Great Australian Road Trips: From Darwin To Townsville

Darwin offers a multi-cultural experience to its visitors, combined with fun events and exciting wildlife experiences. It is quite a small city with lots of places to move around. Travelling from Darwin to Townsville, one should head out through the Stuart Highway and travel south via Pine Creek and Adelaide River areas towards Katherine. Darwin to Townsville is around 2500 Kilometers, where Darwin is located in the Northern Territory of Australia and Townsville is located in the State of Queensland in Australia.

Darwin- A small Introduction:

Darwin is the tropical, relaxed capital of Australia’s Northern territory. It has plenty of tourist attractions, iconic destinations and aboriginal art galleries. The weather in Darwin is balmy in nature, and it has a rich historical and cultural background. From World War II air raids to Cyclone Tracey, its dramatic history can be explored in its museums and art galleries. Bushwalking through the monsoon forest, cruising next to the crocodiles, sailing the Darwin Harbour at sunset, visiting the colourful communities of the Tiwi islands, and swimming in the crystal clear waterholes of the Litchfield National Park, this city has a youthful energy that is very hard to resist for anyone.

Darwin to Katherine:

Katherine is only 300 kms south from Darwin, which takes around 3 hours to reach the destination. It is the third last settlement in the Northern Territory of Australia and has a population of around 10,000 only. Katherine is located on the banks of River Katherine, which flows down from the Katherine – gorge, a world renowned Nitmiluk National Park. The gorge attracts large number of visitors from around the world during the dry season.

Katherine town is quite small and consist only one main street, where all the shops will be closed during weekends. So travelers should be well prepared and get everything they want during week days.

Reach Katherine through Adelaide river and Pine Creeks. The Adelaide River refers to two different locations; the river and the township. The township is a small historical place located at the crossing of the Stuart Highway over the river. It is around 110 Kms for Darwin that survives by providing services for travelers. It is a place of much military activity during the Second World War and has a number of war relics such as deteriorating Snake Creek Arsenal and the various airstrips dotted around the river even today. The Adelaide World War II cemetery is well maintained which commemorates the civilians and servicemen who lost their lives during Japanese Bomb raids in the year 1942 and 1943.

Just 50 Kms drive from the Stuart Highway gives access to various famous tourist attractions like the Douglas Hot Springs, Picnicking area of Robin falls, and the historic town of Daly river.

Back on the Stuart Highway and a little south is the Pine Creek. It is a small but thriving town located at the junction of Stuart Highway and Kakada junction. Earlier, Pine Creek was a famous gold rush town, but now it has formed a very popular base for tourists looking to experience Kakada than its fortune. The Pine Creek museum is well worth watching, which consists of working displays showing the historical importance of this place.

Katherine to Mataranka:

Matranaka is located 107 Kms south of Katherine, which is a community of only 400 people. Matranaka is located near the Matranaka Hot Springs and Roper river, and is also called as “capital or the never, never”. It is a home for Jeanie Gunn and Aeneas; Jeanie wrote a book about Elsey stations which is now part of Australia’s folklore. A short trip to the homestead replica and station cemetery helps to capture the sense of the hardships and isolation confronted by these early settlers.

Mataranka is a modern town that provides all facilities required by travelers or tourists visiting their place like full accommodation, attractions, experiences, and facilities.

The thermal pool at the Mataranka Homestead has crystal clear warm waters that provide an amazing swimming pool to visitors. This is an iconic place for visitors for many years. Do not forget to see the Barramundi feeding, where you can even catch fish with your hands. It is also famous for birdwatching, with rare bird species like Northern Rosellas, Hooded parrot, and red Goshawk can be found.

Other places of attractions are the Roper River and Roper Bar, the termite mounts and the Rural Transaction Centre.

Mataranka to Three Way Road House:

Head towards the Three Way Road House which is located on the Stuart Highway and at the corner of Barkly. It is a very convenient stop for travelers heading towards south, north or east. During 1960, the Three Way Road House sold fuel from 44 gallons drum. However in the year 1972, the Shell developed the current site and so, now it is a famous family run business having a huge emphasis on friendly business.

The tourist park features grassed, shady, and spacious sites for vehicle travelling in the outback setting. It has a sparkling swimming pool where one can enjoy a good swimming and then relax with a cup of wine or beer in their bar. Its restaurants provide good foods, and if not interested, you can cook your own food in their free BBQ’s.

Local points of interest include Devil’s Pebbles, Mary Ann Dam, battery Hill Mining Centre, Church of Christ The King, Philip Creek settlement, and Davenport Range National Park.

Tennant Creek is an important town in Barkly Tablelands. The flat topped hills and the grass plains in Tennant Creek can have many surprises in store for you and one among them is the Devil’s pebbles. The Devil’s pebbles, according to the aborigines are eggs laid by the Dreamtime rainbow Serpent.

Just north to Tennant Creek is a telegraph station built in the year 1872 and still has its structure intact. Mary Ann Dam is a recreation lake which is only a few Kms drive from Tennant Creek.

The Three Way Road House to Mount Isa:

The distance between The Three Way Road House and Mt. Isa is 671 Kms that can be travelled in 7 hours. Mt. Isa is located in the region of Queensland. It is known that the city came into existence due to its vast mineral reserves. The MIM (Mount Isa Mines) is one of the most productive mines in world history which can produce zinc, copper, silver and lead.

