When is the least crowded time for outback travel?

Submitted: Friday, Aug 30, 2013 at 21:32
ThreadID: 104119 Views:2783 Replies:12 FollowUps:11
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We are free to set our own time for travel. I watch some of the videos on YouTube of the Old Telegraph Track etc and many of them look like grand central station. Some videos, however, look nice and lonely.

We want to get outback because we love Australia, not to fight for spots and battle with crowds.

Can some of you who have traveled the country for long periods tell me when we can go and find it quiet? Is that even possible anymore?

I'm particularly thinking of the Kimberley and Kakadu next year.

Thanks for your help!
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Reply By: Member - Mfewster(SA) - Friday, Aug 30, 2013 at 22:18

Friday, Aug 30, 2013 at 22:18
Kimberly/Kakadu. I'd suggest April. But it depends on weather and just what you want to access. Whether or not you can get into Mitchell Plateau will depend on the wet and how long it lingers. On the other hand, earlier gives you a better chance of seeing rivers and falls running but you risk access. There is a good reason for the most popular periods being crowded, they are the periods where the weather is most predictable. If you can, I'd try to be flexible with my departure dates and keep an eye on weather reports and road condition reports. If it looked good early, I'd then just make a run at it. I'd pick a couple of spots that you want at the very top of your list and time my run to get into them as early as possible when you felt the weather looked good and you knew roads were open and then leave the rest to the Gods. For us, the big musts were the Mitchell Plateau, Horizontal Falls and swimming with whale sharks at Ningaloo. Your priorities might be different.
You can still be caught. We went a bit early this year and got caught up on the Dampier Peninsula when they had unseasonable very heavy rain. But we got into the Mitchell Plateau before crowds had really started to build.
The time I really want to be up there is when it is guaranteed low tourist, the height of the wet. Travel at this time on roads is virtually impossible of course. We are thinking of finding ourselves a convivial station or similar and just bunkering down for the season and watching the storms.
AnswerID: 517373

Follow Up By: The Landy - Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 07:44

Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 07:44
A fantastic idea, bunkering down and experiencing the wet.

This is when the country is at it best...
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Follow Up By: Member - OzBadDude - Sunday, Sep 01, 2013 at 23:55

Sunday, Sep 01, 2013 at 23:55
But then you would be limited to just the one spot.
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Reply By: Member - OnYaBike - Friday, Aug 30, 2013 at 23:07

Friday, Aug 30, 2013 at 23:07
Usually I travel to Bamaga in the July or September school holidays on roads with convoys of campers, dust and crowded camp spots. Last year I went at the end of October as well and found the roads and camp spots almost deserted. Plenty of room to fish off the Seisia jetty.
I asked around and was told business drops off straight after the last of the school holidays, including the southern states' holidays.
The weather may be a little warmer, certainly not uncomfortable. The road was still in good condition despite thousands of vehicles, but without the constant dust problem from vehicles passing in both directions.
I went up in July this year, same story, I won't be going in September but will hold off till October/November.
Bonus: I won't have to take any grandkids, they have to go to school!
AnswerID: 517375

Follow Up By: Member - OzBadDude - Sunday, Sep 01, 2013 at 23:59

Sunday, Sep 01, 2013 at 23:59
Sounds awesome. I bet it is hot by oct/nov!
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Reply By: Motherhen - Friday, Aug 30, 2013 at 23:26

Friday, Aug 30, 2013 at 23:26
Hi Dude

Avoid school holidays. You will never get away from everyone in these two high profile locations unless out of season when the roads are likely to be impassable.

We travelled the Gibb River Road in June and although far from alone, it was nothing like it became in July.

We visited Kakadu in August, and although there were plenty of others there, it was not overcrowded unless a tour coach arrived somewhere just as we did.

To find quiet, you need to get well away from the beaten tracks and out into the desert.


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AnswerID: 517378

Follow Up By: Member - OzBadDude - Monday, Sep 02, 2013 at 00:00

Monday, Sep 02, 2013 at 00:00
I'm thinking of May/June. My wife can't handle it super hot. Will May still be bad?
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Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 01:09

Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 01:09
As early as you can get in after the wet is my advise.
The waterfalls are "waterfalling", the country looks great and the Barra are biting.
Down side is there might be some places you can't get too, but you can't see everything any way and maybe you can get into them on the way back.

