Hidden gorges, amazing lava tubes, old mining relics, abundant wildlife and unforgettable fishing; North Queensland’s outback Gulf Savannah covers some of the most remote and spectacular country, Tropical Gulf Savannah's wildly dramatic landscape is steeped in history and culture and covers an area of 186,000 square kilometres from the Great Dividing Range, just west of Cairns, to the Gulf of Carpentaria and on to the Northern Territory border and contrasts starkly with the coral reefs, bright lights and lushness of the coast.
It truly represents the 'real' Australia with vast areas of tree-studded grasslands, waterfalls, and remote salt pans merging with wetlands. Spectacular flora, kangaroos, crocodiles and a myriad of birdlife, World Heritage fossil fields, Aboriginal rock art, gemstones, gold, and some of the best fishing in the world add to the natural phenomena of meandering river systems, hot springs, deep gorges and the once in a lifetime experience, the Undara Lava Tubes at Mt Surprise.
For many, the path across the Gulf Savannah is a path of self discovery. The niches and beauty of this land encourage contemplation, the clear night skies are perfect for stargazing, the sunsets unbelievable, the wildlife enchanting and the people of the Gulf are touched by the quintessential spirit of Australia that is impossible to analyse yet so simple to define.
The Savannah Way is the great top road linking Cairns with Georgetown, Croydon, Normanton and Karumba, before it continues across the Northern Territory to end in Broome on the northwest coast of Western Australia.
Into the heart of the Gulf Savannah region running from Cairns to Forsayth, the Savannahlander train gives new meaning to the expression ‘getting away from it all’. This is an outback adventure which gives the visitor to the region a first-hand encounter with uncanny geological formations, wildlife, history and legends. Amongst the deep river pools and gorges are historic bush tracks used by the cattlemen, pioneers and Afghan cameleers, and thousands of butterflies, birds and the most beautiful coloured agates in the world.
Further west, historic Croydon , surrounded by vast savannah grassland and rolling hills, was once a thriving gold mining town. From Croydon the historic Gulflander train operates a weekly link with Normanton, the major business and service centre of the Gulf, and providing access to Karumba on the coast.
Known world wide for its fishing, Karumba is the centre of the Gulf's prawning industry and boasts the most awe inspiring sunsets as regular occurrences especially from the beach at Karumba Point. The amazing wetlands which extend 30 km inland from Karumba are home to cranes and brolgas, and of course the saltwater crocodile!
South of Normanton, in the region where the ill-fated Burke and Wills explorers passed through on their search for the Gulf of Carpen
taria, the cool waters of Lawn Hill Gorge beckon. Part of the Lawn Hill National Park, this area has been inhabited by Aborigines for over 35,000 years, due to the abundance of wildlife and the never-ending supply of crystal clear water from the springs at the base of the majestic sandstone cliffs. Evidence of this culture is clear in the art, painted and etched on rock shelters within the park. Of great significance and recently included in the Lawn Hill National Park are the Riversleigh Fossil fields, now classified as a World Heritage region, but is not open to the public.
The Great Top Road takes in Burketown, the barramundi fishing capital of Australia, situated on the meandering Albert River and further west, the Aboriginal settlement of Doomadgee. The next point of call is Hell's Gate which is as far as the Mounted Native Police would guarantee safety for early settlers heading to the Northern Territory.
Even today, this is a remote part of Australia and the best time to rediscover the legendary Australia in the accessible outback of the Gulf Savannah is from April to November.