Kata Tjuta, Northern Territory © Tourism NT/Nic Morley
Adelaide to Darwin on the Explorers Way
Get ready for an epic Australian road trip through the heart of the outback.
Taking in some of the country's most iconic natural treasures, the Explorers Way is a road trip of epic proportions. Find delicious gourmet experiences, rich cultural experiences and the kind of beauty you'll only find in the Australian outback.
Drive through the heart of Australia from Adelaide to Darwin on the Explorers Way.
Day 1: Adelaide to the Clare Valley
- Drive time: about two hours
- Distance: 142 kilometres (88 miles)
Drive north from Adelaide through picturesque farming country to the Clare Valley, one of Australia’s premium wine regions, and an important pastoral region in South Australia. When you arrive, start with a visit to the region's oldest vineyard, Sevenhill Cellars, established in 1851. Afterwards, enjoy a mouthwatering lunch at Skillogalee (one of 40 local cellar doors) or Seed Winehouse + Kitchen.
In the afternoon, drive about 20 minutes to visit the heritage village of Mintaro, where you can wander around remarkable buildings including the magnificent 19th-century mansion, Martindale Hall. If you’re up for a slightly longer stroll, join the Riesling Trail; a beautiful walking and cycling path that offers outstanding views of the countryside, and the many vineyards between Auburn and Clare.
Day 2: Clare Valley to Wilpena Pound
- Drive time: about 3.5 hours
- Distance: 298 kilometres (185 miles)
From Clare Valley, head north to the Flinders Ranges, South Australia’s largest mountain range. After about 1.5 hours, stop in Melrose – the oldest town in the Flinders Ranges – for a meal at the North Star Hotel. Afterwards, hop back in the car and drive 45 minutes to the town of Quorn. Stretch your legs here with a walk around the town’s quirky heritage buildings, or ride the authentic stream train (from April to October), the Pichi Richi Railway, for stunning views of the outback.
From here it’s another 1.5 hour-drive to Wilpena Pound in Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park; an enormous natural amphitheatre surrounded by breathtaking scenery in the heart of the Flinders Ranges National Park.Show more
Day 3: Wilpena Pound to Port Augusta
- Drive time: about two hours
- Distance: 165 kilometres (102.5 miles)
Explore the outstanding landscape of the Flinders Ranges today on a scenic drive through Parachilna Gorge, where red river gums meet dramatic rock formations. Step out of your car to explore the enchanting outback scenery — you’ll feel like you’ve entered another world. Then, continue driving to reach the Prairie Hotel, where you can tuck into one of their famously delicious platters of goat, camel, and kangaroo meat.
If you have a few days to spare, head further north for an off-road driving adventure along the legendary 630-kilometre (385.5-mile) Oodnadatta Track. Otherwise, make your way to Port Augusta.Show more
Day 4: Port Augusta to Coober Pedy
- Drive time: about 5.5 hours
- Distance: 542 kilometres (337 miles)
Today you’ll drive part of the Stuart Highway, one of Australia’s longest highways, spanning all the way from Port Augusta in South Australia to Darwin in the Northern Territory.
After about two hours, stop for a break at the Island Lagoon lookout for breathtaking views over the pink-coloured salt lake. Once you’ve stocked up on Instagram-worthy photos, hop back in the car and continue on towards Woomera Heritage and Visitor Information Centre, where you’ll find the Woomera Interactive Rocket Range Museum. Take a stroll around the museum’s historical displays to learn about Woomera's vital role in the past, present and future history of Australia.Show more
Days 5 and 6: Coober Pedy to Uluru
- Drive time: about 7.5 hours
- Distance: 752 kilometres (467.2 miles)
Coober Pedy is Australia’s unique and quirky ‘underground town’, and the largest producer of precious opal in the world. Tour the town, visiting underground churches, homes, mines and shops. Later in the afternoon, head to the spectacular Kanku-Breakaways Conservation Park, home to 15,000 hectares of majestic landscape, abundant with native flora species and wildlife. Stay for sunset to witness the striking orange rocks glow under the ruby skies.
After a memorable stay in Coober Pedy, start your journey toward the heart of Australia, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Make the eight-hour drive, stopping for a detour to the Painted Desert, an ancient inland seabed bursting with ruby-coloured desert hills.
Day 7: Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
You've now made it to the spiritual epicentre of Australia. This morning, take the ranger-guided Mala Walk, a two-kilometre (1.2-mile) section of the Uluru base walk. Your guide will share the Creation stories of rock formations and demonstrate traditional tools used by Anangu.
