Roper River / Gulf Coast

From the Gulf of Carpentaria to west of the Stuart Highway, from just north of Elliot to the southern edge of Kakadu, from the Queensland border to 100 km from the East Arnhem Coast, the Roper Gulf Region stretches over 186 000 square kilometres. This vast region boasts wide savannah plains, big rivers, pristine coastlines, tropical forests, rocky escarpments, a rich human history dating back 60,000 year.

Increasingly evident is the contrast between the Territory's old and new styles of development. The old style of development is demonstrated in such places as Pine Creek, focus of a gold-rush last century and now with a much-diminished economic role, and the cattle stations to the west and south.

A newer style of development can be seen in the realisation of the region's growing tourism potential of natural wonders from Mataranka to the Gulf Coast, in the cultural tours in the small community of Manyallaluk, and in the takeover of some pastoral stations by traditional Aboriginal landowners through a land claims process. Nowhere is the symbolism of this more obvious than at the property bearing the western subregion’s name: Elsey Station, the setting for Jeannie Gunn’s novel We Of the Never Never. It is now an Aboriginal owned and managed station.


Just south of Katherine, Tindal RAAF base with its 2400 staff and family members contributes substantial resources to the regional economy and represents another industry in the increasingly-diverse mix.

The strategic importance of Tindal in defence planning, the increasingly important role of tourism and ways in which Aboriginal people are using land successfully claimed under the Northern Territory’s Land Rights Act reveal the modern face of development in the Territory. The Elsey subregion shows this in abundance.

How To get There

By road: the main highway from north to south (Stuart Highway) is sealed bitumen all the way from Port Augusta to Darwin, but other roads in the region vary from sealed bitumen to sandy bush tracks that require a 4WD vehicle.

The Barkly Highway is a national highway linking the central regions of Queensland and the Northern Territory. It runs westward from Cloncurry and the junctions of the Flinders and Landsborough highways to the junction with the Stuart Highway north of Tennant Creek. The Roper Gulf region is to the north of Tennnt Creek via the Stuart Highway.

Best Time To Go

The western region has a sub-tropical climate, with distinct wet and dry seasons. The dry season temperatures range from 25 degrees C to 35 degrees C, with an occasional 40 degrees C during November and December. The dry season is cooler with temperatures often dropping to 10 degrees C overnight.

The Gulf Coast has a tropical savanna climate with the three distinct seasons of the Northern Territory, the wet season, the dry season and the build-up season. Extreme temperatures have ranged from 43.9 degrees C to 0.4 degrees C.

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