If you’re travelling to Yarralin, a 4WD is highly recommended due to creek crossings, wash-outs that occur during heavy rain, and slippery gravel roads. During the wet season (November – May) and especially after rain, the road can be muddy and you may get bogged. If you’re travelling during the wet season ensure you have – and know how to use – appropriate recovery equipment.
During the dry season (May – November), a standard 2-wheel drive sedan can make it provided you drive carefully. The trip to Yarralin will take approximately 5 hours from Katherine, not including stops. That consists of 2.5 hours driving on bitumen and another 2.5 hours driving on gravel / dirt roads.
There are two main ways to get to Yarralin, either coming in through Jasper Gorge from Timber Creek, or via Top Springs and crossing the Dashwood Creek. Read below for more information about each route.
Before travelling to Yarralin, it’s a good idea to check the NT Road Reports website for any reports along your planned route.
Yarralin via Timber Creek: Victoria Highway, Buchanan Highway through Jasper Gorge
Coming in via Timber Creek is a beautiful drive with great scenery through the Jasper gorge. It’s well worth it if you haven’t been this way before. During the wet season (November to April), this is the only way in or out as it avoids the Dashwood Crossing – which can get as high as 5M during the wet (making it impassable).
If you’re coming from Katherine, this drive will take you at least 4 to 5 hours. That’s usually 2.5 hours of bitumen (260km), with another 2.5 hours driving on gravel roads (127km). You can break this up with a stop at the Victoria River Roadhouse on the way in (food, fuel, toilets, and motel rooms available), or with a slight detour into Timber Creek itself (though this requires you to drive passed the turn-off to Yarralin and then double-back).
Starting from Katherine…
54 km (30 mins) out of Katherine you’ll find a rest area with toilets.
124 km (1 hour) will take you to the Buntine Highway / Top Springs turn-off, keep driving towards Timber Creek.
190 km (1.5 hrs) will bring you to the Victoria River Roadhouse (a good place to stop with toilets, meals, and motel rooms). If you’re with Optus, you’ll have mobile phone reception here.
253 km (2 hrs) about 30km before Timber Creek you reach a turn-off that will initially say Top Springs via Buchanan Highway, this is the road to Yarralin. At this point, we recommend you engage 4WD mode as you will be driving on gravel roads from here on out.
By coming this way, you will be travelling through 6 major creek crossings, 26 floodways, 36 sign-posted dips (some more severe than others), and 7 cattle grids.
Starting at the turn-off from the Victoria Highway onto the Buchanan Highway…
14 km Skull Creek
30 km There’s a particularly bad dip about here. You’ll see red “REDUCE SPEED” signs just before a creek crossing, around a slight corner. Take it at about 20 km/h otherwise you’ll feel quite a significant bump. This is the worst dip in the entire road.
32 km Judbarra National Park Sign
40 km Eugene and Slatey Creeks
47 km Lupayi Campground (with toilets, closed during the wet) and Six Mile Creek
47 – 57 km – About an hour in, the road through the gorge can be quite rocky, with corners, and some wash-outs along the edges of the road. It’s always passable but take it slowly through here, especially if you’re towing.
53 km Jasper Creek. During the wet, debris (trees and branches) will sometimes be caught on the bridge. The section of road just after the crossing is quite rough, so take it slowly (20 km/h).
55 km Jasper Gorge Picnic Area (day use only). This is a good place to stop and see the river. After this the road straightens out and gets flatter.
65 km Waterponding Trial
69 km Surprise Creek
75 km Victoria River Research Station, Kidman Springs
82 km Loungers Hill
93 km Crawford Yards & Crawford Creek
110 km The turn-off to Yarralin. You will come across a sign that during the wet, will advise 4WD tracks through Judbarra are closed. Shortly after, you’ll reach the turn-off to Yarralin, noted by all the signs, including the yellow one for Yarralin Store. Turn right here, and you come across a rather ominous “Are you prepared?” sign in front of the South Camel Paddock Gate. Open the gate, close it behind you, and continue on your way to Yarralin. You’ll also start to pickup mobile phone reception here (provided you’re with Telstra).
123 km Sandy Creek. Sandy Creek used to be impassable at some times during the wet, however a new culvert built in 2021 has made the crossing passable all year round.
127km The Yarralin Power Plant and the Yarralin Police Station are the first two things you’ll see when you reach community. Fuel is available 24/7 at Yarralin through a credit card payment system. Food can be bought from our store during business hours.
Yarralin via Top Springs: Buntine Highway, Buchanan Highway through Dashwood Crossing
Depending on how you drive, this way can be quicker as it has more bitumen sections and the gravel road is fairly straight into Yarralin and well maintained, thanks to the cattle station.
