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Lorella Springs; a one million acre playground in the NT

Many years ago, there were two places in the Northern Territory that I read about, and made mental notes of. One was the hot springs at Mataranka, and the other was Lorella Springs. We'll call them both bucket list places, and they've been on our to do list for some time now.

When we planned our 3 month trip up north, we booked Lorella for a full week; by far the most time spent at single location. To make it even harder, it was a 1000km round trip detour from our nearest stop, so why go to all of the effort to get there?

I’ll tell you why; this is probably the single best place you can visit in Australia if you love adventure. Lorella Springs has everything from epic 4WD tracks to pristine camping, fishing, bird watching, incredible gorges and waterfalls, swimming, hot springs, great food, cold drinks and more.

Welcome to Lorella Springs Station

Welcome to Lorella Springs Station

Magical Hot Springs at Lorella

The Magical Hot Springs

On the way in, Sarah commented that ‘they cater for everyone’, purely based on the signs that we were reading spread out along their 30km driveway, and you know what? She ain't wrong.

About Lorella Springs Station

Lorella Station is run by Rhett, who is extremely active in the day to day running of the station, and you’ll see a lot of him if you stay. It’s one million acres, and has a 30km driveway off the Savannah Way Lets rewind a bit; one million acres is bigger than 29 countries in the world. It’s 5 and a half times the size of Singapore, has 25 kilometres of coastline on the property, and in a word, is ginormous.

The station runs a number of cattle, but over the last two decades has been working on the tourism side of things; opening their amazing property to people from all over Australia. It’s jam packed full of stunning gorges, world class fishing, beautiful rivers and creeks, hot springs, wildlife like you’ve never seen before and accessible by hundreds of 4WD tracks, or helicopter.

Exploring Lorella Springs

Out exploring the huge station

Yellow crested cocky at Lorella

There's stacks of amazing animals

Lorella Billabongs

Exploring Snapping Handbag Billabong in the provided boat

Getting to Lorella

Lorella is located in the Northern Territory, south east of Arnhem land, and a couple of hours west of the Queensland border. To get there, you can head from Daly Waters, Roper Bar, Mataranka or Booraloola.

We drove in from Katherine in the one day, and went down past Mataranka, then into Daly Waters for fuel, then Cape Crawford for more fuel, and then 130 odd kilometres into Lorella station. The Savannah Way is all gravel, with numerous creek crossings (some will have water, some may not), quite a few wash outs and lots of rocks, and their driveway is much the same.

Lorella Springs Station Gates

Expect to open and close a few gates!

Nearest fuel to Lorella Station

The closest fuel to Lorella station is at Cape Crawford, some 130km south east. You can get diesel and unleaded there.

Lorella will sell you diesel, but only in small amounts and at $3.00 a litre, its worth bringing your own in. They are literally in the middle of no where, so getting fuel in is an expensive exercise.

What’s so good about Lorella?

Oasis in the middle of no where

The land in the Northern Territory can be pretty harsh. When you pull into Lorella Springs though, its an oasis laid out before you. The grass is green, there are pet chickens, peacocks and an emu running around and there’s a fantastic bar and restaurant complete with all you’d ever want. Hot meals, cold drinks, a big TV and some very, very welcoming people.

Couple that with hot springs everywhere, amazing swimming holes and the most picturesque scenery for miles and you can't go wrong whether its a solo trip, with the family or a bunch of mates.

Lorella Oasis

Perfectly green grass, leading from the bar down to the Magical Hot Springs

Helicopter Pool at Lorella

Helicopter Pool; a place that had us speechless

Perfect camping

I go camping to have a break, to get away from the crowds and to enjoy some of Australia’s amazing locations. At Lorella, you have the full one million acres to choose from. That’s right; you can camp anywhere you please.

The camping near the homestead is a measly 100 acres (roughly 400,000m2) of natural grass, flat land with lots of big, shady trees to find the perfect perch. There’s hot showers and toilets (some showers run off a donkey hot water system that you need to feed wood into, and others are gas) within walking distance of where ever you camp.

There is plenty of water to camp nearby in the main camp ground, along with the magical hot springs near the homestead. You can have your own camp fires wherever you want and grab firewood from anywhere on the property, as long as you are sensible about it.