Relax for the afternoon (or book a dot painting experience) before enjoying a dinner under the stars. Be sure to set up a seat for sunset – it's an experience you won't want to miss.
Book in for the next two nights (or more if you have time) at Ayers Rock Resort.
Day 8: Kata Tjuta
You'll have to rise early to catch the sunrise at Kata Tjuta, a breathtaking rock formation found a 40-minute drive from Ayers Rock Resort. From the viewing platform, you'll have a perfect view as the sun rises over both Kata Tjuta and Uluru.
After the sunrise turns to bright daylight, check out the red rock domes up close on one of several walks. The Walpa Gorge Walk is an easy to moderate 2.6-kilometre (1.6-mile) return trail, while the well-known Valley of the Winds walk is longer and more difficult. A total of 7.4 kilometres (4.6 miles), this circuit takes you between the domes, through creek beds and away from the larger crowds, making it worth the effort.Show more
Days 9 and 10: Uluru to Kings Canyon
- Drive time: about three hours
- Distance: 302 kilometres (188 miles)
Leaving Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, drive back along the Lasseter Highway and Luritja Highway to reach Watarrka National Park and Kings Canyon. This majestic destination features towering sandstone walls, walking trails and views that will leave you speechless.
Not far out of Uluru, you will come across Curtin Springs. Take a quick stop here to grab a refreshment and to view Mt Connor and the nearby stretch of salt lakes. If you are interested in local art or a salt lake tour, contact Curtin Springs for more information.Show more
Day 11: Kings Canyon/Watarrka National Park
For an unforgettable view of Kings Canyon, rise before dawn and follow the six-kilometre (3.7-mile) trail along the Kings Canyon Rim Walk. There are other smaller walks on offer if you aren’t up for the big hike, but take your time and really immerse yourself in the surroundings.
In the afternoon, join an Aboriginal cultural experience located close to Kings Creek Station with Karrke Aboriginal Cultural Experience and Tours. Here you can learn more about Central Australian culture, specifically the Luritja and Pertame (Southern Aranda) people. Take a short walk with Peter and Christine who will show you local bush medicines used for spiritual and physical healing as well as local bush tucker – which you might even be lucky enough to try.
Days 12 and 13: Kings Canyon to Alice Springs
- Drive time: about 3.5 hours
- Distance: 323 kilometres (200 miles)
You may want to spend a few more days near Kings Canyon, but if you're ready to hit the road again, it's time to head to Alice Springs. This thriving outback township is full of art, cultural, wildlife and nature.
Spend your first day in Alice Springs visiting Aboriginal art galleries, exploring historic attractions like the Telegraph Station Historical Reserve and taking a tour at the famous Kangaroo Sanctuary (bookings required).Show more
Days 14 - 16: Alice Springs to Katherine
- Drive time: about 11 hours, over three days
- Distance: 1,183 kilometres (735 miles)
Over the next few days, make your way toward Katherine. Start the journey with a five-hour drive from Alice Springs to Tennant Creek, where you can stop in at Karlu Karlu (Devils Marbles). These massive granite boulders are sacred to the local Warumungu people and are strewn across a wide shallow valley. Spend the night in Tennant Creek.Show more
Day 17: Katherine and surrounds
Katherine is a fascinating outback town, and is also your perfect base for exploring nearby Nitmiluk National Park. If there's one experience not to be missed here, it's a cruise down the jaw-dropping Nitmiluk Gorge system. Alternatively, take a scenic flight to see this incredible landscape from above. Book either experience (or both!) with Nitmiluk Tours.
Day 18: Katherine to Litchfield
The Northern Territory offers one spectacular national park after another – and Litchfield is no exception. Leave Katherine in the early morning and leave yourself time for a few stops on the way to Litchfield National Park.
The first stop is Leliyn/Edith Falls, about a 45-minute drive north of Katherine. After a quick dip in the swimming hole, continue on to the Emerald Springs Roadhouse for great coffee and toasted sandwiches. Hop back on the road until you reach Litchfield National Park.Show more
Day 19: Litchfield to Darwin
- Drive time: about 1.5 hours
- Distance: 108 kilometres (67 miles)
It's the final day of your journey, and you're officially an 'explorer.' Head out of Litchfield National Park and make the 1.5-hour drive to Darwin, Australia's northern-most capital city. You will find yourself in a contemporary multicultural metropolis of open-air markets, festivals, global cuisine and outdoor lifestyle.
This article was written by the South Australian Tourism Commission and Tourism Northern Territory. For more information about road trips in South Australia, visit southaustralia.com. For more information on road trips in the Northern Territory, visit northernterritory.com.