Self-Drive Outback Adventure: Adelaide, Uluru, Kings Canyon, Alice Springs, & More - 14 Days
- Explore the opal mining town of Coober Pedy
- Visit Uluru's sunrise and sunset lookouts around Ayers Rock
- Tour the hidden gems of Kings Canyon at Watarraka National Park
- Enjoy the scenic viewpoints around the MacDonnell Ranges in Alice Springs
|Day 1||Arrival in Adelaide||Adelaide|
|Day 2||Drive to Port Augusta||Port Augusta|
|Day 3||Drive to Coober Pedy||Coober Pedy|
|Day 4||Drive to Uluru||Uluru|
|Day 5||Uluru - Sunrise and Sunset Tour||Uluru|
|Day 6||Uluru - Kings Canyon Day Trip||Kings Canyon|
|Day 7||Drive to Alice Springs||Alice Springs|
|Day 8||Alice Springs - Free Day||Alice Springs|
|Day 9||Drive to Tennant Creek||Tennant Creek|
|Day 10||Drive to Katherine||Katherine|
|Day 11||Drive to Kakadu National Park||Kakadu National Park|
|Day 12||Kakadu National Park - Free Day||Kakadu National Park|
|Day 13||Drive to Darwin||Darwin|
|Day 14||Depart From Darwin|
Day 1: Arrival in Adelaide
Welcome to Adelaide!
Once you arrive at the airport, make your way to the car depot to collect your car and local maps, and make your way to the hotel for check-in at 2 pm.
This afternoon, discover Adelaide at your own leisure. Adelaide is South Australia’s cosmopolitan coastal capital. The River Torrens is home to renowned museums, such as the Art Gallery of South Australia. On display are expansive collections, including notable indigenous artworks. In addition, the South Australian Museum is a landmark to explore that is devoted to natural history.
Enjoy the evening in Adelaide on your own, as well.
Day 2: Drive to Port Augusta
This morning, enjoy breakfast before departing Adelaide and travel to Port Augusta. The drive will take just over 3 hours.
Make a stop at Lake Bumbunga, first. The bubble gum shores draw an eclectic crowd, from casual photographers to high-end fashion brands. Located in Lochiel, the lake is known to change color from pink to white to blue, depending on the salinity of the water throughout the year.
Then, head northeast from Lake Bumbunga, and land in the famed Clare Valley wine region, where you can quench your thirst with different varietals of rosé from Mr Mick, Kilikanoon, or Jim Barry.
Port Augusta is also known as the 'Crossroads of Australia'. Set right on the edge of the desert, with views of the Flinders Ranges, this is a stunning place to spend some time.
Make sure to also visit Matthew Flinders Red Cliff Lookout for glorious views of the area.
Next, visit the Wadlata Outback Centre. The highlight at this combined museum/visitor center is the Tunnel of Time, which traces local Aboriginal and European histories using audio-visual displays, interactive exhibits, and more.
Then, stop by the Water Tower Lookout. This 1882-born water tower across the river in Port Augusta West affords a great view across the gulf and back to the town center.
After a bit of sightseeing, check into your hotel, and enjoy the evening at your leisure.
Day 3: Drive to Coober Pedy
Today, pack up and head to Coober Pedy, an opal mining town that is home to many underground houses and buildings. The buildings are made from natural rock, which provides respite from the desert heat during the day and warmth at night. Exploring this underground town is a must on a road trip from Adelaide to Alice Springs.
Visit the eerie Catacomb Church, followed by Faye's Underground Home, a dwelling kept perfectly in its original condition. A tour provides a glimpse into the fascinating past of Coober Pedy.
This evening, check in to your motel and enjoy the evening on your own.
Day 4: Drive to Uluru
Wake up early and depart Coober Pedy for the lengthy, 8-hour drive to Uluru. Make sure to take rest breaks, share the driving—if possible—and stay hydrated. Think twice before overtaking road trains, and try to avoid driving at night.
Arrive in Uluru in the late evening, check into your accommodation, and rest up; tomorrow begins early with a sunrise tour.
Day 5: Uluru - Sunrise and sunset tour
Enjoy a warming cup of tea or coffee as the first rays of sunlight slowly change the color of Uluru and its surroundings. Then, travel to the mystical domes of Kata Tjuta (the Olgas). Walk through Walpa Gorge, where the trail follows the natural creek bed between two of the tallest domes. Spend time exploring the gorge and the unusual rock formation.
In the afternoon, join a guide on a drive around the base of Uluru. Continue to the Kuniya Walk, and receive an escort to the Mutitjulu Waterhole. View ancient rock art and learn about the Aboriginal and European history of Uluru. Visit the cultural center, then travel to the Uluru sunset viewing area to witness the striking color changes around Ayers Rock while enjoying sparkling wine and small bites.
