Take a Road Trip From Darwin to Adelaide on the Stuart Highway

Darwin to Adelaide road trips in Australia banner

The Stuart Highway will take visitors on a huge journey from Australia's tropical north region to the southern city of Adelaide. The highway passes through the iconic Red Centre, and a few short detours will lead to iconic sights like Uluru and Kings Canyon. You'll also pass through plenty of interesting, remote towns along the way as you make your way through the outback. Start your road trip in Darwin, and take your time as you cross the country from north to south.


Day One - See the sights of Darwin

Before you start your Stuart Highway road trip, take some time to explore the largest city in the Northern Territory. Darwin has a fascinating history, which you can discover on a walking tour. Visit Bicentennial Park, the Darwin waterfront, and explore the streets of the city centre. You'll learn about the 1942 bombing of Darwin, and the devastation caused by Cyclone Tracy in 1974.

Introduce yourself to some of the Territory's famous residents at Crocosaurus Cove. Visitors can go cage swimming with the massive saltwater crocodiles at the facility. If you're in town on a Thursday or Sunday, make sure you finish your day with a visit to the Mindil Beach Sunset Market, where you'll find art, craft, and delicious food.

Mindil Beach, Darwin

Day Two - Take a day trip to Kakadu National Park

With a rental car, you'll have the freedom to take a day trip to the massive Kakadu National Park. There are far too many sights in the park to see them all in a day - but you can focus on some of the highlights. If you want to see saltwater crocodiles in the wild, one of the best places in the country to spot them is the Mary River. Take a cruise and witness the huge creatures up close.

Continue through Kakadu, stopping at the Mamukala Wetlands to watch the hundreds of birds that inhabit the area. From Jabiru, head north toward the Ubirr rock art site. You'll be able to see the famous Cahill's Crossing, which leads into Arnhem Land, and see a fantastic view from the Nadab Lookout.

Ubirr rock art site

Day Three - Visit the waterfalls of Litchfield National Park

Leave Darwin and head south toward Litchfield National Park. Although smaller than Kakadu, you'll find plenty of fantastic hiking trails and swimming spots to keep you busy in Litchfield. One of the first unique sights you will come across are the gigantic termite mounds that can be more than 2 metres tall.

The most popular pastime in Litchfield National Park is swimming. The picturesque Florence Falls are a popular swimming destination, and there are some scenic hiking trails surrounding the area. Take the trail to Buley Rockhole, where you'll find a number of natural spas, perfect for relaxation. Make sure you also add the beautiful Wangi Falls to your itinerary.

Litchfield National Park waterfalls

Day Four - Take a cruise along Katherine Gorge

Head south toward another iconic sight of the Northern Territory. En route to Katherine Gorge, make sure you stop at the photogenic Edith Falls. This is another popular swimming spot, and a short hike will take you to a great viewing area of the Upper Pools. From the falls, it is just a short drive to Katherine and the nearby Nitmiluk National Park.

The best way to experience the gorge is by taking a scenic cruise. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife along the way, and see if you can spot any Aboriginal rock art in the area. If you'd prefer to explore the gorge by foot, you can follow a number of walking trails that lead up through the rocks to provide great views.

Katherine Gorge cruise

Day Five - Visit the famous Elsey Homestead

Most Australians will be familiar with the Jeannie Gunn novel "We of the Never Never". The stunning Elsey National Park was the inspiration for the book, and visitors can see a replica of the homestead, and follow walking trails through the inspiring park.

The springs and thermal pools are the highlight of the area. Relax in the Mataranka Thermal Pool before visiting nearby Bitter Springs. The springs are hidden away in the tropical forest, and visitors can float along and try and spot some of the native wildlife throughout the forest.

Elsey National Park thermal pools

Day Six - Spot UFO's in Wycliffe Well

Experience the long, open roads of the Northern Territory as you make your way south toward the small community of Daly Waters. The town marks the intersection of the Stuart Highway with the famous Savannah Way. You can't go past without enjoying a meal at the iconic Daly Waters pub.

Continue south toward Wycliffe Well. This small outback town has come to be known as one of the best places to see UFO's in Australia. Even if you don't see a UFO during your stay, the town is a great place to rest for the night, and visit the nearby Devil's Marbles.

Devils Marbles, Northern Territory

Day Seven - Explore Alice Springs

It will take you just over four hours to reach Alice Springs. If you need a break along the way, stop in for a meal at the small town of Ti Tree before continuing south. When you arrive at Alice Springs, admire the view of the magnificent Macdonnell Ranges, or even take a quick drive toward the mountains for a better view.

In Alice Springs itself, visit the numerous Aboriginal art galleries and learn more about the cultural history of the area. For the best view in town, head to the top of Anzac Hill, where you'll be able to see Alice Springs and the Macdonnell Ranges in all their glory. It's also a great spot to watch the sunset.

Alice springs view

Day Eight - Detour to Kings Canyon

Although you will have to detour from the Stuart Highway, you can't pass this close to Kings Canyon without visiting. Located in Watarrka National Park, you'll discover some of the best outback scenery here. This is the Red Centre at its best - and there is also a resort conveniently located at the canyon.

Explore the canyon on foot along one of the popular hiking trails. While there are less-challenging options, a lot of visitors prefer the six kilometre Kings Canyon Rim Walk - where the views are unsurpassed.

Kings Canyon rim walk

Day Nine - Watch the sunset over Uluru

Drive from Kings Canyon to Australia's most well-known landmark. The best way to see Uluru is from the base walk. The full loop is more than 10 kilometres long, but you can park in the different car parks and explore separate sections of the base walk rather than completing the full circuit.

Before you watch the magical sunset over Uluru, take a drive to nearby Kata Tjuta. These giant rock formations are said to be 500 million years old. Follow the hiking trails around Kata Tjuta, and learn more about the local Anangu people and their connection to the area.

Uluru aerial view

Day Ten - Stay underground in Australia's opal mining town

Settle in for a long drive as the Northern Territory turns into South Australia. Your final destination for the day is Coober Pedy, a truly isolated and unique outback town. Many of the houses and cafes are built underground, in order to combat the powerful outback heat. The accommodation options here will definitely be memorable.

Coober Pedy is the Opal Capital of the World, and you can choose to fossick for one of your own. Alternatively, you can purchase the stones in the numerous gift shops throughout town. If you want to extend your stay in Coober Pedy, you can also take a scenic flight to Australia's largest lake - Lake Eyre.

Coober Pedy welcome sign

Day Eleven - Break up your trip with a stay in Port Augusta

Follow the Stuart Highway through the endless plains of South Australia until you each Port Augusta. Located at the top of Spencer Gulf, you'll only have a short journey from here to Adelaide.

Anyone interested in learning more about the vegetation of the outback should visit the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden. You can also visit the Wadlata Outback Centre to find out more about the history of the region.

Port Augusta coastline

Day Twelve - Say goodbye to the outback

The outback will feel many miles away by the time you reach the big city of Adelaide. You'll find plenty of exciting attractions here, including the Art Gallery of South Australia, which hosts an impressive collection. It's also worth visiting the Adelaide Central Market near Victoria Square, where you will find a range of locally-sourced foods.

Having spent so much time travelling through the outback, it is worth a visit to the beautiful coastline of South Australia. Visit Glenelg, just a short distance from the city centre and enjoy a swim at one of Adelaide's most popular beaches.

Glenelg beach

Read more: