driving north in January

Submitted: Saturday, Aug 25, 2018 at 17:57
ThreadID: 137167 Views:3027 Replies:8 FollowUps:9
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Hi fellow explorers,
We will be doing our annual migration to Port Douglas, but this time in January. Didn't think I'd ever do it, but apparently school is too important to miss out on. Anyway, I have a couple of routes in mind which I've done before, but not in summer so wanted some advice.

1. From Melbourne up through Cobar, Barcaldine, Charters, Townsville, Port. This is my preferred route as its quiter, I like the isolation, however I'm not sure how hot it gets. Also not sure if there is a wet season around Torrens Creek to ruin the last stretch of dirt road there.

2. From Melbourne up through Dubbo, St George, Emerald, Charters, Port. I know this is all sealed, wouldnt mind visiting Carnarvon Gorge again. Its the default route.

So will Route 1 be OK from past experiences in summer? Does it rain a lot through there.

Additionally, I wouldnt mind trying out Charters up Gregory Hwy to The Lynd through Mt Garnet and bypass Cairns. Is that road sealed?

I'd be travelling with wife and 2 young kids in a Prado, I'm not looking for any slip and slide unsealed roads.

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Reply By: Member - Warren H - Saturday, Aug 25, 2018 at 22:05

Saturday, Aug 25, 2018 at 22:05
Check the BOM weather stats. Wettest month is usually March when the monsoon trough moves far enough south, unless of course a cyclone or low pressure system comes through. Inland will be high 30s maybe low 40s, localised storm rain is always possible. When I lived up there, my rule of thumb was it was likely to be pretty dry until Xmas-New Year then anything was possible. If a low pressure system develops the accompanying rain could close roads, including Route 1 for several days, so you will need to be flexible. On the other hand it may be dry as for the whole of January, the luck of the draw. Road from Charters Towers through to Mt Garnet is fully sealed. If you are going to bypass Cairns via the inland route, I presume you intend to go through to Mareeba, Mt Molloy and down the Mossman-Mt Molloy road? It is quite a scenic drive.
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AnswerID: 620887

Reply By: Dusty D - Sunday, Aug 26, 2018 at 06:37

Sunday, Aug 26, 2018 at 06:37
As Warren stated, it is the luck of the draw re the weather. I live west of Emerald and January is damn hot and not the ideal time for travelling anywhere up here in the north. It is also the time of year for frequent vicious storms, especially in the border country of southern Qld - there seems to be a belt that generates some wild weather with large hail.

The roads are as good as you could expect for inland Qld, but bear in mind the effect that long hours of driving on extremely hot bitumen roads can have on your vehicle. I've had batteries cook on more than one occasion due to the radiated heat off the road.

In saying all this, I do believe that the summer months are the best time of the year to view the north, rivers are running, fish on the bite and fewer tourists.

AnswerID: 620888

Reply By: Hoyks - Sunday, Aug 26, 2018 at 15:24

Sunday, Aug 26, 2018 at 15:24
Yes, it will be hot. Expect temps into the 40's, so make sure the cooling system is up to the job.

The coast route is nice, but bloody steamy that time of year. Inland route you get some relief once the sun goes down.

Carnavon Gorge would be rather warm that time of year and there are restrictions on camping in the summer, so I wouldn't bank on actually being able to camp there in January.

All the routes take you to Charters Towers, from there just play it by ear. The road from Charlie's Trousers to Townsville is quite good and rarely goes under. If it has, then its a fair bet that the roads around Ingham, Innisvale and Tully are under as well, so if you can't get to Townsville, Charters Towers will be as far as you will probably go for a few days.
AnswerID: 620892

Reply By: shmick - Sunday, Aug 26, 2018 at 16:29

Sunday, Aug 26, 2018 at 16:29
Well thanks for that info all. I'm glad I asked, I was planning to wing it initially.
So it will be hot, hot enough to potentially cause car trouble, it may or may not rain and Carnarvon Gorge may not be doable.
Ok, with that said I might just stay on the coast. As annoying and boring as it is im always close to a town in the event of a breakdown and it wont be hard to get accommodation with a pool. Just that drive between sunshine coast and Whitsundays, urgh.
If there is flooding, north of "Charlies Trousers" (hahaha) is it predominantly coastal or inland too? I'm thinking worst case go around to Mossman the back way.
Im looking forward to seeing some tropical thunderstorms, after I reach my destination
AnswerID: 620893

