• Matt

Lorella Springs Wilderness Park, Northern Territory

Updated: Feb 12, 2020

Dates Visited - September 2018

Lorella Springs Wilderness Park check out their website for all relevant information.

Traditional Owners - Marra Aboriginal people - The Saltwater people

NOTE: If travelling from Darwin I would strongly suggest stocking up with supplies here or at Katherine. Once passed Katherine settlements are small and isolated and may not have essential supplies.

Closest major city / town with full facilities - Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia.

Travelling south from Darwin would be Katherine, Northern Territory (680km NW of Lorella Springs - NOTE: 12 hours by road)

Small settlements with fuel and basic supplies before entering Lorella Springs

If coming from Darwin along the Stuart Highway and Carpentaria Highways

Heartbreak Hotel at Cape Crawford - the intersection of Carpentaria and Tablelands highways is the last location to purchase fuel before Lorella Springs . They also have accommodation, camping sites and basic supplies as well as solid pub grub served with a smile. (135km to Lorella Springs - NOTE: 6 hours by unsealed road - 4x4 recommended)

If coming from the east along the Savannah Way through Barroloola there are two accommodation options within the town.

Barroloola Hotel

Savannah Way Motel

Location : Gulf of Carpentaria, Northern Territory, Australia

How to get there

Birds sighted

Little Pied Cormorant, Pied Cormorant, Bush Stone-Curlew, Australian Pied Oystercatcher, White-banded Stilt, Black-fronted Dotterel, Masked Lapwing, Magpie Goose, Plumed Whistling-Duck, Radjah Shelduck, White-faced Heron, White-necked Heron, Pied Heron, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Eastern Reef Egret, Royal Spoonbill, Brolga, Australian Bustard, Brown Quail, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Whistling Kite, Black Kite, Brown Falcon, Southern Boobook (vocalisations), Barking Owl (vocalisations), Spotted Nightjar, Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Cockatiel, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Red-winged Parrot, Northern Rosella, Blue-winged Kookaburra, Forest Kingfisher, Sacred Kingfisher, Azure Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eater, Striated Pardalote, Red-backed Fairy Wren, Purple-backed Fairy Wren, White-throated Honeyeater, Bar-breasted Honeyeater, Rufous-throated Honeyeater, Banded Honeyeater, Brown Honeyeater, Pied Butcherbird, Magpie-lark, Shining Flycatcher, Paperbark Flycatcher, Leaden Flycatcher, Willie Wagtail, Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, Rufous Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush, Mistletoebird, Long-tailed Finch and Double-barred Finch.

About Lorella Spring Wilderness Park, Northern Territory

I can’t speak highly enough of Lorella Springs Wilderness Park. If you are interested in an adventure, enjoy wilderness, isolation and completely removing yourself from civilisation then this is the place for you!

Lorella Springs is a private family owned one-million acre untouched wilderness sanctuary situated in the Gulf of Carpenteria. Thats 4,000 square kilometres or one million acres to explore.

Lorella Springs is extremely remote, the homestead itself is located approximately 30km of The Savannah Way between the isolated settlements of Roper Bar and Borroloola. Once at the homestead there are literally hundreds of kilometres to explore. Lorella Springs has it all - 20km of ocean frontage, unspoilt beaches, lakes, rivers, forests, savannah woodlands, waterfalls, thermal springs, incredible escartments, Aboriginal history, artwork and of course wilderness and diverse wildlife.

Welcome to Lorella Springs Wilderness Park

The isolation and the unique location made Lorella Springs an extremely attractive location for myself and my good friends Steve and Fiona who themselves are on an around Australia adventure (check them out @rovinginadefender on instagram) to meet up - it's off the beaten track and you can camp literally anywhere! The only conditions being that you need to sign in and out at the main homestead and give locations of where you are intending on going, camping and when you intend to arrive back at the homestead to check out. The owners were extremely friendly and helpful on our arrival and gave us some fantastic history on the property as well as information, attractions and where we could and should go on the property.

Our first destination at Lorella Springs was at a campground called New places “the rock” a short drive from Nanny’s Retreat. The information we had received at the homestead about the location was that there was a sheltered campground surrounded by rock formations in which we could explore and if we were adventurous enough and keen to explore we would be rewarded with some fantastic Aboriginal rock. We found the campsite late in the afternoon set up camp and decided to explore close to camp as daylight would be disappearing soon. We immediately found Aboriginal rock Art.

"New Places" campground
So much wilderness to explore

The next morning, I was awoken at dawn by the vocalisations of some Red-backed Fairy Wrens around camp, to date I hadn’t been able to successfully obtain any images of this species, so I jumped out of my tent and there they were going about their daily lives in some shrubs adjacent to my tent, I was able to get some decent images of the male which I was very happy about as they are an extremely attractive bird - wouldn't you agree?

A stunning male Red-backed Fairy Wren

Since I was already up and about I decided to continue searching for birds and wildlife, another species that was active was the Bar-breasted Honeyeater, another species only found in the top end and from research I had read, quite difficult to find and photograph.

