Route Reviews: Cairns Darwin Road Trip Planner

You’re on the road trip, on the way back to Queensland, head to Cairns for your exciting vacation. So what’s the best way to self-drive from Darwin to Cairns? Let’s see this route review.

Before writing this article, I didn’t believe any traveler who wanna drive this road because it’s a quiet route heard from residents of Australia. In addition, somebody is planning a trip around North Australia but not sure what thing to do & place to be. So if you research for the route to complete through Darwin to Cairns, you’re in the right place!

Route Review: What a Long Way over The 2,800 km Drive Route!

Now I will show you this “quiet” route you have to stay on for several days. Generally, this route plan that drives to Cairns from Darwin is like a camel in the desert. Not many people know what best drive route to pass the border of Northern Territory to Cairns.

Way to Cairns from Darwin route review (Cairns to Darwin do so on)

If you type Darwin on the Google Map & set Cairns as a destination, you’ll see this result:

Typical route from Darwin to Cairns Australia
Typical route from Darwin to Cairns (Click pic see full size)

The route sets from Darwin through the Daly Waters and turns into National Highway 1 and then straight to Cairns. Total 2,356km in 26 hrs. So it’s simple & easy that you don’t need to turn to other highways anymore. But I have to say, this route is a suggested route by Google Map means it’s the fastest route for you, not much fun in this way. >>Get this navigation

When I wrote this article, Google suggested starting from Daly Waters, turning to 11 highway at Mc Arthur before Borroloola, across the border, then heading to Normanton and finally to Cairns. Just like this map:

Route from Darwin to Cairns Australia

It was an unsealed way between Borroloola and Normanton because it showed 523 km of the distance and must drive 18 hours.

Route from Borroloola to Burketown Australia

Now, it’s named National Highway 1 and available for the fastest route; and takes five and half hours to complete this way if you set this navigation now.

Overall, this route lets you quickly finish this trip. But why do I say this’s not funny?

The reason is, there are no critical or remarkable attractions in this route, so I show you my trip experience below.

Route from Darwin to Cairns Australia
My road trip experience from Darwin to Cairns (Click pic see full size)

The route, which sets from Darwin through the Daly Waters, turns into 66 highways at Warumungu. Then Camooweal (A2 highway), Mount Isa, Cloncurry, Hughenden, Townsville (Transfer Point), head north to Cairns along sea highway.

Once you follow this route, it’ll take 31 hours, 2848 km. Then you can see the grey course shown on the top; it’ll take 32 hours 2763 km a little bit more distance. But you’re thinking, what about through the way on that top between Borroloola & Normanton?

>>Get this navigation

When I went around Australia, Some roads you go through are challenging because of these unsealed roads in the regions. Unless you own the four wheels drive vehicle; otherwise, don’t try across there whether you’ve stronger two wheels move.

Across Border of Northern Territory

Drive to Cairns from border of Northern Territory Australia
Drive to Cairns from the border of Northern Territory (Click pic see full size)

After you turn at Warumungu, across the border of Northern Territory, then Camooweal (A2 highway), Mount Isa, Cloncurry, Hughenden, Townsville (Transfer Point), head north to Cairns along sea highway.>>Get navigation on Google Map

By the way, there’s no check station at the border of NT/QLD, not like entering Western Australia so that you can pass directly.

About Cairns

Cairns Esplanade Lagoon QLD Australia
Cairns Esplanade Lagoon

Cairns is famous for its location in North Queensland. These people want to enjoy the sunshine, blue sky, beautiful beach & diving for the Great Barrier Reef. You’re in Northern Territory; I can feel you can’t wait for a long time to dive there, so now let’s have a review of Darwin back to Cairns route; I hope this review for your road trip planning.

Alright, do the review of route Darwin Cairns, now let’s check about information for rest & food load.

Best Attractions on midway Darwin & Cairns

In this section, what I recommend best attractions that fit your camping trip with a camper van is these:

  1. Kakadu National Park
  2. Katherine Gorge
  3. Daly Waters Historic Club
  4. Lawn Hill Gorge (Boodjamulla)

Darwin Cairns Road Trip Itinerary Suggestion

I’ve assembled three itineraries for your trip planner, plans which drive 6-8 hrs in a day. Do not get too tired, almost going, usually stop & take snap is good. Check them out:

5 Days Fastest drive route

Why said this itinerary is the fastest? That’s just moving without any other attractions except fuel loading & having meals.

1. Start from Darwin

Driving 590 km in 6 hrs 21 mins, stay over in Daly Waters. >>Get navigation.

2. Moving Day to Tablelands

Driving 569 km in 6 hrs 37 mins, stay over in Tablelands. >>Get navigation.

3. Across border of NT/QLD

Driving 571 km in 6 hrs 34 mins, rest in Camooweal and Mount Isa, stay over in Cloncurry. Once you pass the border of NT/QLD, which is near the Camooweal, it will change the time zone, then continue moving. >>Get navigation.

