An Aussie Road Trip – Darwin to Alice Springs

Aussie Road trips

The road from Darwin to Adelaide is arguably the greatest Aussie road trip you will ever do. Courtesy of World Solar ChallengeEach town boasts it’s own attractions so it’s worth spending a little more time to see it all.

The Darwin to Alice Springs section is the ultimate travel experience.

I love this drive!

Vast long straight roads, wide expenses of nothingness in between sparsely scattered fuel stops and small towns.

Road trains chugging along at a competitive pace with retired grey nomads towing caravans on their long awaited ‘trip of a lifetime’ escaping the cold weather of the south during the winter months.

The Stuart Highway is just over 3000 kilometres (each way) with some extraordinary scenery along the way, this is certainly the trip for your scrapbook and quite possibly one of the most memorable road trips you will make in your lifetime.

The World Solar Challenge holds their friendly eco-friendly competition Darwin to Adelaide road trip each year in October. (thanks for the use of the map)

Road trips have rules

  • Rule 1:  Take plenty of music!  The driver chooses the music!
  • Rule 2: Never contemplate a road trip with children, unless there is a window for each child.
  • Rule 3: Take snacks (snakes, jelly babies and packets of chips) and plenty of water.

Northern Territory road conditions are generally very good and between Tennant Creek to Alice Springs there is no set speed limit, however the best advice is always “Drive at a speed you are comfortable with” and at all times drive safely.

Plan ahead & enjoy the journey

It’s a good idea to leave Darwin with a plan.

Stop for a break at Adelaide River around lunchtime.  The pub serves the best ‘buffalo burgers’ in the Territory and is well worth the visit.  It’s an opportunity to pay homage to ‘Charlie the buffalo’ that co-starred in the infamous movie “Crocodile Dundee” with Paul Hogan.

While you’re at Adelaide River, pay a visit to the only War Cemetery in Australia (others are war memorials).  This well kept cemetery is a sobering reminder of just how many Australian soldiers and civilians were tragically killed in times of war.

Further south, the historical gold mining town of Pine Creek is a great little town to visit.  Small gold finds are still found in the area and there’s a historical museum open to the public.  Stay a little longer and learn about the Pine Creek’s gold rush.

Other opportunities to take a break are at Hayes Creek and Emerald Springs.  Both serve great food and have fuel available.

Katherine is a beautiful place to stop for a couple of days to explore Nitmiluk Gorge (also known as Katherine Gorge).  Spectacular bush walks that offer amazing views down the Katherine valley.

Hire a canoe and paddle through the imposing ochre coloured cliffs or take one of the cruises up into the gorge away from the bustle of everyday life.  Don’t forget to stop in at Nitmiluk Visitors Centre as it’s a great source of history and information about the Katherine region.

If you never never go, you’ll never never know!

About 100 kilometres south of Katherine is Mataranka Hot Springs.  Refreshing natural hot springs are a popular rest stop for tired weary travelers.

Mataranka is the land of the ‘Never Never’ made famous by Elsie Gunn who endured ongoing hardship by settling this untamed country.  Watch the “We of the Never Never” You Tube movie trailer to understand this strong woman and her new life as she settled into the Northern Territory.   It’s an incredible story of personal endurance based on a true story.

Further south, the Daly Waters pub is one of the best experiences on this long long road. It’s a unique place stay, great steaks, cold beer, clean accommodation and good old fashioned friendly service with just a little touch of Territory quirkiness!  Daly Waters is one of those places everyone should visit at some time in their life!

A number of roadhouses dot the highway south, but Renner Springs is one of my favourites.  Fresh home baked bread is not what you expect at this very remote little roadhouse!  Fuel, great food and accommodation is available if you wish to take a break.

Tennant Creek is sleepy town and a good place to overnight, grab a bite to eat and refresh ready for the next leg to Alice Springs (only approximately 5 more hours driving)!  A town settled in the Territory gold rush days, Tennant Creek is a close knit community and the easterly crossroads to Queensland.

Passing the Devils Marbles is always a surprise for me.  The Marbles appear with almost no warning and if your’re traveling early morning, the golden glow of the morning sun on the rocks is striking making it impossible not to turn left off the highway to take a walk through these amazing piles of granite rocks seemingly tossed together randomly.

A significant sacred Aboriginal site in the Northern Territory, the Karlu Karlu will take your breath away!   On the southern edge of the National Park is the Devils Marbles Hotel – another great fuel food and accommodation stop.

No road trip is complete without Aliens

Wycliffe Well claims to be the ‘alien’ capital of the Northern Territory.  A truly weird place!  Good for a fuel, food and a camping ground!  As for Barrow Creek, the scenery is stark but it comes with it’s own unresolved mysteries.

Ti Tree is the last opportunity for a break before Alice Springs.   Fuel and food are available and it’s a chance to stretch your legs before you drive this last leg.  Stop for an icecream! Only two hours to go!

Alice Springs always reminds me of an oasis in the middle of the desert.  It’s far more ‘green’ and lush than I ever imagined.  Complete with caravan parks, hotels, restaurants and even a casino affectionately tagged ‘the white house’.

The infamous Todd River flows right through the middle of town and for most of the year it is a dry riverbed.  When it does rain though, it turns into a major attraction for locals to ‘watch the Todd come down’.  It is rumored that those who see the Todd flow 3 times will never leave.

I have heard many Alice Springs locals tell tales of how they came for a 2 week holiday and are still here some 30 + years later.  It’s true of so many of us … Trevor was one of those!

Watch this blog for the next part of this fabulous road trip – Alice Springs to Adelaide!




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