River and Roper Bar
River, Top End and Gulf Maps On Line
The Roper River trip
takes place on the western side of the Gulf of Carpentaria.
If you had come across the bottom of the Gulf
from Normanton in Quensland and ended up at Borroloola on the south
west corner of the Gulf then the middle third of this trip could be a
natural extension on up to Roper Bar Crossing and then on to
Highway and westward to Katherine.
However if you are approaching from the Stuart Highway end then head
for Katherine where this trip starts.
| It heads east to Roper Bar and
then south to Cape Crawford before it again heads west for Daly Waters,
back on the Stuart Highway.
If you are towing a caravan then leave it in storage at Katherine,
which is a modern, thriving town with most of the facilities you will
need. If you have been on the road for a while, then this may be a good
place to stop of for a few days, take it easy and relax.
There are lots of touristy things to do in Katherine, least of which is
a visit to Katherine Gorge in the Nitmiluk National Park ( Catherine
Gorge National Park ).
Another easy day trip is heading south out of Katherine on the Stuart
Highway. Here you will find the Cutta Cutta and Tindal Caves.
They are in an area of quite dramatic countryside, whilst the caves
themselves are home to various forms of wildlife including bats and
Now the trip, the best time to go, like most of the trips in the
northern parts of Australia, is in the dry season - April to October.
The wet season sees Roper River Crossing in flood as is much of the
stretch down to Cape Crawford.
This trip is a little over 600 km, excluding any deviations you may
decide to take. The longest stretch without fuel is approximately 350
km between Roper Bar Crossing and Cape Crawford.
I would aim to take some extra fuel if I were you as you are more than
likely to find some fairly good spots to deviate to.
About 112 km south of Katherine is the small town of Mataranka, which
is a delightful place to stop, stretch your legs and maybe have a
cuppa. You will find charming restaurants, cafes and, of course, places
to top up with fuel
Just south of town are the We of The Never Never Graves, which became
famous following the publishing of the book We Of The Never Never by
About 15 km west along the Roper Highway, which is the route we are
going to take, is the Elsey National Park with the Mataranka Thermal
The pool is set amidst cabbage palms and pandanus and stays at a
constant 34 degree c temperature. Nearby is the Mataranka Homestead
with its caravan and camping facilities.
Whilst here pay a visit to the replica of the Elsey Station Homestead
which was built in 1982 for the shooting of the film version of We of
The Never Never.
The other main attraction in the Elsey National Park is the Roper River
and its large rock pools.
The road from here to the Roper River crossing, where you cross over
and enter Arnhem Land, is partly sealed and partly dirt.
The crossing is a natural rock formation across the river and could
almost be mistaken for a man made causeway. This rock bar is the
natural separating of the salty, tidal waters and the fresh water
upstream of the bar.The river is well known for its barramundi and it
is a favorite pastime to caste a line from the banks downstream of the
Whilst you could just carry on the road towards Nathan River Homestead
and, ultimately, Cape Crawford take a short detour 3 or 4 km to Roper
Bar, which is a delightful little spot with a store, motel and good
camping facilities. Excellent fishing here as well as organized
crocodile sightseeing trips by arrangement.
Take extreme care if fishing from the river banks, however, as this is
estuarine crocodile country.
Fill up with fuel before leaving as this is definitely the last
available fuel until Cape Crawford, a distance of 360 km or so.
The road south from here is sometimes sort of good, sometimes sort of
bad, sometimes a little rocky and sometimes very bulldusty.This is not
to area to test the speed you vehicle is capable of, and only gently
does it will get you there.
There is another camping spot about 20 km further on at Rocky Bar
Crossing. This is an area of fresh water crocodiles, less dangerous
than their salt water cousins, but that's no reason to drop your guard.
However the camping is pleasant and there are several specimens of
Aboriginal art around.
The drive further south is very scenic with lots of natural
attractions, including the Lomaricum Lagoon with its large stretches of
water covered covered in a beautiful display of water lilies.
There is a detour you can make to the very remote Port Roper on the
Gulf of Carpentaria. The drive there and back is both interesting and
scenic.However the track will cut short about 8 km from the river mouth.
Back on the road south and again you will be treated with delightful
scenery, river crossings and places to camp. Nathan River Homestead is
a good place to stop and stretch your legs in its peaceful valley
setting. The ranger at the homestead can point you in the direction of
the Lost City, which is a unique rocky setting in the Abner Ranges.
The continued drive south will take you through several properties and,
in some cases, past their respective homesteads. Some do offer camping
facilities but you do need to make arrangements prior to just setting
Your destination, Cape Crawford, has now been reached. Motel, caravan
and camping facilities are in town, as is fuel and other supplies.
Scenic helicopter flights are available as well as bush tours.
Your choice now is whether to continue 4wd driving round the bottom of
the Gulf, head south or back west. If you want to continue around the
gulf and end up in Normanton in Queensland refer to the Gulf Track web
Looking forward to seeing you back here soon,
Mobile 0408 245 892