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Family Road trip: Darwin to Alice Springs

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A road trip through the Northern Territory sits atop most bucket lists in terms of the quintessential Aussie road trip. Take a trip during the dry season (April to October), when the weather is not too hot and the roads are in perfect condition to explore the beating red heart of the Australian outback. This itinerary can take up to 14 days, spending a couple of days in some locations, being sure not to rush your adventure. This road trip is perfect for a family travelling with children.

Travel

8-14 days


Route

Darwin to Alice Springs

3135km


Best Time of the Year

April to October

Highlights

  • Kakadu
  • Nourlangie
  • Edith Falls
  • Katherine
  • Gemtree
  • Tennant Creek
  • Devils Marbles
  • Uluru

The Journey

Days

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Day 1
Darwin to Cooinda Lodge

Distance 315km - Driving Time 3 hours 45 minutes

After collecting your campervan from Darwin, if you haven't stocked up on supplies already – be sure to visit Darwin's longest-running Rapid Creek Markets. Here you will find an abundance of locally grown produce and free-range meat at Greenies Organic Supermarket. With a stocked fridge and some delicious morning pick-me-up smoothies, now you're ready to start your Northern Territory adventure.

The Adelaide River is home to many crocodiles and will provide you some pretty epic wildlife watching. These prehistoric predators are quite fast and agile so make sure you watch carefully and from a distance.

For your first night, set up your camper at Cooinda Lodge before heading to the pool for a swim. This park will surround you with lush tropical gardens. For dinner, try the lodge's very own bistro.

Day 2
Cooinda Lodge to Kakadu

Distance 160km - Driving Time 3 hours 45 minutes

The Yellow Water Billabong is an incredible activity to do on this trip. Opt-in for the sunrise trip, although it is an early start you will be rewarded with the incredible natural scenery of the landscape as well as wildlife. Glide atop the water, through pink and white waterlilies and past lurking crocodiles whilst listening to the traditional owners of Australia talk about their ancient culture and partnerships forged with the land to protect, respect, and provide.

Spend a few days in Kakadu, exploring all that it has to offer. Visit Nourlangie to see the iconic rock shelters filled with art, depicting stories of Namarrgon (Lighting Man); said to signal the wet season and all the powerful storms that come with it.

Cahills Crossing is one of Australia's most dangerous bodies of water due to having the highest concentration of crocs per kilometre. Do not attempt crossing but watch safely from the viewing platform at high tide as the water rushes over the causeway and the crocs feast on barramundi.

To end your time in Kakadu, be sure to head to Ubirr. Explore the galleries holding the finest collection of Aboriginal rock art in the world before settling down to witness a magical sunset over the plains and wetlands of the spectacular Kakadu.

Day 3
Kakadu to Katherine

Distance 365km - Driving Time 4 hours

Your next stop is only just over an hour's drive away, but we recommend waking up early so you can head to the incredible Edith Falls for a day of swimming and hiking before setting up camp at Nitmiluk Caravan Park, in the depths of Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge to watch another incredible sunset.

The caravan park is only a short walk away from the visitor centre where the gorge cruises depart. With 13 gorges, and only 2-3 accessible by boat, a cruise is a wonderful way to see the ancient rock formations whilst floating on the water and learning the history as told by the Jaywon people. Swimming is allowed but be sure to check with the rangers first in case crocodiles are present in the gorges. If you're a bit wary about the safety of the lagoon, a safer option would be enjoying the lagoon-style swimming pool at the campground.

Over the next few days, take some time to explore the incredibly beautiful natural springs. Katherine Hot Springs, Bitter Springs, and Mataranka Springs are all equally spectacular spots. Bitter Springs although has a lazy river that allows you to just float from one end to the other – great for kids! There are many campgrounds close by to all springs and all offer very similar shaded sides at a close distance to the forests.

We recommend Mataranka caravan park because of the pub and beer garden on-site – this makes dinners and lunch options a lot easier for the family.

Day 4
Katherine to Daly Waters

Distance 280km - Driving Time 3 hours

Following the renowned Stuart Highway, follow along and watch as the landscape changes from lush palm-fringed towns fed by natural springs, to the barren, red plains of Australia's outback. It wouldn't be an NT road trip without calling into the Daly Waters Pub to try out the famous 'Beef'n'Barra.’ This experience is fun for the whole family, stay and relax a while whilst the kids enjoy the dance floor and live band.

Day 5
Daly Waters to Tennant Creek

Distance 420km - Driving Time 4 hours 30 minutes

Just over 4 hours from Daly Waters is Tennant Creek. On the way, be sure to make a stop at Wycliffe Well, Australia's UFO spotting capital and home to all sorts of bizarre, unexplained events which are shared at the Wycliffe Roadhouse. Tennant Creek Telegraph station is one of the best-preserved examples of Australia's attempts to communicate across the vast lands. Early travellers regarded it as a refuge from the harsh, unforgiving surroundings that they had travelled through. It was the first telegraphic link from Australia to Britain through the colonial telegraph system.

Head to Tennant Creek Caravan Park to enjoy some lush grassed sites, which will feel incredible after a day of travelling through the dusty outback. Spend the afternoon exploring Tennant Creek, and take a self-guided tour of Battery Hill Mining Centre to learn about this region's famous goldfields, home to the richest gold mine for its size in the world.

Day 6
Tennant Creek to Karlu Karlu

Distance 110km - Driving Time 1 hour 20 minutes

The drive to Karlu Karlu from Tennant Creek is only just over an hour, so arrive early to ensure you secure the pick of the bunch for your campsite. The landscape of Karlu Karlu (Devils Marble's) is so incredible, you will be surrounded by a backdrop of spectacular boulder formations that change with the colours of the sun. This site is truly in the outback with no showers, water, or power and only communal campfires and bush toilets – a Britz campervan is perfect, ensuring you can have a shower to wash off all the red dirt from the day.

Day 7
Karlu Karlu to Gemtree

Distance 410km - Driving Time 4 hours

This detour does add a few extra kilometres to your trip but is worth a visit, especially if travelling with children. Take the Plenty Highway and head to Gemtree for a night under a blanket of dazzling outback stars. The caravan park is family-owned and operated, you will be treated to amazing homecooked meals and indulgent treats from the hosts. Spend the next day fossicking for gemstones, for a small fee, join a guided tour to look for garnets – this will be a highlight for the kids.

Day 8
Gemtree to Uluru

Distance 605km - Driving Time 6 hours 30 minutes

From Gemtree, it is a long drive to reach Uluru. Wake up early so you can time it perfectly to arrive in time for sunset. Spend your next few days walking and exploring the many trails around Uluru and Kata Tjuta before settling into a good spot for sunset and cheese platers.

Day 9
Uluru to Alice Springs

Distance 470km - Driving Time 5 hours

After you feel like you have explored enough of the Australian outback, enjoy a final breakfast in these glorious surroundings before embarking on the drive to Alice Springs to return your camper and wrap up this unforgettable holiday.