A hot spot intro to the amazing Gulf of Carpentaria
WORDS & IMAGES Anthony Kilner
After a three-day haul from Melbourne to Mataranka, being able to dip into the thermal pools is a great way to relax and allow any stiffness from the long journey to dissolve. For us, Mataranka was our re-supply town for food and fuel before our adventure started in earnest.
This trip is amazing in so many ways for all styles of touring, from vanners to campers. In each yarn, we’ll highlight what’s available to see and the places we stayed at. There are so many ways you can travel this route, so some pre-planning is the best way to go. We stayed in caravan parks, free-camped, and parked up in national parks and stations for days on end; there are a number of options on the Savannah Way.
Mataranka is a large town that has everything a traveller could need. There are several caravan parks and camping options. We stayed at the pet-friendly Bitter Springs Caravan Park where it’s a lovely walk along the river to the thermal pools. These natural pools have a parking area for travellers passing through. There are also the Mataranka Thermal Pools, which are a part of the massive camping area.
Roper Bar is a popular area for fishing, camping and exploring. The store has fuel and supplies and is open from Monday to Saturday all day and from 1–6pm Sundays for travellers. There is a caravan park at the Old Police Yards which has an interesting history to explore.
Visitors can do boat tours or hire a boat at Roper Bar and visit, with permission, the Ngukurr Art Centre. Check with the store for details.
– Munbililla – LiMmen NP
This is a great campground that has been refurbished with fantastic new facilities. Tomato Island is a popular fishing spot on the Roper River and a boat ramp allows easy access to the water. For those missing their phone and internet connections you may just pick up a signal here on the island.
A couple of interesting places to visit along this section include the Roper River Mission Monument and Lomarieum Lagoon. The lagoon is a top spot to visit although camping is not permitted here. There is camping available at Limmen River Campground, however. We popped into Limmen Bight Fishing Camp, which is a commercial property, and for fishos with boats it’s a popular place to stop for a week or two.
Southern & Western Lost City
On the road through Limmen are two amazing attractions. The Southern Lost City is not far off the road and there are camping facilities and an absorbing walk around these ancient rock formations.
The Western Lost City requires a code from the Nathan River Rangers. During our visit, this attraction was closed due to track damage. It would pay to call ahead to ensure the rangers are around during your visit.
As a part of the Limmen National Park, Butterfly Springs is a cute little camping ground. The attraction here is the Butterfly Falls that tumble down into a picturesque waterhole. Exploring the shady walls of this area, depending on the season, are countless common crow butterflies and they are gorgeous to see in numbers.
This place is amazing and offers a total tourism experience from the bar and the main building to some seriously remote camping and helicopter flights to suit all budgets. Fishing is high on the agenda as well for travellers and the drive up to the coast is awesome. Rate for adults are $20 a night and there are packages available.
As a group, we could have stayed here all season because there’s so much to explore. We hiked, swam in the waterholes and the thermal pool by the main homestead, which was a very popular destination … as was happy hour at the bar, I might add.
In Goofin’ Around the Gulf Part II, we have to deal with a medical emergency at Borroloola, visit King Ash Bay and finish up at Adels Grove and Lawn Hill National Park.