Darwin to Broome Road Trip – an epic 2wd journey

If you’re planning a Darwin to Broome Road Trip Itinerary you might be wondering what to see and do along this long outback drive. While there is plenty of open road along the drive from Darwin to Broome, there are also some real hightlights.

You might be concerned if you don’t have a 4×4.  The truth is, you don’t need a 4×4 for this epic outback road trip.  In this post you’ll see there is so much to see on the road from Darwin to Broome, even travelling with a 2wd vehicle.

We have been travelling Australia on our “big lap” for almost 3 years now.  We drove the Great Northern Highway Darwin to Broome drive last August.  In this post you’ll learn about our favourite spots, and some hidden gems on this adventure.

The distance from Darwin to Broome is around 1850km.  We recommend spending at least a week on this journey, longer if you haven’t visited the National Parks near Darwin.  We were on a strict timeline as Nigel had to get to a work contract in the Pilbara, so we did the road trip from Katherine to Broome in just five days.

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Boab tree, Kimberley wa, darwin to broome road trip

How to drive from Darwin to Broome

As you drive Darwin to Broome you will follow the Stuart Highway south from Darwin to Katherine and then turn onto the Victoria Highway and head west. 

Pass through Victoria River and cross the border into Western Australia.  You’re now in the Kimberley region. Take a detour to check out Lake Argyle then spend a day or so exploring Kununurra.

Around 30 minutes from Kununnurra at the Cockburn Rest Area, turn LEFT (turning right takes you up the 4×4 only Gibb River Road), and continue on the National Highway 1. You’ll pass through Halls Creek, Fitzroy Crossing and finally take the turn off to Broome.

Darwin to Broome map
Darwin to Broome Road Trip Map (click to open in Google Maps)

When is the best time for a Darwin Broome Road Trip?

The best time to drive from Darwin to Broome is during the dry season from May to October.  During the wet season there may be road closures throughout the Kimberley region, and along the Victoria Highway in the Northern Territory.

Daytime maximum temperatures in Kununurra (the mid-point on this journey) range from 31 C (88 F) in June and July to 38 C (100F) in October. November to April is hotter and wetter.

Darwin to Broome Road Trip Itinerary

This Darwin to Broome itinerary assumes you haven’t visited Litchfield National Park or Katherine and the Nitmiluk National Park. If you have, simply start the itinerary from Day 4.

Day 1 – Darwin to Litchfield National Park

130km – 1 hr 35 min driving

Litchfield National Park is just a short drive from Darwin.  You can enter from the north via Berry Springs. Spend some time checking out the waterfalls and incredible landscapes of this very accessible park. 

Our favourite spots in Litchfield include:

  • The Cascades
  • Wangi Falls
  • Florence Falls
  • Tolmer Falls
  • Termite Mounds

There are campsites available at Wangi and Florence Falls, or if you’re after a unique luxurious stay we recommend Hideaway Litchfield.

You’ll join back up with the Stuart Highway near Batchelor and head south.

Florence falls, litchfield, top end road trip
Giant termite mound, cathedral termite mound, Litchfield

Day 2 – 3 Litchfield NP to Katherine – Nitmiluk National Park

332km – 3 hr 45 min

Katherine is home to the Nitmiluk National Park, and another spot worthy of a couple of days of exploration. There are two sections of the Nitmiluk NP, Edith Falls (Leliyn) which is around 60km north of Katherine, and then the Katherine Gorge Section, a further 30km after driving into the town.

We highly recommend:

There are campsites at both Edith Falls and Katherine Gorge, and also a good free camp by the turn off to Edith Falls, if your set-up is self-contained.

Katherine is the last big town before the border into WA, and you might be tempted to stock up on food. However, there are strict quarantine regulations on what you can bring into WA, so don’t buy more fresh fruit and veg than you can eat (or cook) before the border.

From Katherine turn west and head along the Victoria Highway.

katherine gorge, Nitmiluk National Park, jeddas rock

Days 4 – 5 Katherine to Lake Argyle

513km – 5 hr 29 min

Driving west you will start to see the escarpments of the Gregory National Park, known as Judbarra to the indigenous people.  This is the second largest national park in the Northern Territory, and a must visit for 4×4 and hiking enthusiasts.  

The park has two sections, joined by a narrow strip near Jasper Gorge.  You will drive through the eastern section as you’re travelling along the Victoria Highway.  The rugged beauty out here is just amazing.

