Judbarra/Gregory NP

Everywhere we go we’re surprised at just how many people there are and we keep asking ourselves: when are we going to get away from all the people? In Judbarra/Gregory NP we finally felt we had found a quiet place with very few others. We even managed to camp by ourselves for three nights in a row (four if you include the next night in a campsite about 15km out of Halls Creek). That brings the total number of nights we have camped by ourselves to about 10, so four nights in a row is amazing!

We headed straight to Judbarra when we finally managed to leave Katherine. Although we did some lovely things in Katherine, including a great final swim in the hot springs on the final day, we’d spent far longer than we wanted to there including our brief trip back to Melbourne for Oma’s thanksgiving service and a number of days trying to get various problems with the car and trailer fixed (and being shouted and sworn at by rather rude mechanics). In short it was great to be back on the road in our tents after the delays.

Travelling west from Katherine along the Victoria Highway, you first pass through one section of Judbarra/Gregory NP near the Victoria River. We stopped for a short, and very hot, walk onto the escarpment which gave us lovely views over the impressive landscape. It reminded me of something out of an American western movie.

Most travellers seem to continue west straight along the main road towards Kununurra but we turned south into the main section of Judbarra/Gregory NP and quickly got away from the crowds. We camped for two nights at Limestone Gorge, which was a nice spot near the East Baines River.

There’s not much of a gorge but it was a nice area nonetheless. After a lovely walk in the morning it was a very hot day so a couple of water fights were called for!

One exciting thing for us about the area was that we saw our first real boab trees for the trip (there were some small ones in Katherine, but nothing like these). Some of them are simply massive and the kids enjoyed climbing their branches. Unfortunately many people seem to think the best thing to do when they find a massive tree that must be hundreds of years old is to carve their name into it.

The track into Limestone Gorge is an 8km 4WD track which is mostly easy except for about 200m of rocky creek bed towards the end which is slow but not really a problem. The track leads through some quite impressive naturally terraced hills. On the way out we did the short walk to see the ‘calcite flow’. It’s basically a calcite formation that looks like a waterfall shaped by the nearby creek.

Next stop was Bullita Homestead where the rangers have done a good job putting together a display showing what life was like on the station, including an incredible story of a flood in 1977 that basically destroyed the homestead.

The homestead marks the end of the 2WD accessible road and the start of a large network of 4WD tracks that cover the southern part of the park.

We followed the Humbert and Wickham tracks and then on to the Broadarrow Track. Our Hema map book promised ‘some of the NT’s best 4WD touring’ and we weren’t disappointed. The driving and the countryside were beautiful and it’s hard to understand why the area isn’t more popular.

The first 60km or so after the homestead was pretty slow going as the track had a lot of rocky sections and dry creek/river crossings. However, after that track went up onto the escarpment and became quite smooth and much quicker. We found a campsite called East Baines Campground which had spectacular views from the top of the escarpment over the valley of the East Baines River. The sunrise in the morning was amazing!

We were a fair bit south of where we had previously been up in Kakadu and Litchfield and according to the park literature we were in the transition zone between the tropical forests to the north and arid deserts to the south. We could certainly notice that the weather was less humid and, although it was still hot during the day (high 30s) it was much cooler in the evenings so we all got a few better nights sleep.

From there we continued driving south along Broadarrow Track towards the Buntine Highway. The first part of the drive was on top of the escarpment and again the track was easy and smooth, passing a second campground with good views (although we happily decided we had stopped at the pick of the camps). Soon after the second campground the track dropped down off the escarpment and became rocky again although none of it was particularly difficult.

Along about 250km of 4WD track the only other people we came across were a couple of guys from the University of Canberra who seemed to be studying frogs in the area.

Once out of the park we turned onto the Buntine Highway, a well graded gravel road which took us across the border into Western Australia and to Halls Creek. Along the way we saw a real variety of landscapes from flat, grassy plains without a single tree in sight to rocky hills covered in spinifex and eucalypts.

Overall we’re glad we took the detour through Jadburra and would recommend it to anyone. It is reasonably remote and the information brochures for the park contain all sorts of dire warnings, including that the 4WD tracks aren’t suitable for trailers and that the Broadarrow Track in particular is notorious for puncturing tyres, but we didn’t have any problems. We do have another few chips out of our tyres but I can’t see any reason you shouldn’t take a decent off road trailer. The only other real consideration is that it was about 800km between fuel stops (Victoria River to Halls Creek) and the slow, rocky tracks meant that our consumption was reasonably high so we used about 155L of diesel.

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