Roper Highway - Savannah Way

We are intending travelling from Mataranka via Roper Highway to Roper Bar, Savannah Way to Borroloola (including Lawn Hill and Gregory Downs), Burketown and eventually to Cairns. Neighbours in the park travelled some parts of it last week and said it was extremely corrugated at the moment between Borroloola and Burketown...?

The other option via Threeways adds hundreds of kms and of course means travelling on the main roads...

Can anyone shed some light on both roads and also any "hidden gems" on that route...?

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Reply By: rumpig - Sunday, Jul 28, 2013 at 09:05

Sunday, Jul 28, 2013 at 09:05
the corrogations don't surprise me, we did a drive through those parts a few years back and some the corrogations we encountered along the way were the worst we've come across anywhere in our travels. in saying that, our trip was late in the dry season, so i sort of expect those conditions given the time of year we did it in. have a read of this trip report i did from that drive to give you an idea of some of what's along the route where you intend going. the trip we did is in the opposite direction to your travels, and you'll most likely be interested in the sections from day 4 through to day 13 of our journey.
AnswerID: 515464

Reply By: Member Andys Adventures - Sunday, Jul 28, 2013 at 09:35

Sunday, Jul 28, 2013 at 09:35
Drove it last week, road from Mataranka to Borroloola is not bad, has a few bull dust holes up around Port Roper turn off, very little corrugation. The road into Lorella Springs is rough for the last 10 klm but worth doing. The southern Lost city's is nice to visit, only 4 klm's of the main track.

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AnswerID: 515467

Reply By: rooster350 - Sunday, Jul 28, 2013 at 10:01

Sunday, Jul 28, 2013 at 10:01
We traveled between Borroloola and 50kms east of Hells Gate roadhouse to the turn of to Kingfisher camp a few weeks ago,dual axle non off road van and Musso 4x4....the road was very rough in places and we had to take it very easy. The corrugations were not overly bad , but bad enough to shake us about a bit.....just go easy. If you are going into Kingfisher camp it is 42kms in from the main road then 150kms to Lawn Hill and 14 gates to open and shut, it took us 4hrs to travel that 150kms and SWMBO was not impressed with the gates. We did not go via Roper Bar as we were told that the road from there down to Borroloola had recently been graded and had lots of sharp rocks and was cutting tyres so we went from Daly Waters. Lawn Hill is well worth the effort to get there, we had a pre booked site in the National park for Kingfisher...o.k, but we spent 5 days there and it got a bit boring, a couple of good walks to do, not much good for fishing , nice grassy area for camping , good hot showers, a bit of wild life about...good for 2 or 3 days....cheers
AnswerID: 515469

Reply By: Rachael Jayne - Sunday, Jul 28, 2013 at 11:12

Sunday, Jul 28, 2013 at 11:12
It's so good following your posts, I will be heading to Darwin with my kids shortly and intend going via Cairns and down the east coast on the way back to Brisbane. Enjoy your travels, I'm loving reading about them :) My adrenaline is pumping with excitement, the same way it does when I get a big fish on the line lol.

Sad I know, but that's me.....enjoy the simple things x

AnswerID: 515471

Follow Up By: "Not So Grey Nomads" - Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 09:00

Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 09:00
Hi Rachael

Thanks for the compliments. If you would like to send me your email address I am completing a daily photographic journal in PDF for the kids to have in years to come. I can send you a copy of one weeks worth if you like to give you a few ideas..... Send via a private msg.
FollowupID: 795070

Reply By: The Original JohnR (Vic) - Sunday, Jul 28, 2013 at 11:21

Sunday, Jul 28, 2013 at 11:21
G'day NSGNs, lovely part of the world. We have driven the opposite way in the last six weeks with a caravan in tow. Dropping the tyre pressures is the key to more comfortable travelling, even the caravan to about 25psi.

Some of the road is pretty rough around Lorella Springs, not just on the road into Lorella Springs. Rocky outcrops into the track, indicate to me it is localised as they are much the same on the way in.

Parts of the road on the Queensland side of the border seemed a bit broken up with corrugations. Better on the NT side. Near Robinson River we came across a cyclist travelling Cairns to Perth and he had to push his bike through the loose bull dust. He was riding over 100 Kms on most days on the dirt roads. Corrugations are severe only occasionally, but we did the whole trip without damage to anything. Our speeds varied between 14kph and 80kph on those pressures.

Along the way we saw some beautiful grevillleas and lots of other plants too. Lots of bird life and I won't start trying to name them all, but brolgas, bustards, kites, kites and kites. Feral horses, donkeys, pigs. Fortunately most pigs we saw were dead one, in one place we saw five dead road kill beside the road.