To me; that’s about as good as it gets. No cramped campsites where you can hear your neighbour fart, no lines that you can’t cross, no fire issues or nosy neighbours; just perfect Australian bush and the ultimate camping experience. Everyone is there to have an adventure, and there's ample room to do just that.

Lorella Springs camping

Living the camping and adventure dream

Camping at Lorella

Our camp site overlooking a beautiful river

River camping at Lorella

What a magic place to spend a week, overlooking the water

Amazing gorges, rivers and creeks

Looking at the map of Lorella Station, you are almost lost for words, let along trying to plan where to drive. You could spend a month at Lorella and not see it all, and ironically, even the owners haven’t explored the property completely.

Whether you are after waterfalls, crystal clear creeks, pure swimming holes or hot springs, you won't run out of things to see at Lorella. Head to the office each morning and have a chat to the staff, who will guide you where you want to go. They have a great log system where you write down where you plan on visiting, and when you will be back, to ensure everyone stays safe and no one gets lost in the bush!

Nanny's retreat at Lorella

Heading to Nanny's retreat

Nannys retreat is amazing

The walk is well and truly worth it

Tristan's pool at Lorella

Tristan's Pool is well worth a swim

Helicopter Pool, Lorella

Swimming at Helicopter Pool

Brilliant fires

I mentioned above that fires are a fantastic part of camping. Grab your wood (chainsaws permitted here!), pick your place to have a fire (sensibly of course), and go for your life. There’s no cost to get wood, no fire pits that you must contain your fire in, no rangers to tell you its out of season; just use your common sense and go for your life.

Lorella Fires

Many relaxing afternoons were spent around a fire

Potato bake in the camp oven

Our camp oven got quite the work out; an amazing Potato bake one evening

Fantastic hosts

If ever you’ve wanted to feel welcome, Lorella Springs will do the trick for you. The staff, and owners are incredibly welcoming, and make you feel at home from day dot.

Lorella Springs staff are great

The bar and deck area. Head inside and chat to the staff; they are super friendly

Brilliant fishing

I’ve always said that the less people you have to compete with, the better the fishing, and almost all of the time this is true. The less fished the waters have been in the past, the better your chances.

Lorella has everything from Barramundi to Mangrove Jack, Queen fish and more. There are plenty of places that you can fish, from Billabongs through to tidal creeks, rivers and even the ocean if you please. Of course, be aware that this is salt water country, and they will happily have you for dinner if you don’t show them the respect they deserve.

I was speaking to someone at Lorella, who said to me that he came across a school of Queen fish, and in 18 casts, he caught 15 fish. That’s a mental result, and he said I’ve fished all over Australia and never seen fishing like this before.

A few days later, we too had an incredible experience fishing at Lorella. It would easily top the best fishing that I’ve done from the land. Fishing off the cliffs at Rosies Fishing Camp, we would see at least 5 fish every time trying to smash our silver slices for a couple of hours. We landed a heap, lost quite a few and had an absolute ball.

In order to keep it sustainable, the station is catch and release, but you can take what you will eat that day. Don't wreck it for everyone; we took one Queenie home and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Fishing at Rosie's Creek

Gearing up at Rosie's creek for a bit of fishing

Fishing at Lorella Springs

The humble silver slice was our primary weapon of choice

Rosie's fishing at Lorella

The best fishing session we've had anywhere, period

Queen fish at Lorella

Bringing the queenies in, one after another. Most were 50 - 70cm

Fishing with big crocs around

Watch out for the big crocs (you are told very clearly where they are!)

Beautiful hot springs

There’s nothing like stepping into a beautiful, hot spring fed pool of water, and Lorella has 3 to choose from. The first, and most commonly used one is called Magical Springs, and is about 30 metres down a gentle slope from the bar and decking. It’s big enough to fit quite a few people in, and continues down a little creek that is fantastic for the young kids to play in.

The next hot springs is Cattle Yard, which is closed during mustering, but a beautiful place to check out.

Last, but not least, lies nudie hot springs, which has water coming out at a whopping 50 degrees. Thankfully, it mixes with some cooler water, and allows you to bathe in what ever temperature water you’d like. Oh, and if you were wondering, it's not actually a nudist hot spring; it's just a name!

