Burke Developmental Road

Burke Developmental Road is another great road to do.

It is just south of the Cape York peninsula, and goes from east to west until Normanton.

It goes all the way from Cairns on the eastern coast, but is officially only called Burke Developmental Road from Dimbulah on.

East of Dimbulah it is called the Mareeba - Dimbulah Road.

Between Chillagoe and Mareeba it also has the nickname "Wheelbarrow Way" (referring to the Great Wheelbarrow Race that is held here).

Most Cape York travellers only take the Peninsula Developmental Road to the Tip of Cape York, and never use this road.

burke developmental road

But, if you drive from Cape York to the Northern Territory or Gulf Savannah, you are most likely to drive it.


It is also a good southern entrance to Palmer River Goldfields, and the best entrance to the smaller but equally interesting Hodgkinson Goldfields area.

Wheelbarrow Way - Mareeba to Dimbulah

West of Mareeba, you drive along the sealed road, through some farming country, to Mutchilba, and then Dimbulah - a small township with some mining history.


It is now a main access point to Hodgkinson Goldfields - there is a side track to the goldfields north of the town.

Wheelbarrow Way - Dimbulah to Chillagoe

After Dimbulah, you first pass Petford and Lappa Junction,


... and after that, you come to the small township of


After Almaden the road is only partly sealed until Chillagoe (UPDATE 2016 - that stretch should get sealed very soon).


Chillagoe is a lovely little outback town with some mining history and some interesting geology, mainly in form of the spectacular limestone boulders that are everywhere.

Burke Developmental Road - Chillagoe to Wrotham

After Chillagoe, there are no fuel or services for 560km, for the rest of the Burke Developmental Road, until Normanton.

burke developmental road distances

You first pass some limestone caves and the small historical ghost town Mungana, before you drive through Rookwood Station,

bdr ferguson crossing

... and through the first Walsh River crossing

burke developmental road walsh river crossing

... to Wrotham (here is also where you can turn off north to Palmerville, Palmer River Goldfields, Fairview and PDR).

Burke Developmental Road - Wrotham to Dunbar

After Wrotham, the road continues north and west,

burke developmental road wrotham to dunbar

... and there is another Walsh River crossing

burke developmental road wrotham to dunbar walsh river crossing

... before you come to Gamboola turnoff.

burke developmental road gamboola turnoff

After that the road continues west,

burke developmental road wrotham to dunbar

... and comes to Lynd River crossing.

burke developmental road wrotham to dunbar lynd river crossing

It is the third place (after the two Walsh River crossings above) that gets flooded during and right after the Wet Season.

burke developmental road lynd river crossing

After that, the road continues through the Highbury Station fence,

burke developmental road highbury station

... and you might come past some mustering.


It goes past a few signs,

burke developmental road highbury turnoff

... and the turnoff to Drumduff,

burke developmental road drumduff turnoff

... and then continues ...

burke developmental road wrotham to dunbar

... to the Shire border ...

burke developmental road shire border

... and then the Kowanyama and Koolatah turnoff

burke developmental road kowanyama turnoff

After that the road turns the direction with a sharp bend, and also changes in appearance.

Burke Developmental Road - Dunbar to Normanton

The road gets narrower, but there is also a change in the soil, you can tell you are now in the Gulf Savannah.

burke developmental road dunbar to normanton

It is dustier, the dust is softer and finer, and stays longer in the air. 

burke developmental road chillagoe normanton

There are some water crossings, particularly Staaten and Gilbert Rivers, but also some of their tributaries at times.

burke developmental road staaten river

And being a quiet and remote country, it's always the kind of place where the crocodiles are out - there is one on the photo below, but you can only see a slice of its back, as it went under the water as soon as it saw me coming.

burke developmental road staaten river crossing

In the Normanton end, the road gets wider, better graded, and finally sealed, but that only applies to about 30km from Normanton.

burke developmental road normanton

Normanton and Karumba

Normanton is a nice small township in Gulf Savannah. It has
some lovely old buildings, an old jail and a courthouse, the famous Normanton Railway Station and the Purple Pub. In the main street is also the statue of the largest croc ever shot in Australia - eight metres long.


North of Normanton is Karumba - the only town in the actual Gulf Savannah where you can see the water (others are in river mouths), and consequently famous for its sunset views.
But once you have seen the sunsets (and the Animal Bar), you proably won't last here long unless you really love fishing. 

