Melbourne to Darwin

Submitted: Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 16:23
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We are leaving melbourne for Darwin mid June. 6 week round trip. Do we need to per book camp sites for the trip. We have been told we will b travelling during peak time and should book in advance. This is our first trip and don't really know exact dates when we will arrive places and don't want to have to hurry our trip to get to accomodation on certain dates. Should we plan a more definite date trip or just take our chances. Regards judee and laurie
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Reply By: Les PK Ranger - Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 16:49

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 16:49
Most school terms seem to go to the 3rd week of June, so ou will be travelling to last 5 out of 6 weeks in school hols for NT, QLD, and NSW.
Other states school hols start early July, so 3 weeks there with all Aust school hols.

Winter is definitely the busy time up there, so you may need to book some places, programme in a few safety days here and there, and allow for easier travelling, shorter driving days.

Is all your trip accommodated ?
Any camping at all, or is it something you can consider ?

You might have to sit down and really plan it out.
I feel having to pre book accom and be somewhere strictly on time etc can be fraught with problems.

If you need help with stages, maybe post up a bit of a rough plan.
I'm sure you would get some feedback about your route, things to do / see, tips on accom, and driving distances / times.
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Follow Up By: Judith C1 - Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 17:19

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 17:19
Sorry, I should have been more clear. Camping all the way, we have a cub camper trailor.
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Follow Up By: Les PK Ranger - Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 17:31

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 17:31
A little easier Judith, but some places you MIGHT visit (like maybe campsites on the Ood Tk or West Macs, Palm Valley and the like) might be busy too with families.
I guess do the route plan thing with how you want to get there and back, places you want to see, and see what people can offer up from their experiences.
If you're dashing up (or back down) the Stuart Hwy one leg, then you will probably find rest areas are sufficient, or little detours like Rainbow Valley.
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Reply By: Member - Rod N (QLD) - Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 17:52

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 17:52
Are you just travelling to Darwin, that is no sight seeing and just overnighting on the way? If you mean you are 'free camping' then you can't book anyway. You would possibly only need to book into van parks in the busier places.
What is your planned route, lots of ways to go.
Using Google maps, the shortest way is 3752 km. That would take about a week just driving.
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Follow Up By: Member - Rod N (QLD) - Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 17:57

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 17:57
If you put 'Melbourne to Darwin' in the search box you will get several past threads that may give you more info.
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Follow Up By: Judith C1 - Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 18:08

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 18:08
We want to take in as many sights as we can. We have never travelled with camper before. This is our first big trip. We still have a lot of research to do. Apart from Uluru, Catherine and kakadu, we don't know where to go or what to see.
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Follow Up By: Les PK Ranger - Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 20:06

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 20:06
I suppose it all comes down to how you usually like to travel, and interests etc.
I expect it is just yourself and Laurie, and you just want to see as much as you can, take it all in.
No kids, which would change a whole lot of what, where, possibly route, etc.

Many people do a slow tour to a place, stay X time there, and drive back a faster way (more direct or on the blacktop).
There is a lot to see in the places I have visited on part of your route, but I haven't been north of Alice (by very far), so I'll concentrate on that.

You could do a myriad or routes up there and different ways back.
6 weeks is a reasonable amount of time.

A lot will have to do with your vehicle, experience off road (even the moderate dirt / gravel tracks / roads I mention), and if you've fine tuned your camper set up . . . sounds like maiden voyage of this type, let alone with proposed camper etc ? If so, do consider getting out before June for a couple of shorter trips, and finding out how things work and tune it all up.

A moderate trip would be Oodnadatta Track, on the Dalhousie / Mt Dare, and heading out to Kulgera (on the Stuart Hwy) via Mt Finke.
The only place that could be a problem is around Mt Dare, if it's wet . . . shouldn't be as it's their dry then, but you never know . . .
~ 7 moderate days, touring to a new place on the route each night, a couple of short days in there, and sights time.
You could take longer, you do go right past the Flinders Ranges you know :)

Then perhaps head across to the rock, up to Kings Canyon, around to see the West Macdonnell Ranges, down the Hermannsburg / Palm Valley (a couple of days at PV would be sweet).
Into Alice to restock and refresh for a day.
Another 7 - 10 days.

Ok, as far as I can see, heading up the Stuart Hwy will give you the best option to get to Darwin fairly fast, no doubt there's plenty to see on the way besides wide open space.
Perhaps 3 - 4 days ?

How long in Darwin, a week ?

Maybe coming home you can go into QLD on the Barkley to Mt Isa (2 or 3 days), down the Diamantina and Eyre Development Roads to Birdsville (2 days), check out Big Red would = 1 - 2 days around BV with other local sights inc.

Then either . . . down the Birdsville Track, explore the Flinders for 4 or 5 days, then head home . . .
Innaminka via Cordillo Downs, maybe camp Cullyamurra Waterhole a couple of days, side trip to Burkes Grave.
Down the Strzelecki Tk to Cameron Corner, home via Broken Hill, Mildura, Swan Hill.
Time to stop and explore a number of areas anywhere en route.

You could get a dozen different routes and options to this you know :D
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Follow Up By: Judith C1 - Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 20:29

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 20:29
Thank you so much for all your advice.
You are right it will be our maiden big trip. It is just the 2 of us travelling. We will b travelling in a 2009 4x4Hilux with engineered suspension towing a new 2014 Cub daintree le off road camper. We have only had minimal camping experience, just a couple of weekend trips. We have done quite a bit of 4x4 driving but nothing extreme enough to warrant dragging the winch into action. We have both just turned 60.
We are really looking forward to the trip, very excited, but not sure where to go, how long, etc, hoping to play it day by day, just a bit concerned about finding accomodation. My husband also looking forward to wetting his fishing rod if possible.
Once again thanks for your helpfulness. