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Darwin River to Adelaide River Rail Trail - Trail Description

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Trail

Darwin River to Adelaide River Rail Trail

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Type: Rail trail
Location: Darwin River, approximately 70km south of Darwin
Start/end: Spencer Rd, Darwin River to Stuart Highway, Adelaide River
Status: Open
Length open: 59km
Surface: Coarse gravel
Terrain: Gently undulating
Best seasons: Dry season (May to September), Wet season can be very hot, or parts of trail inundated
Public transport: Coach
Contact Region: Northern Territory
The Finniss River Bridge (East Branch) (2021)
The Finniss River Bridge (East Branch) (2021)
Suitable for cycling touring hybrid bikes
legend

Details

Features

  • Largely undeveloped areas with a mix of savanna and riparian forest
  • Follows the route of the former North Australian Railway
  • Remnants of pre- and WWII history
  • Safe cycling with very limited traffic

Description

The trail can be traversed in either direction, however the north to south ride is more appealing as it is generally more downhill towards Adelaide River. The trail winds along and adjacent to the original alignment through Dry savanna and shady riparian habitats at creek crossings, which are dry all year except the Monsoon season (January-March).

There is some habitation along the route and occasional vehicles. The route includes many listed heritage places, culverts, embankments and cuttings, and dozens of the original 1880s bridges, some still with intact wooden sleepers.

This rail trail is popular among local Darwin mountain bike riders and is gaining popularity. The routes described below are available with these online routes Darwin River to Batchelor and Batchelor to Adelaide River.

The 59km trail traverses through some remote areas having limited services, and a few areas with limited mobile reception. Some of the trail is poorly maintained and requires care with loose gravel or sandy sections. You should carry sufficient water, bike spares, first aid, food and have studied or downloaded maps. The Finniss River crossing may be impassable for periods of time in the wet season so seek local advice from Batchelor police, or Jim at Batchelor Holiday Park on 08 8976 0166.

Access Points

  • Darwin River – end of Spencer Road
  • Batchelor – Meneling Road or Coach Road
  • Adelaide River – Stuart Highway or Coach Road

Darwin River to Batchelor (31km)

  • The first 14km of this rail trail is a realignment of the 1887 railway, built in the late 1960s due to the construction and filling of Darwin River Dam. This new section has a very wide gravel trail that is also a service road for several rural properties. At 4.2km is a lovely rainforest where bird species such as Rainbow Pitta can be seen.
  • The realignment joins the original corridor near the former Kanyaka Station, although no infrastructure remains here. From here, the trail mostly joins a 4WD track which runs parallel to the rail corridor where rail bridges cannot support vehicles; hence the 4WD track crosses several seasonal creeks. These are navigable all year except during the Monsoon season. The 1887-built bridges are visible from the track, including a large 1887 culvert still in perfect condition that can be walked through. The road eventually crosses the Finniss River (East Branch): when this is flowing the track is impassable for 4WDs and bicycles.
  • At 19.5km the route diverts from the rail corridor due to recent mining activity that removed access along a short section of the rail corridor. At this four-way intersection turn right along White Road for 500m, then turn left at Lithgow Road which is now sealed. At Bevan Road turn left, then right at Litchfield Park Road, and rejoin the rail trail at 25.3km. From here the trail follows the rail corridor, passing the ruins of the historic Rum Jungle Siding and Hotel and the heritage listed Flynn’s Farm at 27.7km. The track arrives at Meneling Road, just near three accommodation options and a restaurant/cafe in Batchelor.

Batchelor is known as the gateway to Litchfield National Park. There is a museum and a historic walk around the town, a service station, general store, medical clinic, butterfly farm, tourist flights and skydiving, and a National Park Ranger office. The rail trail can be started from Batchelor in either direction. Tours to Litchfield NP pass through the town frequently. A major detour from Batchelor would be to Litchfield National Park by following Litchfield Park Road, which is best on weekdays to avoid weekend traffic.

Batchelor to Adelaide River (28km)

  • From the corner of Meneling Road and Rum Jungle Road head south and turn right at the aerodrome roundabout to follow Coach Road. At the intersection of Fowler Road are the remains of the former Batchelor Railway Station and WWII heritage items, each with interpretive signage. From here it is another 2km along Coach Road before rejoining the rail corridor on the left, where a sign declares “Unmaintained road”, which is the start of “Old” Coach Road. At 4km is a cutting, and on the eastern side of this is a large former water storage for steam locomotives, and beyond this the former WWII Gould airfield and camp.
  • At about 8km the trail descends to the south branch of the Finniss River, and passes some rural properties and the intersection of Miles Road. From here the track deviates away from the rail corridor, but crosses it twice just before leaving “Old” Coach Road onto the ‘new’ sealed Coach Road. From here it is another 12km to Adelaide River, which is a quiet rural road. On the left at 16.3km is the former Stapleton Siding with relics now scattered among the trees.
  • Near Adelaide River is the former siding to the now heritage listed WWII Snake Creek Armament Depot. At 24.8km is the siding embankment, rising up to the east. Walking up this takes you to an intact bridge, complete with wooden sleepers and tracks. There is no railing to cross to the Depot, however it can be accessed by following the old Stuart Highway. Turn left off Coach Road at 26.5km and following the signs.
  • The trail ends at Adelaide River township. Access to the original heritage-listed bridge is restricted, however on the south side of the River is the Railway Heritage Precinct with the old railway station. The Adelaide River Railway Bridge was one of the first main bridges to be constructed on the Palmerston to Pine Creek line and was one of the largest bridges along this section of work. Constructed in 1887-88 the bridge was first crossed on 3 December 1888 by the Silverton locomotive.

Adelaide River is a popular stop along the Stuart Highway with Greyhound bus services to and from Darwin (115km from Darwin via the highway). There is a post office, general store, service stations, and a well-known pub and accommodation. Just 3.5km east of the town is Mount Bundey Station which also has accommodation. 

Background Information

The first section of the narrow gauge North Australia Railway from Darwin to Pine Creek opened in 1888 to service mines in the area.  It was extended south to Katherine in 1926 and finally Larrimah in 1929, which was as far south as it went, never linking up to the Adelaide to Alice Springs railway.  Nevertheless, it played a vital role in the development of the Northern Territory and Australia during the second world war.  However, once the war was over, improving roads, its isolation, and finally damage to iron ore loading facilities at Darwin Port from Cyclone Tracy resulted in the railway being closed in 1976.

The new standard gauge Alice Springs - Darwin railway opened in 2004 and the new railway was placed on most of the old North Australia Railway alignment between Katherine and Adelaide River. However, some parts of the old line were bypassed, including the entire section from Darwin to Adelaide River, allowing access along this section of rail trail. Many parts of the railway have been declared heritage places.

Links

Land along the rail trail is owned by the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics as either Vacant Crown Land or road reserves. Please report any issues at transport.cycling@nt.gov.au  or phone 8999 5511.

February 2021

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Contact Us About This Trail

Email or click here: nt@railtrails.org.au.

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