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Explore Queensland’s North West with this 15 day itinerary

See the other side of North Queensland and head West! This one will be a trip to remember.

15
Days
2,521
Kms
8
Stops
2
Geological Wonders

Thought North Queensland was all reef and rainforest? Think again.

Behind the coastline lies savannah country and an arid outback; where the main arterial roads follow the fence lines of cattle stations that cover more square kilometres than some countries.

Queensland’s North West is big, bold and yours for uninterrupted adventure in an Apollo camper.

Motorhome hire in an outback campsite with family sitting around fire

Your outback road trip might look like this | Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

 

Your Camper Hire Adventure

Whether you consider yourself an intrepid-explorer, nature-lover or carefree wanderer,  clear some storage in your camera roll – photos of gorges, fossil deposits, dinosaurs, outback oasis, and spectacular skies are incoming! 

With two weeks on your side, you can take the loop from Cairns, across the Savannah Way before completing the return journey via sections of the Matilda, Overlanders and Pacific Coast Ways, right back to where you started.

If you need some help planning your off-the-beaten-track getaway, then choose this itinerary and go from beach to bush in Queensland’s North West.

 

Day 1-2: Apollo Cairns to Undara (255km, 3 hours 32 minutes)

Put the reef and rainforest in your rear-view mirror and set out on the Savannah Way – your first port of call is the Undara Experience.

It might take half a day as the crow flies, but with so many ‘must-visit’ spots along the route (think: farm gates, waterfalls and Avatar-esq strangler figs), don’t be surprised if you don’t make it to Undara until sundown.

With 58 powered campsites at the Undara Experience, you can park up for the night and rise in the morning to a chorus of birdsong amongst natural bush surroundings.

To explore the world’s best-preserved and largest lava tubes in Undara Volcanic National Park, you’ll need to join a tour led by a Savannah Guide.

Wander through the network of tunnels, archways and cave systems that run for 160km, formed some 190,000 years ago when the now-dormant volcano erupted.

Jaw dropping? You betcha! 

Be mesmerised at Undara Volcanic National Park | Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

 

Day 3-4: Undara to Cobbold Gorge* (224km, 2 hours 57 minutes)

Today, swap one geological masterpiece for another – Queensland’s youngest gorge, Cobbold Gorge.

A mid-morning departure will ensure you aren’t sharing the road with crepuscular natives who have built a reputation in Outback Queensland for denting bonnets. 

Park your van at the only accommodation in the area, Cobbold Gorge Village, and join Cobbold Gorge Tours to explore this 135-million-year-old sandstone oasis. 

Tours showcase the perspective of the gorge from waters’ level, gliding through the narrow section of gorge via electric powered boat or stand-up paddleboard.

The gorge is breathtakingly narrow, so you can expect to touch both sides as you look up and stand in the shadow of its 30m high coloured cliffs. 

To see the gorge from a new perspective, leave your fear of heights at home, and cross it via a 13m-long suspended glass-bottom bridge. 

As a guest of Cobbold Village you can reward your day’s touring with a dip in the infinity pool (complete with swim up bar), followed by dinner at the onsite restaurant.

*Please note - this route requires travel along unsealed roads for more than 10km. Only our 4wd vehicles are permitted to travel along unsealed roads longer than 10km, as per our terms and conditions. Read more about our 4wd adventure camper here.

 

Day 5-7: Cobbold Gorge to Karumba (456km, 5 hours 22 minutes)

It’s a big day of driving, but you’ll be grateful to have your hotel on wheels to whip up cuppa or snack as you make the journey due north to the seafood epicentre of Queensland, Karumba.

It’s here you’ll find barramundi, king salmon, prawns, crabs and all manner of reef fish served fresh as dish of the day.

Base yourself in Karumba for a couple of nights to take in more than one famous sunset over the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Karumba is the only place in Queensland where you can watch the sun go down over the sea from the mainland. What’s more, staying in a camper will give you front row seats to the show.

You can also see if the fish are biting by joining an organised tour to cast off for both reef and estuarine species. 

Learn all about Barramundi at Les Wilson Barramundi Discovery Centre | Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

 

Day 8: Karumba to Cloncurry (452km, 4 hours 51 minutes)

It might only be a short (in outback terms) drive from Karumba to Cloncurry, but you can expect the landscape to change wildly in a matter of five hours. 

On arrival, Cloncurry delights visitors with its rich history; it’s the very town Qantas launched its first flight after all. 

A visit to John Flynn Place Museum and Art Gallery is a good place to start to learn about Cloncurry’s history, notably through the role of the Royal Flying Doctor service in providing health care services to remote communities of the outback. 

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay other than the usual campground offering, take your camper to the ghost town of Mary Kathleen (a former Uranium mining town), where all that remains are the slabs of the former village dotted around the open cut mine. 

You’ll find a swag of other campers and caravanners parked up here and a good display of outback hospitality. 

 

Day 9-11: Cloncurry to Julia Creek (137km, 1 hour 29 minutes)

You won’t need to spend much time behind the wheel today to reach Julia Creek from Cloncurry.

Park up at the award-winning Julia Creek caravan park, whose artesian baths are the perfect antidote to road trip muscle aches and pains.

Drawing from the artesian basin some 900m below ground level, these baths pump perfectly tempered water (38-41 degrees) into clawfoot tubs for guests to soak in.

There are plenty of powered sites to choose from but be sure to time your visit for Monday night for the caravan park’s bush dinner, cooked over the coals and accompanied by poetry performances.

Relax and let the minerals work their magic in the tubs of Julia Creek Caravan Park | Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

 

Day 12: Julia Creek to Hughenden (263km, 2 hours 53 minutes)

Drive east for a few hours along the Overlanders way to your next overnight stop, Hughenden.

It’s a long, straight stretch of tarmac, but it can be broken up with museum and bakery stops at the fossil-rich town of Richmond.

Had you travelled to Richmond 100 million years ago, you would have found an inland sea and this town has the fish, squid, shark tooth and giant marine reptile fossils to prove it.

Further east, find your destination for the night, Hughenden, where fossil discoveries continue.

Don’t leave without a visit to the Flinders Discovery Centre where you can get a photo with “Mutt”, a full-bodied Muttaburrasaurus replica.

If you like your history told through the landscape rather than museums, head to Porcupine Gorge National Park aka Australia's 'Little Grand Canyon'. There’s 22 sites in the Pyramid camping area to park the camper to sleep amongst the action. 

 

Day 13-14: Hughenden to Townsville (383km, 4 hours 11 minutes)

Wave goodbye to the vastness of Outback Queensland, by this afternoon you’ll be sipping cocktails on the coast.

Hughenden, or Hughie as the locals call it, connects to Townsville in a matter of hours, passing through the charming gold mine town of Charters Towers.

Your reward at the end of the road? Queensland’s sunniest city.

Choose from the array of beachfront caravan parks in Townsville’s CBD, which offer views over Magnetic Island and Cape Palleranda Conservation Park.

Explore the city’s famous landmark for sunset, Castle Hill, and watch the golden glow over town and the Coral Sea.

 

Day 15: Townsville to Apollo Cairns (351km, 4 hours 37 minutes)

All good things must come to an end – and all good road trips must too.

Take the Pacific Coast Way from Townsville to Cairns and drop off your camper today.

If time is on your side, extend your trip to explore the coastal villages and tropical islands that connect Cairns and Townsville, or simply make a beeline to explore Cairns with this guide. 

 

All this tropical travel talk given you a taste for the van life? Explore more road trip itineraries here.


 

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