Journey to the Northern Territory: where blue skies and stunning landscapes make driving a dream. Travel in your motorhome, car or 4WD and navigate some of the country’s most famous routes, bringing together a world of rich Indigenous culture, pioneering history and breathtaking scenery. What better way to see this ancient land than at your own pace following one of the trails made famous by explorers and stockmen.
For an adventurous road trip with a historical background, the Explorer’s Way passes some of the Northern Territory’s most iconic natural sites, including Uluru and Kata Tjuta, Devils Marbles/Karlu Karlu, Nitmiluk National Park and the waterfalls of Litchfield National Park. The journey stretches from Adelaide to Darwin following the trail of early explorer, John McDouall Stuart, who pioneered the way for the Overland Telegraph Line in the 1860s.
Covering an expanse of 3000 kilometres, the trail takes you on an adventure through varying terrain. It’s recommended that you take a minimum of 14 days to complete this journey. One morning you could be waking up to red sand at your front door and then the next, lush green landscapes. It’s one of the great Aussie holidays – and well worth the drive.
DO ULURU-KATA TJUTA NATIONAL PARK
Watch the colours of the landscape transform as you enter the Northern Territory and leave South Australia behind. Take the Lasseter Highway and journey west to your first stop on the Explorer’s Way in the Territory – Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, home to the world famous Uluru and the 32 weathered rock domes known as Kata Tjuta/The Olgas.
Located within Ayers Rock Resort, the campground is an ideal base catering to various en route travel camping needs. Park your van at one of the many sites available for motorhomes, caravans and camper-trailers. You’ll feel right at home under the shade of native desert oak trees.
Take to the skies in a helicopter over the famous landmarks or enjoy a sunrise or sunset ride on the back of a Harley Davidson.
Learn more about the rich Indigenous culture including local bush tucker, flora and fauna, and the Dreamtime stories of this Anangu sacred site on an Aboriginal tour. Uluru’s traditional custodians are called the Anangu and have lived in the area for at least 22,000 years. Stop in at the Cultural Centre to purchase authentic art, or watch craft demonstrations.
DO KINGS CANYON
Leave Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and drive 300km back along the Lasseter and Luritja highways to Kings Canyon. Watarrka National Park is home to the renowned Rim Walk, a six-kilometre trail around the rim of the canyon, showcasing spectacular views of the sandstone walls and surrounding landscape. Half way through the walk you’ll descend via stairs to the base of the canyon, to the sacred Aboriginal site and permanent waterhole called the Garden of Eden. The lush green valley is surrounded by plant life dating back to ancient times. NT Parks and Wildlife discourages swimming at this location for cultural reasons.
Although there are no accommodation facilities at the canyon itself, there are a couple of options nearby to park your motorhome/campervan at Kings Canyon Resort or Kings Creek Station.
KINGS CANYON RESORT
Located just seven kilometres from the Canyon, the resort features grassed shady caravan sites nestled amongst the spinifex-crested dunes of the surrounding national park. Amenities at Kings Canyon Resort include a petrol station where you can purchase groceries and souvenirs, plus a restaurant and bar.
KINGS CREEK STATION
The campground is located 30km from Kings Canyon, and is set among natural bush with views of the George Gill Range. The Kings Creek campground has grassed and un-grassed sites, with or without power. Amenities include camp kitchen and swimming pool.
DO ALICE SPRINGS. DO WEST MACDONNELL RANGES
Your next destination is Alice Springs, the Northern Territory’s second largest city. Get back onto the sealed Luritja and Lasseter highways, before turning north onto the Stuart Highway.
Alice Springs is the perfect base to explore the surrounding area. This thriving township is home to historic sites, Aboriginal art galleries, quirky events and many adventure activities.
The West MacDonnell Ranges are an easy day trip from Alice Springs with some of the most stunning Red Centre scenery on offer. See native wildlife at Simpsons Gap or marvel at the sheer walls of Standley Chasm. Take a dip at Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge or Glen Helen.
DO BARKLY REGION
Travelling further north, why not make a stop in at Devils Marbles, a sacred site known as Karlu Karlu to the Warumungu people. These massive ancient granite boulders are spread across a vast valley100km south of Tennant Creek. Varying in size, they are best seen at sunrise and sunset when their colours appear to change. There’s a bush campground in the reserve with public toilets and barbecue facilities available.
DO NITMILUK NATIONAL PARK
Discover the town of Katherine, where the outback meets the tropics. The nearby Nitmiluk National Park is home to the mighty Katherine Gorge made up of 13 gorges. Why not explore this vast national park via helicopter or join a cruise for a unique dining experience. Feeling adventurous? Paddle up the river in a kayak. Make a stop at the Nitmiluk Visitors Centre and learn about the cultural and spiritual significance of the area for its traditional owners, the Jawoyn and Dagomen people.
Stay at the nearby caravan and camping park, one of many, and take your pick of the lush green powered or unpowered sites.
DO LITCHFIELD NATIONAL PARK
At just over an hour from Darwin, Litchfield is generally accessible all year round. It’s a firm favourite for waterfalls and waterholes, bush walks, driving tracks and local wildlife in the Top End. Take a dip in the crystal-clear waters of Florence or Wangi Falls, or relax in the shaded Buley Rockhole and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the rainforest around you.
Explore the magnetic termite mounds along the boardwalk and marvel at the fascinating two-metre-high creations skilfully made by the insects to keep themselves cool in hot weather.
Active travellers can delight in a number of bushwalks available, including the epic 39km Tabletop Track and its little known waterfalls to the more relaxed 3.5km walk alongside pretty Walker Creek.
There are plenty of options to stay overnight and extend your visit to Litchfield. Camping sites are scattered through the park, and at nearby caravan parks. Or book a bed and breakfast or motel room at nearby township of Batchelor.
Avid birdwatchers should keep an eye out for the rainbow bee-eater, yellow oriole, pacific koel, spangled drongo, figbird and dollarbird. These birds inhabit sheltered areas close to waterfalls.
TOP FIVE THINGS TO DO AT LITCHFIELD NATIONAL PARK
1) Swim under Wangi and Florence Falls
2) Relax in Buley Rockhole
3) Bushwalk – short and longer options
4) See the magnetic termite mounds
5) Explore the nearby township of Batchelor
Tantalise your tastebuds and indulge in a bit of adventure in the Territory’s capital city. Darwin is well known for its amazing food including local seafood and array of Asian cuisine. There’s a wide variety of things to do and see in Darwin; visit one of the many outdoor markets, see a saltwater crocodile up close at Crocosaurus Cove or take a dip in the wave pool at the waterfront.
Plan your road trip today. For more information on how to do the NT, visit travelnt.com.au