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  • Writer's pictureGlenna

Driving from Alice Springs to Darwin

Driving from Alice Springs to Darwin is long, dry, and hot, but there are some great stopping points along the way! Break up the trek with these national parks, hot springs, and historic spots.

Alice Springs

There is no free or cheap camping near Alice, unless you camp at one of the rest stops which are quite loud as they are right next to the road. The best free camping spot we found was Redbank Waterhole about an hour south of Alice, but the road in was quite rough. We were fine going in with our 4WD rig but our friends just managed it with 2 camper vans. We'd recommend G'Day Mate Tourist Park if you're in need of something in town.

We stopped in Alice Springs to stock up on groceries and cold drinks, and continued on to Karlu Karlu/Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve. There are plenty of quirky roadhouses along the way. Our favourite was Wycliffe Well, which apparently is the U.F.O capital of Australia. Look, we found Elvis!!!

Driving from Alice Springs to Darwin Wycliffe Well

Our least favourite road house on this stretch? Ti-Tree with $1.95 per litre diesel fuel... Ouch.

Devils Marbles / Karlu Karlu

From Alice Springs: 4 hours

Camping here is $7.70 per person. There are drop toilets and a few shelters, but no other facilities. It's stunning at sunset, but very hot during the day with little shade available.

Driving from Alice Springs to Darwin Devils Marbles park
Driving from Alice Springs to Darwin Devils Marbles camping
Driving from Alice Springs to Darwin Devils Marbles camp
Devils Marbles stones

You can walk among the boulders on several trails and read a bit about the stories surrounding this place.

Devils Marbles

There are a few areas of this park you're not supposed to photograph, so please be respectful.

Tennant Creek (1 hour north) has plenty of fuel and an IGA for a restock if you're driving through to Daly Waters.

Daly Waters Historic Pub

From Devils Marbles: 5 hours

We stopped here at the recommendation of some fellow road trippers. Camping is $16 per person. While it was a cool pub, we were disappointed that they'd stopped doing live music just 2 weeks prior. There's live music here every night during the dry season, but we were just coming into the wet. Regardless, it's a very "Outback" place to stop for a night.

Check out all of the funny signage, old military helicopters and trucks, and best of all, the swimming pool out back. There's a bunch of merch here as well, where our Canadian friends loaded up on C.U. in the N.T. stubby holders.

Driving from Alice Springs to Darwin Outback pub

Mataranka Thermal Pool

From Daly Waters: 2 hours

We'd heard rave reviews about this spot. It was so hot the day we visited that the water wasn't really refreshing, but it was crystal clear and a beautiful spot for a swim. There are bathrooms and a cafe here, and it's about a 10 minute walk from the parking lot to the pools.

Look, my ring matches!

We soaked for a bit and then headed back to our cars for some lunch.

A lot of reviews of this place complained about the bats. They were rather loud, but since we were there around midday, most of them were sleeping. Just wear a hat and you'll be fine!

Mataranka Hot Springs bats

Bitter Springs

From Mataranka Hot Springs: 10 minutes

I couldn't quite capture the beauty of this place, but the water was so clear and it was such a brilliant blue! There is a campground within walking distance of the springs, but we decided to push on to Katherine.

Driving from Alice Springs to Darwin Bitter Springs

Bring an inflatable if you have one to float down the river, which has a mild current. There's a platform at the end, leading up to a pathway that takes you back to the beginning. The best part about this place is that (like all of the hot springs) entry is free, so you can stay as long as you like!

Katherine Hot Springs

From Bitter Springs: 1 hour

We camped at the Riverview Tourist Village in Katherine as our friends were having some mechanical issues with their van. It was a decent caravan park, although very close to the road.

It's about a 10 minute walk through the back of the park to the hot springs. We explored the upper pool first, which was gorgeous and not "hot" but lukewarm. There's a metal ladder to get down into the pool and a platform to observe from above.

Driving from Alice Springs to Darwin Katherine Hot Springs

The lower pools are more built-up, with stone walls and stairs and platforms to sit on.

Katherine Hot Springs lower pool
Driving from Alice Springs to Darwin Katherine Hot Springs lower pool
Katherine Hot Springs pool

What a lovely place! It wasn't too busy at the lower pools, so we had it mostly to ourselves.

Katherine Gorge, Nitmiluk National Park

From Katherine: 25 minutes

The next morning we drove half an hour north of Katherine to visit Nitmiluk National Park and the beautiful Katherine Gorge. We'd recommend booking your boat tour ahead of time as they fill up. Because of COVID they were only offering the 9am and 11am tours, and a kayak tour that was far out of our price range.

Driving from Alice Springs to Darwin Katherine Gorge tour
Katherine Gorge hike

We took a short hike between gorges and boarded a smaller boat for the second section of the tour.

Katherine Gorge boat tour Driving from Alice Springs to Darwin
Katherine Gorge walking path
Katherine Gorge boat tour
Driving from Alice Springs to Darwin Katherine Gorge

If you want to see the gorge this is the only way, other than the more expensive kayak tour. The hiking trails were closed when we were here due to extreme heat. Everyone says this is the best thing to do in the area, but in our opinion $100 is way too much to sit in a boat for 2 hours. We got a little background history from our guide, but not enough to warrant that amount of money.

If you want to see something spectacular without paying through the nose, visit one of the NT's incredible hot springs or waterfalls for free.

Edith Falls, Nitmiluk National Park

From Katherine: 45 minutes

This was our favourite stop on this leg of the trip.

Driving from Alice Springs to Darwin Edith Falls

The lower pool is just 2 minutes from the parking lot and campground. Bring your floaties! You can swim up to the waterfall, but climbing isn't allowed as it's very slippery.

Edith Falls Driving from Alice Springs to Darwin
Bobby in his happy place
Edith Falls Nitmiluk National Park NT
Floating at Edith Falls NT

We camped at the Leliyn Campground, which is $12 per person and well worth it. There are showers and BBQs in lovely, quiet wooded campground. The bugs were pretty bad at night but we just hunkered down in the trailer to play some board games.

We got up early in the morning to hike to the upper pool, which we'd highly recommend. The hike itself was stunning and the upper pool was a great spot for a swim.

Hiking Nitmiluk National Park
Our Canadian friends, Dave and Melitza
Edith Falls upper pool hike
Edith Falls pathway
Driving from Alice Springs to Darwin Edith Waterfall
Edith Falls upper pool lookout

After climbing down to the lower pool for a dip, we headed north.

On to Darwin!

From Katherine you can head straight up to Darwin, or detour to some amazing national parks. We chose to visit a few national parks with our friends before they headed back to Canada!

We hope this gives you some ideas if you'll be driving from Alice Springs to Darwin. Subscribe below or follow us on social media to see photos of Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks, coming soon!



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