The Northern Territory’s Judbarra National Park, formerly known as Gregory National Park, covers a massive 1.3 million hectares and – as you might expect – has plenty to hold the interest of adventure-seeking grey nomads.
Located about 350 kilometres south of Darwin, the park is split into two geographically distinct east and west sections and can be reached via the Victoria Highway from Katherine and Kununurra, or via the unsealed Buntine and Buchanan Highways.
While it is open all year round, certain roads in the park may not be accessible during the Wet. The authorities say the most comfortable months to visit are May to August when temperatures range between 10C and 35C. However, while the weather is warmer and wetter between November and April, the woodlands become lush and the campgrounds are quiet.
Judbarra showcases the transition zone between the Territory’s tropical and semi-arid regions and boasts stunning gorges, escarpments, and sandstone formations. The park is famed for its 4WD trails and its stunning walks, which can take visitors through monsoon rainforest and eucalyptus woodland and past clumps of yellow Spinifex and boab trees.
In the eastern section, the three-kilometre, steep-in places, Escarpment Walk offers a series of stunning panoramic views over the Victoria River Valley, notably from the Garrarnawun Lookout. The more challenging Nawulbinbin (Joe Creek) Loop Walk passes Aboriginal paintings and winds up a steep rocky slope to the base of the escarpment wall.
The rock shelters and caves in the park contain many examples of indigenous rock art, with the human figure being the most common motif. Bird-loving hikers may also keep an eye out for species such as the white-quilled rock pigeon the endangered Gouldian finch, and the yellowrumped mannikin.
The park has six rugged four wheel drive tracks to navigate, including the six-kilometre Limestone Gorge track through a landscape dominated by limestone formations and boabs; and the longer Broadarrow Track that travels nearly 200 kilometres along a broad, flat plateau and across rugged hilly country and alluvial plains.
In the west of the park is the historic Gregory’s Tree, a large boab tree with carvings from Augustus Gregory’s 1885 north Australian expedition. It’s an Aboriginal sacred site and registered heritage site, and has interpretive signs at its base.
The Bullita Homestead is also well worth a visit. It is in original condition and tells the story of the first settlers here, the hardships they faced and their chilling end. The stockyards outside are maintained with local lancewood and bloodwood timber. Many visitors like to try their hand at catching a barramundi, but this is very much saltwater croc country so it certainly pays to be cautious. There are quite a few campsites in the park, many of them along rugged 4WD tracks. However, the sites at Sullivans Creek and Big Horse Creek do allow caravans.
While this may be the Northern Territory’s second largest park behind Kakadu, as far as quite a few grey nomads are concerned, Jundbarra still delivers a lot more bang for their buck than its giant neighbour to the north.