Katherine - Broome via the Victoria and Great
Northern Highways (Hwy 1)
Total Distance 1548km
All distances measured from Katherine
Travellers using these highways - and the continuation of the Great Northern Highway down the Western Australian coast should be aware that there are long stretches of fairly monotonous country and this coupled with smooth straight roads and the often warm to hot conditions, can lead to drowsiness. Frequent rest breaks, plenty of water to drink and if possible sharing the driving with a co-driver are ways of overcoming this problem that can be quite hazardous.
Straying cattle can also be a hazard and wildlife including kangaroos, wallabies and dingos are often seen ñ particularly at dusk and dawn when they are out feeding on the roadsides. Eagles, kites and crows do a good job cleaning up the road kill but can themselves present a danger if they donít fly off in time.
The first roadhouse we come to is Victoria River (194km) and here is our first glimpse of this mighty river that is almost unknown in the Southern States. The river played a large role in the development of this part of the country and you can take a boat trip on it from here. The roadhouse has a caravan park attached.
Not far along the road and we come to the busy little town of Timber Creek (284km) and here there are two caravan parks, two hotels and a supermarket. The best known tourist attraction is ëMaxís Toursí and although Max himself has long retired, the fascinating tours continue during the tourist season. A bus tour comes first and includes a visit to the old police station and then you continue by boat on the Victoria River where you see crocodiles and sea eagles plus listening to an interesting commentary as you travel.
If you stay overnight, then donít miss going to one of the lookouts to watch the usually magnificent sunset and the view over the countryside and river.
There is a popular rest area where camping is allowed at Wild Dog Creek just past Timber Creek about 4km.
Near the Western Australian Border you come to the Keep River National Park and a drive from the highway takes you to this good camping spot with excellent walks and lots of ëphoto opportunitiesí.
At the border there is a fruit checkpoint and fruit and vegies uneaten will be confiscated ñ as will honey. They also want any cartons that have held fruit ñ we once lost a number of customised boxes that held cooking equipment.
After the border you come to junction - with the highway continuing to Kununurra (509km) and the left road going to Lake Argyle - the huge water supply that has made the Ord Irrigation Scheme possible. Here is the original Argyle Homestead, home of the pioneering Durack family, moved stone by stone from its original site now drowned beneath the waters of the lake. Whatís in a name? Nobody wanted the catfish that live in the lake until someone called them ëSilver Cobblerí- now the fishermen canít keep with the demand from southern markets.
Water from the dam is released to flow downriver to a second dam at Kununurra with the water used to provide irrigation for the extensive and varied agriculture of the district.
There are a number of caravan parks in the town and a full range of services is available. On the edge of town is an area known as Hidden Valley and here are rock formations that are a small-scale replica of the massive splendour of the Bungle Bungles. Planes take off from the airfield every morning bound for the Bungles and the Argyle Diamond Mine.
Not far along the highway and we come to the turn off for the remote town of Wyndham and along this road a little way is the eastern end of the Gibb River Road ñ definitely a road for 4x4 vehicles although the first 60km or so from this end are sealed. This is a route through the Kimberly that gives access to great views and little seen country on its way to Derby.
Wyndham used to have a thriving export meatworks but this has been closed for some years. A visit to the town is worthwhile if just to drive up to the lookout and watch the sunset on the rivers that empty into Cambridge Gulf. If you stay in the caravan park make sure you look at the huge Boab tree within the park grounds.
There is a roadhouse at Wamun (704km) formerly known as Turkey Creek and still shown that way on some maps. Helicopter trips to the Bungle Bungles run from here.
Next we come to Halls Creek (866km) a former gold-mining town with a caravan park with a swimming pool, supermarket, hotels and roadhouses. The present township is about 15km east of the site of the old town and traces of the old buildings can still be seen.
In former days the only way past Fitzroy Crossing (1154km) was by a ford through the river ñ a hazardous experience if the river had much water flowing. A modern bridge has overcome this problem although the old crossing is still negotiable.
A stay is worthwhile to visit Geike Gorge and take a boat ride through its fascinating walls. Access to Tunnel Creek and Winjana Gorge is also possible from here and you can link up with part of the Gibb River road for a circular tour if you like ñ part of the road is sealed.
Another diversion if you have time to spare is the short drive in to Derby. The turnoff is on the right (1368km) and the town has modern facilities and a reasonable choice for shopping. The wharf that closed for business when road transport took over from shipping to move cattle, has re-opened as a terminal for mining metals ñ mainly zinc, lead and concentrates.
The road turns south at the Willare Roadhouse (1378km) but you can continue on to reach the famous tropical city of Broome (1548km).
Just a short drive from the town centre is the fabulous Cable Beach ñ one of the most photographed beaches in Australia ñ particularly at sunset when the sun slips into the Indian Ocean leaving behind colour that is pure magic and often enhanced by the silhouettes of camels against the evening sky.
Broome is best known for the pearling industry that still flourishes there - although these days it is the high quality cultured pearls that are sought after.
With warm tropical nights in the southern winter season it is no wonder that the townís caravan parks are usually full and bookings are advisable if you want to be sure of a site.
If you are doing the ëBig Oneí right around the continent, this is definitely a place to recoup and recharge your batteries before the long drive south.