The dramatic gorges, lava tubes and gemstone fields of the Savannah Way are the highlights of a new route for self-drive travellers in Tropical North Queensland.
Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ) Chief Executive Officer Alex de Waal said the Lava Tubes, Gems and Gorges Trail looped almost 300km through the Etheridge Shire to disperse visitors further into the region.
“This hero drive takes in the McBride Volcanic Province where eruptions millions of years ago formed a spectacular landscape and left behind a rich mineral heritage,” he said.
Savannah Way Manager Russell Boswell said the itinerary of up to seven days encouraged travellers to explore the longest lava tubes in the world at Undara Volcanic National Park, learn about fossicking at Mount Surprise and look for topaz at O'Brien's Creek.
“More than 4500 gemstones and minerals from around the world can be seen at Georgetown’s TerrEstrial Centre and Flat Creek Station, which is popular for gold prospecting, and is home to the rare Gouldian finch,” he said.
“The cruise through the narrow sandstone cliffs of Cobbold Gorge is spectacular and a contrast to the wider Copperfield Gorge at Einasleigh. The Agate Creek gem fields are a favourite with fossickers as they are famous for the world's most colourful thunder eggs.
“Four wheel-drive vehicles can continue on to Gilberton Outback Retreat, while conventional vehicles and caravans must travel via the Lynd Junction where you can stop for a coldie in Australia's smallest bar.
“The Savannah Way enjoys a high profile and attracts plenty of interest at the camping and caravan shows where Drive North Queensland promotes its four drives including the Great Tropical Drive, Epic Cape York and Overlander’s Way.”
Mr de Waal said Drive North Queensland involved collaboration with Tourism and Events Queensland, TTNQ, Townsville Enterprise, Outback Tourism, the various Local Tourism Organisations, Cairns Regional Council and strong industry partnerships to develop and promote self-drive to the domestic market.
“The National Visitor Survey figures for the year ending December 2014 show drive travel in the Drive North Queensland region is up 20 per cent compared to the previous year with 888,000 including fly/drive visitors,” he said.
“Drive visitors for that period represented about 57 per cent of the total 1.68 million domestic visitors to the Drive North Queensland region.
“TTNQ is aiming to develop additional hero trails within the Drive North Queensland journeys as part of the marketing campaign’s Contestable Funds activity for 2015-16.”
The Lava Tubes, Gems and Gorges Trail is available at official Visitor Information Centres. For more information visitwww.drivenorthqueensland.com.au or www.savannahway.com.au