Travel times - Savannah Way, Tanami and Gibb River Rd

I'm fine tuning my itinerary for our trip around this wide brown land and am after some advice RE travel times, average speed for some of the outback roads.

We'll be driving the Savannah Way (between Karumba and Mataranka via Limmen NP) in May, Tanami in July and the Gibb River in July/August. We have a 200 series LC towing a Conqueror Commander.

I understand from my research that a lot depends on how recently the grader has been along. But as a rule of thumb, can I expect to average 70-80kmh on the larger roads (Savannah Way and Tanami) and 50-60 on the GRR? I expect the stretch from Borroloola to the Roper River through Limmen will be slower.

We're in no rush, but am trying to limit our drive legs to 4-5hrs as we're travelling with kids. It'd be useful to know how far we can get in 4-5hrs to estimate how many stops we'll need and how much time we need to budget.

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Reply By: Member - Mark C (QLD) - Friday, Jan 29, 2016 at 00:19

Friday, Jan 29, 2016 at 00:19
We traveled the Savannah way June 2014 from Adels Grove to Booroloola in one day at 80km/h average but rough and long day. You can stop at Hells Gate and Robinson river or Seven Emu or Snake Lagoon along the way to break it up we didn't stop as we were heading to Kakadu as our destination. We were a couple only so you will need to stop more frequently with children. Conquerer will travel fine.
We did the Gibb later in late August/September and we took 10 days to get to Derby from Kununarra and still missed some places along the way. Traveled only 2-300 km per day depending on destination. Mitchell falls a must but camp at King Edward river and do the day trip to the plateau. Camp ground at falls hot and unshaded. Lots to see along the GRR, some do it in one day but see nothing but road and there are so many side trips. One special place in Mornington Camp. 170km round trip in and out, but the two gorges and Fitzroy River are magic and untouched.
Enjoy your trip.
Mark And Helen QLD
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Follow Up By: CKG - Sunday, Jan 31, 2016 at 09:18

Sunday, Jan 31, 2016 at 09:18
Thanks Mark.
All the advice provided to my question is pretty consistent. We'll definitely camp at least once. Thanks for your tips.
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Reply By: Member Andys Adventures - Friday, Jan 29, 2016 at 09:53

Friday, Jan 29, 2016 at 09:53
Hi Chris,
Don't expect the road to be graded this year (driver and his grader+ water tank+ fuel + caravan+ ute were taken off the road in Alice Springs late last year.) It did not comply as a road train....and he didn't have a licence..

From Borroloola it is a 3 hour drive without a van to Lorella Springs. If you are not going to Lorella then it's 4 hours to Nathan River (butterfly Springs) ranger station. From their it's 5 hours to Mataranka.

The road in May should be still ok as not much traffic till end of May.

That's all the local report I can give you, most of the Savannah Way is 50/60 kph not to many places where you can do 70/80.

Cheers Andy
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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Friday, Jan 29, 2016 at 14:56

Friday, Jan 29, 2016 at 14:56
Here he is!

Bit hard on him, he wouldn't go fast enough to cause an accident. In wrong place at wrong time......


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Can't remember most of it.

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Follow Up By: Member Andys Adventures - Friday, Jan 29, 2016 at 15:43

Friday, Jan 29, 2016 at 15:43
Now the price is going to go up because they will need 2 drivers to move up every other day. He was crossing the Hwy from one dirt road to another. Does 40 km and moves camp. In some places he could be in the same spot for a week and others for a day or two. Grades from Alice Springs up to Katherine all the dirt roads.
Cops just can't let a man earn a living without trying to send him broke.
Hurt no one but saved plenty from doing damage to there cars or vans.
Rant over
Have a great day.

Cheers Andy
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Follow Up By: CKG - Sunday, Jan 31, 2016 at 09:21

Sunday, Jan 31, 2016 at 09:21
Seems like a pretty pedantic piece of policing. He's prob only doing 25km. Surely he can seek some form of exemption.
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Reply By: Member - Wildmax - Friday, Jan 29, 2016 at 10:12

Friday, Jan 29, 2016 at 10:12
Hi Chris
Your rig will handle each of those journeys with no problem, and the short answer to time required is the total km divided by an average speed of say 70km.......but of course there is a lot more to it than that.
Our most recent trips we spent around 6 days on the Tanami because we detoured into places like Balgo, Mulan, Lake Gregory and Lake Stretch, which are all well worth a visit.
For the Gibb, which always seems to be in pretty good condition, you could drive it in two or three days but I'd recommend two or three weeks (especially if you do what I consider to be "unmissable" and head up the Kalumburu road to take in Drysdale, King Edward River and Mitchell Falls).
And along the Savannah Way there is also heaps to see if you take your time, from Roper Bar/Tomato Island at one end right through to Burketown. And whatever you do, don't bypass Lorella Springs. Rotten corrugations on the way in, but a fantastic place to explore when you get there - we planned to stop for one night and ended up staying six.
Enjoy your trip, there are some great destinations along your chosen routes.
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Follow Up By: Stephen F2 - Saturday, Jan 30, 2016 at 22:22

