Australia Bottom to Top – Adelaide to Darwin
One of Australia’s most popular long distance adventures, this 12 day, 3978km journey takes you up the Stuart Highway through the very heart of the Australian Outback from the city of churches that is Adelaide to the tropical Top End and Darwin.
- Adelaide to Port Augusta
- Port Augusta to Coober Pedy
- Coober Pedy to Marla
- Marla to Uluru
- Uluru to Kings Canyon
- Kings Canyon to Alice Springs
- Alice Springs to Devils Marbles
- Karlu Karlu to Elliott
- Devils Marbles to Daly Waters
- Daly Waters to Katherine
- Katherine to Kakadu
- Kakadu to Darwin
Distance: 3978km Download: Adelaide to Darwin self-drive itinerary
Day 1. Adelaide
Pick up your campervan in Adelaide today. Allow at least 1 – 1.5 hours in order to familiarise yourself with the vehicle before you leave the depot.
Adelaide is the capital city of South Australia and offers something for everybody, whether that be arts, culture, sport or adventure, you will not be disappointed. Adelaide is also home to many festivals, including the very popular Fringe Festivals, so check out what is on offer when you arrive. As well as the festivals, there are plenty of opportunities to go fishing, visit museums, try local produce or just relax in the city.
If you’re a sporting fan, take a tour of Adelaide Oval. The tour will take you around the stadium, as well as the museum, which highlights cricket sporting legend Donald Bradman’s career. For the adventurous take a tour to climb the roof of the stadium and see Adelaide from new heights.
Stay: Adelaide Caravan Park
Day 2. Adelaide to Port Augusta
Depart this morning and take the National Highway A1 to Port Augusta.
Visit the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Gardens and discover the plants and animals that are able to survive Australia’s toughest conditions. Explore the vivid red sand dunes, woodlands, and vast saltbush plains and even enjoy mountain views from the top of the red cliff tops. After all of this, you can sit back and enjoy the information centre and have afternoon tea.
Spend the afternoon immersing yourself in the cultural works of the area at the Port Augusta Cultural Centre – Yarta Purtli. Enjoy the gallery spaces and see artworks from both local and interstate artists. Watch a show in the Institute Theatre and experience the artistic talent present in Port Augusta.
Distance: 309 km, 3 hours 30 minutes
Stay: BIG4 Port Augusta Holiday Park
Day 3. Port Augusta to Coober Pedy
Depart this morning and take the National Highway A1. Keep right and continue on the Princes Highway/ Stuart Highway/ A87. Turn right onto Hutchison Street and follow signs to Coober Pedy.
Coober Pedy is a big mining town, so no visit is complete without exploring the history of mining. The Old Timer’s Mine offers an insight into how the opal miners would have to dig for opals all by hand, and the treacherous conditions they had to live through to find these precious stones. You can also experience what it would have been like to live underground, in one of the miner’s family home that have been preserved.
Distance: 540 km, 5 hours 15 minutes
Stay: BIG4 Stuart Range Outback Resort
Day 4. Coober Pedy to Marla
Depart this morning and return to the Stuart Highway/ A87. Take the exit for Marla.
Marla is a stop over, before tackling the drive to Uluru. Use this time to refuel, relax and stock up before another day of driving ahead. The town itself has a population of roughly 70 people, and derives its name from an Aboriginal word meaning kangaroo.
Distance: 234 km, 2 hours 20 minutes
Stay: Marla Travellers Rest
Day 5. Marla (SA) to Uluru (NT)
Depart this morning and return along the Stuart Highway/ A87 to Wattle Street. Turn left onto Lasseter Highway/ State Route 4. Take the first exit at the roundabout and stay on the Lasseter Highway/ Red Centre Way/ State Route 4. Take a sharp right onto State Route 4 and follow signs to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
Visit Uluru, one of Australia’s most famous attractions. Uluru is 348 metres tall and has a circumference of 9.4 kilometres (5.8 miles). An experience not to miss is to watch the sun rise or set over the rock. The range of colours contrasting against the rock will leave you speechless. Likewise, do not forget to take the time and learn about the histories and stories of Uluru and the people that have lived there for over 30,000 years.
Distance: 517 km, 6 hours
Stay: Ayres Rock Campground
Day 6. Uluru to Kings Canyon
Depart this morning and follow the Red Centre Way to Petermann. Exit at Kings Canyon.