Then, you'll return to your hotel to relax after the day of exploration.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 6: Uluru - Kings Canyon day trip
Enjoy breakfast at your accommodation and depart for your next destination, Kings Canyon, which is a 4-hour drive from Ayers Rock. Upon arrival to Kings Canyon, purchase a national fee park entry pass (feel free to purchase the pass in advance).
Set in the Watarraka National Park, Kings Canyon is located between Alice Springs and Uluru in Australia's Northern Territory. Watarrka National Park covers 175,445 acres. At the western end of the George Gill Range, these imposing cliffs formed, as small cracks eroded over millions of years, and now shelter a unique conservation area. Kings Canyon's red sandstone walls can be explored from the air or by foot, with walking tracks for both adventurous hikers and leisurely walkers.
Kings Canyon offers a unique tour. Trace the scenic rim of this ancient canyon on your own, or join a guided tour to learn about the intriguing evolution. At sunrise or sunset, climb to the rim of Kings Canyon and watch light spill across the gorge below, descend its depths into the lush Garden of Eden, or explore the unusual weathered rock formations of The Lost City.
Day 7: Drive to Alice Springs
Depart Kings Canyon and make your way to Alice Springs, which is a 6-hour drive.
Upon arrival, there will be plenty of sightseeing to do. First, visit the Alice Springs Desert Park, a part-adventure safari park, and part-hands-on natural history museum. Get up close with kangaroos, emus, birds of prey, walk-through aviaries, and the biggest nocturnal house in the Southern Hemisphere, while learning just how diverse and full of life Australia’s deserts are.
Next, visit the Telegraph Station Historical Reserve, where the town of Alice Springs started—the Overland Telegraph Station established a repeater station and an iconic town was born. Look through the beautifully restored historic Telegraph Station buildings, and learn about the pioneers and Aboriginal people who helped them establish the town.
Alice Springs is an integral part of the Royal Flying Doctor Service network. There’s a thoroughly detailed museum with a holographic theatre (self-guided and guided tours are both available), a “live-to-air ” screen depicting locations of all RFDS planes, a gift shop, and one of Alice’s very best cafés in shady grounds.
Following your day of discovery, check in to your hotel, relax, and enjoy the evening at your leisure.
Day 8: Alice Springs - Free day
Enjoy a free day in Alice Springs. Begin the adventure at the MacDonnell Ranges. Discover the towering fiery-red walls ignited by the desert sun as you drive along the ranges. Tour the ranges throughout the day, and stop at beautiful gorges and waterholes. Make sure to stop at Simpsons Gap, which floats in a refreshing, natural plunge pool in the middle of the desert. The gap is one of Outback Australia's most memorable experiences, and a great way to cool off after a bike ride through the desert. The gorge sits Just 11 miles from Alice Springs along Larapinta Drive, with a permanent waterhole at its base. Feel free to drive, but it's much more fun to bike it along the sealed Simpsons Gap Bike Path. (You can rent a bike locally.)
Next, visit the Kangaroo Sanctuary. Chris ‘Brolga’ Barns first established the Baby Kangaroo Rescue Centre in Alice Springs in 2005. He then built The Kangaroo Sanctuary Alice Springs, a 188-acre wildlife sanctuary for rescued orphaned baby kangaroos and adult kangaroos, which opened in 2011. The mission is to educate and encourage people to rescue and care for kangaroos and other wildlife and animals. Explore the grounds and learn all about the fascinating native species.
The evening is at your leisure to continue enjoying Alice Springs.
Day 9: Drive to Tennant Creek
Enjoy breakfast at your accommodation before departing for Tennant Creek. Make a stop at Tropic of Capricorn for a photo opportunity. The Tropic of Capricorn marker, a bicentennial community project, is set back about 50 feet from the road, along the Stuart Highway about 19 miles north of Alice Springs.
Then, drive to Ti-Tree Roadhouse for food and fuel, followed by a stop at Wycliffe Well, known as the UFO center of Australia. Wycliffe Well feels like an abandoned theme park. The roadhouse's main facade is coated in a flaky, space-blue paint, and detailed with galaxies and exploding stars. There's an abandoned train, a lake, and dozens of rusting alien-shaped mannequins and old sculptures. Inside is a cavernous restaurant, its walls covered with hundreds of laminated UFO-related newspaper clippings.
Following the trip to Wycliffe Well, arrive in Tennant Creek and check into your motel. The evening is at your leisure.
Day 10: Drive to Katherine
This morning, after breakfast, drive to Katherine, which is a 7.5-hour trip. It is another long drive, so ensure you make enough stops along the way to rest and refuel. A good place to stop is Renner Springs.
