There is no better way to explore the rugged terrain of the Northern Territory than a self-drive campervan adventure. The Northern Territory is a popular Australian road trip destination and Darwin to Alice Springs is one of the top campervan trips around Australia - and it's no wonder why.
The Northern Territory is best known for the wild and ancient wetlands of Kakadu, the majestic monolith Uluru, the outback desert hub of Alice Springs and the crocodile-filled beaches of Darwin. However, there is much more on offer along this outback highway traversing the red centre of Australia.
That is why we have created this bucket list family road trip itinerary with all our favourite Australian attractions and experiences from Alice Springs to Darwin, so you can have all the tips for the best places to visit on your outback motorhome adventure.
This 1496+km journey starts in the central hub of Alice Springs in the middle of Australia, where you can meet the local wildlife by riding a camel or visiting the Desert Park and Reptile Centre. Continuing north, this itinerary winds through the arid red centre of the iconic Karlu Karlu/Devil’s Marbles, art centres, gold rush museums and into the tropics of the Northern Territory. Here you can meet saltwater crocodiles, swim in the plunge pools of cascading waterfalls, explore the monsoon rainforest hikes, and explore the beautiful city of Darwin.
Alice Springs to Darwin
Best Time of the Year
May to September
- Devils Marbles
- Bitter Springs
- Elsey National Park
- Litchfield National Park
Tourism NT Image Gallery
Pick up the camper at the maui Alice Springs branch and spend the day exploring this outback town. Alice Springs, located halfway between Darwin and Adelaide, is a popular gateway to explore Australia's desert region. While it is not a large town by any standard, it is the gateway to Australia’s outback. It is filled with scenic bushwalking trails and historic buildings and a number of native animals and wildlife attractions worth exploring.
If you’re open to experiencing the wilder side of Alice Springs, start your outback adventure by going for a camel ride. Due to the docile nature of camels, other animals tend not to be bothered by their presence. You will have the chance to come up close with Australian wildlife such as wallabies, kangaroos, lizards and native birds.
If you want to experience a larger diversity of Northern Territory wildlife, then be sure to check out the extensive range of reptiles at the Reptile Centre and interact with Australian wildlife at Alice Springs Desert Park.
The Reptile Centre features more than 100 reptiles of over 50 species, as well as an underwater viewing area of Terry’s Saltwater Crocodile exhibit. Alice Springs Desert Park, on the other hand, is a great place 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.
Tourism NT Image Gallery
Alice Springs to Tennant Creek
Start the day with a fresh pastry and a coffee from Alice Bakery before driving north three hours to Barrow Creek. Here you can stop to stretch your legs and explore the beautifully restored Telegraph Station. Located on the scenic backdrop of the Forster ranges, this telegraph station holds considerable historical value and is open 24 hours for self-guided tours.
Continuing the drive north, stop in at Wycliff Well Roadhouse - easily spotted by the large green alien head on the sign reading ‘UFO capital of Australia’. Here you can stretch your legs while you learn all about the extraterrestrial activity documented in this region from the newspaper clipping wall or play a game of pool in the games room before jumping back on the road.
Another hour or so along the highway, and you will pass the sacred and beautiful Karlu Karlu/Devil’s Marbles. Park up to walk along the designated trail amongst these ancient granite boulders and admire how precariously these huge boulders are balanced along this wide-sweeping valley. Drive another hour north to Tennant Creek where you can choose your next adventure.
If you are interested in the history and science of the gold rush era, then be sure to stop by the Battery Hill Mining Centre. Enjoy an underground tour, wander through three exhibits, and take a self-guided walk amongst the static machinery. If you prefer exploring art and culture, then visit the locally owned Nyinkka Nyunyu Art Centre. Themed around ‘wanjjal payinti; ‘where we have come from and where we are’ - this centre hosts a variety of museum exhibits, art exhibitions, and guided tours to educate and share the culture of the local Warumungu people. While you're here, don’t miss out on sampling the bush-food inspired menu at the Jajjikari Cafe.
If you’re looking for a place for dinner, head to Anna’s Restaurant. Boasting a casual, laid-back atmosphere, this is the perfect place to grab a meal and a drink to unwind after a long day of exploring. When you have had your fill, head to your campsite at Tennant Creek Caravan Park for the night.
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Tennant Creek to Mataranka
Distance 567km - Driving Time 5 hours 52 minutes
Start the day early and begin the long day's drive to the sleepy town of Mataranka. This town is the perfect town to relax and unwind after a few big days of exploring. For the ultimate relaxing day, visit Elsey National Park for a scenic walk and a soak in Bitter Springs' crystal clear natural hot spring. If you’re still up for an adventure, head into town to visit the war memorial.
When you’re ready, head to your campsite for the night at Mataranka Homestead. Here you can take another soak in the on-site palm-fringed Mataranka Thermal Pools and enjoy the bar and entertainment on-site for the evening. Depending on the time of the year, 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.
Tourism NT Image Gallery
Mataranka to Darwin
Distance 421km - Driving Time 4 hours 18 minutes
Wake up early to make the most of this last day of your Northern Territory adventure. Take the scenic route north to explore Litchfield National Park on the way to Darwin. Take a mid-morning swim in Wangi Falls, followed by morning tea in the manicured lawns of the picnic areas - soaking up the last of the lush monsoonal rainforests. Before adventuring onward to check out the larger than life Magnetic Termite Mounds.
This park is filled with stunning waterfalls and waterholes nestled amongst monsoonal vine forests to explore - you could easily spend a day or two here if time permits. Enjoy a short stroll along the boardwalk to get up close to these unique two-metre-high structures. Spend some time at the information shelter to learn all about the fascinating creatures that dwell in these habitats.
Once you have finished chasing waterfalls, make your way to the city for the afternoon to get a taste of the incredible things to do in Darwin. Start by visiting Crocosaurus Cove to see Australia’s largest reptile up close. Then, if you are an aviation enthusiast, stop by Darwin Aviation Museum to explore the impressive collection of aviation history. With the huge array of exhibits, replicas and photograph displays, you will be transported back in time and gain a new appreciation for the frontier role of the Northern Territory in the Second World War.
If you have any time to spare or are looking to spend another few days in the city, be sure to explore the Mindil Markets and spend a few hours in Charles Darwin National Park by foot or mountain bike. When you’re ready to make your way home, drop the camper back at maui Darwin branch.
Ready for your Red Centre escape?
There you have it! A jam-packed itinerary with the very best things to do on your next trip to the red centre. If you are planning on visiting all these attractions, be sure to plan a few extra days so you have time to explore everything - you could even try a night or two free camping under the stars.
Ready to book your red centre escape? Hire a camper from maui and explore the outback at your own pace. If you’re looking for more information on the typical Australian weather in this region, walks, culture and more, be sure to check out our guide for Northern Territory campervan travel.