Kings Canyon is a part of the Watarrka National Park, and one of the best ways to see it is by foot. Try the challenging 6 km hike around the rim of the canyon. This allows you to see every view of the gorge from up above. There a tours led by Aboriginal elders, who will teach you about the local flora and fauna, and its significance to the traditional owners. Next, climb down into the Garden of Eden in the canyon. This waterhole comes to life with greenery and animals.
Distance: 321 km, 4 hours
Stay: Kings Canyon Holiday Park and Camping
Day 7. Kings Canyon to Alice Springs
Depart this morning and return to the Red Centre Way/ Larapinta Drive/ State Route 6. Keep right and continue along Scott Terrace. Turn left onto Bath Street and follow signs to Alice Springs.
Go walking along the MacDonnell Ranges, which stretch for over 200 kilometres. Climb up the red rocky escarpments, climb down the gorges or cool off in one of the swimming holes. Simpson Gap is one not-to-miss, where the dramatic cliffs frame the waterhole for a perfect but secluded swimming spot. Try the Larapinta bushwalking trails, which pass through the MacDonnell Ranges, for a way to discover the flora and fauna on foot.
Distance: 322 km, 5 hours 20 minutes
Stay: G’day Mate Tourist Park
Day 8. Alice Springs to Devils Marbles
Depart this morning and take the National Highway 87 to Devils Marbles.
The Devils Marbles are large ochre rock formations, and a sacred to the local indigenous people. The juxtaposition of the stones against the sky makes for a beautiful picture, especially the contrasts found at sunset, when the sky turns a dark purple and orange colour. Use the many walking trails to take in the serenity of this area.
Distance: 413 km, 4 hours 40 minutes
Stay: Devils Marbles Hotel
Day 9. Devils Marbles to Daly Waters
Depart this morning and head north on National Highway 87. Continue along National Highway 1 until you reach Daly Waters.Daly Waters is the original Australian pub. Nowhere else will you find something so quintessentially Australian. From the décor, to the food and people, you will find
something to love here. They serve the classic Aussie meals such as parmas and steaks, but also don’t be afraid to try some kangaroo or crocodile.
Distance: 501 km, 5 hours 30 minutes
Stay: The Daly Waters Pub
Day 10. Daly Waters to Katherine
Depart this morning and take the National Highway 1. Turn right onto Chamber Drive, and then left onto First Street to enter Katherine.
Discover Katherine through its waterways, and take a cruise through the mighty Katherine Gorge. View the landscapes as it slowly changes throughout your journey in Nitmiluk National Park, and try and spot the local wallabies. If you’re up for something more adventurous, hire a canoe or kayak, and drift along the water.
The Top End is notorious for its crocodiles, so why not take a croc-spotting tour and see them for yourself. Visit one of the crocodile farms and research facilities, and watch the crocodiles jump out of the water as they are fed.
Distance: 273 km, 3 hours
Stay: BIG4 Katherine Low Level Caravan Park
Day 11. Katherine to Kakadu National Park
Depart this morning and take the National Highway 1. Turn right onto the Kakadu Highway/ State Route 21. Continue until you reach Kakadu.
Visit the Kakadu National Park, and learn about the oldest living culture in the world, and how it connects to the sacred land. The national park is full of activities, so be selective in what you decide to do.
There is nothing quite like swimming in the natural pools around the park, including the Jim Jim plunge pool. Surrounded by the rainforest landscape, you are transported away from modern civilisation in this natural oasis. Take one of the many cultural tours, and learn everything from the rock art to searching for bush foods.
Distance: 301 km, 3 hour 20 minutes
Stay: Kakadu Lodge
Day 12. Kakadu to Darwin
Depart this morning and head west on Arnhem Highway/ State Route 36 towards Point Stuart Road. Merge onto National Highway 1. Keep right and continue along Tiger Brennan Drive.
Welcome to Darwin, the capital city of the Northern Territory. Visit the Mindil Beach markets at sunset to try some good local food and buy some souvenirs. Here, you will be able to witness one of Darwin’s world-famous sunsets, as the sky paints a picture of purple and orange haze.
Allow up to 60 minutes to return your campervan.
Distance: 253 km, 2 hour 45 minutes
Stay: Hidden Valley Tourist Park
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Special caution and planning should be taken when travelling in remote areas to ensure sufficient provisions, fuel and prescribed medicines are carried.
Weather conditions can make sealed roads impassable particularly during the northern Wet season. All rental vendors in Australia have restrictions on where their vehicles can be taken, therefore it is recommended that you consult with your vehicle provider on your intended journey when collecting your vehicle. Travelling where restrictions are imposed voids all insurance cover.
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