Enjoy marine life, plus the biodiverse and vibrant Top End on this exciting Adelaide to Darwin itinerary.
Price includes international and internal flights, accommodation and touring.
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Enjoying the great beaches and coastal ambiance of Adelaide and Darwin doesn’t mean that you need to miss out on unique wildlife and Outback adventures…
With so many things to see in Australia, it’s important to cherry-pick to get the best out of a holiday – but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out.
Getting off the beaten track is essential. A trip into the Australian Outback, sleeping under the stars and spotting amazing wildlife, is guaranteed to be a unique and memorable experience that will last a lifetime. Equally, it would be a tragedy to skip cultural hotspots such as lively Adelaide and tropical Darwin.
So, what’s the answer? Well, one way of making sure you enjoy the best of everything is to fly coast to coast. Use the thriving cities of Adelaide and Darwin, each with their own welcoming and quirky flavour, as gateways to the spectacular scenery that lies between them.
It’s the perfect combination of cities and coasts, wildlife and wild Outback scenery. Plus, it’s easy to do as there are flights into one city and out of the other with Singapore Airlines – at no extra cost. Virgin Australia covers the domestic hop in between, via Alice Springs, so you can start by making make your way to the Top End or head for the beautiful south: it’s your choice.
Those who like soaking up the sun can start in Adelaide, with its stunning coastline and beautiful beaches, lively cosmopolitan vibe, museums and galleries.
Food lovers should head for Orana, which is basking in the glow of being named Australia’s best restaurant: its dishes include paperbark, macadamia and zig-zag wattle and puffed kangaroo tendon.
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Experience the real Outback at Kangaluna Camp in the Gawler Ranges
The Royal Croquet Club is one of the largest venues in the Adelaide Fringe Festival
Adelaide is often compared with Edinburgh, the Scottish capital, because of its year-round arts festivals. Its Fringe runs for four weeks in February and March each year when all sorts of buildings, including warehouses and hotels, become pop-up venues where anyone can perform.
Another foodie pull is the region’s fabulous wine history. Adelaide has internationally renowned vineyards on its doorstep. There is Penfolds Magill Estate, the home of the Grange label; Seppeltsfield in the Barossa, where you can taste a tawny port from the year you were born; and the intriguing d’Arenberg Cube in the gorgeous McLaren Vale. This five-storey building is based on an uncompleted Rubik’s Cube and is nicknamed Willy Wonka’s wine factory. Its attractions include tasting rooms, a wine inhalation room and a wine-focused art gallery.
From the city, a half-hour flight will get you to Kangaroo Island. It's aspectacular wildlife haven, so you are never far from a ’roo or koala, and you can share a beach with a colony of rare sea lions. Plus, there’s top class restaurants and accommodation for those who prefer a more stylish wildlife encounter.
Driving across the salt flats at Lake Gairdner, which stretch for nearly 100 miles
Alternatively, for an outback experience, head to the Gawler Ranges National Park or the Flinders Ranges.
Wilpena Pound is a huge natural amphitheatre north of Adelaide in the heart of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. Spanning around 100km, it is best appreciated on a scenic flight where you can see the astonishing scale of the geological feature below. The park itself is rugged – perfect for a four-wheel-drive tour – and full of wildlife.
The Gawler Ranges are around seven hours northeast of the city, another national park teaming with wildlife and protected species, including the crimson mallee, the yellow-footed rock-wallaby and wild koalas. It is famous for its salt flats at Lake Gairdner, and the magnificent and other-worldly Organ Pipes, captivating rhyolite columns formed by volcanic activity 1,500 million years ago.
The park is on the unspoilt Eyre Peninsula, which stretches down to sweeping beaches, seaside towns and some of the best seafood in Australia. Continue south to the coast and you can enjoy amazing ocean-to-plate experiences, even harvesting your own oysters ready to eat at Coffin Bay. There’s also whale-watching cruises or you can go swimming with giant cuttlefish, tuna and sea lions. If you are brave, you can even hop into a cage and get up close and personal with great white sharks.
The extraordinary Field of Light, an artwork made up of 50,000 solar-powered spheres at Uluru
Once you have had your fill of south Australia, you can fly north to tropical Darwin and start on your Top End adventure – but it's a good idea to include a stopover en route at Alice Springs. It’s a destination you won't want to miss, and Virgin Australia offers internal flights connecting all three places so it’s not difficult to do.
Quirky Alice Springs epitomises Australia. The residents pride themselves on being mildly eccentric: hence the Henley-on-Todd Regatta, a boat race where competitors carry their vessels along a dry riverbed.
Alice Springs is also the staging post for Uluru. Seeing the sacred rock is always special but the extraordinary Field of Light creates added buzz; this is an installation by British artist Bruce Munro, who uses 50,000 solar-powered spheres to light an area equal to three football pitches. Watching the sun rise or set on Uluru is a magical experience.
Dine al fresco beside beautiful Mindil Beach
Darwin is an incredible melting pot of cultures. Its Aboriginal communities have a 40,000-year history, making them one of the world’s oldest civilisations, while modern-day Asian connections influence the city’s cuisine: it is usual for locals on beautiful Mindil Beach to tuck into a steaming bowl of curry.
It is also a city never visited by winter – the nightlife is lit by the stars, with pop-up bars adding spice to the scene. From enjoying a cold beer at laid-back beach bar, the Darwin Ski Club (think water skiing rather than the snow kind), to tucking into steak and fresh local seafood at Char restaurant, an established favourite housed in the beautiful old listed Admiralty building overlooking the harbour, the scene is eclectic, multicultural and ever evolving.
The city is an easy springboard to wonderful landscapes, the Tiwi Islands, the unspoilt Arnhem Land and spectacular Katherine Gorge. It is also surrounded by some of Australia’s best national parks.
Litchfield National Park is an hour south by car. Its monsoon forests are home to waterfalls cascading into crystal clear pools, huge magnetic termite mounds and giant sandstone pillars. Swimming under the falls is a favourite of visitors and locals alike. There are wildlife trails and four-wheel-drive tracks to follow, plus you can camp overnight.
Visit the amazing rock art sites, such as Ubirr, in Kakadu National Park
Kakadu National Park, an easy three-hour drive east of the city, boasts epic and varied scenery, from waterfalls to sandstone escarpments and plateaus. As you’d expect, the wildlife is stunning, with nearly 300 species of bird and a large crocodile population.
You need to spend a few days to do justice to Unesco World Heritage-listed Kakadu. A unique archaeological and ethnological reserve, it has been inhabited continuously for more than 40,000 years. The rock art sites such as Nourlangie, Nanguluwur and Ubirr record the lives of the region’s inhabitants, from prehistoric times to the Aboriginal people still living there today.
It is also home to some 2,000 plant species and wildlife, including saltwater crocodiles, flatback turtles and endangered birds. It is one of the least spoilt areas of Australia, perfect for wildlife cruises or birdwatching tours. Or just stand and admire the rock art and the views, and let yourself imagine life as it was thousands of years before.