Gregory National Park, Darwin to Broome Road Trip

Victoria River Roadhouse

Located within the National Park, the Victoria River Roadhouse has fuel, grocery supplies and a caravan park.  The roadhouse is located just to the west of the Victoria River.  

There is a pedestrian footpath taking you over the bridge to look down on the river, and you can also walk along part of the old bridge, which is a good 20m below the current bridge.  We were trying to imagine the sheer volumes of water that would have come through here, up and over this old bridge.  

You may like to do the Escarpment Walk, which departs from a carpark 2km west of the roadhouse on the Victoria Highway.  On this walk you will learn about the indigenous Nungali-Ngaliwurru and Wardaman people, and have great views over the surrounding countryside.  

Boab Trees

Once you cross the Victoria River, you’ll start to see more and more Boab trees.  These trees are endemic to the north west of Australia, and are related to the Baobab trees in Africa.  These trees are quite unique as there are no other trees related here in Australia.  

Botanists are puzzled as to how these trees arrived in Australia, and if you’re interested this article outlines current thoughts.

However the Boab tree arrived here, it is now the symbol of the Kimberley region.  The one thing we found very sad was how many of these trees had been defaced with graffiti.

boab tree, kimberley region

Saddle Creek Rest Area

This is the last real stop before the WA border, so your last chance to eat any remaining fresh fruit and vegetables you may be carrying.  We stopped here for morning tea and met another couple who were travelling east, and gave them our last few veggies.  

We saw that someone had left bags of veggies on one of the picnic tables, so if you do this trip in reverse, it could be a good spot to stop for some free fruit and veg!  In addition to picnic tables, there are also toilets at this rest area.

Northern Territory/Western Australia Border

We have crossed several state borders so far in our trip and driven straight through.  Other than the Welcome sign, you wouldn’t even know you’re crossing a border.  The border into Western Australia is different and there is a quarantine station here.

You will be required to stop and a Quarantine Officer will come into your vehicle to check you are not carrying any forbidden items.  These are:

  • Fresh Fruit
  • Fresh Vegetables (some vegetables are allowed)
  • Plants
  • Honey
  • Seeds

To see the full list of what is and isn’t allowed across the border, check the official website.

NOTE: If you are doing this trip in reverse, there is no quarantine heading into the Northern Territory on a Broome to Darwin Road Trip.

The other thing to remember is that there is a 1.5 hour time difference between the Northern Territory and Western Australia.  Heading west, you’ll need to put your clocks back 1.5 hours.  Neither NT nor WA observes daylight saving time.  Chances are, like us, you will be awake for the sunrise for your first couple of days in WA!

Western Australia border, wa border,

Lake Argyle

Lake Argyle is a short 35km detour off the Victoria Highway and about 70km from Kununurra.  The road to Lake Argyle is sealed all the way.  Lake Argyle is WA’s largest and Australia’s second largest man-made reservoir.  It has a surface area of 1000 km2.

The lake was constructed as part of the Ord River Irrigation Scheme in the 1970s.  The original plan was to use the water from this reservoir to irrigate rice crops, which would be exported around the world.  However, they soon discovered that water birds (particularly magpie geese) were eating the rice plant shoots faster than they could be planted, so the idea was scrapped.

While the waters from the lake are still used for irrigation, Lake Argyle remains Australia’s most under-utilised lake.  It is now mainly known as a tourist destination.

You can drive across the dam wall, and there is a nice picnic area down by the water on the other side.  We had our lunch here and decided not to stay in the caravan park.

Things to do in Lake Argyle

There are boat cruises you can do on the lake and you can even hire a houseboat and stay out overnight.  The lake is very popular for fishing as there are several native fish species.  

Perhaps more notoriously, the lake is also home to around 25,000 crocodiles but these are the more timid freshwater crocodiles, which generally don’t bother people.  Bird lovers will also spot many different species of birds in and around Lake Argyle.

There is a Resort and Caravan Park on the shores of the lake with a “insta-famous” infinity pool.  The views from this pool are incredible.  If you’re not staying at the resort, you can pay a day use fee to access the pool.

Be warned, it gets very crowded, and the water is very cold during the winter months.  Naturally, I made Nigel get in for the photo, while I got my shot sitting on the park bench!

lake argyle, kimberley, darwin to broome,
lake argyle, Western Australia

Day 6 – 7 Lake Argyle to Kununurra

70km – 45 minutes

The town of Kununurra is the only sizable town between Katherine and Broome, making it one of the most remote in the country.  You will find plenty of services here, including a good supermarket.  

Kununurra is the unofficial capital of the East Kimberley, and is a natural jumping off point for many activities in the area.  

