journey’s duration depends primarily on what you want to see. But the more time you can spend on your Broome to Cairns road trip, the better.

Best Time of Year to Drive from Broome to Cairns

The drive along the Savannah Way from Cairns to Broome is one you can do all year round. However, it is generally accepted that the dry season, which runs from April to October, is the ideal time for this journey.  

During these months, you can expect pleasant temperatures, clear skies, and lower humidity levels, making outdoor activities and sightseeing more enjoyable. That said, it’s essential to note that this is also the peak tourist season, so popular destinations and accommodations may be crowded and more expensive.

For this reason, should you prefer a quieter and more budget-friendly experience, consider travelling during the shoulder seasons of April-May or September-October. The weather is still favourable at this time, and crowds are thinner.

On the other hand, if you want to witness the lush greenery of the wet season and don’t mind occasional rain showers, November to March offer a unique and vibrant landscape. Just be mindful that road conditions and accessibility to certain areas may be challenging due to heavy rainfall. 

Ultimately, the best time for driving the Savannah Way on a road trip from Broome to Cairns depends on what you want to see and your willingness to experience certain seasonal conditions.

Best Stops on a Broome to Cairns Trip

Those wanting to drive Cairns to Broome along the Savannah Way can visit a wealth of incredible stops and experiences.

Here are some of the best stops to consider along this epic journey:

Broome, Western Australia

Broome, the coastal gem in Western Australia, boasts pristine beaches, most notably Cable Beach with its iconic sunsets.

AU Road Trip Broome to Cairns - Cable Beach

This vibrant town is steeped in history, once a thriving pearling centre. Visitors can explore the fascinating Pearl Luggers Museum and learn about its pearling heritage.

Broome’s multicultural atmosphere offers a taste of diverse cuisine. In contrast, nearby attractions like Gantheaume Point and the Horizontal Falls offer natural wonders to explore, making it a unique and captivating destination.

Kununurra, Western Australia

Nestled in the heart of the Kimberley region, Kununurra is an oasis surrounded by rugged landscapes. It’s renowned for its access to the iconic Bungle Bungle Range in Purnululu National Park, where distinctive beehive-shaped formations captivate visitors.

AU Road Trip Broome to Cairns - Kununurra

The mighty Ord River flows through the town, providing opportunities for scenic cruises and fishing adventures. Kununurra’s agricultural industry produces delicious fresh produce, and its warm climate makes it a perfect year-round destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.

Katherine, Northern Territory

In Australia’s Northern Territory, Katherine is the gateway to the breathtaking Nitmiluk National Park – known for its dramatic Katherine Gorge.

AU Road Trip Broome to Cairns - Katherine Gorge

Visitors can explore the rugged landscapes on cruises, canoe trips, or hiking trails and witness ancient Indigenous rock art. The town itself offers a glimpse into Outback life with attractions like the Katherine Outback Experience. This charming destination is a central hub for exploring the region’s natural beauty and cultural heritage.

Mataranka, Northern Territory

Nestled further in the Northern Territory, Mataranka is a tranquil oasis celebrated for its thermal pools.

AU Road Trip Broome to Cairns - Mataranka Hot Spring

The crystal-clear, warm waters of the Mataranka Thermal Pool and Bitter Springs offer a soothing escape amid lush tropical surroundings. Visitors can relax in these natural pools, meander along picturesque boardwalks, and enjoy vibrant birdlife.

Daly Waters, Northern Territory

One of the most iconic stops along the Savannah Way is Daly Waters, a remote Outback town renowned for the historic Daly Waters Pub.

AU Road Trip Broome to Cairns - Daly Waters

This quirky watering hole possesses a treasure trove of memorabilia, serving as a time capsule of Australia’s pioneering spirit.

The pub’s unique character and welcoming atmosphere make it a memorable destination for travellers exploring the Northern Territory.

Tennant Creek, Northern Territory

Tennant Creek, an Outback town in the Northern Territory, offers a captivating blend of Indigenous culture and mining history.