4. Head to Cairns or take your time

Driving 490 km in 5 hrs 15 mins, stay over in Torrens Creek, but it’s a short route in a day. If you feel total energy, you can try heading to Cairns to save your budget, but it will take 12 hrs & 1128 km driving. >>Get navigation.

5. Get to Cairns

After driving 638 km in 7 hrs 11 mins, rest in Townsville, Ingham & Tully, you finally arrived in Cairns City! >>Get navigation.

So it needs five days to drive the whole route from Darwin to Cairns, no shortcut, no attractions visiting. That’s the most extended way, which is over 2500 km you’ve known.

One week (or more) drive itinerary

Here we go again! This 5-day itinerary does not include any attractions visiting, so what about seven days? This time, still add Lawn Hill Gorge into the trip plan; Let’s see details:

1. Start from Darwin

Driving 590 km in 6 hrs 21 mins, stay over in Daly Waters. >>Get navigation.

2. Across border of NT/QLD

Driving 829 km in 9 hrs 50 mins, across the border, stay over in Camooweal. >>Get navigation.

3. Go to Lawn Hill Gorge

Leave Camooweal, turn to the unsealed road to Boodjamulla National Park. Then, driving 276 km in 7 hrs, reach the Lawn Hill Gorge Camping Area. >>Get navigation.

4. Boodjamulla Day Tour

Today no moving, enjoy the mirror river by boating or yacht. Then go to Adels Grove for the night, or you can stay in the same camping area for the night, having BBQ, alcohol, and campfire. What a beautiful day. >>Get navigation.

5. Move out to Normanton

Leave Lawn Hill Gorge or Adels Grove, head east & north to Normanton, driving 443 km in 6 hrs 44 min & stay over in Normanton. >>Get navigation.

6. Head to Cairns or take your time

Driving 679 km in 8 hrs 24 mins then reach Cairns City just in one day! >>Get navigation. But take your time, stay over in Mount Garnet. >>Get navigation.

7. Get to Cairns

Just driving 162 km in 2 hrs 20 mins, finally arriving in Cairns, finish! >>Get navigation.

Note: About seven days itinerary suggestion, if you want to have a trip in Kakadu & Katherine Gorge, you better need to add 3-5 days, that’s two weeks less for Darwin Cairns road trip.

Cairns Darwin Road Trip Itinerary Suggestion

So, what about driving to Darwin from Cairns? These drive itineraries have done the tours relevant to Cairns like diving or skydiving.

5 Days Fastest drive route

1. Start from Cairns

You are driving 640 km in 7 hrs, stay over in Torrens Creek. >>Get navigation. Or you can stay in Charters Towers, just going in 5 hrs 26 mins. >>Get navigation.

2. Moving Day to Western

Leave Torrens Creek, driving 611 km in 6 hrs 32 mins, stay over in Mount Isa. >>Get navigation. Or leave Charters Towers & drive 769 km in 8 hrs 9 mins stay in Mount Isa. >>Get navigation.

3. Across border of QLD/NT

Driving 635 km in 7 hrs 24 mins, rest in Camooweal, stay over in Warumungu. Once you pass the border of QLD/NT near the Camooweal, it will change the time zone. >>Get navigation.

4. Head to Darwin or take your time

Driving 384 km in 4 hrs 25 mins, stay over in Daly Waters. >>Get navigation. But it’s a short route in a day. If you feel total energy, you can try heading to Darwin to save your budget, but it will take 10 hrs, 43 min & 966 km driving. >>Get navigation.

5. Get to Darwin

Leave Daly Waters, driving 590 km in 6 hrs 26 mins, rest in Katherine, finally you have arrived in Darwin City! >>Get navigation.

One week (or more) drive itinerary

Here we go again! This 5-day itinerary does not include any attractions visiting, so what about seven days? This time, still add Lawn Hill Gorge into the trip plan; let’s see details:

1. Start from Cairns

Driving 679 km in 8 hrs 23 mins, stay over in Normanton. >>Get navigation.

2. Go to Lawn Hill Gorge

Turn to an unsealed road to Boodjamulla National Park. Driving 443 km in 6 hrs 43 mins, reach the Lawn Hill Gorge Camping Area. >>Get navigation.

3. Boodjamulla Day Tour

No moving, enjoy the river tour, have fun playing in the water, and stay in the same camping area.

4. Move out to Camooweal

Leave Boodjamulla, go to the nearest town Camooweal for stay over.>>Get navigation.

5. Across border of QLD/NT

Driving 445 km in 5 hrs 25 mins, rest in Tablelands, stay over in Warumungu. Once you pass the border of QLD/NT near the Tablelands, it will change the time zone. >>Get navigation.

5. Head to Darwin or take your time

From Warumungu, driving 384 km in 4 hrs 25 mins, stay over in Daly Waters. >>Get navigation. But it’s a short route in a day. If you feel total energy, you can try heading to Darwin to save your budget, but it will take 10 hrs, 43 min & 966 km driving. >>Get navigation.

