Kakadu to Uluru leg
An iconic and remarkable road trip from the top of the Northern Territory to the bottom witnessing ‘the rock’. Leaving the scenic sites and attractions of Kakadu and Cooinda Lodge we head south through Katherine, arriving in Mataranka over 400km later. After hearing some great reviews we decided to stop in at a new campground called Little Roper Stockcamp. They offer powered and unpowered sites and have some quirky amenities.
The best thing about this camp is that they put on a Billy Tea and delicious Johnny Cakes every morning. It's a great way to socialise with other campers and have a wicked morning tea. A couple of times a week they also put on a big roast dinner which we heard was amazing food (unfortunately we weren't around for this).
There are some laid back farm animals that are always up for a pat and a feed and provide also some great atmosphere to the camp. Our kids spent hours patting and observing the horses and cows. It’s a lovely campground and at $30pn for a powered site its a bit cheaper than the homestead at Mataranka Springs and we found it more social as well.
Our kids loved tearing around the dust on their bikes with heaps of the other little nomads. We even managed to get the training wheels off young Billy's bike while we were there - we love hitting milestones with the kids along the way.
Mataranka Hot Springs and Bitter Springs are an absolute must see destination on your travels around OZ. To witness and swim in the beautiful hot springs is a fantastic experience. Our favourite is Bitter Springs as its more natural and also a lot deeper and clearer.
The kids had so much fun swimming under logs and looking at all the little fish living in this paradise. We also hit up Mataranka Hot Springs, but being more commercialised with a man made pool, there was a lot more people here. The homestead though, is a great place to stop in for a beer or a meal and they also put on a fantastic Whip Cracking show of a night time.
From Mataranka we had a big day ahead of us driving south and we decided to leg it to Three Ways (about 550km). We had heard about a great free camp just south of there called Kunjarra or ‘The Pebbles’.
A fantastic spot with a great free camp. You can walk around The Pebbles which are spectacular at dawn and dusk. It also puts on a beautiful sunset. Due where this camp is and there not too much else around (other than the Threeways roadhouse), there were plenty of other travellers staying at The Pebbles. We felt safe and secure even though we are in the middle of nowhere!!
From Kunjarra, we did another big day past the Devils Marbles and into Alice Springs where we stayed at the amazing BIG4 Macdonnell Range Holiday Park. This park is fantastic and we highly recommend staying here. We were all entertained by the amazing facilities and didn't want to leave. We parked up on a grass site which was a very welcoming addition to our trip to Alice, due to seeing so much red dirt. The park has jumping pillows, a BMX track, pool and an epic waterslide. The do a pancake breakfast of a Sunday and most night's there is some form of entertainment. Wine and cheese night was our favourite! They have also recently opened up a gym at the park, so we got in a few sessions. We tried to tag team most days and it was nice to get in some exercise after wine and cheese night! Gotta have some balance…
BIG4 Macdonnel Range Holiday Park - Alice Spring
We were lucky that Alice Springs had their Desert Festival on while we were there, which runs the Henley On Todd Regatta. A very funny boat race in a dry creek bed. Imagine a flurry of people racing up and back a dry river bed with home made boats. It was a blast. Plenty to do while the festival was on with lots of free activities, coffee, food and fun to be had.
After a great time in Alice, the time had come to make our way to Uluru. We’d decided we wanted to stay at the free camp, Uluru By Sunrise first, then make our way into Yulara and the Rock. It’s about 450km from Alice Springs to the hub of Yulara, so it's a big day behind the wheel. We stopped in at a busy roadhouse called Erldunda. It has coffee, food, a bar and also a pack of emu’s that the kids were happy to watch. It’d a busy stop so be prepared for that!
We finally make it to the free camp at around 3 in the afternoon (which has unfortunately closed since). We drove in and saw a few vans parked up not far from the road with no view of the Rock. We proceed to drive in and follow the track heading in the direction of Uluru. The first dune is the hardest dune to climb with some deep soft sand to get through. It took us 4 attempts to get the van up and had to drop our tyre pressures down to 15psi to get through the sand. Once we get over the crest we see the stunning views of Uluru. Driving another couple of kilometres to find our campsite for the next 2 nights. Waking up to the views of the Rock was absolutely magical! A campfire, family time, wine and tunes made it one of or favourite campsites in Oz.
Although this free camp has since shut down, you can still access this. Take a drink and bask in the beauty of Uluru.
ULURU BY SUNRISE - EPIC FREE CAMP
After this free camp stay we moved only 10km into town and park up at the Ayers Rock Resort. It was nice to get on some power, get a few loads of washing done and have a swim in the pool. Yes, the area is a little expensive at over $50 a night, but what do you expect in the middle of the outback. You can purchase groceries and water in the town centre as well as fuel. From here its only a short drive out to Ayers Rock. Once we had settled into the caravan park, we headed out to Uluru with our bikes. We thought it would be a great idea to ride around, its 10.5km, as it's not advised now to climb, along with, the pretty steep and slippery incline to tackle with 3 young kids.
Our five year old Jack rode and Justin had Billy with the baby seat attached on our own mountain bike. So we hired an extra bike with a baby seat from Outback Cycles for $45 to accomodate Bec and little Charli. We set off and initially thought we had bitten off more than we could chew as it's quite sandy to begin with. Once we rode a bit further we really did have the best time. Jack surprised us by riding most of the way (about 9km) until he got a flat tyre and then things went a bit backwards... Lucky we had planned for a mishap and we had bought a few occy straps along just in case. We had to strap his bike to the back of Bec’s and put him on the hangers of Justin’s bike. Such a funny family experience and something we will never forget. How no-one fell off or got hurt over the last few kilometres was an absolute miracle.
After a sweet few days, our stay in Uluru had come to and end and we make our way to Kings Canyon. A bit of a detour to get here but definitely worth it and glad that we made the effort to have seen Kings Canyon.
We stayed at a caravan park called Kings Canyon Resort to attempt and complete the 6km Scenic Rim Walk. The first part of this hike is the hardest with about 500 steep rock stairs to climb. To our surprise our boys (3 and 5 years) nailed it and climbed the whole way.
We had our 2 year old daughter Charli in the backpack and she requested to get out and climb the last 100 stairs (which slowed us down a lot, but can’t knock her determination). The rest of the walk is pretty good terrain and our kids managed well. 6km went surprisingly quick and we almost managed to finish without anyone coming a gutsa!! In the last few hundred metres of the downhill run, young Bill had a stack. He got out of it pretty unscathed but the poor bugger was weary and tired so we had to piggy back him back to the car. The views on the walk are spectacular and definitely one of a kind scenery. We would recommend making the detour to Kings Canyon. Also some wifi at the base of the walk too!
What an AMAZING part of the country it is. We loved exploring our way down the centre of the Northern Territory. The NT outback is one of our favourites to explore and we will be back to check out the parts we missed. Although, I will not welcome that bull dust back into our caravan!