Davenport Ranges National Park

Like Ruby Gap Nature Park, this trip offers some of the best remote camping you’ll find in the N.T. A scenic ridgetop 4WD track, plenty of deep swimming holes, private riverside bush camping spots, and an abundance of waterbirds and wildlife (including the resident wild donkeys), all make for a really great camping trip.

Location

Davenport Ranges National Park is located approx. 180km SE of Tennant Creek, Northern Territory.

When to visit

Between March/April and October. Outside of this, in the wetter months, temperatures typically reach 40C+ and the many river and creek crossings are likely to be impassable and access roads closed after rain. Check road conditions here.

Getting there

There are three routes leading into the park from the Stuart Highway. 

From the North, you can take the LH turn at Bonney Well to Kurundi, approx. 90km south of Tennant Creek. The Kurundi Rd provides the most direct access to Whistleduck Creek camping area (approx. 60km). And, if coming from the north, it is also the quickest route to Old Police Station Waterhole (approx. 170km).

Alternatively, you can access the NP through Ali-Curung. To get to Ali-Curung, take the Kinjurra Rd, approx. 60km further south than the Kurundi turn-off. Once past Ali-Curung, the road becomes the Murray Downs Rd which then joins up with Taylors Creek Rd. Continuing on this route provides access to the Frew River Track (an alternative 17km off-road track which leads to the two bush campgrounds at Frew River, and to Old Police Station Waterhole). If you prefer to stay on-road, you can get to Old Police Station Waterhole by staying on Taylors Creek Rd.

Further south, you can access the NP by taking the RH turn onto Taylors Creek Rd, approx. 42kms north of Barrow Creek on the Stuart Highway.

The conditions on each of these roads can vary. When we visited the NP, Kurundi Rd and Taylor’s Creek Rd had been recently graded. However, each has the potential to be rough and corrugated and after rain, their red clay base means they are likely to be both slippery and boggy. There are also numerous creek crossings on these roads, some of which will flood after only a little rain. A 4WD is recommended for all of these roads.

All roads and fuel points are clearly marked on the HEMA Great Desert Tracks Eastern Sheet map. The maps on our Garmin GPS, however, were unreliable. It is also useful to print off the Davenport Ranges NP map, available here.

Fuel

Tenant Creek – Gas, unleaded and diesel available 24hrs. This is also the closest major town for stocking up on supplies, and other goods and services.

Kurundi Station – Unleaded and diesel (restricted hours – call ahead to enquire)

Epenarra – Unleaded and diesel (restricted hours – call ahead to enquire)

Murray Downs Station – Unleaded and diesel (restricted hours – call ahead to enquire)

Ali-Curung – Opal and diesel (restricted hours – call ahead to enquire)

Barrow Creek – Unleaded and diesel (early till late)

Track info

Whistleduck Creek Rd – The drive into Whilstleduck Creek campground, from Kurundi Rd, is by way of a reasonably well-maintained dirt road. There are some sandy patches and it’s a little narrow in places but essentially the road is good. After rain, water in the shallow creeks, muddy terrain or washouts could present a challenge.

Taylors Creek Rd – Between the Stuart Highway turn-off and Hatches Creek, the road is mostly red dirt. It’s a little sandy in sections so it’s a good idea to deflate for an easier ride and to lessen any corrugations. The section from Hatches Creek to the Frew River off-road track (approx. 80-90km) was narrow and rough in sections, and much slower going than expected. There was a lot of quarry rock of various shapes and sizes on the track so good tread on your tyres will definitely help minimise the risk of punctures. Deflating your tyres will also help to soften the ride over the rocks and provide better traction through the sandy sections.

Frew River Track – If you’re concerned about your paintwork, this is not the track for you. The vegetation has overgrown the track in numerous places and scraping along your vehicle is unavoidable. The upside, though, is that it’s a scenic 11km drive along the ridgetop with some great views. The track itself was not particularly challenging when we drove it, with only a couple of rocky obstacles and some ascents and descents. NT Parks & Wildlife recommend a high-clearance 4WD. However, if you have an understanding of wheel placement and are experienced in picking good lines, then this is very doable in a standard 4WD. Like with all tracks, heavy rain could change the terrain considerably so it’s a good idea to check on the state of the track before you go. And, if at any point you’re not sure, ask a friend or passenger to spot you and talk you over any obstacles.

For those not wanting to take the Frew River track, stay on Taylors Rd to loop around to Old Police Station Waterhole. This route only adds an extra 8km to your trip and will get you to the Old Police Station Waterhole quicker.

Track footage

Video 1 – An example of the road between Hatches Creek and the turn-off to Frew River Track. While this section of the track is more river rock, most of the road is quarry rock of various shapes and sizes.

Video 2 – One of many overgrown sections of the Frew River Track.

Video 3 – An example of much of the Frew River track, nothing too complicated.

Camping

There are three different camping areas within the national park:

Whistleduck Creek Campground – The camp spots here are secluded and, for the most part, spaced well apart. A couple of sites are right on the river bank but when we visited there was very little water in these sections of the river. This is a paid campground with self-registration at the entrance. Fire pits, composting toilets, and picnic tables are provided.

Frew River Campground 1 and 2 – The Frew River off-road track is the only way to access these two campgrounds. Both campgrounds have a small sign, directing you to them, though not overly conspicuous. Coordinates are, therefore, provided below. The two campgrounds are 1-2 kilometres apart on opposite sides of the river bank. Campground 1 is bush camping by a swimming hole with lots of birdlife. There are no facilities here. Campground 2, on a narrower section of the river, has fire pits and picnic tables but no toilets. Both are smallish in size.

Old Police Station Waterhole – This is a well-signed and well-defined campground with self-registration and payment box at the entrance. Set up camp anywhere along the riverbank, within the boundary. While this is not as secluded or private as the Frew River campgrounds, in less busy times you are still likely to have ample space to yourself. Fire pits and composting toilets are provided.

GPS camp spot coordinates

Whistleduck Creek – S20 38.183, E134 46.789

Frew River Campground 1 – S20 46.064, E 135 11.202

Frew River Campground 2 – S20 45.746, E 135 11.605

Old Police Station Waterhole Campground – S20 45.152 E 135 11.101

Things to see & do

Whistleduck Creek – There are two good swimming holes at Whistleduck Creek. The first is Irrmweng Rockhole which is about a 50m walk from the Day Use area. A little further upstream, and also an easy walk, is Injaidan Rockhole. This is probably the more attractive of the two swimming holes, nestled at the base of a towering rock face. There are no other official walks at Whistleduck Creek – just a great place to unwind.

Frew River Campground 1 and 2 – Great for relaxing. There are no official walks, but it’s good for birdwatching and spotting other wildlife visiting the waterholes.

Old Police Station Waterhole – This is an ideal spot for swimming. It’s by far the biggest of the swimming holes even after months of no rain. It’s over 100m in length and stretches the width of the river. There are also lots of river gums dotting the banks and, apart from providing a shady camp spot, they’re perfect for hanging the hammock. There is also a short walk up to the old police station ruins on top of a nearby hill.

Fly profile

Friendly in mid-October.

More info

NT Parks & Wildlife – Davenport Ranges National Park

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