Follow Up By: Member - Bigfish - Sunday, Aug 26, 2018 at 18:33

Sunday, Aug 26, 2018 at 18:33
Just stay on the Bruce Hwy after Proserpine. No need to detour. You can call in and stay at any of the numerous beach parks if you want. Kids will appreciate the water. Be aware of crocs and jellyfish in the waters. Most caravan parks have a pool anyways. It will be hot and very humid...that's why all the tourists get out by the end of September...Southerners cant handle the humidity very much. Its an acquired taste!! The tropical thunderstorms seemed to have died down ! I can remember when they would roll on at 4 pm every afternoon...now rarely. Weather is definately changing. Take your time and you will have no worries. Ensure you stay where there is an air conditioner...otherwise you may well turn around and back South asap..Check the BOM weather site each morning for the latest news on the weather...for peace of mind.
FollowupID: 893349

Reply By: CSeaJay - Sunday, Aug 26, 2018 at 22:57

Sunday, Aug 26, 2018 at 22:57
I think the comments about it being hot and the effects on car (and blowing battery) is exaggerated. Hundreds of thousands of people live up there and do these drives every day including their Christmas school holidays that run into late January. Or do you think they stop driving. Yes of course it is hot but thats just normal and our cars still run and have never ever heard of a battery blowing because if radiated heat off the road.
Yes by all means check weather but you will have plenty forewarning if there is a significant weather event they dont blow in unexpetedly overnight
AnswerID: 620895

Follow Up By: Dusty D - Monday, Aug 27, 2018 at 12:01

Monday, Aug 27, 2018 at 12:01
So, because you have never heard of something happening means that it has never happened????? If you go back and read my first post, you will see that there was no mention of 'blowing' a battery as you put it, the term I used was 'cooked'.
Sure, hundreds of thousands of people drive every day up here in the summer, but probably not all day on hot inland roads. A lot of people have problems due to the heat generated off the road and battery failure is just one of those problems along with tyres, cooling systems, auto trans overheating etc. I worked in the automotive repair industry up here for more than 40 years and I certainly know what effect heat has on cars and trucks. Drivers sitting in air conditioned cabins are totally oblivious to what is happening to their vehicle until something goes pear shaped, but please don't change your way of thinking - the industry needs people like you to help put money in the till.
You obviously don't live in the north or had much to do with our summer weather if you believe that storms cannot blow in unexpectedly overnight.
FollowupID: 893353

Follow Up By: CSeaJay - Wednesday, Aug 29, 2018 at 11:06

Wednesday, Aug 29, 2018 at 11:06

This is just normal to people living here and no, there is no such thing as a battery blowing, cooking, or whatever you want to name the failure, as a result of heat on the mentioned roads compared to other roads up here.
And yes I live here, drive here, doing the specific roads mentioned in the original post on a monthly basis ;-)
Storms can certainly blow in but it is not as unexpected as in mountain country, the forecasts are good enough to warn you beforehand. But common sense prevails, we certainly don't avoid the mentioned roads just because a storm MAY blow in ;-)
FollowupID: 893368

Follow Up By: Greg J1 - Wednesday, Aug 29, 2018 at 18:06

Wednesday, Aug 29, 2018 at 18:06
I have lived and worked in north west Queensland most of my life.Hazard a guess to say the north west is a whole lot hotter than the coast. Minus the humidity.

Never seen or heard of a battery exploding. Tyres are a different thing.

Life goes on in the hot weather. Trucks still carry freight to Darwin. They cart cattle in summer. People still travel. Suckers like me still build steel cattle yards in 45 degree heat.

Dusty is being a little dramatic I think.

Modern cars have no problems on a hot day.

Cheers Greg
FollowupID: 893369

Follow Up By: Dusty D - Thursday, Aug 30, 2018 at 06:30

Thursday, Aug 30, 2018 at 06:30
CSeaJay, I think you may need a crash course in basic reading and comprehension skills with emphasis on interpretation of the written word. Nowhere have I written that anybody should avoid the mentioned roads just because a storm MAY blow in. How you can interpret my comments as meaning that is beyond me.

