14 day adventure
Alice Springs to Darwin
Best Time of the Year
April to November
- Clare Valley
- Wilpena Pound
- Kings Canyon
- Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park
Adelaide to Clare
Your journey along Explorer’s way starts as you travel north from Adelaide via Main North Road for two hours before reaching Clare Valley. As well as being the centre of an important pastoral industry, Clare Valley is internationally known for its Riesling and is a popular spot for an overnight stay, with the choice of motel, bed and breakfast and luxury accommodation. Take the opportunity to sample the area’s fine wines at one of dozens of cellar doors between Auburn and Stanley Flat on the other side of Clare. Make some purchases to enjoy at your overnight stops along the journey.
While in Clare take the time to enjoy a section of the famous Riesling Trail. Many of the accommodation options back onto a section of the trail and have bikes you can use at the property. You can also hire bikes and these can be delivered to where ever you are staying. Or they will meet you along the trail.
Clare to Port Augusta
Travel from Clare to Melrose, which is the oldest town in the Flinders Ranges for a refreshment stop. Melrose is cradled at the base of impressive Mount Remarkable and is a must for bushwalkers, cyclists, bird watches and history buffs. Travel onto Port Augusta in the afternoon for your overnight stay.
If you arrive early enough, a visit to the Wadlata Visitor Centre and Arid Lands Botanic Gardens, could be fitted in before dinner at one of the great pubs in Port Augusta.
We highly recommend you stay overnight, at the comfortable accommodation is located nearby at the BIG4 Holiday Park located in Port Augusta.
Port Augusta to Wilpena Pound
Port Augusta is the gateway to the Outback so before travelling onto the Flinders Ranges make sure you visit Wadlata Outback Centre for all the tips on travelling in this remote area of South Australia and the Northern Territory. The Centre has recently had an upgrade and features the incredible ‘Tunnel of Time’, which gives a great insight into the diversity and history of the Flinders Ranges and Outback. A stop at Arid Lands Botanic Gardens is a must to experience the sounds and scents of Australia’s arid heart in this unique 500 acre botanic garden. Don’t leave Port August without taking time to cruise to the top of Spencer Gulf in the early morning where you will see abundant marine life and dolphins are a frequent companion. A stop in Quorn where you can take a camel tour if time allows or have a late lunch at the Austral Hotel. In the afternoon travel via Hawker onto Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges National Park.
We highly recommend enjoying an overnight stay in Hawker at the BIG4 Park and travel into the Flinders the following morning.
Wilpena Pound is an enormous natural amphitheatre, the pound offers breathtaking scenery, rich Aboriginal and European history, wildlife and above all, a great chance to unwind. Spend today exploring the area either by walking trail or on a guided 4WD tour to the top of Rawnsley Bluff for canapés and champagne. If you’re a serious walker then the challenging trek up
St Mary’s Peak (almost 1200m high), offering superb views over the Pound. Keep an eye out for native animals wondering the park such as emus, kangaroos and other wildlife. If the winter has seen good rains in the Flinders the wildflowers in Spring can be amazing. The only way to see the magnificence and expanse of the ‘bowl’ of the Pound is to take to the air for a scenic flight. These flights operate in the morning and afternoon and are another great way to truly appreciate the grandeur of this remarkable area. If you have time to include a tour of the Old Wilpena Station which is the best preserved pastoral heritage site in Australia, do the “Living with Land” interpretative trail and enjoy its large public artwork entitled Ikara, an Aboriginal word for “meeting place”.
Between April and October take a balloon flight over Rawnsley Bluff and the pound.
Always check road conditions when heading further north.
Please note: if you’re choosing to hire an excellent Britz Campervan, minimum hire is 5 days.
Wilpena to Parachilna
Travel to Blinman and onto Parachilna. The ruins of the old Blinman mine are set against a stunning backdrop of sparse, hilly countryside in South Australia’s highest town. Sharing the same name as the town, Blinman Pools features two spring-fed pools which have been a popular picnic spot since the 1880’s. The 12 km return walk begins from the Angorichina Tourist Village general store. Travel onto Parachilna for lunch at the famous Prairie Hotel. Sit on the verandah of the pub and watch Australia’s longest coal train go by as it makes it way from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta. Travel via either the Angorichinia Gorge, or by turning back south and travelling via the Brachina Gorge.
