Roadtrips

Adelaide to Darwin Campervan Road Trip

An Adelaide to Darwin campervan road trip will take you through the heart of Australia. Travel from the mild coastal climate of Adelaide in the south, through the extreme and remote landscapes of the Australian outback, to the tropical climate of Darwin in the north.

Chantal
10 minute read
Photo Credit: PlanetWare.com

An Adelaide to Darwin campervan road trip will take you through the heart of Australia. Travel from the mild coastal climate of Adelaide in the south, through the extreme and remote landscapes of the Australian outback, to the tropical climate of Darwin in the north. This route is just over 3000km with 30 hours of total driving time, mostly following the Stuart Highway. It is best to complete this trip in 9 or more days. Stop along the way to see incredible views, to visit unique places, and to learn about the area’s history and culture are plentiful.

Best Time of Year

Leaving Adelaide between May and October is an ideal time to begin your trip in order to arrive in Darwin during the dry season to enjoy the best weather.

Day 1: Adelaide

The first stop on your Adelaide to Darwin campervan road trip of course is Adelaide. Adelaide is a small city close to great beaches complete with friendly people, shopping, and outdoorsy options. For a historic walk visit North Terrace. Here you can visit the Government House, War Memorial, State Library, University, Zoo, Botanic Gardens, and South Australian Museum all reside. If you are interested in café hopping while you travel, then check out Rundle Street, Melbourne Street, or O’Connell Street. Ready to eat? Walk along Gouger Street, The Parade, or Hutt Street until you find a restaurant that suits your taste buds and budget. For some greenery, attend the Adelaide Botanic Garden, Himeji Garden, or take a short hike to the Waterfall Gully. Before leaving Adelaide, be sure to grab some breakfast and stock up on supplies because this will be the last city you see for many days.

Day 2: Adelaide to Port Augustana

The road trip kicks off with a 3 hour and 20-minute drive north for 310km along part of the coastline to Port Augusta. Port Augustana is the gateway to the Flinders Ranges and the Outback. Take some time to stretch your legs and walk around the City Centre viewing the historic buildings. Stop by the Wadlata Outback Centre to learn about the history and evolution of the Australian Outback. Or you can take a stroll in the Botanic Gardens, or spend the afternoon at one of the beautiful beaches.

Where to eat in Port Augustana

Archer’s Table, Arid Lands Botanic Garden Cafe, Pastoral Hotel Motel Bistro, Ozzie’s Coffee Lounge

Where to sleep in Port Augustana:

Spear Creek Caravan Park, Mambray Creek Campground, Chinamans Creek Campground

If you have the time, spend a couple of days exploring the Flinders Ranges. The park is home to many aboriginal rock paintings and engravings including Arkaroo Rock. Visitors can walk a short trail to view these Adnyamathanha ochre and charcoal rock paintings that tell the creation story of Wilpena Pound, the area’s most prominent geological feature. Wilpena Pound is what remains of a 17km (10.6mi) long valley floor of an ancient mountain range that has eroded over millions of years. Experienced trekkers can walk across the floor of Wilpena Pound via the 23km (14.3mi) Malloga Falls trail or scenic flights can be booked to take in the views from above.

Wilpena Pound. Flinders Range, South Australia. Photographer unknown.

Day 3: Port Augustana to Coober Pedy

Day 3 of your Adelaide to Darwin campervan road trip take you on to Coober Pedy. Continue north on Stuart Highway from Port Augustana into the deserts of South Australia to arrive at Coober Pedy. This stretch of 540km takes about 5.5 hours to drive. This town is unique because, in order to cope with the extreme heat, residents of Coober Pedy have built many of their homes underground. Tour the Old Timers Mine & Museum or the Umoona Mine & Museum. View an underground church, check out Josephine’s Gallery and Kangaroo Orphanage- an art gallery/wildlife refuge. You can even stay the night in an underground hotel.

Photo credit: Lodo27/Wikipedia

Where to eat in Coober Pedy

Big Winch 360 Cafe & Wine Bar, John’s Pizza Bar, Umberto’s Restaurant, Crystal Cafe, Downunder Gallery & Cafe

Where to sleep in Coober Pedy

Desert Cave Hotel, The Underground Motel, Lookout Cave Motel, Ribas Underground Camping, Oasis Tourist Park, BIG4 Stuart Range Outback Resort

Day 4: Coober Pedy to Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park

The third day is the first very long day of driving- in total, you will cover 750km over 7.5 hours. Drive north along the Stuart Highway for about 5 hours. During this stretch, you will leave South Australia and enter Northern Territory. There will be a few places to stop including Marla and Kulgera where you can break up the drive. 

Head west on State Route 4 for about 2.5 hours to arrive at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre. The Cultural Centre is the ideal place to begin in order to learn about park activities. You can also learn the history and culture of the park’s traditional owners. The park’s main attraction is the natural wonder- Urulu. Uluru is a large sandstone rock formation that abruptly rises 348m from the flat lowlands surrounding it. 

Adelaide to Darwin Campervan Road Trip

If you have the time, spend a few days exploring the park. There are many different ways to experience the park including camel and motorcycle tours. Spend a day walking around all of the impressive formations in the area including Uluru, Kata Tjuta, and Kings Canyon. You can also take a scenic flight to view these giants from the air, and be sure to watch either the sunrise or sunset over Uluru.