The road to Mt. Isa is one of the loneliest stretches of all the roads of Darwin of Townville road trip. It has only 2 stop ways in between, one is the Camooweal and the other is Mt. Isa. The Camooweal is located just over the Queensland border. The roadhouses in Camooweal close at 10 pm, so travelers need to plan their fuel requirements accordingly. Note that, there is no fuel between Camooweal and Mt. Isa.

Mt. Isa is a mining town and has many tourist attractions. The Riversleigh Fossil Centre in Mt. Isa features Australia’s actual fossils and pre-historic faunas. The museum in Mt. Isa is a place where ancient history comes alive. Do not miss to visit the award winning Outback at Mt. Isa, which showcases indigenous, natural and mining heritage of Isa. Isa also has some fine dining restaurants where only can relax and enjoy the tasty foods served there.

Mount Isa to Cloncurry:

The next stopway in this road trip from Darwin to Townsville is Cloncurry. It is a 120 Km stretch that can be covered in less than 2 hours in a decent SUV. Cloncurry is a rural town located at the junction of Landsborough Highways and Flinders ranges. It is an important copper mine and a cattle rearing centre. The current mining operations in Cloncurry are in the boom. But still, the remains and relics of the old mines are present which includes The Great Australian Mines and Treatment Plant.

Mary Kathleen, a uranium mine is also a very important mine in Australia that is located between Cloncurry and Mt. Isa. It was founded in the year 1954 and was named after the wife of one of the founders who discovered the yellow cake deposits. These places in Australia are relatively unexplored by visitors, however now-a-days tourists have started flooding in this area due to its historical significance. Caution should be exercised while travelling in this outback, as it is highly prone to floods during monsoon.

Cloncurry offers various services to tourists such as restaurants, holiday parks, Caravan Park, and many more. So, tourists can stay here and explore the city before moving ahead to Charters Towers.

Cloncurry to Charters Towers:

Cloncurry to Charters towers measures a distance of around 652 Kms that can be covered in 7 hours time. The Charters Towers is a city located in the Northern Queensland, Australia. It is one of the most beautiful inland cities in the state of Queensland and has a unique history and unraveled architecture. It is a delight to visit and a surprising pleasure.

When gold was discovered in Charters towers in the year 1871, it was a gold rush city. Then the city grew economically during 1880’s and 1890’s. Due to this high economic activity, Australia’s few regional stock exchanges was established in this place in the year 1890. Now, Charters Tower is known for its historical buildings most of them located in the Gill streets and Mosman streets. It has been known that there are around 60 historical buildings in this area as well as in the nearby surroundings.
Miners Cottage in Charters Towers has a good collection of the town’s antiques. Here, the staff members will also teach visitors how to make gold-panning.

The Sara Clarke Museum in Townville is housed in a late 19th century commercial building and features a large collection of photographs, and items pertaining to the history of Charters towers. These items may include domestic items, documents, and early transport vehicles.

The World Theatre in Charters Towers was originally the building of Australian bank of Commerce. However, now-a-days its houses gift shops, cinema, and theatre. Take the self-guided Ghosts of Gold heritage Trail to explore the fascinating story.

Charters Towers to Townsville:

The final stretch from Charters Towers to Townville of around 138 Kms can be covered in less than 2 hours time. Townsville is an ideal tourist destination for large groups of tourist’s or for those who wanted to cover a wide variety of interest in a single travel trip. This town has a large number of options to see and visit. With its nearby bushland, beaches, and modern-city perks, Townville is well worth considering for a travel trip.

If you are looking for something more relaxing, then a detour to magnetic island would be a good idea. The Magnetic Island is 8 Kms from Townville, which can be accessed through a road trip or through a ferry boat from Townsville Breakwater to Nelly Bay Harbour. It is a well-established travel destination will all facilities needed for a traveler to stay and dine, without needing to access the outside world. Around 54% of the island is Magnetic Island National Park which is inhabited by wildlife.

Townsville is nestled between stunning rainforests to the west and spectacular Great Barrier Reef to the east. This is one of the best tropical Places in Queensland, with aquatic activities, sunshine, and a relaxed, laid back lifestyle.

There are a plenty of treasures in the region of Townsville and the best part in it is that, most of them are free to explore. Townsville museum and Historical Society has a comprehensive collection of artifacts from the gone days and a must see place in the city. Billbong Sanctuary in Townville is the country’s best interactive wildlife sanctuary which has a wide range of native animals. The experience gained in this wildlife sanctuary is like walking through the Australian Bush.

Other tourist attractions in the city of Townville are the Australian Institute of Marine Science, National Trust heritage Centre, The Strand, The Forts Walk, Lesha Stewart, Perc Tucker Regional Museum, Maze mania for Kids, and many more.


Travelling through the Stuart highway along Pine Creek towards Katherine, and stopways in between in Mt. Isa, Cloncurry, and Charters Towers make the road travel from Darwin to Townsville unforgettable. Car drive experience in this region will be a pleasant one, with so many stops in between to fuel the car one can move around at their own pace.

Clay Jones is a road trip enthusiast from Perth, Australia.


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