Sample the ‘feral food platter’ and Fhargar lager at the Prairie Hotel. You have a choose to continue onto Leigh Creek or Marree for an overnight stay or return to Wilpena Pound to prepare for the outback drive to William Creek.
Parachilna to William Creek
Travel Parachilna to William Creek via Marree. Marree is the starting point for the Birdville and Oodnadatta Tracks. The journey to William Creek is along the Oodnadatta Track, once the track of the Ghan railway to Alice Springs. Continue along the Oodnadatta Track to William Creek, which boasts the World’s most isolated pub. Spend the night here before travelling onto Coober Pedy. A great option is do a flight over Lake Eyre from William Creek which is the only way to see this expanse of water especially when the lake is in flood. The last couple of years have seen the most amazing birdlife due to the great rains coming down from the creeks that feed into Lake Eyre and Lake Eyre South. We recommend you book your flight before leaving Wilpena Pound, or if you know your proposed schedule, then book it before you leave home, to make sure you are not disappointed. The flight is a once in a lifetime experience as the floods generally only occur every 10 years or so, but who knows how many more years there will be before the dry hits again.
William Creek to Coober Pedy
Travel onto Coober Pedy, Australia’s unique ‘underground town’ Opal was discovered here in 1915 and Coober Pedy now produces 95 per cent of Australia’s opal. Bitten by the opal bug? Try your hand at noodling, there is a safe area in the town that has been set aside for you to give it a go! There is underground mines and churches to discover as this is the way the locals live due to the high heat for most of the year. North of the town you can have a game of golf. The ‘greens’ are black and there is not a blade of grass to be seen. There are tours you can take to learn m ore about this unique environment and way of living; locals tell the best stories! Take a flight over the colourful Painted Hills, or take a drive about 30 minutes north of the town to see the Breakaways Reserve. This striking landscape formed over millions of years is the perfect place to watch a stunning desert sunset.
Stay overnight in an underground room, it’s a unique way to live. If this is not your cup of tea, we highly recommend you stay overnight, at the very comfortable accommodation at the BIG4 Coober Pedy Oasis Tourist Park .
Coober Pedy to Uluru
Depart Coober Pedy and travel along Stuart Highway to Alice Springs. Just over 150 kilometres north of Coober Pedy is Cadney Roadhouse, which has good facilities and essential services for visitors. Time permitting, take a detour east from here to the stunning Copper Hills and Arckaringa Hills, known as the Painted Desert (allow an additional three hours for this experience). Once back on Stuart Highway, drive through Marla (also recommended for a fuel stop) and begin the last section of the drive, which takes you into the Northern Territory and Alice Springs, the heart of the red centre of Australia.
Uluru stands at 348-metre high and is located at the geographical and spiritual heart of the Australian outback. Visit the massive monolith at sunrise or sunset to see its rugged beauty as it glows in the changing sunlight. Take to the skies in a helicopter, climb onto the back of a camel or into the saddle of a genuine Harley Davidson motorcycle to circumnavigate it. Meditate its cracks, crevices and colours from a walking track at its base or as part of a tour led by a representative of the traditional owners, the Anangu people.
Stop at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Cultural Centre to purchase Aboriginal art, watch craft demonstrations or join a bush tucker session.
Accommodation is available at the superb Ayers Rock Resort. Book an apartment, a room at a 5-star luxury wilderness camp or hotel, backpacker accommodation, a campsite or cabin.
Uluru to Kings Canyon
Meaning ‘many heads’, Kata Tjuta is sacred to the Anangu people. Join a cultural tour to find out more about this magical place. The tallest of these 32 monumental weathered rock domes stands at 546m (or 200m higher than nearby Uluru). And, like Uluru, Kata Tjuta is at it’s most spectacular when viewed at sunrise or sunset. To appreciate how ancient and imposing Kata Tjuta is, explore on foot. Tackle the Valley of the Winds Walk for breathtaking views of the desert plains. The Walpa Gorge Walk is a gentler stroll amongst the enormous domes into a lush desert refuge for plants and wildlife.
