5 week trip – How far could we go?

Submitted: Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 11:19
ThreadID: 105770 Views:2213 Replies:17 FollowUps:8
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Hi there, this is my first post, I’m new to explore oz :D
My husband and I (+ 2 kids) are from Melbourne, are doing planning our first big trip with 4WD and Tambo Camper in April this year. We have 5 weeks off total (can't squeeze any more out). We were initially thinking of doing both Central Australia and then NT up as far as Darwin. With only 5 weeks (including allowing time to get home to Melbourne), are we better of doing only Central Australia, or do you think we have time to go further.
We do have a friends itinery who did this in 6 weeks, but they were from Sydney (so not quite so far) and they seemed to Central Australia quicker than we thought we would have.
All comments and suggestions appreciated.
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Reply By: Member - Frank P (NSW) - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 11:40

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 11:40
I think you should take your time, smell the roses on the way up and on the way back. Explore a few National Parks, country towns, and their history, etc. And limit yourself to the Centre on this trip. There's plenty to see and do on the journey up and back, plus in the Centre, of course. Do some research.

I've learned the hard way travelling with folk who did not have the time I do - an overfull itinerary is not the way to do it. All you do is burn fuel.


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Reply By: Idler Chris - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 11:52

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 11:52
You are having a holiday, you don't want to be spending it driving it. Besides lots of driving with kids is not something you would enjoy and neither will they. I would not go past Alice Springs if that far. Better to take your time and relax a bit and see thing properly rather that a quick look at many things. Places like Coober Pedy, Oodnadatta track, Uluru, McDonald Ranges are all great and well worth spending time at. I would not prebook anything, take it as it comes, this allows you to stop and look at the many things that you see along the way. You are on a holiday you do not want to be tied to an itinerary, its best and more relaxing to decide as you go. If you do not get as far as Alice Springs it does not matter as you must have had a great holiday and seen many things. There is always another holiday and your appetite will be whetted to go again. Have a great trip.
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Reply By: scandal - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 13:04

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 13:04
I my humble opinion, I would express to central Oz, I mean by that, no looking around at stuff in between, get the big K's done, you can take 5 weeks just getting the Adelaide if you wanted to, or do it before dinner

Once in the center, take the time to look at what you want to see, and then wander back towards home, or leave it to the last few days and express back to Melbourne.
No matter what way you plan it, expect to make some changes on the fly.
Save the stuff you want to see closer to home for when you unable to take a long break,

We have 10,6, & 3 year olds, they do get a bit testing for first day or 2 but do settle down, I'm pretty rurthless in my interstate travell, we are in Brisbane but both me and my wifes familys are based in South Gippsland, so pretty much every holiday, we go down there and do that with one overnight stop going down, I aim for 900-1000ks(10-11 hours drive time) a day to get to somewhere, every hour stopped equals 90-100k's not travelled, once there, completely different story, do veg out, do do the holiday thing, depending on where and what you want to do, either do the same back home home or just plod, either way there really is no right or wrong way to do it, one thing for sure, the time will end MUCH quicker than you think.
PS I love the Territory
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Follow Up By: Idler Chris - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 13:54

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 13:54
Every year we hear of family tragedies on our roads which are most often caused by fatigue. People sleeping in the car while you are driving significantly increases the chances of these tragedies. Every person is different and you need to assess your own abilities as to how many hours you can drive. Personally when I used to travel with my family in the car I would drive a max of 6 hours and only if I have had a good sleep. I am sure every person who has lost concentration and wiped out some or all of his family would, if the were alive today, say I did not think that would happen. You do not get a second chance, and no matter how inconvenient it was I never broke this rule and I am very happy to say that my kids now do the same with their families which saves us from any worry when they are away. What others do is there business, what you do is your call.
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Follow Up By: scandal - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 17:43

