Five journeys that capture the essence of the Outback

Travel writer Robert Upe has just made it easier for you to see the best of the Outback.

Five journeys that capture the essence of the Outback

Robert Upe is a freelance travel writer and an in-flight magazine editor. He was previously travel editor of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

Travel writer Robert Upe has just made it easier for you to see the best of the Outback. 

Whether it’s cooling off under a waterfall, watching crocodiles sun themselves on sandy riverbanks, seeing ancient rock art, or having a gourmet dinner under the stars on a desert dune, these journeys capture the essence of the Outback.

Don’t forget your cork hat!

1. Arnhem Land, Northern Territory
Type of travel:
Fly in/fly out
Difficulty: Easy

One of the easiest ways to see Arnhem Land – without driving or permit worries – is to take a charter flight from Darwin to Davidson’s Arnhemland Safari Lodge.

You can drive to the lodge from Darwin (350km), but the flight is quick and delivers you on a bush runway in the middle of a wilderness of billabongs, paper bark swamps, floodplains and escarpments with rock art.

There are ensuite cabins, stylishly fitted with Outback essentials, such as flywire screens and ceiling fans.

There are plenty of guided activities, and dinner may be the barramundi you’ve caught that day.  


What we love: Rock art without crowds/barramundi fishing/evening billabong cruises/bird watching/crocodile spotting
When to go: April to September (when it’s cooler)
Leave time for: Kakadu National Park, next door

2. Savannah Way, Northern Territory
Type of travel: Road trip (combination of sealed and dirt roads)
Difficulty: Easy to difficult (depending how far you go)

savannah western australia

The Savannah Way stretches 3700km, from Broome to Cairns. It's a daunting drive, but instead of doing the whole lot, you can do sections.

One of our favourite sections is in the NT, between Katherine and Borroloola on the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The route will take you to the iconic Daly Waters pub, as well as the thermal pools at Bitter Springs and Mataranka, made famous by Jeannie Gunn's novel, We of The Never Never.

Two ‘must-sees’ near Cape Crawford, are Poppy's Pools, where you can soak in the thermal water, and the Lost City, a series of tall sandstone pillars accessed by helicopter.   


What we love: Drinking at a bush bar where the cowboys are still wearing their spurs after a day of mustering/no crowds
When to go: April to September
Leave time for: Fishing in the Gulf of Carpentaria

3. Kimberley, Western Australia
Type of travel:
Road trip (dirt)
Difficulty: Moderate

driving through the kimberley

There are many ways to tackle the Kimberley, an area defined as the northernmost region of Western Australia.

One way is to drive the 660km Gibb River Road between Derby and Kununurra.

It can be rough, with corrugations, river crossings and roaming Brahman cattle to keep you alert, but it’s a fulfilling adventure.

You don’t need the skills of the Leyland brothers, but a sturdy vehicle (these can be hired in Broome) and some common sense in regards to safe Outback travel. If you’re not confident, join a small-group 4WD tour with a driver/guide.

There are cattle stations and lodges where you can stay and eat, from basic to ultra-luxurious.

El Questro’s five-star homestead, Home Valley Station, Mount Elizabeth Station and Mornington Wilderness Camp are noteworthy.


What we love: Windjana Gorge where freshwater crocodiles sun themselves on the sandy riverbanks / Tunnel Creek, a 750-metre limestone cave to explore with a torch / the many waterholes with waterfalls
When to go: During dry season between April and October. (The road is closed in wet season)
Leave time for: A few days in Broome before or after

4. Alice Springs to Darwin, Northern Territory
Type of travel:
Road trip (sealed highway)
Difficulty: Easy

campervans on the stuart highway

The Stuart Highway between Alice Springs and Darwin (also known as Explorers Way) is 1493 kilometres and sealed all the way. It’s an easy drive with many motels, camping and caravan sites.

You can do this trip over a few days, or meander for more than a week. 


What we love: Litchfield National Park’s cascading water holes/Katherine Gorge boat trip and Cicada Lodge/indigenous cultural day tours
When to go: April to September
Leave time for: Sitting under a starry night and watching for UFOs at Wycliffe Well. It’s a UFO hot spot, near the Devil’s Marbles 

5. Uluru, Northern Territory
Type of travel:
Fly in / fly out
Difficulty: Easy

uluru

The popularity of Uluru shouldn’t put you off, because it is one of the Outback’s great sights.

Many grey nomads drive there, but it is also on a well-worn flight path with regular connections from major capital cities.

There’s accommodation for every budget from camping to middle-tier motels, the five-star Sails in the Desert, and the indulgent wilderness camp, Longitude 131.

Whatever you do, book a Sounds of Silence dinner, or the more upmarket Tali Wiru dinner, in the sand dunes to enjoy champagne, canapés, didgeridoo, gourmet food and star gazing.


What we love: Sunrise over the Rock/hot-air balloon flights/dot-painting classes
When to go: April to September
Leave time for: A walk around Uluru with an indigenous guide

Find out more about Northern Territory

Do you have a favourite NT travel tale? Why not share it with our members?


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    COMMENTS

    To make a comment, please register or login
    Watto
    25th Feb 2017
    2:51pm
    No 5 Ayers Rock would be the one for me
    LarryFine
    25th Feb 2017
    6:22pm
    We found the Sound of Silence nothing like what is advertised.
    We found that it was expensive, a long way from Uluru, meats over cooked on the BBQ and buffet salads of very average quality.
    Agents that recommend it obviously haven't tried it.
    LarryFine
    25th Feb 2017
    6:22pm
    We found the Sound of Silence nothing like what is advertised.
    We found that it was expensive, a long way from Uluru, meats over cooked on the BBQ and buffet salads of very average quality.
    Agents that recommend it obviously haven't tried it.
    fish head
    26th Feb 2017
    10:27pm
    Beware the day trips out of Darwin to waterfalls and rock art. Some of them require scrambling and rock hopping to an extreme degree. I was of the opinion that I would have little bother being still quite active. Oh dear, the rock hopping around the pool at the base of one of the big waterfalls did for me in a major way. I shuffled for 3 days afterwards. Yes, suitably humbled.


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