Where to eat around Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park

Sounds of Silence, Arnguli Grill & Restaurant, Ayers Wok Noodle Bar

Where to sleep around Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park

Ayers Rock Campground, Curtin Springs Wayside Inn & Campground, Outback Pioneer Hotel & Lodge, The Desert Gardens Hotel

Day 5: Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park to Alice Springs

Day 5 of your Adelaide to Darwin campervan road trip takes us to Alice Springs. The drive to Alice Springs takes 5 hours over 497km. Follow State Route 4 east to connect back to Stuart Highway. Drive North along Stuart Highway to arrive in Alice Springs. Known as ‘Australia’s Outback Capital’, Alice Springs is a destination for your Australian bucket list. For outside ventures in the city, visit the Kangaroo Sanctuary, Alice Springs Desert Park, or simply lay out on a blanket for some quality stargazing. Historical significance in the area includes The Aboriginal Australia Culture Centre and The National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame. The Alice Springs Reptile Centre is an activity you won’t soon forget and neither would be booking a hot air balloon ride, a popular pastime in Alice Springs.

Where to eat in Alice Springs

Water Tank Cafe, Bean Tree Cafe, Page 27 Cafe, Montes, Kungkas Cafe, Red Dog Cafe

Where to sleep in Alice Springs

Alice Springs Heritage Caravan & Tourist Park, Alice Springs Tourist Park

Day 6: Alice Springs to Tennant Creek

Drive another 500km north along the Stuart Highway to reach Tennant Creek. This seemingly endless landscape has million-acre cattle stations, a rich mining history, and sacred aboriginal sites. While in Tennant Creek, stop by the Nyinkka Nyunyu Art & Cultural Centre to learn about local Warumungu life, culture, and history of the region. Visit the Battery Hill Mining Centre, and walk around the Telegraph Station Historical Reserve. Check out Karlu Karlu (Devil’s Marbles), the large spherical stones, at sunrise or sunset and learn about their ancient mythology from the interpretive signs.

Karlu Karlu at Tennant Creek

Where to eat in Tennant Creek

Top of Town Cafe & Deli, The Barkly Bar & Grill, Sporties Steak & Grill, Wok’s Up

Where to sleep in Tennant Creek

Devil’s Marbles Campground, Tennant Creek Caravan Park, Goldfields Hotel Motel

Day 7: Tennant Creek to Daly Waters

Day 7 of our Adelaide to Darwin campervan road trip takes us on to Daly Waters. Driving 407km north for about 4 hours and 10 minutes brings you to Daly Waters. The town’s main attraction is the famous Daly Waters Pub. The historic pub has been open since 1938. Over the years, visitors have all left their mark, decorating the walls of the pub in various trinkets. Not far from the pub is the Stuart Tree Historic Site, informative plaques describe the history of the site and the early explorer who carved his initials into the tree. 

Where to eat in Daly Waters

Daly Waters Pub 

Where to sleep in Daly Waters

Hi Way Inn Caravan Park, Daly Waters Pub (cabins, motel rooms, campground)

Day 8: Daly Waters to Katherine

The next stop is only a short 2 hour and 50-minute drive further over 276km. Here you will finally see the desert begin to fade in your rearview mirror as the tropical north begins to unfold in front of you. Katherine is a gateway to nearby Nitmiluk National Park. Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge is particularly famous for its many ancient rock paintings. While you’re staying in town be sure to visit the Katherine Museum to learn about local history and check out the Katherine Hot Springs- free, 24-hour, natural thermal pools on the banks of the Katherine River.

Photo Credit: NitmilukTours.com.au

If you have the time, plan to spend a few days in Katherine and the surrounding area. There are many bushwalks for all levels leading to watering holes, incredible views, or aboriginal rock art. Visit Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park and take a tour through the limestone cave system. Many other tours are available in the area including Didj Cultural tours, helicopter tours over Nitmiluk National Park, and boat cruises or canoe tours down the Katherine River. 

Photo Credit: PlanetWare.com

Where to eat in Katherine

Pop Rocket Cafe, The Finch Cafe, Maiden’s Lane, The Black Russian Caravan Bar, Fig Tree Bistro 

Where to sleep in Katherine:

Munbililla Campground, Katherine Holiday Park, Pine Tree Motel, Knotts Crossing Resort

Adelaide to Darwin Campervan Road Trip
Katherine Hotsprings

Day 9: Katherine to Darwin

The last leg of your journey is a 3 hour and 15-minute drive over 300km along the Stuart Highway to Darwin. Enjoy the tropical climate of the capital city of the Northern Territory, visit museums and art galleries, or get two for one at the Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. Take a day trip to the Tiwi Islands off the north coast of Darwin to learn about the indigenous and colonial history of the islands. Nature lovers will enjoy the island’s unique ecology and many rare species. Drive to nearby Litchfield National Park to go hiking, swim in waterfalls, and view the famous magnetic termite mounds.

Adelaide to Darwin campervan
Magnetic Termite Mounds in Litchfield

Where to eat in Darwin

Rabbithole, Four Birds, Phat Mango, Hanuman Restaurant, Moorish Cafe, Saffrron

Where to sleep in Darwin

Hidden Valley Caravan Park, Litchfield National Park campgrounds, Wagait Beach campground

Things to Remember

  • Travel with spare water, fuel, and food
  • Avoid driving at night to decrease wildlife collisions
  • Be aware of crocodile habitat in the Northern Territory when setting up camp

If you enjoyed Adelaide to Darwin Campervan Road Trip and wondering what to read next, check out these posts.

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