Reader Mailbag: Road Trip from Brisbane to Uluru and Darwin

On the road to Uluru, Central Australia
On the road to Uluru, Central Australia

Christine recently asked for advice on options to take a road trip from their home town of Brisbane to visit both Uluru and Darwin.  They have a 4WD vehicle and have only four weeks of holiday leave available.

On the road to Uluru, Central Australia
On the road to Uluru, Central Australia

Pretraveller Response

You want to cover a lot of ground in only a short period of time.  From Google Maps the basic shortest 2WD route (see map below) with no side trips is a minimum of 8,639km (5,368 mi) and 98 hours of driving time which is a very big trip.

[cetsEmbedGmap src=http://goo.gl/maps/BBRzO width=600 height=480 marginwidth=0 marginheight=0 frameborder=0 scrolling=no]

Route Options and Timings

Route 1:  Brisbane, Mt Isa, Alice Springs, Uluru, Coober Pedy, Brisbane Route

The detailed table below has my rough route plan for a Brisbane to Uluru loop excluding Darwin.  It includes estimates of the distances, driving time, number of driving days and minimum number of sightseeing days you should plan along the way.  I have estimated that you would require just over 4 weeks to do this route, which includes driving 15 days out of 30 days of travel.

Brisbane to Uluru Route Information
Brisbane to Uluru Route Information

The map of this route is below.

[cetsEmbedGmap src=https://maps.google.com.au/maps?saddr=Brisbane,+Queensland&daddr=Mount+Isa,+Queensland+to:Alice+Springs+NT+to:Yulara+NT+to:Coober+Pedy+SA+to:Broken+Hill+NSW+to:Moree+NSW+to:Brisbane+QLD&hl=en&ll=-26.115986,141.987305&spn=22.968767,43.286133&sll=-22.71539,141.943359&sspn=23.578431,43.286133&geocode=FV3TXP4d2fMeCSkz0pOsmleRazFAr97zWqMCBA%3BFR_Ew_4d9o9QCCmZGz9mT7AXajEwcSB_8e4ABA%3BFQ5dlv4dI9v6BykxE4–RBkyKzHQTyUqqBcCBQ%3BFa_Xfv4dLKXOByk_Patqj0AjKzEAhSQqqBcCBA%3BFQRLRf4dsjAICCk3EEINt0fNKjGw045iVDYDBA%3BFW5kGP4dMJZuCCnNwlLeYDPvajFwAUSQtAkGBA%3BFeBoPv4dZ2buCCnpJDIYmHKnazHQukOQtAkGBA%3BFavTXP4dDvQeCSm7IPZcBFqRazHAhN7zWqMCBQ&oq=darwin&mra=ls&t=m&z=5 width=600 height=480 marginwidth=0 marginheight=0 frameborder=0 scrolling=no]

Route 2:  Brisbane, Mt Isa, Darwin, Alice Springs, Uluru, Coober Pedy, Brisbane Route

The detailed table below has my rough route plan for a Brisbane to Uluru loop including Darwin and Kakadu.  I have estimated that you would require almost 6 weeks to do this route, which includes driving 19 days out of 40 days of travel.

Brisbane to Darwin and Uluru Route Information
Brisbane to Darwin and Uluru Route Information

The map of this route is below.

[cetsEmbedGmap src=https://maps.google.com.au/maps?saddr=Brisbane,+Queensland&daddr=Mount+Isa,+Queensland+to:Darwin+NT+to:Jabiru+NT+to:Alice+Springs+NT+to:Yulara+NT+to:Coober+Pedy+SA+to:Broken+Hill+NSW+to:Moree+NSW+to:Brisbane+QLD&hl=en&ll=-22.71539,141.943359&spn=23.578431,43.286133&sll=-26.134423,142.009061&sspn=22.968767,43.286133&geocode=FV3TXP4d2fMeCSkz0pOsmleRazFAr97zWqMCBA%3BFR_Ew_4d9o9QCCmZGz9mT7AXajEwcSB_8e4ABA%3BFRXVQf8dsXzMByk_BFmf_KDALDEgfCQqqBcCAw%3BFQOhPv8dtd3qBylrbFbiH5K3LDFghCQqqBcCBA%3BFQ5dlv4dI9v6BykxE4–RBkyKzHQTyUqqBcCBQ%3BFa_Xfv4dLKXOByk_Patqj0AjKzEAhSQqqBcCBA%3BFQRLRf4dsjAICCk3EEINt0fNKjGw045iVDYDBA%3BFW5kGP4dMJZuCCnNwlLeYDPvajFwAUSQtAkGBA%3BFeBoPv4dZ2buCCnpJDIYmHKnazHQukOQtAkGBA%3BFavTXP4dDvQeCSm7IPZcBFqRazHAhN7zWqMCBQ&oq=darwin&mra=ls&t=m&z=5 width=600 height=480 marginwidth=0 marginheight=0 frameborder=0 scrolling=no]

Additional 4WD Options

Having a 4WD vehicle may enable you to take some shortcuts to the route, the most likely being to use the Plenty Highway and travelling via Boulia, Bedourie and Birdsville before heading back to Brisbane.  This option should save you some time but note that unsealed roads will always be slower than the main highway.  You should do more research if you intend to take a back road option and ensure you and your vehicle are properly prepared before taking this route.

Pretraveller Recommendations

Driving Option

Australian long distance driving can be very tedious so while it is possible to do the shorter route in only four weeks make sure you think about your own preferences for driving before committing to this route.  The sightseeing time I have allocated along the way is a minimum estimate so you will not have very much time to explore along the way, and there will be many places where you will wish you had more time.

If you are determined to drive is there any option to arrange an extra 1-2 weeks off work as this will enable you to take a bit more time on the trip to enjoy yourselves?

Relaxed Option

If you want to have a more relaxing holiday option which will better fit into your holiday time period I suggest you check out the cost to fly to Uluru or Alice Springs, rent a vehicle and spend close to 2 weeks exploring the Uluru / Alice Springs area in a more relaxed manner as detailed in my article More Than Uluru: The Best Kept Secrets of Central Australia and you can see some great photos and stories of the area in TOP 7 Central Australian RED HOT Spots once you’re done with Uluru! by RedNomadOz.

You can then look at either driving, flying or catching the Ghan Train from Alice Springs to Darwin.  Again plan to hire a vehicle for 1-2 weeks and you can have a great time exploring Darwin, Kakadu, Katherine Gorge as a single loop at your own pace and then fly back to Brisbane.  Read more about the Darwin to Katherine route in Awesome Australian 2WD Road Trips: Darwin to Katherine on the Stuart Highway.  I have not yet written the article on the Kakadu route, but I suggest you check out the recent 4 part TV series called ‘Kakadu’ – they had some great shots of the different experiences around the National Park and across the different seasons.

Please let me know your thoughts and I will be interested to hear what you decide to do!

 

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Have your driven the routes mentioned or are you thinking about doing a similar trip?  Please share your current thinking in the comments below.

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4 Comments

  • I love your journeys, we had planned a Motorhome trip around Aust. next February for six months and my hubby got sick so we are now coming next May and going the expensive way and flying city to city now. We have just bought a motor home here and going to try it out between hubby’s surgeries. First trip out today and we got a flat, thank heavens for dual wheels, we did not bother to change it. Couple more weeks and maybe the snow will be gone and we can think of camping.

  • Australia is a great country for road trips. The landscapes are so enchanting, so diverse…it is definitely beyond just beaches.

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