The NT still has that undiscovered authenticity, where places are quiet, crocs are lurking and landscapes change dramatically. A trip up the red center in a 4×4 is an epic Aussie experience. Here are our favourite spots en-route Alice to Darwin.
Stopovers Darwin bound
Checkout Daly Waters Pub for an authentic Aussie lunch or an overnight stay and live music. 590km south of Darwin, it’s an oasis in the middle of whoop whoop!
Camping available at Devils Marbles (Karlu Karlu) 100km south of Tennant Creek is a good overnighter. Find yourself among giant granite boulders that appear golden in the morning sunlight. Cheap bush camping with drop toilets, no water. No bookings available. Arrive early in the day because it’s one of the only good camp spots around!
Katherine Gorge (Nitmiluk NP)
Nitmiluk has a beautiful bush camp ground complete with swimming pool and café. 244km south-east of Darwin. We were hoping to access the waterfall inside this park but all the walks are over 7km long and thus helicopter or boat trips are the quickest ways to reach the falls. Travelling on a budget we opted for the only walk under 5km; Buruwei. It was beautiful from the lookout at sunset. Friendly kangas kept us company at camp. Waterfall flows are seasonal and sometimes completely dry. Best time to go is usually start of May.
120km from Darwin, Litchfield National Park is an ancient landscape shaped by water. It features numerous stunning waterfalls which cascade from the sandstone plateau of the Tabletop Range.
Litchfield was a bit too busy for us at the end of May and you cannot book campsites in advance. We were left with no choice but to camp at the tourist park outside the NP. Twin (Wangi) Falls, Magnetic Termite Mounds, Bluey Rock Pools and Florence Falls beautiful but also very popular due to the ease of accessibility via sealed roads. Tolmer Falls with impressive drop and the Cascades are apparently quieter.
With a 4×4 you can do the Reynolds River track winding past the historic Blyth homestead, Sandy and Surprise creeks. A car snorkel is recommended for the deep river crossing on this track. The Lost City Is accessed by a 10km long 4×4 track on the northern section of the park. We gave this a miss and saw the Limmen lost city of Cape Crawford instead.
Kakadu NP 152km south east of Darwin covers 20,000 square kilometers and is UNESCO World Heritage listed. The weather has shaped the landscape creating everything from savanna woodlands to floodplains and billabongs. It’s quiet but very hard to access. Road conditions change continually and you need time, patience, and a 4×4 to discover it properly.
Unfortunately Jim Jim Falls were closed start of June 2016 due to late rains. A walk up to Gunlom Falls was worth the leg burn and we enjoyed a refreshing dip on top of the falls with priceless views over the tablelands. We camped at Two Mile night 1 and almost had the place to ourselves (with the crocs) night 2 we camped at Sandy Billabong.
Ubirr 1km circular track took us past several incredible aboriginal rock art galleries. A 250m climb to the top of a rocky lookout rewarded us with superb views over the Nadab floodplain. We would also recommend the Bardedjilidji 2.5km walk through layered sandstone outliers. Both walks are in the East Alligator region of the park. Grab a visitor guide from an info center in Darwin to properly plan your adventure.
100km south of Katherine Mataranka is a must stop! We were absolutely enchanted by the crystal clear waters of Mataranka thermal pools. Bitter Springs at Mataranka is less crowded than the official ‘Mataranka Springs’. From the Bitter Springs caravan park you can walk to the thermal pools and float down the tranquil stream. We recommend getting there just on sunrise and watching the steam rise from the water. Early morning you may also be lucky enough to have the place to yourself and watch the turtles feasting on algae. Take some goggles!
Alice Springs is where our journey hit a roadblock and we spent 2 weeks getting to know the place whilst Luxi was repaired. Alice is a fascinating place, rich in aboriginal culture, which I think Aussies probably need to understand a bit more. Some in-town attractions we enjoyed:
- Royal Flying Doctors museum
- School of the Air museum
- Olive botanic garden lookout
- Lunch at Page 27 café
- Push bike hire from The Big 4
- A few nights in the Deluxe Cabin at the Big 4
- Camel Cup July each year
West Mac ranges
From Alice on your way to Uluru checkout the West MacDonnell Ranges. Beautiful stop offs include Glen Helen Gorge, Standley Chasm, Simpsons Gap and Ellery Creek. We planned on making it to Kings Canyon also but never got there. We hear it’s incredible.
Driving up the guts of Australia is an incredible experience! Allow at least 2 weeks to really get to know the place and enjoy the freedom of remote, outback camping, incredible hiking, and fascinating aboriginal history. Start driving nomads!