Nudie Hot Springs at Lorella

Nudie Hot Springs is truly beautiful

Magical Hot Springs

The Magical Hot Springs; we spent several afternoon's soaking it up

Epic 4WD tracks

If 4WDing is your thing, Lorella will be a match made in heaven. They have over 1000km of 4WD tracks all over the station. It’s got everything from soft sand to bull dust, rocky jump ups, shockingly rough rocks, tidal flats, swamps and everything in between. You’ll do a LOT of driving around Lorella, and get a taste for some pretty epic 4WD tracks. In the week we stayed, we did about 700km of 4WD tracks!

4WD tracks in the Northern Territory

There are endless 4WD tracks throughout the property

Lorella Springs Station driving

You wouldn't see the whole property if you had a month up your sleeve

Water crossings in the NT

There are a couple of water crossings to do

What does it cost?

Lorella springs charges $20 per adult, per night. Kids under 5 are free, and from 5 - 15 is $5 per night. If you stay 7 nights you get one night free, and if you stay a month, you get a week free.

Tab system for payments

Rather than pay for each transaction, Lorella takes a copy of your drivers license, and anything you purchase, including nights stayed is just added up on a tab, which you pay at the end. This way, if you want drinks, meals, washing machine access or what ever it is, you don’t have to pay each time.

What should you bring?

You can buy milk and bread from Lorella, along with meals, beer and various other drinks. Asides from that, you want to be fairly self sufficient. They have toilets and showers, and water, but in terms of fuel and food you want to take care of yourself.

You can purchase diesel for $3.00 a litre, but you are better to bring your own in!

Adventure at Lorella Springs

Bring a sense of adventure!

When’s the best time to visit?

The dry season is the only time you can visit Lorella Springs, which starts around April and ends somewhere in October. In general, the earlier you get to Lorella the better; the water levels are higher, the waterfalls are flowing and there’s a bit more life around.

Lots of water at Lorella

The earlier you visit, the higher the water levels are and the more water is flowing

Can you tow trailers in?

Yes, no problems at all. We saw lots of camper trailers, quite a few caravans and the occasional beefed up box trailer or toy hauler. The road in is not bad, but towing something you do have to take it a bit slower, as the wash outs, creek crossings and chopped up sections will do nasty damage if you don’t.

I would only bring a true off road caravan in (as a minimum something with a bit of clearance!), with reduced tyre pressures and a gentle speed – 25 to 30km an hour is probably as fast as you are going to get, and 4 hours from Booraloola, or 3 from Cape Crawford is probably on the money.

Do you really need a 4WD?

Clearance is probably more of an issue here, than traction. I did see a Mitsubishi Outlander inside the gates and a Subaru Forester out on some of the more remove tracks, and I reckon with most AWD vehicles you would have no issues (providing you have some clearance!). There are some rocky sections, and boggier sandy sections but I reckon you’d have no problems bringing a Nissan Xtrail, Subaru Forester and the likes in, providing you took it carefully and knew what you were doing.

Checking out the scenery

If you didn't have a 4WD, you'd want to be very careful

How long should you visit?

I saw that there is a fee to access for the day, if you aren’t camping. I reckon you’d be mad to come in for a day. Two days would be pushing it, with around 5 – 7 days probably being the optimal time to stay. You’ll never run out of things to see, and as long as you have a decent fuel range and a sense of adventure you will have an amazing time.

Some people stay at the main camp ground for the whole time, like we did, and others are happy to move every few days to explore different parts of the property. It all comes down to your setup, what you want to see and how often you want to move!

Adventure at Lorella

How much adventure do you want?

Flying Fox Billabong

Paddling around Flying Fox Billabong; another world!

Driving distances on the property

The closest little loop to the homestead is called Crocodile Springs Loop, and will take you a couple of hours if you get out and check the sites out. It’s probably only about 16km long. Everything else beyond that is more of a drive, but with a heap of attractions all over the place. If you head out to Rosies camp, its about an 85km drive, as is the Secret Fishing camp, on the coastline.

Most of the tracks limit you to about 40km/h, until you get further north, where you can often get up to 60km/h fairly safely. The old haul road is bitumen, and you can choose your speed. We limited ours to about 80km/h due to low tyre pressures.

If you want to see a lot of the property, you will need a decent amount of fuel. We had the main tank on the Dmax (76L), and 3 x 20L Jerry cans, giving us a total of about 120L of usable fuel. We did around 700km of 4WD tracks, and chose to take the Roper Bar way out along the Savannah Way, so coughed up the 3 dollars a litre to get an extra 40L of diesel.

Rosie's camp billabong

One of the remote Billabongs near Rosie's camp

Dingo at Lorella

A Dingo on the way to Rosie's camp

The Haul road

Running right through the middle of Lorella is an old, abandoned bitumen road. It really is the most random thing ever – speed signs, white lines marking your travel, flood ways and the lot, but no one to be seen, except those at Lorella (which you rarely see out travelling anyway). This road is used a fair bit to travel around the property, especially from the homestead to Rosies Fishing Camp or the Secret Fishing spot. It makes the travel a lot quicker, and a lot more pleasant, than bouncing around a 4WD track for the whole distance!

Haul road at Lorella

A Bustard walking down the Haul road

Be warned; the signage ain’t great

Lorella is a massive station that requires a lot of work. One thing that isn’t quite yet done to a good standard is the signage. Most places have signs, but finding them is not the easiest. We had a variety of different maps, and still had a hard time trying to work out where we were a number of times.

The sign out to Rosie fishing camp off the old haul road is a tiny piece of PVC that you’d easily miss. We went to a few Billabongs that we had no idea of the name of, because there were no signs. We bumped into a number of other people who were a bit frustrated by this, but in a way it is part of the adventure. Fair warning.

Signage at Lorella Springs

Some of the signage is fantastic, and some of it needs work

Print your own maps off

If you go to the Lorella website, they have some good maps and information you can print off. Do that, and take it with you, or at least on your phone. The maps we were given were OK, but no where near as good as what comes off the website. Why? I have no idea.

Put it high up on your bucket list

If you love adventure, Lorella Springs should be high up on your bucket list. It won't disappoint, and if you are like us, will leave wanting to head back and spend a few more weeks there! For us, its the best place we've been to in terms of scenery, camping, adventure and overall fun.

Lorella Springs was one of the few places on our trip up north that hugely exceeded our expectations, in every way possible. Have you been there? What did you think of it?

Lorella Springs

What a place!

12 comments… add one
  • Allan November 6, 2018, 4:40 AM

    Great post

  • linda November 6, 2018, 6:40 AM

    thankyou for this detailed account of this beautiful place cant wait to visit. we are traveling long distance for the first time soon with no return date . im now excited about NT and this stop.

  • Aaron Schubert November 6, 2018, 6:52 PM

    Thanks Allan, glad you enjoyed it

    Aaron

  • Aaron Schubert November 6, 2018, 6:53 PM

    Hey Linda,

    No worries at all. It’s certainly an amazing place.

    Safe travels
    Aaron

  • Jean and Ted November 7, 2018, 1:11 PM

    Great story about your visit and Lorella Springs. We too were there this year ( and worked) and love it. That’s why we keep going back and have done so since 2003. Many of our trips were in 2wd but in recent years have gone 4wd so can now access everything. An amazing place and we will return till we get too old to travel. Your sentiments are spot on. Cheers

  • Peter Rowland November 8, 2018, 7:04 AM

    A great overview Allan. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and suggestions. I have been fortunate to have seen much of the Australian mainland in my travels over the years, and Lorella Springs has become a place that is now very high on my ‘bucket’ list for Australian destinations. It regularly appears on my FB page and each time I see it I want to go there! Sadly, my 4WD is no more, but it sounds like the AWD Kluger will still get me around most parts if I do not get a new 4WD before I go. Thanks again 🙂

  • Janet November 8, 2018, 7:57 AM

    Thank you for this fantastic trip account. Yes it is also on our bucket list, ‘great adventures in Australia’.

  • Aaron Schubert November 11, 2018, 7:29 PM

    Hey Jean and Ted,

    Thanks – great to hear you guys love it too

    Take care
    Aaron

  • Aaron Schubert November 11, 2018, 7:30 PM

    Hey Peter,

    You’ll be right getting in there and seeing a fair bit with the Kluger, just take it easy. Magic spot!

    Aaron

  • Aaron Schubert November 11, 2018, 7:31 PM

    Hey Janet,

    No worries – glad you enjoyed it, and hopefully you get there soon!

    Aaron

  • Peter Rowland November 12, 2018, 7:49 AM

    Oops! Sorry Aaron – realised I called you Allan in my post 🙁

  • Aaron Schubert November 12, 2018, 6:41 PM

    All good mate!

    Aaron

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