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Take the ultimate road trip on the Explorers Way

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FLINDERS RANGES & THE EXPLORERS WAY – 19 DAYS FROM £3,969PP

Travel through Australia on this epic journey from Adelaide’s Southern Ocean to Darwin’s Timor Sea. 
 
Highlights include:

  • Fly with Singapore Airlines
  • Complimentary Singapore stopover*
  • Explore Flinders Ranges National Park
  • Go underground in Coober Pedy
  • Enjoy a Kakadu billabong cruise

Price includes international and internal flights, accommodation and touring.

To find out more, go to austravel.com/oceantooutback or call 0808 278 3953 and speak to one of Austravel’s expert travel designers.

* Limited time only, see austravel.com/oceantooutback for more information

Naming a highway the Explorers Way might sound like an attempt to rebrand a forlorn stretch of asphalt in the hope that it will draw a few adventurers. But that couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to the Stuart Highway. Few roads have the pedigree it boasts. Stretching from Port Augusta, in South Australia, to Darwin, in the Northern Territory, the 1,800-mile highway follows the route John McDouall Stuart took to become, in 1862, the first explorer to traverse the continent of Australia.

Whether you drive it south to north or vice versa, in one go or in sections, the highway is simply road-trip heaven, and, like me, you’ll want to return to it time and again.

Going south to north, you will fly into Adelaide, the vineyard city renowned for its festivals and the vast number of wineries on its doorstep. The only downside to this vibrant capital of South Australia is that it’s hard to leave, but then you’ll find that to be true of a great many stops along the Explorers Way.

The freedom of the open road on the way to the magnificent Flinders Ranges

Cycle through the beautiful Clare Valley, visiting vineyards such as Skillogalee on the way



Head north, arriving in one of the country’s oldest winemaking regions, the Clare Valley. This region produces some of the best dry whites in the country. Walk or cycle the Riesling Trail, which winds for 22 miles past a patchwork of vineyards, many wineries and cellar doors, including Skillogalee and Sevenhill, which was established by Jesuits for the purpose of making sacramental wine.

The Flinders Ranges, three-and-a-half hours away, take beauty and drama to the max. You’ll find much to keep you here: guided walks around Aboriginal sacred sites; three astronomical observatories from which to gaze on star-studded skies; and colonies of marsupials such as the yellow-footed rock-wallaby, which conservation efforts have brought back from near extinction.

Cycle through the beautiful Clare Valley, visiting vineyards such as Skillogalee on the way

The remote outback town of Coober Pedy is close to the extraordinary Breakaways and Painted Desert



From Port Augusta, it’s six hours to Coober Pedy, a remote Outback town that sprung up after a 14-year-old boy found an opal gemstone there. About 85 per cent of the world’s opals are mined there now, and most of its residents live underground, where temperatures are half what they usually are above. Tourists can try their hand at “noodling”, rooting for small chips of opal in the heaps of excavated earth that crowd the landscape. If you fail to strike opal, a pootle around the stunning orange, yellow and white landscape of the Painted Desert will ease your disappointment.

A seven-hour drive brings you to Alice Springs, at the very heart of the Northern Territory’s Red Centre. This town called Alice is a buzzy, take-me-as-I-am place, filled with galleries and backpacker-friendly watering holes. It’s the Aboriginal art capital of Australia, and a jumping-off point for those wishing to explore Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon. Stretch your legs for a few miles on the Larapinta Trail, which runs along the backbone of the West MacDonnell Ranges, and starts at Alice Springs.

The further north you go, the balmier the air, the greener the landscape and the quirkier the roadhouses get. After four-and-a-bit hours you’ll reach Wycliffe Well, a roadhouse-cum-holiday-park with a difference: it claims to be the UFO capital of Australia, and the walls of its restaurant are papered with reports of flying-saucer sightings.

The remote outback town of Coober Pedy is close to the extraordinary Breakaways and Painted Desert

The huge granite boulders known as the Devil’s Marbles are a holy site for the Warumungu people



Ninety minutes away is Tennant Creek, where Aboriginal – specifically Warumungu – culture is dominant. Find out what that means at the Nyinkka Nyunyu Art and Culture Centre in town. Seventy miles south, you’ll have been able to pay your respects at one of their holy sites, the Devil’s Marbles, a collection of granite boulders believed to be the eggs of the Rainbow Serpent, a creature from Aboriginal mythology.

When you reach Katherine, pull up a stool at the frankly legendary Daly Waters pub. Its take on surf and turf, a beef and barramundi barbecue, is worth a serious detour, and if you fall foul of its hospitality, you can always stay the night.

The huge granite boulders known as the Devil’s Marbles are a holy site for the Warumungu people

Adelaide, the vibrant capital of South Australia, is a hard place to leave



Katherine is a small town with big appeal, as it is the ideal base from which to explore Nitmiluk National Park, “where the Outback meets the tropics”. This maze of waterways, gorges, rapids and falls is frequented by cockatoos, honeyeaters and the odd crocodile. The hardier among you will enjoy the Jatbula Trail, a five-day trek through monsoon forests, following a path traditionally used by the Jawoyn people.

From Katherine, it is a mere three hours to Darwin, the Northern Territory’s relaxed, outdoorsy, gently steamy capital, whose weekend markets underline its remoteness from other Australian cities and its relative proximity to southeast Asian ones. As you pull into town, the only regret will be that your road trip has come to an end.

Adelaide, the vibrant capital of South Australia, is a hard place to leave

Explorers Way is an 1,800-mile highway that traces the route of John McDouall Stuart, the first explorer to cross Australia



A driver's guide to great stop-offs along the way

  • Adelaide - a hub for foodies and festival-goers, South Australia’s capital has great charm and a cosmopolitan feel
  • The Clare Valley – situated in the Mount Lofty Ranges, it started producing wines in the early 1840s
  • Arkaroo Rock – a significant cultural site for the Adnyamathanha people of the Flinders Ranges. Its 5,000-year-old cave paintings depict the creation of the nearby Wilpena Pond among other things
  • Brachina Gorge – home to fragments of a meteorite that struck Australia 600 million years ago, as well as remarkable examples of Ediacaran fossils, a record of some of the earliest forms of life on our planet
  • Coober Pedy – with a name deriving from the Aboriginal words “kupa piti”, meaning white man’s hole in the ground, this Outback town is the opal capital of the world, and most of its residents live underground
  • Painted Desert – an area of coloured clays and geological formations with white, orange, yellow and pink predominating
  • Alice Springs - this thriving outpost is widely known as “the Aboriginal art capital of Australia”
  • Larapinta Trail – 11 miles west of Alice Springs, Simpsons Gap on the Larapinta Trail is an important spiritual place for the Arrernte people and home to the black-footed rock-wallaby
  • Wycliffe Well – due to the number of UFO “sightings”, the roadhouse settlement is called “the UFO capital of Australia”
  • The Devil’s Marbles – 70 miles south of Tennant Creek, these huge granite boulders are considered holy by the Warumungu people
  • Edith Falls – a series of cascades and pools on the western side of Nitmiluk National Park
  • Darwin – the culture of the Northern Territory capital is influenced by southeast Asian cities as much as by Australian ones

Explorers Way is an 1,800-mile highway that traces the route of John McDouall Stuart, the first explorer to cross Australia