Darwin lies at the northern end of the Stuart Highway, the main route between the two cities which dissects Australia more or less straight down the middle. The city is not huge, but it is relaxed, multicultural, and blessed with sunshine and heat. Visit the markets to experience the melting pot that is this unique city!
by Stephen Michael Barnett Flickr Creative Commons
by Richard Riley Flickr Creative Commons
Near Darwin is the amazing natural and cultural feature that is Kakadu National Park. It is a huge area which covers a great variety of landscapes, and is owned by and home to native aboriginal peoples. The land ranges from estuaries to stone country to hills and basins, and the park is home to a huge range of wildlife, as well as some instances of unique Aboriginal rock art.
Once on the road proper, Katherine is the first town you will come across. Waterways are one of the town's biggest drawcards- it is located on the Katherine River and watery scenery includes gorges and waterfalls. From here, it is mostly outback all the way to Alice Springs, with only small towns along the road.
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Outback driving is a little different than other places. Be sure to watch your speed on the long, straight roads as it is easy to lose track! Drive with headlights on so other cars can see you in the dust, and remember that Aussies drive on the left. Be aware of the humungously long 'road trains,' and enjoy the views!
Daly Waters is another town you will come across on the journey south. It is a tiny spot with a population of 23 people, a few buildings and a famous hotel. Tennant Creek is further along, a bigger town which is close to the Mary Ann Dam, a popular spot for biking, hiking, swimming and picnicking. Many of these little towns will have campervan parks where you can lay your head- such as the Emerald Springs Roadhouse near the Kakadu National Park, the Riverview Tourist Village in Katherine, Three Ways Roadhouse near Tennant Creek and the Barrow Creek Caravan Park further south.
Daly Waters Pub
by Alessandro Flickr Creative Commons
Free camping is a bit of a complicated subject, but well worth the research. Many will just stop for the night wherever they like, and this is usually fine. However, permission should be gotten from landowners to stop and camp on private land. Closer to towns there are also more restrictions. Also, etiquette and common sense apply- do not leave anything behind! Take all rubbish and waste with you, do not put soap into streams and waterways, and just be generally respectful. Free camping in the Outback is a great (and cost-effective!) experience if the rules are followed.
by Curtis Foreman Flickr Creative Commons
Halfway between two cities you will come across an urban oasis in the Outback- Alice Springs, known fondly to locals as 'The Alice.' This outback city is right at the heart of Australia, a hub for those wishing to explore the surrounding landscapes, including the famous Uluru or Ayers Rock. Nature enthusiasts will enjoy the Desert Park, Reptile Centre and Botanical Garden. Stargazing is especially amazing here, due to the isolated nature of the city. There are several historic sites to visit, including the National Pioneer Woman's Hall of Fame! If you have a few days in the Alice, get out of town and give alooning or quad biking a go, and be sure to visit Uluru.
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by Jayson Emery Flickr Creative Commons
Lake Eyre Salt Flat
by TreyDanger Flickr Creative Commons
Coober Pedy is a larger outback town in South Australia, known as the Opal capital of the world. Opal mines are a popular attraction and half the population actually lives underground due to the hot and dry climate. Another interesting fact of life here is the way people play golf- the course has not a single blade of grass, and players take a piece of turf with them for teeing off! As you get closer to Adelaide, lakes and rivers become more and more common- it is a watery part of the country! Lake Gairdner and Lake Torrens flank the highway, and at Port Augusta you will come across the ocean! This town is at a crossroads, as it is where the north-south highway meets the east-west highway from Sydney to Perth.
Coober Pedy Dugout House
by Paleontour Flickr Creative Commons
Adelaide is your Final Destination, and it's a nice one. It is full of beautiful architecture, great shopping, arts events and awesome cafe strips, and it's in wine country! Wine regions within a day's drive include Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Clare Valley. 'Mad March' in Adelaide is the time for many art and culture-based festivals and events, and there are plenty of things to keep visitors entertained during the rest of the year, too. Adelaide has some great swimming beaches, and the historic beachside suburb of Glenelg is a great place to enjoy the waterfront. Adelaide Hills provide great views of the city, and there is a German settlement in the city called Hahndorf which is home to a chocolate factory and strawberry farm. Art galleries and museums abound in Adelaide, and there is also a zoo.
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Author: Rohan Marx+