The Road Trip from Alice Springs to Adelaide is 1531 km long and boring. The drive along the Stuart Highway is monotonous and does not offer much. In this article, we will show you how to turn the Road Trip from Alice Springs to Adelaide into an interesting and unforgettable experience. Come along and be inspired.
Alice Springs is located in the middle of the Outback in the Red Center of Australia. Around the city there is only barren landscape and different deserts. Every major city is located hundreds of kilometers away, somewhere along the coast. However, a trip to Alice Springs and into the Red Center of Australia is a must for every traveler to Australia.
Anyone who travels a little longer in Australia and circumnavigates the country is confronted with the question of how he incorporates Alices Springs into his travel route. Flying from the coast to Alice Springs and renting a vehicle is certainly the quickest alternative. But what if you already own a vehicle and do not want to fly? Then you have no choice but to take the road trip to Alice Springs and back to the coast.
We drove from Perth to Alice Springs on the direct route along the Great Central Road. This is certainly not the typical route but it is the shortest way from the west coast to the Red Center. After discovering the attractions around Alice Springs, we want to drive to Adelaide and visit our friends there. But the boring ride on the Stuart Highway is not what we want. So we plan a road trip through the Outback and try to add as many attractions to the route as possible.
In this article you can read what interesting and diverse road trip we ended up with. The only thing you need for an interesting road trip from Alice Springs to Adelaide is a camper and some time. We took our time and were on the road for about 10 days but you can also drive it in a shorter time. We recommend a 4WD for this route, as a large part is on unpaved gravel roads. But if you have some ground clearance and take it easy, it’s also doable with a normal car.
Attractions along the road trip from Alice Springs to Adelaide
In Alice Springs we fill up our diesel and water tanks, buy fresh food and prepare our vehicle for the ride through the Outback. We leave Alice Springs in a southerly direction on the Finke Road, a dirt road, which once a year is the venue for the crazy Finke Desert Race.
The Ewaninga Rock Carvings
After just 26 km on the Finke Road, we turn left and head into the Ewaninga Rock Carvings Reserve. There are more than 1’000 rock carvings from the traditional owners of this land carved into the rocks. And they might date back more than 30’000 years.
The amazing rock formations at Chambers Pillar
Back on the Finke Road, we turn left after 106 km and drive over sand dunes to the Chambers Pillar Historic Reserve. In the reserve there is a small camping area with shaded camp sites and basic infrastructure like fire pits, gas barbecues and drop toilets. One night costs AUD 3.30 (USD 2.50) per person and the amount can be thrown into a mailbox in the reserve.
Only one other Australian couple is around for the first night and the second night we have the reserve all to ourselves. There are two short walks in the reserve. One walk leads around Chambers Pillar, where you can also climb up to a platform about halfway up the pillar. The other leads around the rock formation called Castle Rock.
If you camp in the reserve, you can watch sunrise and sunset at Chambers Pillar. We love the beautiful light of the sun in the desert during these times of the day. Once the sun has gone down, the millions of flies are gone too. What a relief, during the whole day we are surrounded by black clouds of flies.
Now we can light a camp fire, prepare our dinner and eat in peace. However, it is also getting fresh because we are in the desert. One last time we marvel at the breathtaking starry sky and see another shooting star before we go to sleep.
The Dalhousie Springs in Witjira National Park
Back on Finke Road we continue south. The road now runs along the Old Ghan Rail Route. The remains of the railway line can be seen along the roadside. On the road too, remains are scattered in the form of old bolts and nails, which were used for fastening of the railroad tracks. We don’t want to hit such a piece of metal and so we have to really concentrate on driving.
After the Aboriginal community of Finke, we continue to Dalhousie Springs, crossing the border from Northern Territory to South Australia. The hot springs of Dalhousie are located in the Witjira National Park and you need an SA Desert Parks Pass. On our last road trip through the Simpson Desert we really appreciated the hot springs because it was very cold.
This time of the year it is much warmer and day by day the temperatures are rising. Instead of visiting the hot springs we decide to get a refreshing swim in Eringa waterhole. The permanent waterhole is fed by the Eringa spring, where you can see the abandoned ruins of Eringa homestead. The water has the color of a milk coffee but the swim in the water hole is very refreshing. We meet the Swiss couple Helen and Christoph, which we have met in Alice Springs already and spend a great evening together.
The small village of Oodnadatta in the Outback of Australia
The journey continues in southern direction about 100 km parallel to the Stuart Highways through the Outback of Australia. We enjoy the beautiful desert landscape, the red dirt and the beautiful colors of the wildflowers.
The small village of Oodnadatta is located along the Oodnadatta Track and is well known for the Pink Roadhouse. The roadhouse, which is gas station, restaurant, shop, workshop, post office, information center and meeting place for travelers at the same time, is characterized by the unusual color pink. Everything is pink here, even the fuel pumps.
The wonderful colors of the Painted Desert
Now we have to decide. Either we drive along the Oodnadatta Track and follow the remains of the old Ghan railway line and the springs in the middle of the desert, or we take the detour through the Painted Desert to the Stuart Highway to visit the opal town of Coober Pedy. Since we have never seen the Painted Desert, we decide for this detour.
