Drive the Savannah Way
ONLY IN AUSTRALIA could you own a property for decades without realising it has a spectacular feature like Cobbold Gorge. Despite his family living at Robin Hood Station, near Forsayth, far north Queensland, from 1964, Simon Terry didn’t know of the gorge until 1994. “We first came up here in a friend’s old tinnie. But they left, and we had no boat, so we used to come in a plastic cattle trough. They make a good boat,” Simon explains, recounting a story that typifies his outback practicality and love of this mysterious country. “It’s almost still a frontier – there’s still stuff out here that white people haven’t walked over. There’s 80sq.km of sandstone there. I’ve only been up a handful of gorges – it just takes so long to discover it all.”
Driving the Savannah Way is a good start. Explore it in sections or drive its length from Broome, in north-western WA, to Cairns, north-eastern Queensland. A popular section is Cairns to Burketown. Covering epic landscapes from tropical ocean, through mountainous rainforest and rich volcanic agricultural land to the savannah of the drive’s name, the road takes in history, culture and natural beauty.
A historic highlight is Normanton, a goldmining town that’s home to Tagalaka man Patrick Wheeler, a traditional owner who runs tours covering everything from natural history to the gold rush to tales that got left out of the history books. “I want to tell everyone as many stories as I can,” he says.
Burketown is the base for Yagurli Tours. Gangalidda man Rodney Kum Sing will take you on a river cruise, bush tucker tour or four-wheel-drive tagalong. You can explore salt pans and hear about the local Dreamings, giant goanna and bluetongue lizard, or head to Gin Arm Creek where Rodney might catch a terrapin prawn and cook it for you on a riverside fire.
Two historic trains cross the Savannah Way, the Savannahlander and the Gulflander, which rolls at a stately 30km/h from Normanton to Croydon (see page 62).
Taking in Cobbold Gorge on an electric boat, paddleboard, or even a helicopter, is an essential stop. Stay on-site in a chic cabin, cool off in the pool and enjoy excellent tucker at the restaurant.
This is a true outback adventure, so ensure your car (which should be a 4WD) is equipped with everything you’ll need in case of emergency.
For help travelling the Savannah Way, contact the Savannah Guides ( savannah-guides.com.au), a network of professional tour operators and guides with expertise in the area.
Einasleigh River, QLD.
Gangalidda man Rodney Kum Sing, of Yagurli Tours, catches terrapin prawns in Gin Arm Creek, outside Burketown.
Rodney Kum Sing pilots his 4WD through bull dust at Escott Station.