Distance Kununurra to Darwin: 827 kms
Kununurra to Timber Creek
Distance: 227 kms
We’re about to set off on the drive from Kununurra to Darwin, the last leg of the Western Australia road trip. It’s coming to an end, and the timeless thought that crops up in the minds of all travellers – it all seemed to go so fast. A few weeks before we had thousands of kilometres ahead of us. Now it’s a few hundred.
After three days in Kununurra, Dustin from Kununurra 4WD Spares gives the vehicle a final check to make sure there are no more issues from the contaminated fuel we’d picked up at Fitzroy Crossing. He says everything is good to go.
We’ve had an amazing few days. The day trip out to El Questro and the walk up Emma Gorge were the highlights.
It’s not a long drive day, so we take some time out to have breakfast at Kelly’s Knob. We have the place to ourselves and get sweeping views across Kununurra and beyond. It is a nice way to end our stay here.
We are on the western most end of the ‘Savannah Way’, the road going from Broome to Cairns across the top end of Australia.
Our stop tonight will be Timber Creek, just inside the Northern Territory/Western Australia border.
Timber Creek Hotel
On first glance, Timber Creek looks like a scene from a Mad Max movie. Security mesh everywhere; with a hint of desolation.
We’d booked a cabin at the Timber Creek Hotel from Kununurra. Our experience all along the Western Australia coast is cabins in RV parks are generally well equipped, comfortable and good value for money.
After the booking is confirmed we go around the back of the pub and find a really nice camping/RV area. Well kept, grassed sites and good facilities set in a quiet area next to a small stream. The contrast from first impressions of the township couldn’t be more marked.
The hotel has a well-stocked store that looks after fuel and bookings.
Towards evening, Nackeroo Lookout is a good spot to have sundowners and take in the sunset. The lookout was named in honour of the Nackeroos, a handpicked group of bush commandos during World War II who patrolled (usually on horseback) the top part of Australia after the Japanese bombing of Darwin in February 1942.
Their job was to look for enemy activity, provide detailed surveillance and gather intelligence and run a signals network across northern Australia. Highly skilled bushmen and soldiers who were expected to operate behind enemy lines if the need arose. Their contribution is often overlooked during a time when Australia was under serious threat of invasion along its northern borders. Their ranks were drawn from both white and indigenous Australians.
‘Curtin’s Cowboys’ is a well-researched book covering the operation of the Northern Australia Observation Unit (aka Nackeroos). It’s been out of print for a while, but used copies crop up on eBay from time to time. It’s a great read.
Crocodile and Kite Feeding
On most Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays around 5pm there is an opportunity to feed a friendly freshwater crocodile that hangs around the creek adjacent to the camp ground. These reptiles are fish eaters and pretty harmless, unlike their estuarine or saltwater crocodile cousins.
Kites are raptors and feed on small game. Whistling and Black Kites come in for a feed.
Timber Creek to Darwin
Distance: 600 kilometres
After a pleasant evening at Timber Creek, it’s the final leg of the drive from Kununurra to Darwin. It takes about three and a bit hours to cover the 290 kilometre drive into Katherine. It’s here we decide to take a break at the local cafe. A bite to eat and some coffee.
I hadn’t been to Katherine for decades. The last time was a trip to experience Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge), which would have been around 1985/1986. I don’t recall much about the town, but it did feel different on this occasion. Maybe a little more civilised.
Back in those days, the pilots who did helicopter mustering ran tourist flights up the gorge during their off-season. I can recall leaning out of a Robinson R22 taking photos as we flew up the series of gorges.
The powers that be at the time were in the process of vetting these operators, as it had been a free-for-all up to that point. If you had a helicopter, you were good to go.
Nobody got hurt. However, they thought it would be good idea to set some basic rules in place. Gotta love the Northern Territory.
The Jeep has plenty of fuel, so we keep going.
Our next stop is the 303 Bar and Diggers Bistro in Adelaide River; which is about 200 kilometres north of Katherine on the way to Darwin. An ice cream and some fuel for the Jeep.
Again, there’s no place like the NT. An aged Elvis impersonator (at least I think that’s his gig) is singing to a bunch of locals who are a bit the worse for wear. After they give him a rousing round of applause, they stagger out with slabs of beer on their shoulders engaging in loud, animated conversations consisting of insults delivered in the form of four-letter expletives. Clearly the party is only just beginning.
Darwin – the Final Stop
Back on the road the for last couple of hundred kilometres into Darwin. The appearance of Screw Palms (Pandanus spiralis) and termite mounds along the sides of the highway brought back memories.
My mother lived in Darwin for ten years, and so I used to spend a bit of time around the top end when I came here to visit. I hadn’t been on the Stuart Highway for over 20 years; to see this landscape again reminded me of those days, and the unique character of the Northern Territory.
We drive into Darwin and set ourselves up in the Hidden Valley Holiday Park. Then it’s a late afternoon drive to the Mindil Beach markets to watch one last sunset over the ocean.
Over the next couple of days we’ll repack the Jeep for transportation back to the Gold Coast, Marise will fly to Canberra for a conference and I’ll fly back to Brisbane en route to the Gold Coast.
And that’s it. We’ve travelled 8,249 kilometres since arriving in Perth four or so weeks ago. It would have to be the best road trip I’ve ever done.
On that note; a huge thanks to you Marise, my travelling companion who amplified; enriched the incredible journey it’s been. Without your companionship, input, humour and boundless energy this trip would never have turned out the way it did.
The Kununurra to Darwin drive is a time to reflect on all this amazing road trip has delivered. From the cold, windy rainy stopover in Perth to the steamy heat of Darwin. The opportunity to swim with Whale Sharks, to realise how big and remote this country really is, and to experience first-hand the sheer wonderment of it all. Its people, its landscape, its character.
We’re starting to plan our next major trip in 2020 – The Savannah Way. Stay tuned.
Read about our Top 5 Places to Visit in Western Australia
Previous Stop: Kununurra – The Heart of the Kimberleys