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Road Trip – Darwin to Alice Springs

As Territorians, it’s easy to think we’ve seen it all in our own backyard – from Buley Rockhole and Florence Falls in Litchfield to the iconic national parks of Uluru and Kakadu. But if you think about it, you’ve probably only scratched the surface of what the Top End and Red Centre have to offer.

What have you never ever done in the NT but would love to do? Now is the time to support the Territory by taking a road trip and venturing further into the regions. Drive the Explorers Way from Darwin to Alice Springs, or from the bottom to the top to discover local experiences you might not know existed. Linger for longer while visiting the thermal springs in and around Katherine, stop in at Tennant Creek, see the sunrise at Karlu Karlu/Devils Marbles and visit the cultural centres and art galleries dotted in-between the tropics and the central heart of the Outback.

 

How to get there

The drive between Darwin and Alice Springs is a straight 1500km stretch following the Stuart Highway and there are plenty of things to see and do to break up the trip. It’s recommended that you take at least three days to make the most of the journey and travel safely.

Local Experiences

Natural wonders – Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge 

On your way, stop in at Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge, just a three-hour drive from Darwin. You can canoe, swim, cruise or even helicopter your way around the beautiful waterways and sheer cliff-faces. Further afield, there’s the crystal-clear waters of Mataranka Thermal Pool – nature’s very own swimming pool, surrounded by forest and birdlife. Cater your journey to your travelling tribe – whether you’ve got kids in-tow or you’re a duo bound for adventure, there’s something for everyone here. Stay at Nitmiluk Campground or one of the holiday parks in Katherine. Book a dinner experience at Marksie’s Stockman’s Camp Tucker Night or Kumbidgee Restaurant on Gorge Road for fine-dining infused with native bush flavours. 

The ultimate stopover – Tennant Creek 

The town of Tennant Creek packs a punch when it comes to offering rewarding local experiences. Learn first-hand about the Warumungu legend of ‘Nyinkka’ – the spiky tailed goanna that shaped the town – at the Nyinkka Nyunyu Art and Culture Centre – considered one of the best in the Territory. Looking for a scenic lunch spot? Pack a picnic and travel north of the township to Lake Mary Ann. The grassy reserve has barbecues, a kids’ playground, bushwalking tracks and wildlife watching areas. 

 

Unwind in the West Macs – Ormiston Gorge 

After arriving in Alice Springs, take a day trip and uncover desert waterholes surrounded by white sand and ready for swimming. Ormiston Gorge is a favourite for its easy access (500m from the car park) and is filled with water year round. To get there, drive 135km west of the Alice Springs township. If you’re prepared for hiking, take the three-to-four-hour Ormiston Pound loop walk. Alternatively relax on the sandy banks and absorb the vibrant outback landscape. 

Be sure to plan ahead and take plenty of water. Also, pay close attention to signs and stay on the marked trails. Explore the different trail options at northernterritory.com and immerse yourself in the expansive desert playground that is the Red Centre.

 

Calling adventure-seekers – Red Centre mountain biking 

Alice Springs is home to world-class mountain bike terrain with an abundance of trails in both the eastern and western networks. There are options for all experience levels – from the Ilentye Trail which is a smooth 4.9km trail shared with walkers, to more technical tracks such as the ‘Bob Gnarly’ route with challenging descents and drop-offs. This is an ideal way for those with a lust for adventure to discover the diverse desert scenery. 

 

 

 

Before you go

It’s recommended to plan your Darwin to Alice Springs road trip in advance. Check accommodation and camping options beforehand and whether permits are required, particularly for national parks and areas that enter Aboriginal land.

Find out more: Check out our article on planning your road trip.
Images: NT Tourism/ Paddy Pallin, Nicolas Kavo, Jarrad Seng, Yuri Kardashyan.

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