Mirima National Park

Mirima (or Hidden Valley) National Park is easily the most accessible national park in the East Kimberley.  The park is located just minutes from the centre of Kununurra on a sealed road.  Mirima National Park is affectionately known as the “mini-Bungle Bungles” as the rock formations are similar.  So if you can’t make it to the Bungles, or like us, you’re pushed for time, this is a great stop.

There are several hiking trails and lookouts within the park, and even a short loop trail on a boardwalk which is accessible to wheelchairs and prams.  We walked the Yoorrnging Geranyem Banan (Painting on Rocks) Trail which is a challenging 3.5km trail.  We walked up and over rocky outcrops, saw some amazing lookouts and even some aboriginal rock art.

You will need to pay an entry fee for Mirima National Park, $15 per vehicle per day, or, you can buy an annual pass for $120.  We purchased our WA Park Pass online when we arrived at the park, and definitely got our money’s worth!

Mirima National Park, Kununurra,
Mirima national park, kimberley wa,

Ivanhoe Crossing

The Ivanhoe Crossing is probably one of the most photographed water crossings in Australia.  This concrete causeway was once part of the main road from Kununurra to Wyndham, but the road was diverted after the Ord River Scheme meant the water levels rose.

The crossing is wide, and the water flows very quickly.  During the winter months it is possible to drive across, depending on the water levels.  Our van is raised and we still found our stairwell mat was wet after the crossing, and we had a lot of water weeds caught under the vehicle.

Even if you can’t cross yourself, it’s a fun place to hang out watching other people making the crossing.  This is also a popular spot for barramundi fishing, and we saw a guy fishing in the middle of the causeway.  This is despite it being a known saltwater crocodile area!

Darwin to Broome Road Trip, ivanhoe crossing

Molly Springs

Molly Springs is a bit of a hidden gem in the East Kimberley.  The waterhole is located 3km down a dirt road (which was a bit corrugated, just take it slow), and then a short walk to the waterhole.  This is a great spot to cool off after an active day around Kununurra.

El Questro & Emma Gorge

Emma Gorge, El Questro
Emma Gorge, El Questro
Image credit: Adventures with Rach

For many people, the big drawcard to visiting the Kimberley region is driving along the Gibb River Road.  This 600km road may look like the shorter way to get from Kununurra to Broome, however, its dirt almost all the way, rough, and there are many water crossings.  

You will need a capable 4×4 vehicle to drive the Gibb River Road, and even then, many travellers don’t complete the drive without damage to their vehicles.

If you don’t have a 4×4 you can drive the first 25km of the Gibb River Road to Emma Gorge.  This section of the road is sealed and it’s only the last 2km that you need to drive on dirt.  Most people walk from the water crossing.  This gorge features a beautiful waterfall and great pool for swimming.

Day 8 – 9 Kununurra to Broome (2 days driving)

You still have around 1,000km to drive from Kununurra to Broome, so you will probably want to break the journey up and overnight somewhere on the way. We stayed at the Ngumban Cliffs Rest Area. This free camp has toilets but no other facilities, apart from an amazing sunset!

There’s not a lot to see on this section of the drive, but we did find a few hidden gems.

Bow River

Heading south from the Cockburn Rest Area (a great free camp about 30 minutes past Kununurra) you’ll cross the Bow River.  Aussie music fans should know that this is THE Bow River that Cold Chisel wrote the song about.  Cue your Spotify while you have phone reception!

Ord River – Turn off to Purnululu National Park (the Bungle Bungles)

You will definitely need a 4×4 if you want to drive into the Bungle Bungles, but you can take a helicopter flight over them, leaving from here. Alternatively, you can take a flight & guided walking tour from Kununurra

Halls Creek

Halls Creek is the only town you pass through between Kununurra and Broome.  You can get fuel here, and there is a roadhouse, IGA supermarket and a couple of motels.  To be honest, we didn’t love the vibe here, so we kept driving to the Ngumban Cliff Rest Area, which has a free camp, and amazing views.

Fitzroy Crossing

In early 2023 the bridge at Fitzroy Crossing was washed away in floods resulting from Tropical Cyclone Ellie.  Throughout 2023, work was undertaken to rebuild the bridge, which opened on 10 December 2023, almost 6 months ahead of schedule!

Willare Roadhouse

When you get to the Willare Roadhouse, the excitement will be palpable.  You’re so close to Broome now!  If you’re anything like us, that prospect of the first ocean swim in months will be right at the top of your priority list.