Camp spots: from Mt Surprise we did a side trip and headed up to Georgetown, and just West of there, is a tall chimney, a free camp behind the chimney. Book in good time for Karumba as the best cvp is right out at Sunset at The Point. Out of Burketown near the boat ramp along the Albert River, about 8kms from town. Kingfisher Camp was nice. We had previously camped at Adels Grove, so didn't visit this time. King Ash Bay cvp was good for a couple of days, but dont expect to talk much with fisher folk who go there for several months, they dont tend to mix with travellers. Robinson River, but on the opposite side to the recognised camp, high up from the river bank. Lorella Springs was nice and most can spend several days there as there are varied activities, from fishing to 4x4tracks and of course safer swimming in the springs. We camped behind the St Vidgeon homestead site, down by the beautiful lagoon. Covered by lily pads, but back from the wet edge, where we were. There was a paid camp near by at Tomato Island with green grass, but fishing looked to predominate there too, and didn't stop. We went onto the black top after that one, 140kms before you get to Mataranka.

Special things:camp at Mt Surprise in the cvp on the North side. They organise great trips to the lava tubes and other side trips. We headed South to do a dirt loop and then found the historic Cumberland chimney. Birds and beasts, but didn't see many native beasts. Children's python we saw though. Interesting servos like Hells Gate where you can find time to talk. Some though you want to get out of quick az. Seek out butchers that have their own smokehouse, Western end of Mareeba for one. Fish shops with ultra fresh food like at The Point at Karumba. At Burktown now there is a good butcher and bakery in the same shop. No pub yet, but some say that is better for the town that the drunks need to go further from town!Southern Lost City is stunning to ponder.

The people. Many have real stories to tell, travellers and locals alike. In NSW on the way up we stopped for a tea break and a guy who was just leaving from his tea stop stopped to say g'day. He said a couple of things that made me realise he was a friend of friends that Heather and I had been playing Words with Friends with. Pure coincidence. We didn't know what he looked like, or where he was, or he of us either! Something else similar at our free camp at Robinson River too, where the daughter of a fellow I had talked with a few months earlier camped with us with her partner. True coincidence again. Met the whole family at Lorella Springs.

Preparations: we had no breakages and no tyre issues. Good depth tread on the tyres, and LT graded tyres. Caution is always best way to proceed. Slow down for crossings, but you will often grate your teeth with some wash aways. They can be severe. Take a lot of care at road works to not get in the way of road making machinery. I have heard that a fellow who was on road works near Doomadgee had considerable damage caused coming into contact with a road roller. There wasn't anyone working the day we went through there, but I took side tracks where I thought preparations were being done.

Food preparations: just think ahead as fresh food is harder to get at the more remote outposts. We prize though some of the frozen prawns and barra that we have brought back. Places like Borroloola get fresh vegetables and fruit twice a week, though it isn't inexpensive. Don't necessarily go to the closest servo to the highway, they can be more expensive. Servos often, though some you just want to be out of, they can have valuable info for you. We also got quality drinking water from one. Milk is problematic, don't expect soy lattes either.

Communications:UHF radio is important, consistently scanning, but expect many on ch40. My phone sim is globally enabled. I didn't worry if I didn't get messages for two or three days, but I did just a couple of times slip my sim into my satellite phone. Phone signal for Telstra is quite widely available for even quite small communities. In places like King Ash Bay, you will find Borroloola phone signal in and around the bar as they have a micro cell there.

We did near 14,000kms with our return to Southern Victoria and the only puncture was on the Oodnadatta Track. A plug to replace the pop rivet the tyre had picked up.
AnswerID: 515473

Follow Up By: "Not So Grey Nomads" - Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 09:04

Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 09:04
Hi John
I am sorry to have taken so long to get back to you. I just wanted to write to say thanks for taking the time to provide all of this information. I now have it in the front of the car ready for quick reference...

We depart today from Mataranka and fingers crossed for a thoroughly enjoyable trip....

Thanks again. We appreciate it.

FollowupID: 795071

Reply By: Member - Beatit (QLD) - Sunday, Jul 28, 2013 at 14:35

Sunday, Jul 28, 2013 at 14:35
We did the road last year and found it rough but OK just reduce your tyre pressure and drive slower. I really liked the section between Roper Bar and Borroloola as there are some great spots to visit with the Towns River as one of my favourites.

Kind regards
AnswerID: 515483

Follow Up By: "Not So Grey Nomads" - Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 09:06

Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 09:06
Thanks mate. looks like a magnificent set up you have there....

Appreciate your help.
FollowupID: 795072

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