Adelaide - Darwin: The Explorer's Way
|Here’s a journey every adventurer dreams of - to the outback and beyond. Following the route of one of Australia’s famous explorers we enjoy the best of South Australia before heading into the Red Centre and finally reaching Darwin at the top end of Australia.
The Explorer's Way follows the route of John McDouall Stuart, a famous Australian explorer who was the first to traverse the continent in 1862. This drive takes in many of Australia's best-known icons, including the Flinders Ranges, Alice Springs, Uluru (Ayers Rock) (as a detour), and Darwin.
New Yorker magazine once described Adelaide as "possibly the last well planned and contented metropolis on earth". It's easy to see why, for here is a city of great visual harmony and a classical elegant style, superbly set beside the River Torrens between the Adelaide Hills and waters of Gulf St Vincent.
The wine and festival capital of Australia, Adelaide is one of the most vibrant, stylish and innovative cities you'll ever visit. It's a place to experience the buzz, culture and convenience of a big city without the frustrations. The city centre, surrounded by parklands, is a charming blend of historic buildings, wide streets, numerous shops, street cafes and restaurants.
Adelaide to PORT AUGUSTA - 320km
You are at the “cross roads of Australia” and gateway to the Flinders Ranges, the outback and Spencer Gulf.
Port Augusta is situated on the quiet waterways at the head of the Spencer Gulf. in close proximity to the spectacular Flinders Ranges. Off to the west and south-west lie a range of hills which once marked the territory of the Nakuma Aboriginal tribe to the north-west are two remarkable flat-topped mounts, peacefully lying underneath the sky's vast blue canopy.
Don’t miss Port Augusta's renowned Wadlata Outback Interpretive Centre, where fun displays cover everything from Aboriginal Dreaming and European settlement to geology and mining. Another feature is the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden and taking an Augusta Water Cruise to follow in the wake of Matthew Flinders, the first European to see Upper Spencer Gulf on his epic 1802 voyage.
Flinders Ranges Diversion - 110km
If you have time to take in the Flinders Ranges don’t miss a stay in Hawker, approx 110 kms from Port Augusta. Promoting itself as 'The Hub of the Flinders Ranges' this tiny settlement located at the junction of roads from Port Augusta, Marree, Orroroo and Wilpena Pound. Established in 1880 Hawker is an interesting historic railway town on the edge of the desert.
Port Augusta to COOBER PEDY - 539km
This is where you journey into the outback really begins.
Coober Pedy is a captivating opal town where most of the residents live underground. “Of all the opal mining towns in Australia there is none quite like Coober Pedy.” - Sydney Morning Herald. You’ll find a mixture of people and activities certain to keep you going. There's the grassless golf course, the underground church, the noodling for gems on mullock heaps, the tourist shops, the mixture of nationalities, the frenetic searching for wealth. And all this is set against a backdrop of one of the harshest environments in Australia
Coober Pedy to ALICE SPRINGS - 689km
After the drive from Coober Pedy you fully understand why they call Australia a “wide brown land”. The journey to the ‘Alice’ will take somewhere around 8 hours so settle back and enjoy this vast country.
Before you know it you’ll be sharing the story of the Northern Territory,
Travel to Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park and Kings Canyon via the Pioneers' Way tourist drive, which branches off at Erldunda.
At Cadney Park take the detour east to the stunning Painted Desert (allow at least three hours for this side trip). From Marla, the highway heads north through grasslands, granite country and over the Finke River and on to Alice Springs, the heart of the Red Centre of Australia.
Welcome to “The Alice”
Alice Springs is Australia's most famous outback town. A thriving, spirited outback centre - as famous for the personality of its locals as the natural wonders that surround it.
The history and heritage of Alice Springs overflow with a rich cast of characters - in the late 1800's and early 1900s only the most intrepid pioneers braved its rugged environment. From Afghan cameleers to flying doctors, today it is possible to pay homage to their legacy at various historic sites around the town.
A great base from which to explore its surrounding natural wonders, the town itself defies most travellers' expectations combining a strong sense of its outback history with all the convenience of modern facilities. Most of all, it is the uncomplicated yet vibrant personality of Alice that leaves a lasting impression on visitors.
Alice Springs to WYCLIFFE WELL - 377km
We’re heading for the Tropics, the Top End and Darwin but there’s a lot to see and do along the way. Tonight it’s into to UFO country for a stay at Wycliffe Well famous for its many sightings of UFOs.
Heading north from Alice Springs, visit the Alice Springs School of the Air and hear a lesson being broadcast to students in a 1.3 million square-kilometre classroom. Stop off at Ti Tree and sample fine table grapes and sparkling mango wine produced in the outback by visionary farmers. Enjoy the rich colours of the desert and keep an eye out for “aliens”!
Wycliffe Well to KATHERINE - 799km
The next leg of the journey is a “long stretch” 799kms to Katherine. Along the way there some interesting things to see marvel at the extraordinary Devils Marbles, finely balanced piles of huge boulders believed by Aboriginal people to be the eggs of the Rainbow Serpent (it's explained at the Nyinkka Nyunyu Culture Centre). An hour or so up the highway is the friendly town of Tennant Creek the site of Australia's last major gold rush in the 1930s. The town offers many opportunities to experience gold fever - with tours, heritage sites, fossicking and panning for gold.
In Katherine, especially spectacular is the Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge). Boat cruises and canoeing are great ways to experience the grandeur of this special place, or go bushwalking in the area. A short drive from Katherine is Springvale Homestead, built from sandstone by explorer and pastoralist Alfred Giles in 1878.
Katherine to HAYES CREEK - 151km
Located half way between Katherine and Darwin, Hayes Creek is the ideal
spot to enjoy the natural wonders of this beautiful region. Nestled in a Valley next to a natural spring and creek, Hayes Creek
offers opportunities for birdwatching, rock climbing, bush walking,
visiting the Butterfly Gorges, or simply swimming in the nearby Douglas Hot Springs. These thermal pools offer swimming as well as relaxing in the warm thermal waters.
Hayes Creek to BATCHELOR - 92km
Batchelor is the place to stop to explore the fabulous Litchfied National Park. Noted for its stunning waterfalls, crystal-clear swimming holes and amazing termite mounds. This is ‘tarzan country’ with the most amazing waterfalls , Florence, Tolmer, Wangi are three of the most popular. Then there’s the termite mounds, thousands of them standing up to two metres high. Litchfield is a ‘must see’ before moving on to Darwin, allow plenty of time to explore this fascinating area.
Batchelor to DARWIN - 100km
Darwin is now only a hundred ‘clicks’ up the track. That is, of course, unless you take the diversion to one of the NT’s other natural wonders. World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park is noted for its rugged escarpments, lush wetlands, plunging gorges and waterfalls. Renowned internationally for its natural and cultural wonders, Kakadu has one of the highest concentrated areas of accessible Aboriginal rock art sites in the world.
Take a bow you’ve done it – since leaving Adelaide you’ve put 3,000kms on the clock and you’re in the top end. Darwin, capital of Australia's Northern Territory, is a modern, tropical city set on a harbour twice the size of Sydney's. Considered Australia's most culturally diverse city, more than 50 nationalities make up Darwin's 100,000-plus population, including the area's traditional landowners, the Larrakia Aboriginal people. Darwin is the gateway to the Northern Territory's Top End, which encompasses other destinations the Tiwi Islands, and it is also often the launch pad for travel to Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land.