Everyone told us to book a flight. To drive from Canberra to Alice Springs was just too much of a trek, they said. Especially considering myself and Mike had never before driven a manual; a 4WD towing a trailer no less. Though surely the Australian Outback, with its wide open spaces and endless stretches of road, was a fantastic place to learn!
It took us 4 days to complete the 2,558 km journey. One shattered back windscreen, a dozen camels, hundreds of kangaroos, and one emu pizza later, our determined group of four pulled into watch the sun set in a spectacular fashion over Australia’s most iconic landmark – Uluru.
Traveling overland, and crossing the country by road, is the best way to discover Australia, and the only way to truly experience the Australian Outback. Sure, flights frequently service Darwin and Alice Springs from other popular ports within the country, and you can have Uluru “done” within a day, though you haven’t truly experienced Australia until you have driven overland.
Why? Because what truly makes Australia great are the quirky little eccentric towns in-between main tourist destinations, where you can share a beer with colorful outback characters in a legendary outback pub.
What makes Australia great are its wide open spaces of barren bush land, red earth, rocks and dry trees. What makes Australia great is its incredible range of diverse landscapes and exotic wildlife which you won’t truly experience from the window seat of a plane.
Catching a flight means you miss the opportunity to sleep under the stars in the middle of a hot summer’s night with a perfect view of the Milky Way. Catching a flight means you miss witnessing the color of the earth as the sun beats down its last rays. Catching a flight means you miss spread out sheep stations and road trains rolling by. Catching a flight means you miss experiencing the “true Australia”.
Driving across Australia fulfills every film cliché. Kangaroos jump out from the woodwork, and emu’s run alongside your 4WD. Hiking trails end at dramatic, cavernous gorges where the year round warm weather makes for perfect swimming conditions, 4WD tracks lead straight to UNESCO World Heritage sites.
We stopped in little unheard of towns, and drove through off the beaten path destinations; where technology hardly existed and exotic wildlife roamed free. We admired aboriginal art and enjoyed the flexibility and freedom to explore off the beaten path; stopped the car to trek through rocky gorges and slept in swag underneath the Southern Cross eating bush food.
And while the journey itself was the most fantastic experience of my life, nothing prepared me for the experience of Uluru. The large sandstone rock stands 348 m high (1,142 ft). It is extremely impressive, and glows a magnificent red at dawn and sunset – an absolutely spectacular sight to see.
So if destinations like Chambers Pillar, Nitmiluk National Park, Kakadu National Park, Kings Canyon and Uluru (Ayers Rock) are on your bucket list, consider driving.
Drive cross country across Australia and you’ll forever remember it as the time you traveled overland.