OKA196 Motorhome
AnswerID: 517385

Reply By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 07:53

Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 07:53
We also prefer the NON school holiday times.

We went to the Kimberley area in July 2009. The only crowded place was El Questro. Couldn't stand the line ups for anything so we left. We will check out that place another time. Went to Cape York in Aug/Sep and the Simpson, another year, but the same time. Both had some campers but not crowded. Didn't see another car in the first three days of the Simpson.

Now without hijacking the thread; What about the Canning. When is it a good time to go? Least people but not totally exempt from travelers and not too early. Can drive through mud but don't want to waste time digging myself out.

AnswerID: 517388

Follow Up By: Member - Warrie (NSW) - Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 11:16

Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 11:16
The Canning this May and June was hit with unseasonal rainfall. So plenty of mud to avoid but dunes easier to cross. Georgia Bore had a dozen vehicles on 17th May but plenty of space. A week before only 1 or 2 about. Had CSR Well 6 Pierre Springs to ourselves and in fact no one else from CSR Well 5 to CSR Well 19 over 4 days. Then took CSR Alternate Route and had a fire in the spinifex stalk build up aroung the catalytic converter. All part of the adventure now but not at the time. LOL...... W

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Follow Up By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 12:47

Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 12:47
While we like to go early it is, as you found out, risky for any late rains. I gather that not much spinifex "mowing" had been done before you.

That's always a risk in going early.

All taken under advisement and we will stuck it in the pot and see what brews up.

Thanks Warrie.

Did you travel alone or with a group? We would prefer to do it solo but . ., . .

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Reply By: olcoolone - Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 08:26

Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 08:26
Jeeeezzz you ask some questions LOL..... but they are good questions and thats properly why you get good answers.

Here is my 2 cents.

If it's a touristy area make sure things are open if you intend travelling out of season, I'll use South Australia's Kangaroo Island for an example.

Over the last 8 years we have been over there two times, two times more than most South Aussie's. In the off season they run these big specials with all the flashing lights and glitter...... the only problem is nothing is open, it seems everyone who runs a business on Kangaroo Island is also on holidays.

So plan ahead and make sure things are open, one other thing is if in the off season make sure they have not closed attractions for maintenance or if a national park; for feral culling.
AnswerID: 517390

Reply By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 08:42

Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 08:42
These days we also avoid school holidays....but you have 4 children.

We had 4 children also (now all adult), but crowds aren't all bad. One of our best trips with the 4 kids was up the middle to Darwin in the July School hols. Sure enough there were plenty of people around, but also there was lots happening - bush bands playing in Caravan Parks - markets were alive - could get around everywhere. Went back in April the following year and Darwin was rather quiet and disappointing. That trip also included the Kimberley but was cut short because the stations and refuelling points had not all reopened after the wet.

Another very memorable trip was Innamincka just after Xmas - did it then to avoid the crowds. Camped on the waterholes, swum every day, had the place to ourselves. The kids loved going to the pub in the afternoon and chatting to the guy behind the bar while the adults sipped champagne. And of course New Years Eve was a great night there with all the locals. Flies were bad though - just wore fly nets most of the time.

As far as central Australia goes, then any time will do. Plenty of places to camp (I personally avoid Alice Springs which is usually crowded anyway in the hols).
AnswerID: 517393

Follow Up By: Member - OzBadDude - Monday, Sep 02, 2013 at 00:11

Monday, Sep 02, 2013 at 00:11
I hear you Phil,

I guess there's a trade off no matter what you do. Lots of people out for holidays makes a fun, carnival atmosphere.

We do homeschool our kids, so we are not limited to school hols.

