Spanning thousands of kilometres and taking you on a journey through Australia’s diverse landscapes, the Cairns to Darwin road trip is an adventure that any keen explorer needs to take at least once in their life. Along the road, you’ll find breathtaking scenery, encounter wildlife, and get up close and personal with the Australian outback.

In fact, you’re almost spoilt for choice with things to see and do on this road trip! So, to help make things easier, we’ve put together an itinerary that showcases some of the best sightseeing spots along the road, with something guaranteed to pique everyone’s interest.

How Long is the Drive from Cairns to Darwin?

The drive from Cairns to Darwin takes you along Savannah Way and covers 2,939km. This will take you 37 hours and 30 minutes to complete, with some days seeing you spend more time behind the wheel than others.

Where Should I Stop Between Cairns and Darwin?

The road between Cairns and Darwin is long, so it’s important to break the entire trip down into manageable daily stretches. This also provides you with the opportunity to discover some of the amazing sights along the way, and below, we’ve put together a list of our favourite sightseeing stops for each leg of your road trip.

Quick stats

2939km trip distance

12 day roadtrip

Campervan recommended

road trip map

Day 1: Cairns to Undara Volcanic National Park

Travel time: 3 hours 30 minutes/260km
Cairns to Undara Volcanic National Park

Sightseeing 1: Undara Lava Tubes

After a relatively short day on the road, you’ll arrive at Undara Volcanic National Park. One of the most popular sights here is the Undara Lava Tubes, which is a carved-out path created the last time the Undara Volcano erupted 190,000 years ago. This is a really unique walk that takes you through scenic forest surroundings, and you can also camp here overnight.

Sightseeing 2: Sunset Wildlife Tour

After exploring the famous lava tubes, why not end your day with a Sunset Wildlife Tour? Across the two-hour duration, you’ll be offered the opportunity to spot the 52 animal species that live in Undara Volcanic National Park as well as adventure through lava ponds, craters, and perennial springs. At the end of the tour, you’ll be able to kick back and watch the sunset with a glass of sparkling wine, which is included in the package.

Day 2: Undara Volcanic National Park to Cobbold Gorge

Travel time: 3 hours 30 minutes/250km
Undara Volcanic National Park to Cobbold Gorge

Sightseeing 1: Glass Bridge

Day two of your Cairns to Darwin road trip sees you arrive in Cobbold Gorge, where you’ll get the opportunity to walk across the famous Glass Bridge. Installed across Cobbold Gorge in 2019, this bridge offers you a birds-eye view into the waters below as well as a more detailed look at the formation of the gorge walls. There are also guided tours available that not only take you over Glass Bridge but also up across the sandstone cliffs.

Sightseeing 2: Circular Escarpment Walk

An excellent way of stretching your legs following the 3.5-hour drive, the Circular Escarpment Walk at Cobbold Gorge takes you along a 2km route to the very top of the gorge. Once you reach the top, you’ll be offered unparalleled views of the gorge and the surrounding area, making for some incredible photo opportunities. Once you’ve headed back down, you can extend the adventure further by taking a boat tour through the gorge, which offers a serene and peaceful way of getting a closer look at this beautiful place.

Day 3: Cobbold Gorge to Croydon

Travel time: 3 hours/230km
Historical bank building in Croydon, Australia now used as toilet

Sightseeing 1: Wyreena Playspace

As you head into Croydon after another 3-hour drive, Wyreena Playspace offers the perfect place for families who need to keep young children entertained! Designed for children 12 and under, here you’ll find a mixture of traditional play elements along with imaginative, sensory, and explorative play areas. You can also enjoy a meal at The Conservatory Cafe once everyone has burned off their energy, and when it’s time to wind down, explore the onsite Wyreena Community Arts Centre.

Sightseeing 2: Croydon Main Street

The perfect place to stop and pick up supplies or souvenirs of your journey so far, Croydon Main Street is a bustling hive of activity. Here, you’ll find a plethora of different stores as well as bars and restaurants, making it the ideal area to pull up and transition seamlessly from day to evening while always being able to find something to see and do.