AU Road Trip Broome to Cairns - Tennant Creek

Visit the Nyinkka Nyunyu Art & Culture Centre to explore Aboriginal art and traditions. The fascinating Battery Hill Mining Centre sheds light on the region’s mining heritage, making Tennant Creek a culturally and historically significant stop along the Savannah Way.

Mount Isa, Queensland

Mount Isa, a mining city in Queensland’s Outback, is renowned for its significant mining industry.

AU Road Trip Broome to Cairns - Mount Isa

Visitors can delve into the mining history at the Outback at Isa complex, which includes the fascinating Hard Times Mine tour.

This rugged, remote city offers insight into the mining heritage that has shaped its identity.

Undara Volcanic National Park, Queensland

Undara Volcanic National Park in Queensland is famous for its extraordinary lava tubes formed by ancient volcanic eruptions.

AU Road Trip Broome to Cairns - Undara Volcanic National Park

Whilst there, you can explore these natural wonders on guided tours, learning about the park’s geological history and unique ecosystems.

The park’s rugged beauty and fascinating geological features are best explored via its hiking trails, which provide excellent photography opportunities.

Cobbold Gorge, Queensland

If you visit Cobbold Gorge, prepare to have your breath taken away. This off-the-radar gem in the heart of Queensland’s Outback is a geological marvel featuring narrow sandstone chasms and clear, emerald waters.

AU Road Trip Broome to Cairns - Cobbold Gorge

Guided boat tours provide an intimate experience as they navigate through the gorge, unveiling its stunning rock formations, lush vegetation, and the captivating story of its creation.

Karumba, Queensland

Karumba, a coastal town in Queensland, offers an idyllic setting on the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria.

AU Road Trip Broome to Cairns - Karumba

Known for its spectacular sunsets over the ocean, it’s a paradise for fishing enthusiasts and birdwatchers.

The town’s laid-back atmosphere and breathtaking natural beauty make it a peaceful retreat along the Savannah Way en route to Cairns.

Normanton, Queensland

Situated in the Gulf Savannah region of Queensland, Normanton offers a unique blend of Outback charm and history.

AU Road Trip Broome to Cairns - Normanton

The town is famous for its iconic Purple Pub and the impressive Normanton Railway Station, housing the historic Gulflander train.

If you are interested in exploring the rugged and remote landscapes of the Gulf country, there is no better place to go.

Atherton Tablelands, Queensland

The Atherton Tablelands in Queensland is a lush highland region known for its diverse landscapes and natural beauty.

AU Road Trip Broome to Cairns - Atherton Tablelands

It’s home to stunning waterfalls like Millaa Millaa Falls, volcanic lakes like Lake Eacham and unique attractions like the Curtain Fig Tree.

Visitors can enjoy a plethora of outdoor adventures, wildlife encounters and a captivating rainforest experience.

Cairns, Queensland

Your epic Savannah Way journey concludes in the vibrant coastal city of Cairns in Far North Queensland. The gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, the city is simply bursting with activities for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

Foreshore beach in Cairns

There’s so much going on here, we’ve created a separate family guide to Cairns to help you navigate around the city, as well as a guide to the best day trips from Cairns to plot out your onward adventures in Far North Queensland.

This road trip along the Savannah Way offers an extraordinary blend of natural wonders, cultural experiences and diverse landscapes. It certainly one of the lesser travelled routes in the country and it takes some experience and commonsense to make your trip across the Top End a success.

Plan your trip carefully; be mindful of how much driving you’ll fit in a day, the impact of seasonality and don’t be afraid to veer of the main roads and explore like few have before you!

Further Top Tips for a Broome to Cairns Road Trip

  • Carry a first-aid kit, emergency communication devices, and a detailed map or GPS. Let someone know your itinerary and expected return date.
  • The Savannah Way crosses Indigenous lands. Show respect for local customs, traditions, and sacred sites, and seek permission before entering restricted areas.
  • Mobile phone coverage can be limited in remote areas. Consider purchasing a satellite phone or a satellite messaging device for emergencies.
  • Leave no trace by disposing of waste properly and respecting the environment. Follow the ‘Leave No Trace’ principles to minimise your impact.
  • Don’t miss our more detailed guide to planning a road trip in Australia where we provide several more handy tips for outback Australia driving.
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