Borroloola is a town like no other. It is more like a scattering of communities along the McArthur River in a remote area of the Northern Territory. Residents number just over 900 with 75% being of indigenous origin. Interestingly it is not one cultural language group that lives here but several. The Mara and Yanyuwa people are considered 'saltwater people' and hail from the Sir Edward Pellew Islands and the ocean mouths of the McArthur and Wearyan Rivers. The Karawa and Kurdanji are considered 'mainland people' coming from the lands southeast of the town.
If you're looking for the outback of Crocodile Dundee fame then this may just be the place for you. This is the tropical north, a place of mangrove lined waterways, bush swimming holes, incredible fishing and big saltwater crocodiles. Borroloola is 46km in a straight line from the Gulf of Carpentaria but access to the Gulf waters is only possible by boat.
The fishing is so good here that people arrive in the 'dry' season and set up camp for weeks or even months. However, as soon as the 'wet' season begins building up the tourists vanish. Being stranded in a top end wet season can mean being stranded for a long time.
The history of Borroloola is a colourful one. Ludwig Leichhardt visited the are in 1845 followed by Augustus Gregory in 1856. A stock route was established to move cattle from the Kimberley in Western Australia to Western Queensland and Borroloola became an important stopover for resupplying. The town was gazetted in 1885 and quickly gained a reputation as a wild frontier town where illegal rum was smuggled from Thursday Island. It became an outpost and hideout for criminals of all persuasions and an abundant alcohol supply combined with the underbelly of colonial Australia saw Borroloola's notoriety soar.
Borroloola can still get a bit unruly but it's a remarkably friendly place with a good assortment of services and things to see and do.
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