The Northern Territory road trip between Darwin and Uluru (Ayers Rock) is regarded as an essential Australian outback experience. A diverse range of experiences are available along the route, ranging from the awesome spectacle of Uluru, thermal hot springs and spectacular National Parks.
To make the most of the road trip you need to be prepared to take some side trips, however in the Northern Territory these will be limited for a 2WD vehicle. All of the options described in these articles are accessible by 2WD vehicles such as cars and vans.
Stuart and Lasseter Highway Road Trip Overview, Northern Territory Australia
The major route between Darwin and Uluru in the Northern Territory is via the sealed Stuart and Lasseter Highways which can be travelled direct in 23 hrs over the 1956 km, 1215 mi distance. Of course, if you take some or all of the recommended side trips then the distance you travel will be longer.
As detailed in the table below, if you plan to do the full road trip with the recommended side trips then you should plan at least three weeks to be able to explore at a reasonable pace. You can cut this time back if you drive further on your driving days and/or spend less time exploring along the way. Some tour operators offer one week options for this trip, but be aware that you will be spending a substantial amount of time on the road with only short stops along the way.
|Darwin to Uluru Itinerary Planning||Distance (km)||Driving Time||Driving Days||Sightseeing Days||Travel Days||Travel Weeks|
|Darwin to Katherine||318||3:20 hrs||2||–|
|Katherine to Tennant Creek||673||8:20 hrs||2||–|
|Tennant Creek to Alice Springs||508||6:20 hrs||1||1|
|Alice Springs to Kings Canyon||473||6:10 hrs||1||1|
|Kings Canyon to Uluru||316||4:20 hrs||1||–|
This series of articles provides a detailed overview of the main Stuart Highway and Lasseter Highway route and side trip options between Alice Springs and Uluru in the Northern Territory for 2WD vehicles.
To obtain even more detailed information about the route to help you plan your trip I recommend that you click the following link to purchase the Lonely Planet Central Australia – Adelaide to Darwin (Travel Guide) from Amazon which is available as both an ebook and in hardcopy.
The 316km, 196 mi, 3:49 hr road trip from Darwin to Katherine provides a range of contrasts. Darwin is a culturally diverse small city which is worthwhile exploring with a great range of tropical markets, World War Two relics and gorgeous sunsets. The road south of Darwin provides access to the amazing Litchfield National park, which is renowned for providing a great range of waterfalls and safe swimming places in close proximity.
Further south you will encounter regular opportunities to bath in hot springs, explore World War Two remnants from when there was a real risk that Japan would invade Australia and also remnants from the early development of the Overland Telegraph.
Near Katherine you have the opportunity to explore the famous Nitmiluk National Park which contains the vast Katherine Gorge series of canyons.
Click through to Awesome Australian 2WD Road Trips: Darwin to Katherine to read more details of the Darwin to Katherine road trip.
The 673km, 418 mi, 8:18 hr road trip from Katherine to Tennant Creek provides the transition between the lush tropical ‘Top End’ of the Northern Territory into the arid ‘Red Centre’ of Australia. Along the way you will have opportunities to go underground into limestone caves, bathe in various hot springs and see further World War Two and Overland Telegraph relics. Around Tennant Creek you can see the influence of the mining industry.
Click through to Awesome Australian 2WD Road Trips: Katherine to Tennant Creek on the Stuart Highway to read more details of the Katherine to Tennant Creek road trip.
The 508km, 316 mi, 6:19 hr road trip from Tennant Creek to Alice Springs provides the opportunity to see the spectacular Devils Marbles, a range of early settlement relics, Aboriginal cultural sites and tiny townships along the sparsely populated route.
Arriving in the local centre of Alice Springs which is framed by the amazing MacDonnell Ranges provides a stark contrast to the previous route. Around Alice Springs there is a large range of activities available to explore the township itself, along with both the West and East MacDonnell ranges.
Click through to Awesome Australian 2WD Road Trips: Tennant Creek to Alice Springs on the Stuart Highway to read more details of the Tennant Creek to Alice Springs road trip.
The 468km, 291 mi, 6:28 hr road trip from Alice Springs to Uluru (Ayers Rock) provides the opportunity to explore many amazing rock features including meteorite craters, ride a camel and see classic Australian outback roadhouses before arriving at the spectacular Uluru and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas).
Click through to Awesome Australian 2WD Road Trips: Alice Springs to Uluru (Ayers Rock) on the Stuart and Lasseter Highway to read more details of the Alice Springs to Uluru (Ayers Rock) road trip.
As previously mentioned, to obtain even more detailed information about the route to help you plan your trip I recommend that you click the following link to purchase the Lonely Planet Central Australia – Adelaide to Darwin (Travel Guide) from Amazon which is available as both an ebook and in hardcopy.
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Have you travelled to or are thinking about visiting the Darwin to Uluru route in the Northern Territory? Please share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below.