Leave the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and drive 300km back along the Lasseter Highway to the majestic escarpment of Kings Canyon. As well as the 300 metre sandstone walls of the canyon, Watarrka National Park is home to walking trails, palm-filled crevices and spectacular views across the desert.
There are many lovely places to stay, located outside of the park. Choose from motel-style rooms to campsites at the Kings Canyon Resort, 7km away. Kings Creek Station, 35km from the park, also has campsites and excellent budget accommodation.
Kings Canyon to Alice Springs
For a truly unforgettable view of the canyon, rise before dawn and follow the 6km trail around its rim. As the sun rises you will be treated to magnificent views of the weathered domes of ‘The Lost City’ and the lush valley known as the ‘Garden of Eden’ below.
Today you will head to the NT’s second largest city, Alice Springs. Returning to the sealed Lasseter Highway, you will pass Curtin Springs Station and Roadhouse and the view of flat-topped Mt Conner before turning north onto the Stuart Highway.
Stop to stretch your legs and see the unusually shaped landscape at Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve. The 12 craters in the reserve were formed by a meteor hitting the earth’s surface over 4,700 years ago. Pitch your tent here, or continue along the road to Rainbow Valley to catch the sight of the late afternoon light hitting the rainbow-like rock bands in the sandstone bluffs and cliffs. From here Alice Springs is a mere 75km away. We highly recommend a stay at the BIG4 MacDonnell Range Holiday Park.
Alice Springs is Australia’s most famous outback town and is celebrated as the Aboriginal art capital of Australia. Tour Alice’s sights – visit Australia’s only arid zone botanic garden and discover fascinating local histories at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station, the Royal Flying Doctor Base, the School of the Air, and Anzac Hill lookout. The MacDonnell Ranges, which stretch out for hundreds of kilometres on both sides of Alice Springs, are thought by the Arrernte people to have originally been giant caterpillars called the Yeperenye before becoming the ranges you see today.
An easy drive from Alice Springs, the landscapes of the West MacDonnell Ranges include many stunning chasms and gorges. Take a short walk along the trail to Simpsons Gap to see its permanent waterhole. Stand between the sheer walls of Standley Chasm and photograph the fiery ochre colours reflected by the midday sun. Picturesque swimming holes at Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge, Glen Helen Gorge and Redbank Gorge offer refreshing relief on a scorching day. You can also to visit the Ochre Pits used by Aboriginal people as a quarry for ochre pigments.
Alice Springs to Tennant Creek
Heading north the landscape changes from desert to sweeping plains. Wycliffe Well is renowned as Australia’s UFO sightings capital. Call in at the roadhouse, the walls of which document paranormal encounters from around the world.
The Devils Marbles are a sacred site known as Karlu Karlu to the Warumungu people. These massive ancient granite boulders are strewn across a wide shallow valley, and continue to crack and change. Bring your camera to capture the drama of the sun setting on the landscape.
While in the area John McDouall Stuart named a creek after his friend and sponsor, John Tennant. Today Tennant Creek is the main town in the region. Australia’s last gold rush took place here in the 1930s, and many believe that there is still gold to be found. The town’s golden history can be seen at sites around the town such as the Battery Hill Mining Centre.
Just north of the town are The Pebbles (Kunjarra) – granite boulders that are a sacred site and women’s dancing place for the Warumungu people, and a great place to see the sun set.
We highly recommend you stay overnight, at the comfortable accommodation is located nearby at the Wycliffe Well Holiday Park.
Tennant Creek to Daly Waters
Before you leave town, discover the local Aboriginal cultures. Call in at the Nyinkka Nyunyu Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre, which showcases the stories and art of the local traditional owners. Julalikari Arts is a busy centre where you can meet and see the work of Aboriginal women artists. Aboriginal music in English and traditional languages is performed, produced and for sale at Winanjjikari Music Centre.
At Three Ways, where the Barkly Highway to Queensland meets the Stuart Highway, take the time to have a look at the memorial to the Reverend John Flynn, founder of the historic Flying Doctor Service.
