How to travel from Darwin to Alice Springs

Darwin and Alice Springs are both hot spots for travellers and two places which should appear on everyone’s travel itinerary. But at a jaw dropping 1,500km from each other, getting from one to the other can take time. And patience.

Most of the fun in travelling when there is no schedule or rush is exploring all those places you’d normally pass by when getting from A to B. The top end is full of amazing sights to see from national parks such as Kakadu and Nikmiluk where you’ll find the awe inspiring Katherine Gorge, down to the famous healing waters of the Mataranka Thermal Springs. The well-worn path from Darwin to Alice Springs has much to offer and makes for a once in a lifetime road trip. However, if time is not your friend and you want to make the journey in as little time as possible, buses and trains are your best bet. So which to choose…

If the Stuart Highway and the freedom to stop as and when you choose appeals, then hiring a camper van and driving the route could be for you. There is a ton of competition between rental companies in Darwin and organising a one way rental is pretty easy, and often decent value. The 16 hour journey is not to be taken lightly though, so make sure whatever van you rent (or buy) is in a good enough condition to get your safely to Alice. Breaking down on a remote highway in the desert is not recommended and something to be avoided at all costs. Take out breakdown cover and pack plenty of fuel, water and paper maps – GPS can be unreliable at best in parts of the desert. If you do decide to take the plunge and drive, you’ll be rewarded with epic vistas, stunning camp sites and the chance to take in all those places you’d miss if you did the journey any other way.

If you’d rather leave the driving to someone else, take a ride on one of the many reliable bus services and guided tours through the desert. Competitively priced, air conditioned and a great way to meet fellow travellers, the bus option is hugely popular. And with plenty of stopping points, those long hours on the road are nicely interrupted along the way. Total travel time comes in at a minimum of 22 hours and a ticket will set you back in the region of $300-400, depending if you get an express or more leisurely service. Common stopping points include the quirky mining town of Coober Pedy, the national park region of Katherine and Tennant Creek.

The last option, other than flying, and one not for the short of money is the world famous Ghan Railway. The Ghan is one of the world’s great rail journeys, with top class service, luxurious cabins and tasty meals. It’s a fantastic way to see all the beauty of the Outback from the comfort of an air conditioned cabin. The Ghan is a once in a lifetime experience and has a price tag to match so if you do decide to splash out, be prepared to pay big bucks for the privilege.

So however you make the journey from Darwin to Alice Springs, make sure you make it an adventure – this iconic journey is a trip into Australia’s heart.

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