Luckily we decided to go through the Painted Desert, because the landscape is unique. The colors are very intense in the late afternoon and almost unreal. This colorful desert landscape really deserves the name Painted Desert.
We realize very quickly that there is something wrong with our vehicle after the walk. We need to mount the spare tire because we have a flat tire. But with such a fantastic view this is only half as bad and soon our journey towards Coober Pedy continues.
The crazy opal town of Coober Pedy
Coober Pedy is a totally crazy city where many of the inhabitants live underground. There are no trees and the landscape around Coober Pedy looks like a lunar landscape. No wonder that movies like Mad Max were filmed here. In our article Coober Pedy – A City where people live underground you can read more about the crazy Opal City.
Coober Pedy is located in the middle of the road trip from Alice Springs to Adelaide. Even if you drive on the Stuart Highway from Alice Springs to Adelaide, this is the only bigger place you’ll encounter on your way. For us this is the ideal place to stock up on supplies, we also have to have our tire repaired and fill up diesel and water before we can continue.
The shortest route for the road trip from Alice Springs to Adelaide would now follow the Stuart Highway. But we are leaving the paved highway again and drive along William Creek Road to the east. In the middle of the desert we stop at Cadibarrawirracanna Lake, where we spend the night under a fantastic starry sky. The next day we continue and reach again the Oodnadatta Track at William Creek.
The legendary Oodnadatta track
The Oodnadatta Track is one of the very popular but also one of the easiest tracks through Outback Australia. The track runs from Marla on the Stuart Highway to Maree, the start of the Birdsville Track, another legendary 4WD track. From Oodnadatta to Maree the track follows the old Ghan railway line and you can see all sorts of abandoned buildings and other infrastructure once used for the railway line.
The scenery along the Oodnadatta Track is very nice and is in our opinion very diverse. Above all, the springs at regular intervals fascinate us very much. Who would expect so much water in the desert?
The Strangways Springs along the Oodnadatta Track
As early as 1862 sheep and cattle were bred at this remote place along the Oodnadatta Track. Along a well signposted walk we find various ruins of old buildings and dried up springs. The water storage was built very solid and is still in good condition.
The Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park along the Oodnadatta Track
We are completely fascinated by the springs that we see along the Oodnadatta Track again and again. In the “Wabma Kadarbu Mound Spring Conservation Park” we feel like in an oasis. As far as we can see, there is nothing but a barren, dried-up country and desert. But we are standing on a small mound in which water from the depth of the Artesian basin is pushed through the earth’s surface.
The open air art gallery along the Oodnadatta track
Just before the end of the Oodnadatta Track in Maree, we can already see the two aircrafts of the Mutonia Sculpture Park from a distance. Out of scrap, the artist Robin Cooke has created many sculptures in the middle of the outback over the years. These sculptures, the springs and the remains of the old railway line together with a constantly changing landscape make the drive along the Oodnadatta Track an unforgettable experience.
At Marree we reach the end of the Oodnadatta track and continue along the old Ghan railway line heading south.
The interesting ruins of Farina
It’s already evening again and we need a place to sleep. We read about a very nice bush camp with many camp sites under the shade of eucalyptus trees near the ghost town Farina. That sounds quite promising. We leave the road and follow the sign to Farina. Farina really offers a very nice bush camping with good infrastructure. There are only two other campers around and we can choose a nice spot with our own picnic table and fire pit.
The bush camp is maintained by the owners of Farina station and there is an honesty box where you can leave the AUD 10 for the camp. We have our private little toilet and in another new toilet block there are even showers. If you like to have a warm shower, you have to light a fire first. The hot water is heated in a self-built boiler with a wood fire. Of course, we also quickly get to know the two other campers, who have been here several times before and see this bush camp as an insider tip.
The next morning we explore the ruins of the ghost town Farina. The city dates back to 1878 and has grown quite quickly as the rail head of the old Ghan railway line. The wet years of the 1880s have prompted farmers to plant wheat and barley on a large scale and cultivate these crops. Unfortunately, the rainy years were quickly over and the rainfall in normal years was by no means sufficient. Silver and copper was mined in the area and the population continued to rise. Towards the end of the 1800s, 600 people lived in Farina, and the town had 2 hotels, a bank, two breweries and an underground bakery. The death toll for the town came in the 1980s with the decommissioning of the railway line.
Today, Farina is a ghost town with ruins left only. The Farina Station close to the ghost town is still inhabited and the owners of the station together with volunteers have created the bush camp and invested a lot in preserving the ruins of the ghost town Farina. We love exploring abandoned ghost towns and trying to imagine how live was back then. Through the many info boards explaining the history of Farina, we can learn a lot about this place. One of the extraordinary features is the underground bakery that has been restored and is still used to bake fresh bread from time to time.
From Farina we continue southwards, where we meet civilization in Leigh Creek again. We do not really want to mention this town as an attraction. However, by its artificiality, it is almost an attraction. In the middle of nowhere this city was built to supply the nearby coal mine. The place looks very artificial but offers very good infrastructure. Perhaps Leigh Creek will also become a ghost town in the future if the coal mine would stop operation.