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 17:43
I'm not sure if you are making a general comment or aiming at me, so I'll assume the later.
I spelt it out in first 4 words of my post, you spelt it in your last line of your reply, no need for the dramatics in the middle.
My background is long distance driving, lots of people can't do that or choose not to, many people can.
There are plenty of family's that do Brisbane - Sydney (approx 950k's) in a day regularly, Brisbane to Melbourne (approx 1800k's in 2 days)
I have no idea of the original poster's background, they might be good travelers, long distance driving has many hazards, fatigue is only one.
Bek M did welcome all suggestions, I gave mine as you did yours, have a happy weekend.
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Follow Up By: Idler Chris - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 18:43

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 18:43
You assumed wrong. I said everyone is different. Obviously if you are or were an interstate truck driver your abilities are vastly different than from say an office worker. As I said "assess your own abilities."
As for dramatics, reminding people about the families torn apart because a driver over estimated his abilities is not dramatics but an unfortunate fact of life.
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Follow Up By: scandal - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 21:04

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 21:04
You know how this forum works, you have applied your follow up to my reply, not follow up on any other replies, my assumption is based on that.
There are plenty of people who do not drive trucks than can do 1000k's a day standing on their head, does not matter what job you do
I have stated my suggestion, another reply has the same view, most holiday makers would be happy doing 500 ks a day, some say that would even be pushing it.
Each their own, you do it your way, I 'll do it my way, others will do something in the middle, just don't portray those of us who can make a mile as some kind of irresponsible family killer waiting to happen.
It's good to see that you are warning potential long distance drivers of the dangers of fatigue, but that is just one factor, lets not forget that.
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Reply By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 14:29

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 14:29

I wouldn't go past central Aust., but come back through the Plenty Highway and Longreach. With three younger teenagers we did 7000km through central Oz in just under three weeks and that was a bit too rushed.
I don't mind driving long distances, 1000km day after day on bitumen isn't a problem to me, but it's unfair on the passengers, they won't enjoy it or you for doing it.
You need some multi days stops, and you need to be setting up camp by approx 3PM each day when you are travelling, so you can have dinner and washed up in the daylight.

We didn't stop and look around until we got to Coober Pedy, having previously been to the Flinders, nor did we stop at Longreach as we have been there previously as well.
IF you did the Flinders, central Oz and back to Vic through Longreach, 5 weeks is about right.
There is too much to see in northern NT to squeeze that into a week, do it another time.
Everyone is different, young backpackers, young families, retirees and grey nomads all have differing amounts of time available to them. Just think about what will be enjoyable for ALL rather than how much you can tick off the list as "been there done that".

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Reply By: Member - blackbird1937 - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 15:48

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 15:48
Hi Scandal. I agree with your way of travelling. I have done this on m/bikes as well as vehicles for many years. My father travelled the same in the late 20s on as well. Many people have not done enough driving to be used to driving for 10 or more hours per day. I do not criticise anyone that can only drive 200 to 500 kms per day. My idea is to get to where I am going, then have plenty of days to check out the area.
AnswerID: 524276

Reply By: Member - John and Lynne - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 16:16

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 16:16
The main aim is to have a great trip so that all the family love it and are keen to go again on the next one. We have met too many people with kids jacking up and just refusing to get in the vehicle again with a keen driver who only wants to cover distance! We met one wife on her way to buy a plane ticket home! You also want to see lots of places - not just the line up the middle of the road! From Melbourne to the Centre you have a choice of interesting routes. We would suggest you choose a few places that interest you and certainly don't plan on going past theAlice Springs area. As said already, detailed itineraries of heavy driving can kill a trip - if not your family! Also distances that look quite reasonable on a map while you are comfortably at home can feel quite different when you are actually driving, camping, cooking and caring for kids. As it is your first big trip you will need to allow extra time for setting up and generally getting into a routine. Take it easy and leave the NT for another time. You have years of family holidays ahead of you. Make sure you all enjoy this one! Lynne and John
AnswerID: 524278

Reply By: Member - Odog - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 17:30