The bird I was watching was hunting in a 20 metre section adjacent to the vehicle track and after watching it for a period of time I found its behaviour was quite predictable, it was flying from favourite branch to favourite branch to hunt. I set myself up in a nice position near one of these branches and patiently waited for my opportunities, I was able to obtain some great images of this species as well as Brown Honeyeaters that were also hunting nearby.

Bar-breasted Honeyeater
Brown Honeyeater

It was a beautiful morning, there was a haze or fog that hung around for a couple of hours which became consistent for the remainder of our time spent camping at Lorella Springs. We believed that the haze/fog rolled in off the ocean from the Gulf of Carpentaria and as the day time temperature increased it slowly evaporated away. When the fog came in it created plenty of dew on the vegetation which gave it a stunning gleam and some wonderful light to photograph in.

An example Aboriginal art work we found whilst searching through rock shelters near camp

I had a good look around camp searching for birds and other wildlife for a couple of hours, I went back to camp and my friends had awoken, we had some breakfast and begun exploring the rock formations near camp. It didn’t take long at all to get seriously hot! In all honesty exploring these rock formations was one of the most amazing things I have ever done - we found numerous Aboriginal art work sites and it genuinely felt like we were the first people to have found these pieces of rock art in a long time - there was no evidence apart from the paintings that anyone had been to some of these locations for quite a considerable time. Walking through the rock formations I disturbed a Spotted Nightjar but before I could get my camera out and capture a image it had disappeared.

We explored this beautiful country and rock shelters for a good 3 hours and we could have continued to explore all day but due to the heat and the fact we were now all low on water and that we had hiked a long way from camp and needed to navigate our way back to camp without any trails, we though it would be a smart idea to head back. We were all buzzing from the experience we had just had - the artwork was just incredible.

We then decided it would be a great idea to go and check out one of the water holes nearby - Helicopter pools. A beautiful pool to cool off, relax and refresh ourselves from the intense heat.

A very eerie day 4wding through Lorella, plenty of bull dust and smoke from a nearby bush fire made driving conditions interesting to say the least

One of the fun parts about Lorella Springs is getting from location to location - all sites are connected by reasonably well maintained 4wd tracks, the tracks we went on were not too adventurous but you certainly still had to concentrate and have some reasonable 4wd skill to navigate the roads and the hazards that lie on/in or near these roads - plenty of steep climbs, decents, creek and river crossings, rocky sections, wildlife and the ever present bull dust.

The most memorable part of the 4wding at Lorella Springs was this bull dust - it was everywhere! My car will forever have bull dust from Lorella Springs embedded in every nook and cranny - it was so much fun driving from site to site (as well as providing a little bit of relief from the heat in the luxury of air conditioning) and it also provided us the opportunity to encounter numerous vegetation types, stunning scenery.

Nanny's Retreat

The following morning started off the same, I did a little bit of birding in the morning with similar species encountered to that of the previous day. We then packed up camp and decided to go and spend a few hours at Nanny’s Retreat - we were informed at the homestead when we arrived that this location was a “must do” at Lorella Springs. Well, fortunately for us we had the entire waterhole to ourselves and it was just incredible. On arrival we took a short walk along a creek line where we encountered numerous species of amazing butterflies of all colours, shapes and sizes as well as encountering a beautiful Mertens Water Monitor sunning itself on a rock - a great sighting as the introduced Cane Toad population unfortunately has had a devastation impact on the reptile population of the Top End.

Once at the swimming hole we initially stood there in awe of the beauty of the location, the crystal clear water, the beautiful rock features and the fact that we had it all to ourselves - it was paradise. We all looked at each and smiled - what are we waiting for? Lets get in! The waterhole itself isn’t very wide, but what it lacks in width it makes up for in depth - the water is very deep, I ducked dived numerous times trying to touch the bottom and also trying not to disturb any creatures that maybe lurking below and I don't think I even came close to touching the bottom.

Nanny's retreat = absolute paradise

You swim through a crack in the beautiful sandstone rock and come out to a larger waterhole on the opposite side. We spent the afternoon exploring the rock formations around Nanny’s retreat and having a dip whenever we felt it necessary to cool off. It really is a extremely special place and I highly recommend checking this site out If you are ever at Lorella Springs.

Nanny's retreat

Whistling Duck Billabong

We then made our way to our next camping spot - Whistling Duck Billabong. On arrival you guessed it... we were met by a small flock of Plumed Whistling Ducks. A wonderful little Billabong indeed - a perfect spot to set up camp, relax, have a couple of cold drinks, have a chat and take in our surrounds.

Great times with great mates at Whistling Duck Billabong - do we look like we are having fun?

The wildlife / bird life was certainly active at this Billabong. A Royal Spoonbill and White-necked Heron hunted in the shallows opposite to us on the right and some Black-winged Stilts hunted next to some Radjah Shellducks to our left.

Black-winged Stilt searching the shallows

An Azure Kingfisher flew past millimetres of the surface of the water in a purple haze and landed nearby, Rainbow Bee Eaters swooped down over the water from their favourite branches catching insects, Rufous Whistlers and Forest Kingfishers vocalised from multiple locations in the surrounding vegetation.

A striking Azure Kingfisher hiding in the shade

Lemon Bellied and Satin Flycatchers would come to camp and investigate the goings on and Mistletoe Birds would call from the trees above us. This location was alive and was full of entertainment. Highlights of that evening were a pair of Black-fronted Dotterels literally "getting it on" right in front of our campsite - I captured some great images of that x rated content and as the sunset hundreds of Plumed Whistling Ducks arrivied to find shelter for the evening - the noise was incredible. The bats then came to join the party, hundreds of micro bats emerged from their day hollows to hunt - I’m sure there would have been Owlet Nightjars and Nightjars as the light disappeared too - this place was buzzing with biodiversity!

One of the Black-fronted Dotterels

We went to our tents with the calls of the frogs, Plumed Whistling Ducks, Boobook Owls and Barking Owls echoing over the Billabong as we drifted to sleep. It had been such a memorable day!

In the morning I awoke to some Brumbies (wild horses) having a drink at the Billabong, I went for a walk to see what else I could find, I was walking in the now familiar fog / mist I mentioned earlier, it was absolutely stunning that morning - such a eerie environment and such a contrast to how it feels in the middle of the day.

Early morning mist

I encountered some Red Tailed Black Cockatoos, Double-barred Finches, long-tailed finches, Red-backed Fairy Wrens and some Purple-backed Fairy Wrens (A new sub-specie of the Variegated Fairy Wren). As I returned to camp a group of 6-8 Brolgas flew over head - Would they land in ‘our’ Billabong? Unfortunately this wasn't to be.

A male Purple-backed Fairy Wren observing his Territory

We moved camp the next day, we wanted to make our way right up to the coast, to the Gulf of Carpentaria and camp on the River. We also wanted to stop in and check out a man made hot spring called Alaskan pools - Wow this pool was incredible - basically, years ago, some workers from a now non-operational mine found a natural spring and drilled a hole into it creating a permanent flow of bubbling warm water - the water hole itself is full but the flow of water is capped with some PVC pipe, all you have to do to start it flowing is to take the top of the PVC pipe and there she blows - warm water rises to the surface and is perfect for a shower. It was absolutely heaven - it was sooooo good that we ended up coming here on multiple occasions to refresh ourselves and to escape the relentless heat.

We found a suitable campsite with stunning views over the river and relaxed in the shade. In the afternoon we went right up to the Gulf of Carpentari and went for a walk on the beach. The tides must be extremely variable up here as we walked and walked and walked until we finally reached the ocean. It truly was pristine wilderness.

Over the next couple of days we fished and relaxed above the banks of the river.

Our morning view from camp at the Gulf of Carpentaria
Sunset at our camp in the Gulf of Carpenteria

Obviously this was Croc country and we were extremely careful and aware of that. We explored around camp at dawn and sunset and located similar bird species to that of what we found at Whistling Duck Billabong - the lone exception was being able to get some great views and photographs of Northern Rosellas feeding on some Grevillia fruits. What a highlight and what a beautiful bird.

One of my highlights at Lorella was finding and photographing a pair of Northern Rosellas

The final camp site we decided to stay at was on the way back to the homestead. We spent the first half of the day exploring 4wd tracks and smaller billabongs where I also had my first real moment of where I thought I may get bogged as the bull dust was that deep. Had some fantastic wildlife sightings including Australian Bustards, Sacred Kingfishers and Leaden Flycatchers.

Exploring and photographing wildlife at one of the many beautiful billabongs at Lorella Springs Wilderness Park
Australian Bustard hunting in some recently burnt out Woodland
A male Leaden Flycatcher

We drove into a dry sandy creek bed and found our final camping spot called Rock Pools - which you guessed it, has a series of rock pools on a river.

We set up our camp right next to the deepest waterhole so we could literally jump straight into the water directly from our chairs and as soon as you were refreshed come straight back to your chair in the shade of the Melaleuca trees. This process went on repeat all day… It was bliss. I really wasn't focussed on wildlife watching here… it was more about relaxing and hanging out with friends and enjoying these incredible surroundings.

An afternoon dip anyone?
Our campground at "Rock Pools"

We went on a couple of walks along the dry creek beds up and down stream from camp just to explore and see what was around - looking up into the canopy 10, 15, 20 metres high and seeing debris in the trees just makes the mind wonder - seriously, does the water really get that high in the wet? That is an incredible amount of water, how can it be so vastly different here than it is now? Incredible to imagine. We camped at this location for two days and over this time I made sure I made the most of every single moment - it was just a perfect spot to finish my Top End adventure.

Over the 8 days we were at Lorella Springs, I think we encountered maybe 10 or so other vehicles and a group of motorbikes. It genuinely feels like you have the entire property to yourself. You really do have to be well prepared, self sufficient and due to its isolation understand that if anything goes wrong you could potentially be in big trouble… but isn’t that part of the lure of these places, part of the fun? Getting away from everything and immersing yourself back into nature?

Hanging out with great mates in the Gulf of Carpentaria

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