Saturday, Jan 30, 2016 at 22:22
Hi Wildmax I lived in Balgo for awhile what great country.Helped I had Aboriginal friends showed me amazing places.1being Lake Gregory.That was 97 wondering whats it like out that way now .I remember track was very invisible out of Mulan cheers
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Follow Up By: Member - Wildmax - Saturday, Jan 30, 2016 at 22:52

Saturday, Jan 30, 2016 at 22:52
Hi Stephen, Balgo is still an interesting place and as you would know some amazing scenery in the surrounding hills. The road to Mulan is good, and we had a very warm welcome from the Aboriginal community there - the kids were an absolute delight, and escorted us to the ranger's house so we could get permits for Lake Gregory - track down there was pretty good; a few sandy patches but no problems. After staying there we took another track from Mulan out to Lake Stretch, and that was a bit rougher, but a great trip. All in all, we loved our time on that end of the Tanami.
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Reply By: rumpig - Friday, Jan 29, 2016 at 18:34

Friday, Jan 29, 2016 at 18:34
Towing our camper trailer we drove Normanton to Adels Grove easily in a day, stopping in at the Burke and Wills camp and Leichhardt Falls along the way. Spent a few days there.
Then a short days drive to Kingfisher Camp from there.
Then did a huge day (left Kingfisher Camp at 6.30 a.m and arrived at about 5.00 p.m) to Lorella Springs which involved a quick stop at Hells Gate Roadhouse for mate to get fuel and we grabbed ice creams, a 15 minute smoko break in the middle of nowhere and about 45 minutes in Booroloola refueling and having lunch before hitting the road again. Apparently we did the drive atleast an hour or 2 quicker then most other people do it according to Rhett at Lorella Springs ( we weren't going slow by any means), and i would not recommend trying to do it in the one day myself ever again. From Lorella to Mataranka was a days drive, we stopped at The Lost World for a brief while (not long enough to do it justice though), Butterfly Springs and a nice water hole at St Vidgions Ruins, also stopped at Roper Bar briefly and then onto Mataranka arriving probably around 4 p.m.
I'll say we usually travel at 100kph where we can, so we are on the fast side with our driving times. From memory the stretch from Lorella Springs to Roper Bar is quiet windy in places, so doubt you'd average 70 - 80kph around there....but that trip was 5 years ago now, so memory isn't perfect of the exact geography of the area. Corrugations were horrendous though in many stretches between Kingfisher and Roper Bar that much i recall, but we super late in the season, to the point Lorealla springs was packing stuff up ready for the wet to arrive.
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Follow Up By: CKG - Sunday, Jan 31, 2016 at 09:30

Sunday, Jan 31, 2016 at 09:30
Thanks rumpig
They're all really valuable tips and will help planning our stopovers.
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Reply By: Motherhen - Friday, Jan 29, 2016 at 23:40

Friday, Jan 29, 2016 at 23:40
We spent three weeks on the Gibb River Road, just seeing the basics plus the Mitchell Falls and Kalumburu extensions. We took it at a leisurely pace, and left out longer drives such as Mornington, and the stations stays, going to only one station when the others have points of interest as well.Home Valley station was closed for renovations, and we spend three full on days over two nights at El Questro. You can check My Blogs 2008.

The Tanami was taken as a route rather than a journey, and we stopped for three nights along the way, just driving, and apart from Wolfe Creek Crater, no deviations or sightseeing. This linked our Kimberley trip and our Central Australia trip, taken over a total of three months. The Tanami was harder and more attentive driving than the Gibb. 80 kph would be rare, but we were towing.


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Follow Up By: CKG - Sunday, Jan 31, 2016 at 09:16

Sunday, Jan 31, 2016 at 09:16
Thanks motherhen
Some really valuable tips!
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Reply By: Stephen F2 - Saturday, Jan 30, 2016 at 22:18

Saturday, Jan 30, 2016 at 22:18
Hi Chris sounds great.I have 5 year old son and want to do lap around Oz .Wondering the age of your kids and how they will be able to still meet education requirements ..cheers Steve
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Follow Up By: CKG - Saturday, Jan 30, 2016 at 22:58

Saturday, Jan 30, 2016 at 22:58
Hi Stephen
Our kids are 6 and soon to be 8. We're gonna do 30 mins a day of school work. Either maths work books (the ones with accompanying teachers guides) or writing journals that'll be summarised in blogs. I think keep it fun. Don't get too worried to be honest. The whole thing will be one big lesson.
Good luck with your planning.
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Reply By: Stephen F2 - Saturday, Jan 30, 2016 at 23:02

Saturday, Jan 30, 2016 at 23:02
Thanks Chris its most probably a better learning experience than stuck in a classroom .In some countries kids start school.only at 8 and have better achievements than been put in school earlier ...maybe see you out there somewhere
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