The last day involves a special sunrise and a hike in a another sacred park close to Uluru. 

Another day, another chance to see the Outback’s magnificent nature and rock formations. 
People standing on top of a high ridge at the King’s Canyon
Passing through the nondescript town of Katherine is simply for a snack stop, on the way to the serene Mataranka Thermal Springs for another swim. Here you can wade through small pockets of jade and emerald waters set within a dense palm forest.

Planning a Trip From Darwin to Alice Springs 

Edith Falls in the Nitmiluk National Park – the first stop on the road trip through the Northern Territory.
People mostly try to do it themselves and drive through there for days on end, despite warnings not to travel through the Northern Territory Australian Outback alone and without proper navigation skills, contacts and equipment.

How far is Alice Springs From Darwin?

The sacred Uluru Sunrise.
The cafe, including its crazy exterior, is decked out in everything alien-themed and features news clippings from the abduction and sighting stories over the years.

Darwin to Alice Springs Tours

The town with the most UFO sightings in the Northern Territory.
A trip to the Northern Territory is not complete without watching the sunset over Uluru. 

A group of travellers on a road trip from Darwin to Alice Springs in Australia.
But you will hear of some ‘Dreamtime’ stories of the Whyungu, Kaytetye, Alyawarra and Warlpiri people, including the one about an ancestor who dropped individual strands of hair that turned into the rocks, and who still resides there today.

Starting in Darwin

Hiking in Kata Tjuta National park in the Australian Outback
Up early from the night camping in the open, we started the day spiritually watching the sunrise over Uluru. The fiery sky rose above this sacred monument and we knew this wasn’t just another sunrise, but one of the most iconic we would witness in our lifetime.

Outback Road Trip Day 1:  Darwin to Edith Falls, Mataranka Thermal Springs & Daly Waters

Australian Outback Roadtrip pin

Edith Falls in Nitmiluk National Park

The magnificent rock formations of the Devil’s Marbles – many of which are split in half like this.
Alice Springs is 1497 km south of Darwin on the Stuart Highway. It would take 15 hours to drive from Darwin to Alice Springs on a single journey. But with plenty of things to see on the way, this journey is better experienced over a few days. 

Rock cliffs and lake at Edith Falls, Northern Territory Australia.
Camping with swags outdoors in the Australian Outback – a core part of the experience.

Mataranka Springs Thermal Pools

People who climbed Uluru disrespected the Aboriginal wishes to keep this sacred site about connection and not conquest. 

People bathing in Mataranka Thermal Springs in Australia's Northern Territory.
Visiting Wycliffe Well – the UFO Capital of Australia between Darwin and Alice Springs. 

Overnight in Daly Waters

As a protected site under the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act, visitors will never have full access to all its secrets.
The highlight of the long day’s drive is the first overnight resting stop – visiting Daly Waters. Just over 600kms south of Darwin, this quirky, tiny town is a fascinating pit stop with a historic pub that has been open to the public since 1938, when people from the nearby airfield used to pass through, leaving an eclectic mix of memorabilia.

The exterior of the Daly Waters Pub - a stop over on a Darwin to Alice Springs Road Trip.
Our guide showing us how to use our Swag sleeping bags at the camp near Uluru.
The Daly Waters Pub in the Australian Outback who walls are covered in t-shirts, ID cards, money and war memorabilia.
Visiting Kata Tjuta National Park from Uluru.
A man fills a white van with petrol at the 'Outback Servo' in Daly Waters Australia.
We walked along its North and South walls, The Garden of Eden, as well as the Natural Amphitheatre taking in the adrenalin of standing close to mighty ledges and tackling the rocky steps for the ultimate panoramic vistas.
An empty helicopter on top of a metal shack in Daly Waters in the Australian Outback.
Filling up at Daly Waters to continue the road trip.

Outback Road Trip Day 2: Devil’s Marbles and Wycliffe Well

One of the 36 red rock formations in Kata Tjuta that spread over 20km.

Visiting Karlu Karlu – The Devil’s Marbles

If you have extra time, Darwin might surprise you – you just need to dig around a bit. Its fun wave pool, outdoor cinema, evening markets and scenic-historical walking spots are some of its immediate highlights. Sadly, its rough and rowdy backpacker scene largely offsets the rural calm.
Care is taken to respect the Aboriginal rights at every site visited. Tourism access to certain places remains a contentious issue, and it is of utmost importance to abide by the rules and adhere to the ancient culture of the rightful owners of the land.
Karlu Karlu is special – a protected site under the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act.

The giant orange boulders of Karlu Karlu Devil's Marbles, seen on an Australian Outback Road Trip.
The closure of the Uluru climb in October 2019 was wonderful news. Australia Parks closed the climb permanently after Australian Indigenous traditional owners pleaded for people to respect their culture. After 34 years, the site has been returned to its traditional Anangu owners. 
A woman peers through the opening of a round rock at the Devil's Marbles site, NT Australia.
On an Australian Outback road trip from Darwin to Alice Springs, this five-day trip takes you to Uluru via an unforgettable adventure.
Travellers visiting the Karlu Karlu Devil's Marbles site near Alice Springs.
Before arriving in Darwin I had no idea how to go about planning an Outback trip. I just knew Darwin was a popular starting point to begin a multi-day tour of Outback Australia, on a trip southbound that finishes up in Alice Springs for the Uluru (Ayers Rock) highlight.
A woman sits within the formations of the Devil's Marble in the Northern Territory, Australia.
The second day on the road meant pressing forward farther south to arrive in Alice Springs by evening, but not without a visit to the natural wonder known as The Devil’s Marbles.

Wycliffe Well – The UFO Capital of Australia

After an overnight stay in an Alice Springs hostel, a 6 am start marks the point of one of the most exciting parts of the trip – the journey to visit Uluru –Australia’s most famous red icon also known by its Western given name, Ayers Rock.
The Kata Tjuta is a bundle of 36 red rock formations that span over 20km. Another sacred site set within a now protected National Park, the stones are said to date back more than 500 million years.

A black painted buildings with images of white aliens in Wycliffe Well - the UFO Capital of Australia.
Hiking in Kings Canyon Hike in the Australian Outback.
News clippings of alien sightings in Wycliffe Well cafe in the Northern Territory, Australia.
Further information on travelling in the Northern Territory can be found here.
Model of two green aliens as a silver triangle spaceship in the Northern Territory town of Wycliffe Well.
However, it is the place you come to embark on day trips to see Litchfield or Kakadu National Parks and all the crocodiles for which this area is famed.

Outback Road Trip Day 3: Visiting Uluru, the Icon

The layered orange rocks in Kings Canyon National Park in Australia.

Uluru Base Walk

Airfield memorabilia on display in Daly Waters.
Visiting the sacred site of Karlu Karlu, NT.

The ochre orange giant rock formations of Uluru Ayers Rock in Australia.
Visiting Mataranka Springs from Darwin to Alice Springs.
The ochre red giant rock formation of Uluru, as seen from the Base Walk in Uluru National Park.
The five-day Mulgas tour (which departs in both directions of Darwin to Alice Springs and Alice Spring to Darwin) costs 629 Australian dollars. The standard Alice Springs to Darwin ‘Express’ tour (which doesn’t include the three-day Uluru tour and hikes) is 9. A more fun, scenic and cheaper alternative than flying.

Don’t Climb Uluru

To break up the long journey, which could otherwise turn monotonous, we stopped at Edith Falls in the Nitmiluk National Park, to take a relaxing swim and stretch our legs. 
I choose to go with a company called Mulgas Adventures, which came highly recommended by hostels and travel agencies in the city. 

People wrongfully climbing Uluru, the Aboriginal name for Ayers Rock in Australia's Northern Territory.
A day exploring Uluru is not complete without a glass of bubbly and watching the sunset over this iconic rock formation, toasting to new friends and being at one with the very best of nature’s creations. 

Uluru Sunset

I felt that by flying from Darwin to Alice Springs I would miss out on the beauty of what is essentially the beauty of the ‘nothingness’ in between and nature at its most untouched.

A woman standing in front of Uluru at sunset.
You are so tired from the heat and the excitement of the day that you pretty much sleep through the night, and spend the morning discussing Dingo footprints and other animals tracks. 

Outback Camping

Travelling from Darwin to Alice Springs on the Stuart Highway and crossing through the Australian Outback on a road trip was always at the top of my list when in the Northern Territory. 
It’s an early start around 6 am, but it adds to the sense of adventure as you hit the road, ready to join the open highway that starts to cut through the Outback.

An guide shows a group of tourists how to use a Swag sleeping bag at a camp in the Australian Outback.
It’s an arduous hike in the heat so it’s best to start as early as possible and aim to be finished before the midday high sun.
Travellers sit on sleeping bags around a fire in the Australian Outback in the Northern Territory.
Back then, Mulgas did not advocate climbing Uluru, yet it was not at liberty to stop people either, and it was hard to stand by and watch a few members of my group do so, which was both dangerous and utterly selfish. Respect the ancient culture and don’t do it. 