However this way can be impassable during the wet (November to April) due to the Dashwood Crossing and severe sections of mud. Even experienced travellers have come into trouble when attempting to cross the Dashwood during the wet. [NT police trek for help after vehicle washed away at Dashwood Crossing]. The Dashwood is considered impassable if it’s over just 30cm (300mm, or 0.3M) high, due to the length of the crossing and speed of the water. Always check the Road Report NT website before travelling and search for “Dashwood”, “Buntine”, and “Buchanan” for any obstructions.
If you’re taking this route from Katherine…
54 km (30 mins) out of Katherine you’ll find a rest area with toilets.
124 km (1 hour) You’ll reach the Buntine Highway / Top Springs turn-off, take this turn-off and head towards Top Springs.
124 – 293 km The road ahead is mostly single lane bitumen and you’ll need to get off the road slightly in order to allow any oncoming traffic to pass.
293 km (2.5 hours) you should reach the Top Springs intersection, turn right. Top Springs offers fuel, food, and motel accommodation.
293 – 400 km The next 117 km after Top Springs is a fairly easy going gravel road during the dry, however some corners are a bit tight at speed, so slow down.
395 km You’ll encounter the Dashwood Crossing. If it’s over 300mm and flowing fast, we recommend you turn around and come back in via Jasper Gorge. It’ll add several hours to your trip but at least you’ll arrive safely. Saltwater Crocodiles have been found around the Dashwood Crossing.
405 km About 15 km after the Dashwood you come across the Victoria River Downs Station. This is an active Cattle Station, so slow down as animals will be in this area.
407 km The turn-off to Yarralin is just 2 kms passed the station. Turn left to head to Yarralin. Note the “Are you prepared?” sign, open the cattle gate, pass through, and close the gate behind you.
420 km You’ll arrive at Yarralin.
A Few Words of Caution…
There are several things to be cautious of, whichever route you choose to take:
- Gravel Roads – It’s not recommended to exceed 80km/h on gravel / dirt roads. Wash-outs and the condition of the road usually mean it’s safer to travel at 40 – 60 km/h, especially during or just after the wet season (November – April). This will give you enough reaction time to brake and safely navigate road conditions as they appear (especially if you are unfamiliar with the road, as conditions can change suddenly and braking hard will only result in you sliding down the road). The road is rough in patches, with hard rock, dips, and water crossings – as well as pools of water on the road during the wet. There can also be debris such as fallen trees and branches, particularly caught in the bridges during the wet season.
- Communication – You will have no mobile phone reception for most of your trip. Either take a satellite phone with you, or let someone know when you expect to arrive in the event something goes wrong, as they can send help if you don’t turn up.
- Animals – Yarralin is next to an active cattle station. Cattle, donkeys, horses, wild pigs, and kangaroos are all active in the area. Travelling at night, or at dawn or dusk, can be especially risky due to increased animal activity at these times.
- Road Signage – While reasonably well-maintained, the gravel road section does get damaged through-out the year. Most of these will be marked with signs. Take notice of the signs and exercise caution.
- Dust & Dirt – Regardless of which way you take, the last two hours of your trip into Yarralin will be on a gravel / dirt road. Often, vehicles (including trucks) will not stay on any particular side, so be especially cautious if you’re following another vehicle or over-taking, as dust and dirt may obscure any oncoming traffic. To be safe, wait for the dust to settle before continuing.
- Mud – If you’re travelling during the wet season (November to May), the road may be muddy and wet in places and you may have to traverse multiple water crossings. Good recovery gear and a properly equipped vehicle (4WD, mud tyres and a shovel) will come in handy. Understanding how to use your vehicle, especially how to engage 4WD mode, is important.
- Water Crossings – During the wet season, you will travel through multiple water crossings. Water level indicators should be present for most of these. A good rule of thumb is if you can’t walk through it (being mindful of crocodiles), don’t drive through it. 300mm (0.3 metres) may not look like a lot of water but if it’s flowing fast enough, it can easily sweep even a high-clearance vehicle off the road and down the river.
- If you get stuck… – In the event you do get stuck and can’t get out, we strongly recommend you wait with your vehicle. Just 5 minutes of driving at 60 km/h is 5 km. The average person only walks about 5 km per hour. That means every 5 minutes you drive is an hour of walking. You’re often too far from anywhere to walk in the heat and humidity of the Northern Territory, as you will not survive without carrying large amounts of water with you (recommended 1 litre per hour, and 1 litre of water weighs about 1 kg). Find some shade and wait with your vehicle, as the road is well traversed and someone will be along before too long (you may just have to wait a few hours). You did let someone know you were coming, right? We have had people get bogged who have had to wait with their vehicle overnight. It’s always a good idea to bring at least 2 to 5 Litres of water with you just in case.
Drive safely, keep the above in mind, and we hope you enjoy your journey.