Then, schedule a visit to Daly Waters Pub, whose motto is, 'Leave Your Mark at the Pub.' The walls are lined with all sorts of treasures from people that just want to leave a part of themselves here. Make sure you leave something at the iconic pub, too.
Next, drive to Mataranka Thermal Springs and enjoy a refreshing swim. The small town of Mataranka, south of Katherine, is renowned for its sandy-bottomed thermal pool, pastoral history, and as a welcomed stop with tourists. The area was made famous by the novel We of the Never Never—a book written about nearby Elsey Station, by Jeannie Gunn.
Wander through the Never Never Museum to learn about this country’s traditional Aboriginal custodians, as well as the Mangarayi and Yangman people. There are also displays about the region and the North Australian Railway, the Overland Telegraph Line construction, and World War II.
Following the tour, arrive at Katherine and check into your motel. Relax and enjoy the evening on your own.
Day 11: Drive to Kakadu National Park
This morning, head out to the Katherine Gorge. Make your way to the sandstone country of Nitmiluk National Park and explore the 13 stunning gorges on foot, by canoe, via boat, or on a helicopter ride.
Then, rent a canoe and paddle along the gorges to see waterfalls, Aboriginal rock art, and wildlife. Board a sunrise cruise or speedboat and enjoy the ride.
Swim at Leliyn (Edith Falls), a pandanus-fringed plunge pool on the park’s western boundary. Then, follow the scenic walking track to Sweetwater Pool, a secluded and tranquil swimming hole.
Paddle through the narrow chasms of Butterfly Gorge, which is quiet and shaded with rocky walls that are home to thousands of butterflies.
After visiting Katherine Gorge, start heading toward Kakadu, about 3.5 hours away. Then, check in to your accommodation and enjoy your evening at leisure.
Day 12: Kakadu National Park - Free day
This morning, enjoy a free day around Kakadu National Park. Depending on your preferences, review the below guide of things to do and destinations to see.
The most famous of Kakadu’s many billabongs, Yellow Water Billabong is your postcard shot. Regular boats cruise across its great floodwaters, half-submerged paperbarks, pandanus, and water lilies, while Kakadu’s famous crocodiles cruise beneath. do some birding, and look out for jabiru, sea eagles, magpie geese, and egrets. Cruises operate all year; in the dry season, you can also explore the billabong on foot, via boardwalks.
Consider going for a swim at Gunlom Falls during the dry season. The plunge pool is located at the bottom of the falls, at Waterfall Creek, but you can also take the moderately steep, 30-minute walk to the top of the falls for even better views overlooking the southern hills of the park, and more freshwater pools to swim in. Facilities for campers include solar hot showers and shaded picnic areas.
Visit Ubirr, which is one of two popular Aboriginal rock art galleries. A half-mile-long circular walk from the carpark takes you through the Main Gallery, the Namarrgarn Sisters Gallery, and the Rainbow Serpent Gallery, with the dates of art ranging from more than15,000 years old to as recent as 150 years ago. Ubirr’s most famous pieces include X-ray paintings of animals, Dreamtime folklore and ‘contact art,' showing local impressions of contact with white explorers. Make sure you take the extra 30-minute moderate climb to Nardab Lookout for beautiful sunset views.
The evening is at your leisure to enjoy Kakadu at night.
Day 13: Drive to Darwin
Enjoy breakfast at your hotel. Then, begin the 2-hour drive to Darwin.
Make a stop at the famous Humpty Doo Hotel on your way to Darwin, and find record-breaking water buffalo horns above the bar, beer competition accolades, and plenty of local characters who helped put Humpty Doo on the map.
Next, enjoy general admission to Crocosaurus Cove. Get face-to-face with some of the largest saltwater crocodiles. The three-story crocodile zoo features eight, large habitats to observe from every floor. The enclosures (and the clear glass walls that protect them) ensure you can get a 360° view of the active animals. Guests are encouraged to hold some of the friendly critters showcased in the Cove's reptile shows, including blue-tongue lizards, olive pythons, and Western bearded dragons. Hold a baby crocodile in the World of Crocodiles museum.
Watch the barramundi feed in a 53,000-gallon freshwater aquarium, and don’t forget to meet the Turtles of the Top End in the top-floor Turtle Billabong.
Watch the big crocs feed every day via brave crocodile handlers and get close to the juvenile crocodiles on the Fishing for Crocs platform that follows each feed show.
Following the active tour, check into your accommodation in the afternoon and enjoy Darwin at your leisure.
Day 14: Depart from Darwin
Today is the end of your Outback adventure. Return your car to the depot and make your way to the airport. Safe Travels, and come back soon!