Ten reasons you should hit the road up north this wet season
WORDS & images Monica McInnes
Most people avoid travelling through Australia’s north during the summer months. It’s understandable really. It rains – a lot. It’s humid and hot and sticky. And, many tourist attractions and roads are actually closed.
But, as locals will attest, Mother Nature makes up for the closures. Her show is simply the best, and road travel means you can watch all the action through the big screen from your front row seats.
Australia’s north is well known for its corker storms – a light and sound show bonanza. And when you’re on the road looking across wide-open plains, watching the storms roll across the distant sky, it’s hard not to be spellbound. Dark and gloomy clouds with their watery tails stalk menacingly and you wonder if you’ll miss the downpour.
Find a pot of gold
As the rain clears, keep your eyes peeled to glimpse a colourful rainbow curving across the sky – all the more spectacular when a double rainbow appears. Your pot of gold is more likely brimming with green paddocks, bright wildflowers and an orchestra of bird life.
Tackle minor water crossings
With any water deluge, minor water crossings will occur. Some flooding will be from rising rivers and creeks, other water crossings will be from run-off pooling across roads. As with any water crossings, only attempt if safe to do so, and never if the crossing is officially closed. Use roadside water markers to gauge height, assess the speed and strength of the flow, and speak to local authorities about possible flooding.
Witness the fury of swelling rivers
As the heavens open, all that water rolls off the landscape and into the dry riverbeds, soon to become raging torrents of water. The swelling rivers bring such might, often capturing heavy trees and branches, yet they bob like corks in the water. Remember to stand well clear of any flood waters and don’t attempt to cross flooded roadways or bridges. The local council is a great source of information about road closures and flood warnings.
When raging river waters spill over precipices, you’re in for a real visual treat. There are plenty of opportunities to observe the fury of plunging waterfalls. There’s Australia’s widest single drop waterfall at Millstream Falls in Queensland. Or take to the skies above Kakadu to marvel at Jim Jim and Twin Falls. Otherwise there are plenty of waterfall viewing opportunities in Litchfield National Park, North Queensland, and parts of the Kimberley.
Water is essential for our creatures to survive. Many native to the drier climate adapt and survive with minimal water. But just like kids love jumping in puddles after a storm, so too do our animals. Watch for kangaroos, wallabies, birds, and livestock frolicking in newly-formed water ponds and streams.
Green with envy
Water breathes new life into once browning vegetation. A blanket of green across the plains is a sight to behold. Green leaves adorn tree branches, green grasses sprout, and colourful wildflowers soon begin to bloom.
Miss the crowds
Often in northern Australia the humidity, heat and rain keeps tourists away. But this is your opportunity to immerse yourself with the locals. Plus you will have easier access to all those open tourist attractions. Imagine browsing the local museum and conversing with the curator who isn’t too busy for an informal chat. Before you know it you have a personal guide with loads of local knowledge and perhaps even a willingness to share some hidden treasures!
There’s no better place to get to know the locals than at the local watering hole, local grocery store, café or even at the fuel station. Who knows, you might learn about the best place to catch a fish, the best feed on the menu, and multiple other trade secrets of the region.
Keeping country towns afloat
Travelling off-peak also means you are helping to keep the local economy ticking along. Even if some of the attractions are closed, chances are the town’s museum will be open and undoubtedly the local walled watering hole will be a welcome escape from the heat, and even the rain. Pull up a stool, enjoy a cold one, and order a counter meal. The locals will thank you.