5. Get to Darwin

Leave Daly Waters, driving 590 km in 6 hrs 26 mins, rest in Katherine, finally you have arrived in Darwin City! >>Get navigation.

Note: You can add Katherine Gorge & Kakadu’s journey to your trip plan. That way, you need 3-5 days, meaning two weeks less for this road trip from Cairns to Darwin.

Darwin Cairns Attractions Highlight

If you want to check more details of the attraction, read this section.

Daly Waters Historic Club Highlight:

If you start navigation from Darwin, Google will suggest you turn into the highway in Warumungu. You can rest at a pub Daly Waters Historic Club in Daly Waters before Warumungu.

Daly Waters Historic Club NT Australia
Daly Waters

I was surprised by this club because they collected massive underwear & bra pins on the top of the bar. They contain tons of stuff like name cards, hats, sports clothes, historical items, & other stuff. It made me feel wrong about the collection store’s bar. Pretty funny when you sit in front of the bar, have some alcohol, talk about travel stories & can’t control your eyes to look up, Oh look at that! That was a new bra which was left in the hotel room by some lady!

How to go to Daly Waters Historic Club?

How to drive to Daly Waters Historic Club Australia
how to drive to Daly Waters Historic Club (Click pic see full size)

Daly Waters is a small town within a small airport & historic site near the Stuart highway (main highway in Central). When you drive on the road, notice the sign & turn into an unsealed road till final, you will see a small town like Vietnam.

This club is a good point for fuel & food loading because there’s a fuel station in front of this bar. The bar is unique, but not much time is staying here for me, so I just left, but it is such a good place for having dinner & drinks at night.

Lawn Hill Gorge (Boodjamulla National Park) Highlight:

After passing the border of the Northern Territory, there’s an attraction that I recommend you must see Lawn Hill Gorge. This gorge is a natural place; take their yacht crossing the river, which looks like a mirror!

Tour at Lawn Hill Gorge QLD Australia
Boat tour at Lawn Hill Gorge
Tour at Lawn Hill Gorge QLD Australia
Green Lake views in Lawn Hill Gorge
Tour at Lawn Hill Gorge QLD Australia
Boating at Lawn Hill Gorge
Tour at Lawn Hill Gorge QLD Australia
Falls in Lawn Hill Gorge

Here you can enjoy a clean river, take beautiful photos, swim, shower in the waterfalls & boat on the river! People said it’s just like an oasis in the desert cause almost nothing special around you while on the way.

How to go to Lawn Hill Gorge?

If you want to visit Lawn Hill Gorge (Boodjamulla), I show you the map which provides from Queensland Official website:

Tour at Lawn Hill Gorge QLD Australia
Lawn Hill Gorge map

When you drive to Mount Isa, you are just across the border of the Northern Territory & at about Camooweal. Then, turn the north at the side of the highway, enter the Riversleigh Homestead, and go along to the Lawn Hill Gorge.

For more information on Lawn Hill Gorge, visit the Queensland Government official info.

This route isn’t easy to find; show the map result for you, click images link to Google map route.

Camooweal to Lawn Hill Gorge Australia
Lawn Hill Gorge route map
Lawn Hill Gorge route map Australia
Lawn Hill Gorge route map

>>Get navigation on Google Map

About drive trip to Boodjamulla

It is route info that I’ve assembled clearly. To save this route link and settle because you’ll get no mobile signal in this area. Also, you drive through an unsealed road on this route that I strongly recommend four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicles to you. And I suggest taking three days, two nights for an outback road trip in the Boodjamulla national park.

About accommodation

There are two campings near the Lawn Hill Gorge, the Lawn Hall Gorge Camping Area & Adels Grove Camping Park. I want to choose these camping areas: Adels Grove Camping Park because they have cabins, a good wide camping site surface & river tour can make a booking.

About Petrol Filling Stops

Would you please make sure you have fuel added to your car in Camooweal? Otherwise, there’s only one petrol station in Adels Grove; also it’s more expensive. 276 km is OK, but I need to drive for a long time so keep patience.

How to go to Cairns after Lawn Hill Gorge?

After you enjoy the mirror river & fresh oasis, then keep going on the highway, start navigation from Adels Grove. Now head east to Normanton, Croydon, Georgetown, Mount Garnet, then Cairns City.

Route reviews from Adels Grove to Cairns Australia
Route reviews from Adels Grove to Cairns

That way, you don’t need to stay at Mount Isa & Cloncurry. But, still, you need to take over 8 hours drive from Adels Grove to Normanton. Then, after that, Georgetown for one night, then to Cairns, whatever, you decide how many days to stay over.

>>Get navigation on Google Map.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoy this road trip, you already know the best route between Cairns and Darwin. Now, get your belongings ready, get food and a map, then turn on your car engine and start it! 

By the way, besides Darwin Cairns trip planner, I recommend these route planners for your next road trip:

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