Day 4: Croydon to Karumba

Travel time: 2 hours 30 minutes/225km
Rock beach at Karumba on Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia

Sightseeing 1: Karumba Swimming Pool

Offering an excellent way to cool off on day four of your road trip, the Karumba Swimming Pool is another ideal place for the whole family to visit. It’s also home to Karumba Water Park, which features water slides and water activities for people of all ages to enjoy. There are showering and changing facilities on site too, so there’s no need to worry about traipsing water back into your campervan!

Sightseeing 2: Midnight Emporium

One of the most unique stores in all of Australia, Midnight Emporium is the perfect place to pick up a memento of your road trip from Cairns to Darwin. There’s something for everyone here, including homemade soaps, stained glassware, and interesting ornaments, which also makes it ideal for collecting gifts for your friends and family.

Day 5: Karumba to Burketown

Travel time: 4 hours 30 minutes/370km
Karumba to Burketown

Sightseeing 1: Finucane Island National Park

Your longest day on the road so far, day five will bring you into Burketown, where you’ll be able to spend some time exploring Finucane Island National Park. Here, you’ll see some beautiful wetlands and incredible wildlife, including multiple species of waterbirds. You can also kayak, boat, and fish, making it a great place for both explorers and those looking for a little tranquillity.

Sightseeing 2: Burketown Visitor Centre

Burketown has so much going on throughout the year that it’s definitely worth paying a visit to the Burketown Visitor Centre while you’re here and seeing what amazing events or attractions are in town. You’ll also be able to obtain camping and fishing permits from here, and the historic building itself is worth a visit if you’re looking to learn more about the area’s rich past.

Day 6: Burketown to Seven Emu Station

Travel time: 7 hours 30 minutes/420km
Burketown to Seven Emu Station

Sightseeing 1: Boating/Fishing

You’ll continue heading west on day six, and you’ll also have quite a long drive ahead of you. Once you’ve arrived at the famous Seven Emu Station campground, however, you’ll be able to relax with a spot of boating or fishing. This is an ideal way to unwind after spending so much time behind the wheel, giving you the opportunity to take in some fresh air and immerse yourself in a tranquil space.

Sightseeing 2: Wildlife Watching

Another fantastic activity you can take part in while at the Seven Emu Station campground is wildlife watching. Offering 305,000 hectares of nature reserve space to explore with many species of birds, mammals, and reptiles to spot, this is something that any animal lovers in your group will love.

Day 7: Seven Emu Station to Daly Waters

Travel time: 8 hours 30 minutes/484km
Seven Emu Station to Daly Waters

Sightseeing 1: Flying Fox

Day seven ushers in the longest day on the road throughout your entire trip, and as you arrive in Daly Waters, we recommend stretching your legs by exploring Flying Fox. This heritage location was an important component of the Daly Water Aerodrome during the 1930s and 1940s and provided an essential link for communication and transportation between the town and the Aerodrome. This is a great place for any history lover to visit.

Sightseeing 2: Stuart Tree

Located on the outskirts of Daly Waters, Stuart Tree is a dead tree trunk surrounded by a pipe fence. You might be wondering why you’d ever want to see this, but it actually holds some historical significance. Look closer at the tree trunk, and you’ll see the letter ‘S’ carved into it, which was left by explorer John McDouall Stuart as he made his way from Adelaide to Darwin in 1862. This is another great place for history lovers to visit, but more than that, it holds both a poignancy and celebration of the explorer’s spirit!

Day 8: Rest Day at Daly Waters

Rest Day at Daly Waters

Sightseeing 1: Daly Waters Aviation Complex

After a long couple of days on the road, it’s time to take a rest from driving and explore everything that Daly Waters has to offer. One of the most popular tourist destinations here is Daly Waters Aviation Complex, which is also the oldest hangar in the Northern Territory. Here, you’ll be offered an insight into the history of the complex and of Daly Waters itself, with multiple information boards located around the site acting as your guide.

Sightseeing 2: Daly Waters Pub

Over a week into your journey, we reckon you’ve earned a drink at Daly Waters Pub! This is one of Australia’s most famous and best-loved establishments, and with over 12 beers available on tap, there’s no good reason why you can’t end a day’s exploring by winding down here. There’s also an onsite playground to keep little ones entertained, streaming sports events, and a gift shop where you can pick up a memento of your trip to this amazing pub and its electric atmosphere.