Willare Roadhouse is a good spot to fuel up, and they have great hot chips!

Broome

Welcome to Broome!

Coming soon: The Essential Broome Travel Guide

cable beach, broome, camels on the beach

Top Tips for a Road Trip Darwin to Broome

Driving from Darwin to Broome

This is a remote, outback drive.  The road is sealed all the way, but at times you may need to drive on dirt at road works.  The distances are vast, and there are not a lot of services along the way.

Driving at between dusk and dawn is not recommended, due to wildlife and stock on the road.  If your vehicle breaks down, stay with the vehicle.  While this is a remote area, plenty of other vehicles drive along this route, and someone will drive by soon enough.

Ensure you are carrying plenty of water (and snacks!) in case of a break down.  It gets very hot out there and there is almost no shade on this route.

Road Trains

You will encounter roadtrains, which are trucks towing three and sometimes four trailers.  These oversized vehicles have right of way on the road, so if you’re on a narrow section, it’s best to pull over and give them plenty of space.

A UHF or CB radio is great for this journey, and Ch 40 is the most common channel for the truckies, should you need to communicate regarding passing.

Fuel

There are ample places to stop for fuel on the way, but they may be several hundred kilometres apart.  You will be paying premium prices at many of the roadhouses, but it’s better than running out of fuel!  

Some people carry a jerry can with spare fuel, we have never bothered, but we have a 100L tank, and we operate on the philosophy of never passing a roadhouse without fueling up.

Food and Water

If you’re driving Darwin to Broome, you are probably travelling in a campervan, towing a caravan, or have your own tent accommodation (roof-top or floor tent). If you don’t have your own cooking facilities you will need to rely on Roadhouse food most of the time.

The good news is that the roadhouses are located just a few hours distance from one another, so you won’t starve!

If you’re preparing your own meals, you will need to plan ahead as you will be limited by the quarantine restrictions going into Western Australia. Between Katherine and Broome, there’s only really Kununurra to stock up on food. The Coles supermarket there has a good range of everything you might need.

We filled up our campervan watertanks in Katherine at the self-service Shell fuel station on the northern outskirts of the town. We also filled up at the Puma fuel depot just to the east of Kununurra.

If you are staying at the Discovery Caravan Park at Lake Argyle, you can fill up there.

You will find Dump Points located at most of the rest areas along the Broome to Darwin drive. A lot of these Dump Points don’t have water to rinse out your casette or pee jug though.

Mobile Phone and Internet Coverage

Although the Darwin to Broome Road Trip follows National Highway #1 all the way, there will be long stretches where you have no mobile phone or internet coverage. We often stopped at the roadhouses not so much for fuel or food, but to check our email (and social media, lets be honest!)

FAQs for a Darwin to Broome Road Trip

How long does it take to drive from Darwin to Broome?

If you were to get in the car and just drive, without stopping for fuel, food or sleep, you could do this journey in around 24 hours (according to Google Maps). However, you’re human, and you probably want to see a few things on the way.

We recommend allowing at least a week for this road trip. You may like to take even longer if you want to visit the National Parks in the NT and do a tour to the Bungle Bungles.

What is the road like between Darwin and Broome?

The road is sealed all the way. We had a small section of unsealed road where roadworks were being undertaken. The bridge at Fitzroy Crossing that was washed away in floods in early 2023 was re-opened in December 2023.

Darwin to Broome Road Trip Travel Films

We produce weekly travel films as we are travelling around Australia. Click on the images below to view each film or head straight over to our YouTube Channel.

Katherine to Kununurra Road Trip, travel film
kununurra travel film, what to do in kununurra, things to do in kununurra
Kunurra to Broome road trip

Conclusion

We really enjoyed our Darwin to Broome Road Trip, even though we were rushing to get to Nigels work commitment in Newman. We hope you’ve found some useful information in this post. If you have any questions, let us know in the comments and we will get right back to you.

Where to next?

If you’re heading further south in WA, don’t miss our Karijini National Park travel guide.

4 thoughts on “Darwin to Broome Road Trip – an epic 2wd journey”

  1. We liked reading your adventure storey Darwin to Broome. Is the road good and all sealed? Look forward to hearing from you as we are doing this trip in September this year.
    Kind regards,

    Graham and Selina

    Reply
    • Hi Graham and Selina, YES, the road is all sealed, so long as you stay on the main road. The only unsealed section in this post was the short 3km out to Molly Springs. There was also a small area of roadworks, but this section was very smooth.

      Enjoy your journey!!

      Reply

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