I don’t know what made us decide to stay overnight at the Victoria River Roadhouse as we pulled in for fuel, late on a Northern Territory July morning.
Perhaps we took the Grey Nomad’s experimental driving technique involving an inexpertly executed U-turn directly in front of us without warning as a sign to stay off the roads that day.
Perhaps the imminent full moon threatened the same thing.
Or perhaps the iconic Victoria River Roadhouse, nestled below the wild Victoria River’s magnificent escarpments between Katherine in the Northern Territory and Kununurra in Western Australia just looked too inviting …
Whatever the reason, we soon discovered we’d lucked out with one of the most spectacular campground settings in remote Outback Australia.
And 5 completely unexpected extraordinary experiences that make this remote outpost on the Victoria Highway WAAAY more than just a fuel and food stop.
So … what’s to do? Here’s how WE spent a stay of less than 24 hours at the Roadhouse!
1 Get a photo of … well, EVERYTHING!
From the iconic Roadhouse sign to the wild outback landscape to the moonrise over the escarpment* and sunrise over what is arguably Australia’s wildest river, it’s almost impossible to take a bad photo (although I did my darndest!).
BUT … here’s the catch. You won’t get good pix by spending all your time having happy hour in the campground or drinks at the bar.
Here’s my tip. Do the other things on my list, and the photos will take care of themselves!
2 Admire the landscape from the Escarpment Lookout!!
Heading west up the road and round the corner, a reasonable walking track (with some steep sections) winds up from the valley over the rocks and onto the escarpment.
It’s worth the effort for the staggering views over the Victoria River Valley, and down to the roadhouse and campground, nestled amongst the trees.
The fantastic array of wildflowers** were a pleasant surprise!
And because it’s in the valley between escarpments, the sun on the RED rock enhances the incredible view at virtually any time of the day!
3 Get close to Australia’s Wildest River!!!
If you DO try to get close to the river, don’t get TOO close – crocodiles are common in these parts. And while we didn’t see one on the Roadhouse stretch of the Victoria River, on our crocodile cruise at Timber Creek, a couple of hours west, we saw more crocodiles in a couple of hours than in the rest of both our lives put together!
The height of the old bridge compared to the new gives an indication of how much water flows through the river crossing during the wet season. The many campers who didn’t take the 5 minute stroll down onto the old bridge missed an excellent opportunity for those sunset or sunrise photos where the escarpment GLOWS!
A short drive south along a gravel road down to the river gave a different perspective. On the lookout for the crocodiles infesting the river, we weren’t expecting the buffalo*** that somehow wandered between us and our car …
4 Eat at the Roadhouse Restaurant …
… and have a real multicultural experience!
The pierced Nordic backpacker**** who rattled off her practised spiel as we checked into the excellent and scenic caravan park nestled between escarpment cliffs of the Victoria River Valley was only the first in a string of overseas tourists we encountered during our short stay.
An eclectic mix of staff representing a smattering of other European countries variously served us drinks, took our order, served our meal and cleared our table.
And the other diners weren’t all Grey Nomads on an extended happy hour, either! My shameless eavesdropping picked up at least 10 different accents from both sides of the counter in the small dining room – with Aussies way in the minority.
More fools them!!
5 Walk the Joe Creek Loop
The guidebook ‘suggests’ this walk is moderate grade, but I wasn’t so sure … a steep, rocky track straight up the escarpment; a narrow path under a soaring cliff; gravel crumbling underfoot.
But the next day at Timber Creek, the one-legged man with crutches***** on our crocodile cruise told us he’d done it the day before and I felt like a big girl. Hardly surprising because I AM a big girl, but you know.
Difficult or no, however, this walk delivers the goods. Red rock, livistona palms, Aboriginal Art, natural amphitheatre glowing RED in the evening light. It even overshadowed the public toilet which sadly, wasn’t quite scenic enough to make the cut …
And if I can do it, and a one-legged man with crutches can do it, what’s YOUR excuse?!
This remote outpost in the Aussie Outback is the real deal. But like so many Outback places, the only way to see it is to stop and explore. Looking back, it’s hard to believe we spent less than 24 hours there – but I see at least one more 24 hour stopover in my future …
* I can’t guarantee a moonrise for YOUR visit!
** Nor can I guarantee wildflowers!
*** Wild buffalo might not appear!
**** And Nordic backpackers might not turn up for YOUR visit!
***** And I certainly can’t guarantee a one-legged man with crutches!!
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