Day 14: Ayer’s Rock Resort NT
We didn’t know what to expect when we were driving towards Ayer’s Rock but it turned out to be one of the most magical moments of our trip.
As you get closer to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park you will drive past Ayer’s Rock Resort. We recommend stopping here first to book yourself in for the night as there are no other camping options available in the resort. There is one large campsite and around 4 hotels at the resort plus some bars and restaurants and some shops. There is also good phone coverage here. It is a strange modern resort in the middle of the desert that is very lively. The National Park is located 15km away. Make sure you have some money as you have to pay to enter the park. It is $25 per person and your ticket last for up to 3 days so you can return at your leisure.
We entered the National Park and explored Ayer’s Rock in the afternoon, there are several hikes around the park and around the base of the rock itself. We didn’t realise you could get so close so to walk the base track was pretty incredible. After taking hundreds of photos we set up camp for sunset. The park gets very busy just before sunset, and again for sunrise as tour buses arrive with lots of people so just make sure you give yourself plenty of time to watch the sunset or sunrise over this majestic land.
We returned to the park for both sunset and sunrise and both were just magical. The resort is a great place to freshen up and theres a really good atmosphere in the air. You can also explore Kata Tjuta in the national park as well as experience camels tours and guided hikes.
Day 15: Ayer’s Rock – Alice Springs
The next day we set off for the capital of the red centre, Alice Springs. Located 463km from Uluru, the drive takes you back onto the Stuart Highway and further north.
Alice Springs is much bigger than we first anticipated. We only scheduled one day, however after an oil leak on the outskirts of town our time was cut even shorter. The are lots of things to explore in Alice Springs, many of which we didn’t get the chance to do. Alice Springs has a big aboriginal community and a lot of history so make sure you learn as much as you can about this town while you’re there.
Alice Springs was established in 1872 as part of the Overland Telegraph Line linking Darwin and Adelaide. You can visit the restored telegraph station in town and learn about the pioneers and the Aboriginal people who helped create the town. Another must do is a trip to Anzac Hill. Located at the Northern end of Bath street near the centre of town, Anzac Hill showcases amazing views over the town below. It is also another great place to learn about the history of this town. Other must do’s include visiting the Alice Springs desert park and Todd mall to pick up some souvenirs and have a cold beer after a long day of exploring. There are also some big supermarkets in town so we advise stocking up on road trip essentials as after you leave town the drive to the coast is again pretty remote.
Day 16: Alice Springs – Tenant Creek
The drive to Tenant Creek is a long road of nothing, however this was possibly our favourite day in the desert as we stumbled upon The Devil’s Marbles Conservation Reserve.
Located 110 km south of Tennant Creek, the Devil’s Marbles was an incredible experience. There are literally hundreds of giant granite boulders littering the desert floor. It really blew our minds to see how this rocks were positioned, some on top of one another, others alone or in big clusters. It is a truly magical place that has a lot of significance within the Aboriginal Community.
The reserve is located right next to the highway so you can’t miss them. We stopped here for a good few hours to wonder around and explore the reserve. There is also wifi at the information sign.
There is also one more exciting thing you’ll come across during your day. You will get to visit the UFO capital of Australia. Yes that’s right, Wycliffe Well, 130km south of Tennant Creek is famous for the apparent sightings of UFO’s that have been reported since WWWII. The roadhouse is painted with UFO murals and is a funny little pit stop to stretch your legs. We had a good laugh with some fellow travellers at the station as we took silly photos of one another and the Alien cutouts.
We chose to push on past Tennant Creek to Barkley where we free camped for the night. This free camp is located about an hours drive from Three Ways; the junction where you can continue North to Darwin or take the Overlanders Way to Townsville. The free camps we experienced in the desert did not have any facilities so make sure you have everything you need.
Petrol was also very expensive on this part of the drive. We kept all of our gas receipts so we could see just how much petrol per litre was increasing. We spent about $800 on fuel during our trip through the outback,however, we drove a lot and at good speed so our van burned through petrol like it was paper.
Day 17: Three Ways – Julia Creek
As you follow the Overlanders Way to Townsville you will once again cross state lines, only this time back in Queensland, just before the town of Camooweal. The boarder was policed on the NT side so make sure you are not speeding as they will try and catch you before you leave the state.
As you re-enter Queensland there are several options you can take depending on where you want to end up. We followed the route to Townsville via Mt Isa, Richmond and Charters Towers. We chose to stay the night at a farm stay located 50k East of Julia Creek in Neila.
We defiantly recommend looking up this his farm stay. It cost next to nothing to park our van for the night and was such a fun experience. There are rescued farm animals just wondering around everywhere; chickens, ducks, peacocks, turkeys, goats and even a donkey. It brought back some amazing memories of the farm we lived on for 3 months the previous year and was a great little stop in our outback expedition. Although we had trouble with one stubborn goat who managed to open our camper van door with his teeth, sitting around a camp fire with a cow a sheep and a couple of goats was an experience we won’t soon forget!
Day 18: Neila – Townsville
This was probably our least exciting day on the road as there wasn’t an awful lot to see on the way to the coast. However, we did come across was the Dinosaur trail in Richmond.
The famous Kronosaurus Korner was a fun little pit stop where we were able to stretch our legs and peek into the museum. We chose to push on as we wanted to make it to coast before sunset.
We have also been to Townsville before so were opted not to stop here for the night and pushed on little further north and free camped at Toomulla Beach about 50km out of town.
If you haven’t been to Townsville before than we do recommend staying here for the night and exploring this coastal city. There are plenty of free things to do in the city such as hiking up to Castle Hill to get a 360’ view of the city, strolling along the Strand with a scoop of gelato or a visit to Palmetum Park, a giant botanic garden dedicated only to palm trees. We spent the next four nights catching up with old friends before making our way up the coast so we will just skip right ahead to the top.
Next stop, paradise, aka Port Douglas.