Day 9: Daly Waters to Katherine

Travel time: 3 hours/280km
Daly Waters to Katherine

Sightseeing 1: Katherine Gorge

A short 30km drive northeast of Katherine and located within Nitmiluk National Park, you’ll find Katherine Gorge. Created by water carved through ancient sandstone, this is one of the most beautiful places to stop on your road trip and is particularly breathtaking as the sunsets and shimmers over the water. You’ll also be able to walk through the surrounding lush rainforest, and if you’re feeling really adventurous, take part in a helicopter tour that offers incredible views of the gorge.

Sightseeing 2: Katherine Hot Springs

For those who would rather stay a little closer to town, a visit to Katherine Hot Springs offers a fabulous way to unwind and relax. These thermal pools remain at a constant temperature of 25ºC-30ºC all year round, making them a great place to visit in both summer and winter. They are also surrounded by lush planting that offers shade and ambience, adding to the relaxing atmosphere.

Day 10: Katherine to Litchfield National Park

Travel time: 3 hours/280km
Katherine to Litchfield National Park

Sightseeing 1: Florence Falls

Day ten of your road trip sees you leaving behind those relaxing thermal pools and driving towards Litchfield National Park. Once here, we recommend heading to Florence Falls, which is accessible by following one of two short walking trails. This is a popular swimming hole within the national park, so it’s a good idea to pack your bathers and cool down in the pools while listening to the roar of the majestic falls in the background for a truly magical experience.

Sightseeing 2: Magnetic Termite Mounds

One of the most remarkable sights in Litchfield National Park, the Magnetic Termite Mounds can easily be mistaken for rocks. However, these giant termite mounds are actually made from the sediment pulled up from the ground as the busy little insects burrow deep into the ground. The most impressive of these mounds is the Cathedral Termite Mound, which stands at 8 meters high and needs to be seen to be believed.

Day 11: Rest Day at Litchfield National Park

Rest Day at Litchfield National Park

Sightseeing 1: Tjaynera Falls (Sandy Creek)

The penultimate day of your road trip sees you spending no time behind the wheel at all and, instead, spending the day exploring Litchfield National Park. One must-visit space here is Tjaynera Falls (Sandy Creek), which is accessible following an easy 1.7km hike. Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted by a beautiful cascading waterfall that crashes into a clear lagoon, which can also be used for wild swimming.

Sightseeing 2: Bamboo Creek Tin Mine

A historical site set within Litchfield National Park, Bamboo Creek Tin Mine offers an insight into the conditions the miners who worked here from 1906 – 1955 had to endure. Beautifully poignant, this abandoned mine is a 1km walk from the car park and contains nuggets of history along the way, including old water and mill tanks.

Day 12: Litchfield National Park to Darwin

Travel time: 1 hour 30 minutes/140km
Litchfield National Park to Darwin

Sightseeing 1: Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory

Day twelve sees you hit the final leg of your road trip, and you’ll arrive in Darwin after a short drive. One of the best places to visit in Darwin is the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, which holds a vast collection of cultural and scientific objects. This is the perfect place for art and history lovers to explore, as well as for those looking to gain some cultural insight into Darwin.

Sightseeing 2: Crocosaurus Cove

Fun for all the family, Crocosaurus Cove offers you the chance to get up close and personal with saltwater crocodiles! Don’t worry; everything is totally safe, and strong barriers are kept between you and the crocs at all times, whether you’re diving or taking part in the ‘Fishing for Crocs’ experience. You can also pose with a baby crocodile and see loads of other amazing marine animals, including barramundi, archerfish, and whip rays.

Final Thoughts

Person posing next to kangaroo sign in Australia

As you can see, the road from Cairns to Darwin is packed with some amazing sights and experiences, and the road trip itself makes the perfect vacation for families, couples, and solo travellers alike. Of course, with so much to do, you’re going to need to think about how you plan on visiting everything along the road.

One of the best ways of doing this is with a campervan! Speak to the expert team at Travellers Autobarn about hiring a campervan for your Cairns to Darwin road trip today, get a free online quote, and you’ll be one step closer to hitting the road. Or, for more ideas for your Cairns road trip, look here.

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