After Karumba, you have about 40km back to the Burke Developmental Road through some vast wetlands and grasslands country that is famous for its birdlife, particularly the large brolgas, but also jabirus.
normanton karumba brolgas


normanton big barra

Normanton is in Gulf Savannah, just south west of Cape York.

You will drive this way if you enter or leave the Cape York peninsula from the west, via Burke Developmental Road.

The town centre is colourful with beautiful old buildings, and there are a few things in town that are worth your time.

At the town entrance is the Big Barra, which in my opinion should have been in the nearby fishing town Karumba.

It would also be fair - Normanton already has the Big Croc :-)

normanton big croc

The monster is a replica of Krys - the largest croc ever shot (by Krystina Pawlowski in the 1950s). The croc was eight metres long.

normanton shire council

There are a whole lot of beautiful old buildings in town, many in bright colours.

burns philp

There is also the old gaol,

normanton gaol

... the bank,

normanton old bank

.. and many other beautiful and even cute buildings ..


But of course, none is more famous than the Purple Pub.

normanton purple pub

It is a hotel so you can stay there, ...

albion hotel normanton

.. and there are also other hotels and places to stay.

normanton train station

The town is also home for the famous Gulflander train, which departs once a week to Croydon, via small outback spots like Critter's Camp, Haydon, Blackbull, Ellavale and Golden Gate.


Karumba is in Gulf Savannah, south west of Cape York. It is the only town to actually be in the Gulf - both Burketown and Normanton are only on rivers.

Consequently, the town is hugely popular with fishing; and also - just like Darwin - has become very popular with its sunsets that you can watch over the waters of northern Australia.

karumba town

As opposed to Normanton (which has a large amount of carefully painted historical buildings), Karumba looks like a hastily thrown-together fishing village.

karumba fishing

And fishing village is exactly what it is - there is no better reason that brings people here.

karumba barramundi

There is even a barramundi restocking facility - to help the stock last but also educate people about Australia's most popular gaming fish and what happens if fishing rules and regulations are not obeyed.

karumba sunset

The other main attraction is the Sunset Tavern, at the Sunset Point, where lots of people gather watching the sun setting over the ocean with a drink.

karumba animal bar

In the township itself, there is nothing much except this bar, popular with fishoes, and some times you feel apptly named :-)

cape york travel

Plan Your Trip... the FREE Cape York Travel Pocket Guide

Get this 50 pages guide totally for FREE. It contains information that helps you getting started with planning of your trip. You get to make early-stages desicions such as when to go, how long time you should take, how to get there and get around, where to stay (general info), what will it cost.. and a short insight to what is there to see and do in Cape York.

Plan and Bring to the Trip... the full Destination Cape York Travel Guide

visit cape york

This complete 300 pages travel guide is all you need before and during your trip. Besides the background chapters on the peninsula's history and wildlife; and the comprehensive detail about all the places (down to prices, opening hours and full contact detail), it has invaluable information on at least 10 four wheel drive tracks, at least 30 guaranteed FREE camping spots on the Cape (and at least 150 on your way to the Cape), at least 40 best swimming holes, all mapped; as well as practical things - from fuel, roads, wireless internet and mobile phone reception, how to deal with the national parks booking rules; and Aboriginal land entrance and camping permits and alcohol restrictions - to vehicle preparation and accessories and necessary recovery gear by my vehicle-recovery-guy partner). Not to mention locals' tips on how to spot that croc and palm cockatoo ;-)

If you liked the books or this website, let others know about it! 

Link to it from your website, your blog, your forum post... Share it on Facebook, Tweet about it...

Every link helps other travellers!

Thank you for doing the right thing and letting others know :-)

destination cape york

Latest Pages

Notice Board

Ask a Question

YOUR Adventure

YOUR Cape Memories

Keep yourself updated
on the latest -
weather, roads,
free travel tips,
and get the
FREE Cape York
Pocket Guide!




Don't worry - your email address is totally secure.
I use it only to send you the Cape York News.

Get the FREE Pocket Guide:
cape york travel free pocket guide

Get the Big Destination Guide
destination cape york book

Available with the Big Destination Guide:
cape york dog caravan trailer
FEEDBACK Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
cape york businesses

loyalty beach