Greg J1, I have lived all my life in central Qld working as a diesel mechanic for more than 40 years and the heat we experience here is not much different to the north west and certainly hotter than coastal areas. Sure, as you say, life goes on in the hot weather, trucks still carry freight to Darwin, they cart cattle in summer and people still travel. Nobody is denying any of this, but there is a big difference in the way people handle the extremes of temperature. The OP is from Melbourne and not being climatized to the constant heat of a northern summer would definitely find our weather uncomfortable here in January.

Just for the record, Greg, there was never any mention of an exploding battery in my post, that was entirely the spin put on it by CSeaJay.

To state that modern cars have no problems on a hot day is not entirely true, Greg, but if you believe that than maybe you should give up building cattle yards and go into selling used cars.

FollowupID: 893375

Follow Up By: Greg J1 - Thursday, Aug 30, 2018 at 08:42

Thursday, Aug 30, 2018 at 08:42
Dusty. 20 30 years ago when a lot of travelers drove commodores and falcons ( before the 4WD boom of these days ) you would quite often come across these vehicles with their bonnet up and a boiling radiator. I can’t remember the last time I seen a modern sedan or 4WD with the same problems. I suppose there is no reason why it can’t, just nowhere near as common.

As for the degrading used car salesman comment, I ve done well enough for myself working in the heat and flies of the north west not to need that advice thanks. Basically retired now and the younger generation are taking over.

Cheers Greg
FollowupID: 893377

Follow Up By: Dusty D - Thursday, Aug 30, 2018 at 11:38

Thursday, Aug 30, 2018 at 11:38
No argument from me Greg re the higher rate of overheating of vehicles 20 to 30 years ago compared to the vehicles of today, but I can assure you it does happen in extreme heat.


My apologies for the used car salesman comment - just couldn't resist it given the context of the exchange.

FollowupID: 893381

Follow Up By: Dusty D - Thursday, Aug 30, 2018 at 12:38

Thursday, Aug 30, 2018 at 12:38

Just to give you a better understanding of my reference to a cooked battery, it has long been established that for every 10 degree increase in temperature, the chemical reaction within a car battery is doubled thus causing a more corrosive action on the metal plates and ultimately this will lead to complete battery failure.

The term 'cooked' is commonly used in my industry to describe vehicle components that have failed due to extreme temperatures and that is it in a nutshell.

Please feel free to ask questions should you fail to understand this explanation.

FollowupID: 893382

Follow Up By: Greg J1 - Thursday, Aug 30, 2018 at 15:30

Thursday, Aug 30, 2018 at 15:30

Thanks for the apology regarding the car salesman thing. I have a good comparison between a car mechanic and an altar boy but I’m glad I resisted now ;). Probably get banned for writing that one here !!!

All good

Cheers Greg
FollowupID: 893386

Reply By: Member - Rod N (QLD) - Monday, Aug 27, 2018 at 06:27

Monday, Aug 27, 2018 at 06:27
Charters up Gregory Hwy to The Lynd through Mt Garnet. The road is sealed and the single lane sections are being widened. From The Lynd north is now all 2 lanes. It is the 'bypass' route when the coast road is closed.
AnswerID: 620896

Reply By: Batt's - Friday, Aug 31, 2018 at 12:43

Friday, Aug 31, 2018 at 12:43
Keep a good eye on the weather as roads can be blocked for days due to storm flooding and yes the heat will limit your venturing out. I was told recently Carnarvon Gorge is best done in cooler months. It's also cyclone season something else to keep an eye on before heading north as plans sometimes get changed so looking at an alternative destination just in case may be handy.
AnswerID: 620947

Reply By: shmick - Sunday, Sep 09, 2018 at 18:18

Sunday, Sep 09, 2018 at 18:18
Thank you all for the words and warnings. You have helped make my decision, and some things to keep in mind. Ill post back in Jan if I don't forget with how it all went.

(I've decided up through Goondiwindi to Theodore, the back way into Airle Beach and on to Port Douglas. This way I can bypass Rocky. Airlie to Port is an easy drive. And if there is any flooding, now I know I can go via The Lynd to Mossman on sealed roads)
AnswerID: 621119

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