“Dust. It was everywhere. Rusty red, warm glowing, adventure promising, Aussie outback dust. Speckled on the side of our trusty campervan, staining our trainers, knees and daypacks...” - Saxon and Nic
If you’re wondering what there is to see when travelling from Darwin to Alice Springs, we’ve got you covered. Whether you want to spot a saltwater croc or chase some waterfalls in an outback oasis, there’s something for everyone. Here’s what to expect:
Red. Dirt. Everywhere.
It's not called the Red Centre for nothing. Yet, instead of messy, it feels spiritual somehow – like you are connected to this red, arid earth and taking a piece of it with you. Safe to say, it is an unforgettable experience. If you are planning a trip to the Red Centre, there is nothing like a road trip to explore the hidden gems tucked away in these remote parts of Australia. That is why we have created this itinerary with all our favourite destinations and experiences from Darwin to Alice Springs, so you can have all the tips for the best places to visit on your outback adventure.
This 2400+km journey winds its way through the tropics of the Northern Territory, bringing you up close to fierce saltwater crocodiles, cascading waterfalls, and incredible hikes. Then down the middle of Australia to the unforgettable experience of watching the sunlight up the hallmark monolith of the great Australian outback (Uluru at sunrise is an experience not to be missed!). Keep an eye out for some personal stories from Saxon and Nic Aka. Rat and Dragon who did this trip in a Mighty camper.
Darwin to Alice Springs
Best Time of the Year
May to September
- Karlu Karlu/ Devil's Marbles
- Litchfield National Park
- Bitter Springs
- Charles Darwin National Park
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Darwin to Litchfield
Distance 108km - Driving Time 1 hour 15 minutes
“The most northern capital's true blue Aussie culture had hit us square in the face: fully stocked supermarkets, a bustling urban community in the heart of croc-cowboy land, beautiful sunset markets by Mindil Beach and pumping nightlife in pubs and clubs made us feel both exotic and very much at home.” - Saxon and Nic
Start your day by picking up your camper from the Mighty Darwin branch, then head to Recreation Lagoon in the city where you can cool off from the heat (without running into a croc). Be sure to stop by Crocosaurus Cove to meet the saltwater crocodiles famous in this region.
“Huge tanks house all sorts of scaly creatures, from lizards, fish, snakes and turtles to saltwater hatchlings and enormous 5.5m long mega crocs with names like 'Wendell', 'Houdini' and 'Chopper'. For adrenaline junkies, you can get lowered into Chopper's tank during feeding time with only a thin plexiglass box around you, but even the rare chance to have a 360-degree look at a huge saltwater croc was jaw-dropping and really made us appreciate the power of these incredible animals.” - Saxon and Nic at Crocosaurus Cove
There are so many other incredible experiences to choose from, including Darwin Aviation Museum, Mindil Markets and the Darwin Arts Festival (runs annually in August). Take a wander around Charles Darwin National Park before driving south to cool off in the stunning waterfalls and gorges of Litchfield National Park. Park up for the night at Wangi Falls in the Litchfield National Park, or if you're travelling with your four-legged friends, head just outside the park to the pet-friendly tourist park.
Litchfield to Bitter Springs
Distance 362km - Driving Time 3 hours 43 minutes
“The great thing about camping in national parks: it's cheap, exciting and you're already in the middle of the action.” - Saxon and Nic on termite mounds
“You've got to see them to believe them – it's quite incredible that the millimetre long creatures who run around the few small ventilation openings build these enormous structures all on their own.” - Saxon and Nic
Make your way to Blyth Homestead to soak up the history of this region before heading inland for the afternoon. Be sure to stop in Katherine for any last-minute supplies before heading to Mataranka for an afternoon soak in the natural hot water of Bitter Springs.
Spend the night at Mataranka Homestead and take advantage of the bar and entertainment on site. If you’re lucky, you may have the opportunity to experience true Aussie entertainment with Nathan Griggs, Australia’s number one whip cracker entertainer, as he performs his five-time Guinness World Record whip routine.