The Daly Waters Historic Pub is a popular place to overnight that offers backpacker, hotel or motel rooms, or a place to pitch a tent, as well as its renowned Beef and Barra meal. The pub and grounds are crammed with memorabilia that reveals the pub’s colourful history and those who have passed through its doors.
Make a stop in Larrimah, an historic outpost that was established in 1940 to service the nearby Gorrie Airfield during the war. It was the railhead on the North Australia Railway, and a camp used by the Australian Army. Troops made the journey by road from Adelaide to Larrimah then boarded a train to Darwin. Today you can wander through the Military Transport Museum to see photographs and interpretive text documenting World War II.
The small township of Mataranka is renowned for its thermal pool. The township itself is small, with a population of about 250, but it is a good place for a break, as it is well equipped with camping grounds, accommodation and a supermarket. The area was made famous by the novel ‘We of the Never Never’ – a book written in 1908 about nearby Elsey Station by Jeannie Gunn. Wander through The Elsey Cemetery and you will see the graves of many of the book’s characters.
Take a rejuvenating swim in the Mataranka Thermal Pool. Fed by spring water in the Daly and Georgina basins, it has a sandy bottom, is surrounded by a marvelous palm forest and its waters are a constant 34 degrees.
Mataranka to Katherine
Today’s adventure is a short drive so stop to see the Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park, 30km south of Katherine. Formed millions of years ago, these limestone caves are still growing and are habitat to wildlife including rare bats. Katherine is the NT’s third largest town, and a great base while exploring the nearby gorge country.
The vast Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge) can be accessed from Katherine via two roads. One leads to Nitmiluk Gorge, a system of 13 gorges that were carved out of the sandstone by the Katherine River. A helicopter joy flight is a great way the gorge from the air (ask at the park visitor centre). Another popular way to see the landscape is from the water. Paddle a canoe or join a guided cruise of the waters of the river to see sheer cliffs, sandy beaches where freshwater crocs nest and ancient Aboriginal rock paintings.
About 40km north of Katherine is the other turnoff to the park, which leads to the huge plunge pool of Leliyn Falls (Edith Falls) – a great place for a cooling swim. Relaxing accommodation is located nearby at the BIG4 Katherine Holiday Park.
Further along the way is the historic town of Pine Creek, an important transport hub during the 1870s gold mining boom and WWII. It is also the place at which you must decide if you are going to make a detour along Nature’s Way Tourist Drive to Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land.
Turn off the Stuart Highway and follow the signs to Batchelor, a small town and gateway to Litchfield National Park. The park’s close proximity to Darwin and unspoiled beauty makes Litchfield popular with day-trippers who come from the city for a dip in the Florence Falls plunge pool, Buley Rockhole, and Wangi Falls. Join the tourists in the popular swimming spots, but also go further afield to follow the boardwalk past the curious magnetic termite mounds, or drive the four wheel-drive track to The Lost City rock formations and Tjaynera Falls.
Walking trails leave from most popular sites – look out for signs in the car parks for tracks that vary between short strolls and walks of 1 to 3km. Or take the longer 39km Tabletop Track circuit.
There are many great places around the park to pitch your tent – as well as accessible, well-marked sites, there are those that are walk-in or accessible by four-wheel drive only.
Alternatively, comfortable accommodation is available at the BIG4 Holiday Park in Hayes Creek and Batchelor Resort Caravillage.
Litchfield to Darwin
On your way into Darwin stop at the historic Berry Springs Nature Park. A recreation camp for armed forces personnel during the war, today it is a popular spot for a barbecue and a dip in the freshwater pools. Remains of wartime huts and weirs are still visible around the main pool.
At the Territory Wildlife Park you can get close to a variety of local wildlife. Wander through treetop aviaries, around a natural lagoon and walk through the aquarium to see animals, including the saltwater croc, in their natural habitats.
Follow the Explorer’s Way for your first glimpse of the Timor Sea and into Darwin, Australia’s northernmost capital city. You will find yourself in a contemporary multicultural metropolis of open-air markets, festivals, Asian-influenced cuisine, and an outdoor lifestyle.
The fitting end to your memorable adventure is a relaxing stay at the BIG4 Howard Springs Holiday Park, situated in Darwin.