The Savannah Way: Cairns to Karumba

The Savannah Way runs from Cairns to Broome, some 3699km through diverse landscapes with geological wonders and abundant wildlife. Enzo Travel Dog team travelled the section from Cairns to Karumba which is sealed all the way, though the bitumen often gets down to a single lane towards the Gulf.

Cairns

There’s a lot to see and do in Cairns; here’s just a couple of dog friendly tips.  Follow this link for more information on Cairns

Cool Waters Holiday Park is a great place to stay with a dog. The park sits on Freshwater Creek, a great croc-free place for a dog to swim. A creek side site also gives you great views of the birdlife and turtles. There are walks along the banks of the creek which runs around the edge of Goomboora Park. Both the river walks and the parklands are dog off-lead areas. It’s an Enzotraveldog top spot.

 

Right in the middle of the waterfront precinct of Cairns you will find a restaurant called Ochre. This is a quality restaurant with a great menu and very dog friendly.  A perfect way to finish your walk along the waterfront.

After Cairns, our first stop was Milla Milla in the Atherton Tablelands which we have written about before in our Atherton Tablelands Blog.

Pinnarendi Station Stay

This is a very relaxing place. At 4,000 acres the station is too small to survive on cattle alone and a major focus for the owners is the station stay business. They also run the Brickoven Cafe that does breakfast,  lunch and pizza on a Saturday night. It’s a great place to walk or ride bikes on the Three Dams bush track, sit around campfires, and generally get away from it all. On Saturday nights the brick oven is fired up for home-made, sourdough pizzas at $25 pp, BYO drinks, sample as many pizzas as you like. It’s a great opportunity to mix with other travellers or if you prefer, get a take-away pizza to have back at your own campsite.

Camping grounds at Pinnarendi Station Stay
Plenty of space to spread out.

dog asleep between bikes
Just taking a nap before the next run.

Dogs should be on lead in the campsite area but can be off lead on the trails.  The dams are croc free and great for dogs to swim in. There are plenty of spacious drive through sites with water and power, and there is also a large unpowered camping area. When we were there, (in September 2020), there were brand new amenities.

Mount Surprise

The small town of Mount Surprise sprang up to support the railway back in the day of steam trains. The year-round water supply from Elizabeth Creek being a major factor. Initially it had railway support industries but now it is mainly about tourism.

Jo and Joe’s Bedrock Village Caravan Park is a dog friendly caravan park which sits next to the railway line, but the only train that runs on the tracks now is the Savannahlander tourist train, which comes to town on a Thursday and stops at Bedrock Village for lunch. One day we walked down the railway line and a little way up the creek to have a swim.

Enzo walking along the train tracks
It isn’t Thursday is it?

 

Bedrock Village also runs bus tours to the Undara Lava Tubes.  The lava tubes are some of the longest in the world and the major attraction of the area.  Jo is happy to mind dogs in the office, so I spent a morning with her whilst the folks went on the lava tubes tour.

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Georgetown

We stopped in Georgetown for supplies, as they have an excellent butchers shop and fruit and veg shop! It is where you turn left to go to Cobbold Gorge, but the folks weren’t going there this time. NB: The trip to Cobbold Gorge involves some 45km of dirt road, the quality of which varies with weather and time since last grading. It is wise to seek information on the state of the road before undertaking the trip in a two-wheel drive vehicle.  An alternative is to stay in Forsayth and take the 4×4 bus to the gorge (runs Tuesday and Thursday). The road between Georgetown and Forsayth is mainly sealed with only a few sections of dirt.

Croydon

We spent a night at the council caravan park at Croydon. The town was big in the gold-rush, at one time being the fourth largest town in Queensland. It’s faded somewhat since those heady days., but there is an interesting historical walk, which was enjoyable and obviously dog friendly. It is also one end of another tourist train The Gulflander, a trip that is reportedly to go “from nowhere to nowhere”.

Leichhardt Lagoon

Leichhardt Lagooon is another excellent small station stay style camping area. A large lagoon plays host to many types of waterbirds and was full of flowering water lilies when we were there in early September. The lagoon also hosts a couple of freshwater crocs, so dogs need to stay on leads near the water’s edge. That said, there are so many ducks that it seems likely the crocs never need to swim too far to get a feed. The camp office is a table under a tree, it was $16 a night in September 2020 and there were basic shower and toilet facilities. No power and only untreated water, so a fair degree of self-sufficiency is required.

It is a beautiful tranquil spot to relax and photograph birds. The sunsets over the lagoon are generally spectacular as is the star gazing.

Sunrise over Leichhardt Lagoon

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Normanton

Normanton is another outback town with railways and gold mining in its history. Excellent walking around town. Of course, there’s the Big Barra and the Statue of Krys, the biggest croc ever shot, to see for those who like collecting photos of ‘Big Thingys’.  The Gulflander train finally caught up with us, after we passed it just outside Leichhardt Lagoon.

Gulflander Train
The Gulflander Rail Line runs 150km through Gulf Savannah landscapes and historic townships
Replica of Krys, The King of the Savannah
Krys, The King of the Savannah, was reportedly 8.63m long when shot by Krystina Pawlowski on the banks of Norman River in 1957.
Big barra
The barras are big up here

Karumba

We stayed at Karumba Point Service Station Caravan Park, a small caravan park with near new facilities on a lagoon, behind Point Fuels at Karumba Point. It is the site where Krystina Pawlowski (lady who shot that big croc, Krys) and her husband ran their crocodile farm. The lady at reception said ‘there are two things the gulf is famous for:  sunsets and barramundi’. Both featured at the end of our Savannah Way journey.   In Karumba itself you will find the Barramundi Discovery Centre, or you could join a fishing charter.   We preferred ours already caught and filleted.  A 10-minute walk away  from the caravan park was Ash’s at The Point Cafe where the folks had barramundi and chips. There’s a dog tethering pole just off the verandah. The folks got the corner table anyway and were close enough that I could sample the barra. It was excellent!

 

sunset over the Gulf of Carpentaria
Sunset over the Gulf of Carpentaria

Another 2 minutes’ walk to the Sunset Tavern for the folks to have a cold beer and watch the sunset over the Gulf. This is essentially a bar with a large lawn area on the edge of the sea. One section is reserved for dog’s and their owners. They call if the ‘Barking Lot’. HaHa! as in dog parking lot! always good to finish on a dog-joke!

   

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