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Bitter Springs to Karlu Karlu/ Devil's Marbles
Distance 665 km - Driving Time 6 hours 51 minutes
“We woke up to find a sign to some rather hidden hot springs. This secret dream pool is Mataranka's Thermal Pool, one of the most gorgeous places we've ever seen. Soaking up the warmth in the gently swirling pool was a great relaxing start to a full day of driving.” - Saxon and Nic
Wake up early and go for a morning dip at Mataranka Thermal Pools, Mataranka Bitter Springs, just a short 500m walk from the homestead. Make sure you have music, and an audiobook downloaded before making a start on the long 6.5 hour drive south. On the way, grab a bite to eat on the road at Three Ways Road House before driving the final hour to catch an unforgettable sunset over Karlu Karlu (Devil’s Marbles).
Take a walk and a picture of these formations before driving to Wycliffe Wells Holiday Park to sleep for the night. Be sure to check out the UFO-related sites at this holiday park and read the news clippings of reported alien sightings before heading to bed.
“Proudly proclaiming to be the UFO Capital of Australia, this camping park boasts full sized statues of aliens, flying saucers, cowboys-meet-intergalactic-traveler-murals and a whole wall of newspaper clippings from the area”. - Saxon and Nic
Karlu Karlu/ Devil's Marbles to Alice Springs
Distance 412km - Driving Time 4 hours 11 minutes
Drive South towards Alice Springs, stopping in Aileron to see the statue of the Aboriginal Warrior.
“We stopped off for lunch just outside Alice Springs at a place called Aileron, where three huge statues of a man, a woman and a child with a goanna made us feel even tinier in this vast landscape." - Saxon and Nic
If it’s a Sunday, be sure to check out the Todd Mall Markets, where you can find local Aboriginal art, sorbet, and fresh local honey. Then head to the Alice Springs Desert Park to see the flora and fauna that thrive in these desert conditions. Here you can see emus, dingos, and even meet the large birds of the area.
Then head to the beautiful mountain bike trails to see Alice Springs from above. If you don’t have your bike with you (check the requirements of your van before you pack your bike) you can take a walk instead. Be mindful of the riders and make sure to stock up on any supplies before heading to Uluru.
Alice Springs to Uluru
Distance 468km - Driving Time 4 hours 49 minutes
Uluru is at least 6 hours drive from Alice Springs, so get an early start to the day. Want a little treat for the drive? Be sure to make a stop in town to grab a fresh artisan pastry from the bakery as a to-go meal in the van (how do you beat fresh pastry?).
When you arrive, you can make your way into the park, where you can check out nearby Kata Tjuta domes, get involved in an Aboriginal art experience and head to the sunset carpark early to grab a spot to watch the sunset.
Book in for the night at Ayers Rock campground - have a swim in the pool, have a BBQ dinner, enjoy the restaurant, or treat yourself to a once-in-a-lifetime experience of the Sounds of Silence with a four-course bush tucker inspired menu on the dunes overlooking Uluru, or check out the Field of Light tours.
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Uluru to Alice Springs
Distance 468 km - Driving Time 4 hours 49 minutes
Wake up early enough to be at the boom gate when the park opens (this is important if you want to see the sunrise). When you’re at the sunrise carpark, make yourself a coffee in the camper to enjoy while watching the sunlight up the rock just before it peeps over the horizon. Then, make yourself a quick breakfast before driving to the Mala carpark to enjoy the Mala walking tour or opt for the 10km walk around the base.
“The magic of this enormous, mythical, colour-changing monolith was in the air as we meandered along a small part of its base during the informative (and free!) Mala walking tour. It is a cliché that you just have to see certain places in real life to experience how amazing they are, and Uluru is definitely one of them.” - Saxon and Nic
Once you have done all your exploring, buckle up and drive the camper about 5 hours back to the Mighty Alice Springs branch to return the van and fly home.
“All this red dust that we'd been finding in the nooks and crannies of Rhino suddenly made sense as something a lot bigger, more ancient and more powerful than us in our little campervan. Experiences are hard to put into words and even harder to show on a postcard. As for Australia's Red Centre, you're just going to have to pack your batteries in dust-safe ziplock bags and head over here to live it for yourself.” - Saxon and Nic
Keen to see the Red Centre for yourself?
If you’re looking to rent a van for your own Red Centre campervan trip, be sure to check out all our latest deals and book your Mighty camper today in a branch or online. If you’re looking for more travel inspiration and ways to budget for your trip, you can read more on our blog.