Maybe we will try to overlap a week or two so that we get a bit of both.
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Reply By: Tjukayirla Roadhouse - Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 10:49

Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 10:49
avoid going anywhere in June/ July.
Out here, this is the best time of year right now. Not hot, not cold, not too many people around.
AnswerID: 517397

Reply By: Coenen N & G (WA) - Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 17:29

Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 17:29
We decided to beat the crowds and went in May this year - booked in online to the camp at Purnululu (Bungle Bungles) for a week and off we went giving ourselves 10 days or so to get there. It is a lottery with the weather any year so you just have to be ready for it.
We spent 4 nights at 80 mile beach on the way, for a break and it was hot and humid day and night but they had not had much wet season. Headed on to Derby for a night and Winjana Gorge for a few nights - still high 30s low 40s and humid so did walking at 6am and then veged out for the day. It was difficult at night though as camper trailers are not airconditioned. We did have a 12v fan which helped some. Same weather followed us most of the time and to add insult to unjury it was cloudy so our solar panel was not much use and we had to resort to the genny a few times. As long as you avoid school holidays generally it isnt too bad. We found most places were fairly quiet and we really enjoyed the extra green coverage that we normally dont see later in the season.
It is all just gorgeous country so enjoy it and forget about others, put forth a positive attitude and all will be well.
AnswerID: 517421

Follow Up By: Member - OzBadDude - Monday, Sep 02, 2013 at 00:14

Monday, Sep 02, 2013 at 00:14
Sounds so great to me, but my wife would not be happy if I took her with those temperatures.
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Reply By: Member - Beatit (QLD) - Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 23:12

Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 23:12
G'day OzBD,

My vote goes for later in the dry season and by that I mean starting August and up to November. The crowds are less, the barra are coming back on the chew (mind the 1/11 closure in QLD) and earlier on the gulf). Sure it gets a little warmer and the roads are well worn but the holiday crowd is just not there.

Kind regards
AnswerID: 517439

Reply By: Member - mark i2 - Sunday, Sep 01, 2013 at 20:21

Sunday, Sep 01, 2013 at 20:21
This time of year is great in the Kimberley, tourist season has just finished. Went to Bell Gorge this weekend (just got back), stayed at Silent Grove overnight. It was not crowded and temperatures are excellent, water still flowing over the waterfalls. The convoys of caravans on the GRR have also disappeared.
AnswerID: 517481

Follow Up By: Member - OzBadDude - Monday, Sep 02, 2013 at 00:17

Monday, Sep 02, 2013 at 00:17
I have been thinking before the July school hols, but so many seem to be saying August is great.
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Reply By: Captain H - Sunday, Sep 01, 2013 at 21:18

Sunday, Sep 01, 2013 at 21:18
I took my family to kakadu, Alice, Lichfield etc in September. This was a great time to travel with young kids. Yes it was hot but that's great for swimming. We didn't have to book at any of the caravan parks as many of the nomads had moved out because it was too hot. Our daily schedule was swim in the mornings until departure from van park, travel with airconditioner. Stop at about 3 pm swim until 5 set camp and swim some more. There are plenty of great swimming spots and see the best of australia too. No line ups and plenty of family memories. I'd do it again at the same time to get away from the crowds.
Captain H
AnswerID: 517490

Follow Up By: Member - OzBadDude - Monday, Sep 02, 2013 at 00:20

Monday, Sep 02, 2013 at 00:20
That sounds like a good family plan in the heat—swim, drive with A/C, swim, set-up camp, swim some more!

Are there really swimming holes at almost every camp?

How do you know if there are crocs?
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Follow Up By: Captain H - Monday, Sep 02, 2013 at 20:57

Monday, Sep 02, 2013 at 20:57
Firstly always obey signage regarding crocs. However, most of the roadhouses along the way with camp facilities have swimming pools. Then there is all the thermal springs along the way eg mataraka, bitter, Berry,then the waterfall such wanga, Edith, Florence and the boule holes..(Litchfield) Kakadu no swimming in river. However, the major caravan parks are well setup for swimming eg. cooinda has a great pool, so has jabiru, Uluru great pool. Kings canyon big pool. So with a little bit of planning we found travelling from waterhole to waterhole very comfortable with no lineups. A great trip with the kids one we'll always remember and highly recommend.
Capt H
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