Outback Road Trip Day 4:  Uluru Sunrise & Kata Tjuta Hike

We had travelled the Outback like adventurers while knowing we were simply visitors in a very sacred space that we will never truly know or comprehend.

Uluru Sunrise

Here we found a sign saying that visitors should avoid the waters between 7 am and 7 pm because of the crocs, so a far-out swim to the waterfalls was slightly marred by our in-depth talk of whether crocodiles can tell the time and stick to their curfew.

Watching the sunrise above Uluru on a trip from Darwin to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.
While out in the area near Uluru, we got to set up a camp nearby, hunt for firewood and sleep outside under the stars in Swags – a true Australian Outback experience. It seems daunting at first, knowing you are sleeping out in the opening, but Swags are special sleeping bags that protect you from the elements.

Hike in Kata Tjuta National Park

After some time spent in cities and aboriginal lands of Western Australia, I took a flight from Perth to Darwin to start the journey into the country’s dry, dusty and sacred hinterland – the mysterious, hard to traverse and famed Outback.
News clippings of alien sightings in Wycliffe Well, on show in the cafe.
A drive along the Stuart Highway towards the ‘Red Centre’ of the Outback would not be complete without a quick stop at Wycliffe Well – the UFO Capital of Australia said to have had the most sightings and visits in all of the country.

Tourists on the Kata Tjuta walk in the Northern Territory, Australian Outback.
A scattering of rounded granite rocks that appear to have popped out of the desert floor marks this holy Aboriginal site. These rounded towers have been formed by erosion over millions of years, creating a magical balancing act.
People hiking in orange rocked Kata Tjuta National Park in the Northern Territory Australia.
Visiting Karlu Karlu (The Devil’s Marbles) on the way to Alice Springs.
One of the 36 red rock formations in Kata Tjuta National Park in NT, Australian Outback.
Driving in the Outback is always long. The wide-open stretches of road are sometimes relaxing as you pass through them, and other times exhausting with the sand dust and intense heat.

Outback Road Trip Day 5:  Kings Canyon Hike

It was heartbreaking to see people climbing Uluru and that a sign had to be put up to highlight how much scrambling this sacred site offended the Aboriginal people. Uluru has been promoted as a place to climb since the 1940s, contributing to the concept of conquest, claim and achievement rather than as a site to connect with. I’m glad the practice of climbing has now been banned.

Visiting King’s Canyon National Park

Inside the historic Daly Waters Pub in the Outback, where travellers leave something behind. 
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Travellers on the Kings Canyon Hike in the Australian Outback.
The Kings Canyon rim walk hike is a highlight of this trip. Think of it as an Australian Grand Canyon – wide, deep caverns, steep ledges and deep-drop viewpoints.
Tourists visiting Kings Canyon National Park in Australia
Darwin to Alice Springs – The Ultimate Australian Outback Road Trip
People standing on top of a ridge at the King's Canyon, NT Australia.
Visiting Uluru and getting close to the sacred site is the highlight of a trip to the NT outback.
People on a walkway inside the deep King's Canyon near Alive Springs, Australia.
A walkway inside the King’s Canyon that’s part of the hiking route.
A woman looks back at the camera while standing at the top of Kings Canyon in Australia.
Tired and able to sleep in the van, we rolled back on the highway to Alice Springs – a 330 km drive east that takes around 3 and a half hours.

Kings Canyon to Alice Springs

Everyone’s heads turn in the bus as we approach this infamous masterpiece of Mother Nature. It’s bold, fiery and dominant. Today is the chance to hike around a huge part of it, known as a base walk, after a guided introduction tour. This is an opportunity to see it up close and understand how sacred it is to the Aboriginal people.
Many parts of Uluru are completely off-limits for photography. It radiates a scared feeling that you can’t quite put into words until you stand before it and its rugged ochre walls.

Things to Know About Visiting the Australian Outback

I found an answer – setting out on a five-day tour between the two cities, designed for those looking for time in the wilderness without the navigation struggle and including outdoor camping and getting to experience some of Australia’s best hikes.
Scenes from the Uluru Base Walk on Uluru National Park.
A stopover at Daly Waters is a rite of passage on a Darwin to Alice Springs Road Trip.
After sunrise, we got to explore the wider area by driving to Kata Tjuta and setting off for a long walk through the Valley of the Winds.

Planning to Go to Australia’s Outback – Pin It!

The views from Kings Canyon in the Northern Territory.

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