Travel from vibrant Darwin to cosmopolitan Adelaide, discovering the essence of Australia.
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One of the world’s greatest journeys, the epic Explorers Way, extends from Darwin to Adelaide, or vice versa, tracing the footsteps of John McDouall Stuart, who, in 1862, became the first European to make the south-north crossing of Australia. He then repeated his feat in the opposite direction.
Things have moved on from the days when the Scottish explorer set off with half a dozen horses, two companions and a six-week supply of rations. Today, the route is no less spectacular, but there are plenty of welcoming hotels to keep sybarites happy along the way.
Australia’s cities are a destination in their own right, so stay for at least a couple of nights when you arrive fresh off the plane in Darwin (tip: book one of Singapore Airlines’ new suites or business-class upgrades with a bed, and experience a hotel in the sky). Make time to enjoy sunset and seafood at Pee Wee’s at the Point, overlooking Darwin Harbour, and then settle in to one of the contemporary rooms at Vibe Hotel on the waterfront.
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Spectacular Uluru is at the heart of Australia's Red Centre
A cruise through Nitmiluk Gorge at sunset is the perfect way to end the day
The starting point for the Explorers Way is the tip of the Northern Territory – the Top End – where you’ll find Bamurru Plains, a luxury safari lodge with views over the vast crocodile- and buffalo-inhabited floodplains – Oz’s version of the Okavango Delta. From the lodge, with its ten timber and bamboo bungalows, and an infinity pool, you can take guided bush walks and wildlife drives into the wetland wilderness.
Next, you’ll hit the road to Katherine, 200 miles southeast of Darwin, where the Outback meets the tropics, creating the stunning landscape of Nitmiluk National Park: fast-flowing rivers, sandstone gorges, crashing waterfalls and ancient Aboriginal rock art. Remote Cicada Lodge makes a luxurious base from which to enjoy river cruises and bird spotting, led by indigenous Jawoyn guides. Finish the day with sunset drinks on the pool deck and gourmet suppers.
Lie in bed and soak up this view of Uluru at the Longitude 131˚ luxury lodge
Wind your way south to the magical Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park at the heart of Australia’s Red Centre. Despite the rugged wilderness of the desert, it’s a five-star experience at Longitude 131˚, one of the world’s most impressive luxury lodges with its 15 white tents, pool and open-air restaurant, all of which have incredible views of Uluru. You can even see the massive sandstone monolith from your bed.
Kata Tjuta, an unmissable cluster of enormous red, domed rocks, lies 19 miles away. Book a scenic flight at sunrise and see both in style.
An extraordinary stop-off as you cross into South Australia is Coober Pedy, with its underground homes created by miners digging for opal in the early 1900s. Explore tunnels, visit a church beneath the ground and splash out on beautiful opal jewellery before spending the night in a cave-like room at the Desert Cave Hotel.
See the magnificent Flinders Ranges on a morning flight over Wilpena Pound
No trip along the Explorers Way would be complete without visiting the Flinders Ranges, the largest mountain range in South Australia that is home to towering granite peaks and the elusive yellow-footed rock-wallaby. From the luxury Rawnsley Park Station eco villas, nestled at the foot of the ranges, you’ll see the night sky in breathtaking detail. To make sure you don’t miss a moment of the “million star” experience, there are even skylights above the beds.
If glamping is your thing, check into Ikara Safari Camp at Wilpena Pound Resort, where you’ll sleep in a deluxe tent with private deck and fire pit. To help you explore, there are 4x4 tours, Aboriginal cultural tours, and scenic flights over the stunning Flinders Ranges.
The team from Appellation restaurant at The Louise in Barossa create some of Australia’s finest dining
As you continue south, you’ll drive through the Barossa, famed for its vineyards. If you're a wine lover, stop-off for a night at The Louise, which offers luxury suites with vineyard views, wine tastings and some of the country’s best fine dining at Appellation restaurant.
From The Louise, it’s less than an hour to Adelaide, where you can celebrate the end of your Oz adventure with cocktails at the rooftop Hennessy Lounge at the Mayfair Hotel.
If a road trip isn’t for you, opt instead for a journey on The Ghan, a luxurious train with plenty of off-train excursions during its three-night, four-day journey traversing the heart of Australia. You’ll enjoy five-star luxury, an impressive food and wine menu, and glorious views from the train’s panoramic windows.
For great glamping, check into Ikara Safari Camp at Wilpena Pound Resort