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.
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.
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.
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. Know your fuel economy, and bring enough.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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?