The wild beauty of the Parachillna Gorge
We continue southwards, where we reach the northern Flinders Ranges. The Flinders Ranges stretches from the coast of South Australia 400 km to the north. It is known for its rugged landscape and seclusion. Our next destination is the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park that we enter from the north. In the weather forecast we have read about very hot temperatures with strong winds for tomorrow. This is exactly what we have experienced on our last visit to this national park three years ago, and since we want to go hiking, we do not want to have a hot day with over 40 degrees.
We decide to drive through Parachillna Gorge first and spend the hot day there with doing nothing. In the impressive gorge we find a beautiful camp spot among huge eucalyptus trees with good shade. The next day really brings strong winds that are as hot as a hair dryer. The day is tough and even doing nothing is already tiring. It is around 40 degrees and the strong hot wind almost hurts in the eyes and dries us out. The air is filled with dust and there are still millions of flies that like to fly into our eyes, ears and nose. On days like this, the beautiful nature of Australia can be very exhausting.
During the night it cools down noticeably and the next day the temperatures are a lot more pleasant. Just right to explore the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park by foot.
The rugged landscape of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park
The Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park is one of the most popular national parks in South Australia. The wild landscape with its craggy ravines and rugged hills, as well as the wealth of animals that can be observed, attracts visitors. We walk a lot in this park and have described the most beautiful experiences in the blog post Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park.
Peterborough and its past as a railway turnstile
Peterborough was an important place for rail connections from north to south and east to west. There were times when more than 100 trains went through this city a day and the railway employed about 1’000 workers. Today it is just 10 trains and the railway has lost a lot of importance. What remains is the interesting railway museum “Steamtown Heritage Rail Center”. Here we learn a lot about the past of Peterborough and the history of the Australian Railroad but also about the hard life in the Outback of Australia.
During your stop in Peterborough it is also worthwhile to walk through the city center to see the beautiful buildings. In the meantime we are back in a more densely populated area and the towns are closer together again. Less than 100 km south of Peterborough we hit another town that has earned its place in the history of Australia.
We discover the interesting history of Burra
Burra is a very cute and cultivated place. Beautiful buildings a few shops and several cafes, arranged around a beautiful garden, form the pleasant center of the town. Outside of Burra we find one of the most photographed ruins of a normal house. The house became famous because it is depicted on the album cover of the album “Diesel and Dust” by the Australian group Midnight Oil.
But Burra has much more to offer. In an information brochure I have read about the past of this place as an important mining town. I also read about the Burra Passport that comes with a detailed brochure with lots of information about the history and a key that gives access to 11 different attractions.
Armed with a city map, we set out to explore the attractions of the Burra. The tour is very interesting. We learn a lot and can take as much time as we want. With the key we have access to an old shop, different buildings of the mines, the old police station, miner’s cottages and other historical buildings. We really love to visit the old Redruth Gaol all by ourselves, explore the cells and to read the stories of the inmates.
We highly recommend a visit in Burra on a road trip from Alice Springs to Adelaide.
Tasting great wines in the Barossa Valley
Who has not heard of the Barossa Valley? Or better, who has never tasted a wine from this well-known wine region in Australia? The approximately 100 wineries, which are located in the Barossa Valley, produce about 20% of the Australian wine. Internationally famous names such as Penfolds, Peter Lehmann, Jacob’s Creek, Henschke, Wolf Blass and Chateau Tanunda, but also small family businesses invite wine lovers to taste their creations. On the way from the north to Adelaide you can stop and explore this wine region.
We love to explore the variety of different wineries and their products. Big vineyards like Wolf Blass, Jacob’s Creek or the beautiful Seppeltsfield, with very stylish tasting rooms and chic restaurants, in contrast with small family-owned places. Unfortunately we have to hold back since we are driving with our own vehicle. We definitely would recommend joining one of the wine tours, so you do not have to drive yourself.
We have discovered something new. At the Seppeltsfield Winery we have tried a Sparkling Shiraz. This is a relatively new creation of this winery. The Sparkling Shiraz has tasted so good that we bought a bottle of it. We will keep it and enjoy it during the coming Christmas holidays.
The end of our road trip from Alice Springs to Adelaide
In Adelaide we reach the end of our road trip from Alice Springs to Adelaide. 10 days we have been on the road to explore the attractions along the way and we are thrilled with what we have discovered. That’s how we tried to make the best out of a really boring stretch of road and turn the road trip from Alice Springs to Adelaide into an unforgettable experience.
The next few days we will spend with our friend here close to Adelaide before we move on. The next big road trip will be from Adelaide to Perth at the West Coast. Again, we will not choose the most direct route and will try to find as many attractions on the way as possible. Of course, we will also write a post about our next road trip through the Outback of Australia.
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Have you done the road trip from Alice Springs to Adelaide? Have you taken the direct route along the Stuart Highway or did you drive another route? What highlights on the road trip from Alice Springs to Adelaide did you like the most? Write us a comment about your experience.
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