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 17:30
Hey Bek
My wife and I have been planning a trip to Perth from Canberra, idea was to do eyre peninsula on the way across, then leave Perth and do sw corner around to esperance. And come home through flinders ranges. Have been planning this trip for 8 months, after first week in planning stage, we cut out flinders ranges..(to make more time, which makes for more relaxed) We are taking 8 weeks to do it, but really, the bottom line is to enjoy it.. Don't want to rush.. Don't want dead lines.. If we like a spot, we want to be able to stay an extra day or two.. Even 8 weeks is cutting it fine I feel.. We have made one booking, and have 6 days to get there, the rest of the trip we will wing it. No plans.. The best! Good luck, and safe travels, and enjoy. Cheers Odog
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Reply By: Member - John and Val - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 18:05

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 18:05
Hi Bek,

Like other posters I would suggest that the area around Alice should be your turn-around point, especially if you want to really enjoy the trip and explore and absorb the country that you will travel through. We did a similar trip as our first big inland trip. We took 4 weeks and jinked about a bit getting there, but we could well have used a couple more weeks. Our blogs about that trip are here

The desert landscape is so different to what we are used to at the coast that there will be plenty of wow moments where you want to stop, look and explore. Also there are a few ways to get to the Alice, so you don't need to just go up and back down the Stuart Hway. The Oodnadatta Track, Binns Track and Plenty Highway all offer wonderful experiences.

We favour keeping a loose schedule and not booking camp sites ahead unless absolutely essential eg if you are getting to Alice in the middle of school holidays booking a site might be necessary. Otherwise there is nothing that kills an extended trip as much as having to drive x hundred kilometres in a day just because that is what the schedule (carefully constructed from the comfort of home) calls for. Our preference is to travel until its time to go home, but as others have cautioned try to avoid long days of driving, you want to get home in one piece, refreshed and keenly anticipating your next trip.


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Reply By: Bek M - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 20:39

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 20:39
Great stuff everyone, really appreciate all the valuable advice. Sounds like we won't go much further than Alice this time! We may book a couple of places as we'll be around over Easter and school holidays. How great is this exploreoz community and collective knowledge - thanks!!!
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Reply By: Off-track - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 21:29

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 21:29
As has been said it really is horses for courses; some families can and sometimes out of necessity do travel much further in the timeframes than others will do. Depends on what there is to actually see along the way and what the family wants to see along the way. There is no right answer only what is right for you.

My family is often (but not always) seen to travel further than some others by necessity which enables us to see more of the countryside in terms of total distance but sometimes at the expense of staying at places for longer. Our transits to and from home are usually long.

My opinion on this (noting that nobody's opinion here is wrong at all) is that your itinerary on transit to Alice may not include much to see which may mean that you might be able to get there in 3-5days. To include Ayres Rock and most of what Alice has to offer you could spend 1 to 3 weeks or even more in the Centre, again depending on how much you really want to hang around in one spot. The transit to Darwin is quite easily achieved in 2 days or 3 comfortably but again some people like to stop and stay at every place and take well over a week. You may wish to stay in Darwin for 2 days or 2 weeks depending on what you want to experience and the time you have available.

Once you are in Alice and have seen as much as you want to see then make the call on whether you want to skip up to Darwin or not. Have a plan B and even C & D in your itinerary so that you can be flexible in what you can do.

So from this my family could do NT from say Melbourne fairly comfortably in 5 weeks, and have done pretty similar in the past. In fact our next big trip is from QLD to around the coast of WA in 5 maybe 6 weeks. I have done it a couple of times pre-kids and know what we want to see and my family are seasoned travellers and our routine is well versed. That's just us, I know we can do it safely and enjoyably. Certainly would like to spend ten times that much longer but that just is not possible for us so that is where the compromise comes in to play - as long as safety is compromised.

Not everyone has the time to stop and stay at every place and explore every nook and cranny of this wide brown land. Just as long as you dont push too hard, do it safely and that everyone has an enjoyable time, that is all that matters.
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Follow Up By: Off-track - Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 12:45

Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 12:45
That should definitely read "as long as safety is not compromised" !!

Also can add that while there is no right answer on this there are a few wrong ones, particularly that concerning safety, comfort and enjoyment.
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Reply By: Steve M1 (NSW) - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 23:26

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 23:26
You could "do" Darwin as well but you are breaking your neck to do it. You are already in a fantastic area. Go and see "The Rock" and the Olgas as well as Alice. It's miles better than the photos. Take the kids to the Desert Park and the truck museum etc etc in Alice. Mine absolutely loved it. So will you. Then there are heaps of day trips out from Alice and then you can have a look at the Flinders on the way home. Why spend unnecessary hours at the wheel to "do" Darwin when you already have the treasures at your feet in the Red Centre and Flinders. Do Darwin next time.

oh, and Sydney isn't nearer than Melbourne btw - other way around.

You'll love the Red Centre - do your homework on distances and attractions etc and it'll be a treasured memory for you all. You won't be kicking your heels for something to do and you won't put pressure on yourself to get somewhere when there are places at your feet.
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Follow Up By: mikehzz - Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 08:32

Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 08:32
Yes, I thought that as well. Melbourne is 500kms closer to Alice than Sydney. There's a day there and a day back saved already. :-)
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Reply By: Echucan Bob - Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 08:20

Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 08:20
Melbourne is a lot closer to Alice Springs than Sydney.

I'd go to the Centre first, then head out west to the coast and include either the Pilbara or the Kimberley before heading home on the bitumen via Perth or Darwin.

Five weeks is along time - think big.

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Reply By: KevinE - Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 09:15

Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 09:15
IMO a route up from worth considering is; Melb - Mildura, Mildura - Morgan, Morgan - Burra ( Burra is definitely worth a 2 night stop! They have a pass key at the info centre that gets you into lots of must see places) Burra - Terowie, Terowie - Peterborough, Peterborough - Hawker, Hawker - Flinders Ranges (we prefer Rawnsley Park, others may prefer elsewhere) The office at RP caravan park will provide a map with scenic drives marked on it. I would suggest the southern loop; RP - Moralana scenic drive (sensational) - out onto the Hwy near Merna Morna & head north to the Brachina Gorge road & drive back into the Flinders on it. On the way, the diversion to Aroona is another nice, short drive, then you can keep driving east up either Brachina or Bunyeroo gorges (both equally beautiful!) Then back to base at your caravan park of choice.

From there Blinman is a short trip up the bitumen & then my preference would be down Parachilna Gorge to the Hwy (Glass Gorge is a tight, windy road & less scenic IMO) Turn north once you hit the bitumen again & head north to Beltana (which is slightly off the road & well worth a look) The 22km or so drive from Beltana to Sliding Rock is also worth doing. It's a bit rough, but easily doable in a 4WD driven to the conditions.

From there, I'd drive to Leigh Creek (last stop for supermarket provisions until Alice Springs) Then onto Lyndhurst (a visit to the ochre pits is worthwhile), then Marree. There are numerous accommodation options in Marree.

Then up the Oodnadatta Track to William Creek, stopping at all the sights along the way (use the search forum button here on Explore Oz & you will see there is much to look at!)

William Creek to Oodnadatta (I'd take an extra night in Oodnadatta using it as a base & head out to look at the painted desert)

Oodnadatta - Dalhousie Springs - Mt. Dare (the long way, the shorter track is HORRIFIC!) ( accommodation & non-powered camping available at Mt. Dare)

Mt. Dare - Finke (short diversion to Lambert's Centre, then back to Finke), then up the old Ghan heritage railway track to Maryvale. From there, you could travel down to Chamber's Pillar, or keep going into Alice & set up base camp & come back to Chamber's Pillar later.

Once in Alice, there are heaps of things to see & do! Head west out to Glen Helen, stopping at all of the sights along the way - ditto with heading east to Ross River!

If you don't feel comfortable going down the rough track into Palm Valley, there are 4WD bus tours. The early morning balloon trip is worth every cent too!

Others have suggested going home via Qld, which is a great trip! I'll offer an alternative; AS down the Mereenie Loop to Kings Canyon & then onto Uluru. Back out to the Stuart Hwy & onto Coober Pedy (stopping at the Breakaways just out of town), then down to Port Augusta & home.

Whichever way you go, I hope you enjoy it! :)


AnswerID: 524327

Reply By: mikehzz - Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 09:23

Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 09:23
Bek, here's my system. I research the trip and write out a list of the places and things I want to see. I then estimate how long I'll be at those places. For instance, if it was a zoo, I might say 4 hours. Then I allow around 1 hour per 100kms for travel outside of cities. I find a 7-8 hour drive is no problem if there are no places you want to see or stay at on the way. I also think it's no problem driving half the day (3-4 hours) and sightseeing the other half. With that info I do a little timetable and see where it gets me and when on paper. Then, and this is the important part, I do the trip and completely disregard the timetable. It's a guide only and not to be taken seriously. After a few trips, you can pretty much determine how far is right for you in a day, how long is right for you in a camp spot and what type of things interest you. The timetable will tell you if the trip is possible in the timeframe. Remember though, let the timetable go because it will ruin your trip if you try to stick to it. In reality, you will add things on the fly and drop things off that didn't impress. I've used the same system for travelling overseas as well. It's like compiling your own Trafalgar or Kontiki Tour.
AnswerID: 524329

Follow Up By: Off-track - Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 12:49

Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 12:49
Very good advice IMHO.
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Reply By: AlbyNSW - Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 10:14

Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 10:14
There is no right or wrong answer to your question but my first consideration would be if getting 5 weeks off a one off affair or are you going to get big breaks often? If not it would be a shame to waste a big break on staying in an area that you could get to in a 2 to 3 week holiday later.
Personally I would head further afield and have a bit of a look around on your way and you will find areas that you will want to revisit in more detail on shorter trips another year.
Leave yourself plenty of time and be non committal to reaching destinations by a said date, follow your nose and enjoy the freedom and towards the end of your trip start calculating the days required to get you back home.
AnswerID: 524334

Follow Up By: Off-track - Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 12:50

Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 12:50
...and also very good advice.
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Reply By: Member - Munji - Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 17:26

Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 17:26
There are experienced long distance drivers and there are some not so experienced. My expereince is that many road incidents related to fatigue is that people who have little long distnce driving experience get tired.
My advice, focus on the journey each day and not the destination. Many things change daily and fatigue is one of them.
Safe travel

AnswerID: 524375

Reply By: Member - eighty matey - Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 21:55

Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 21:55
G'day Bek M,

I can completely empathise with you. We don't have the luxury of time and make the most of every trip we do.

Our last big trip in 2012 was a six week trip and we drove 13,500 kms - 10,000 kms dirt roads and highways. We often cover 10,00 kms in 5 weeks.

We don't race to get anywhere and we spend a lot of the time checking out places and having a great time. Many of the big roads make it easy to clock up the kilometres in a short time.

Travelling to Darwin might be a stretch because there is so much to see before you get there.

Don't dismiss the Alice Springs area as a destination. There's plenty to see there - east, west, south and north.
Head across The Plenty Hwy and down to Birdsville, on to Innamincka and down to Cameron Corner. Broken Hill is very scenic and worth at least a couple of days.

I work out our time, where we want to go, how long we want to spend checking out the places, or just sitting around.

Our trip this year is from NSW Central Coast to Burketown Qld, across to Lorella Springs NT, down to Davenport NP, on to the Birdsville Races and a week travelling home from Birdsville. We're really looking forwards to it, can't wait.

Have fun.

AnswerID: 524407

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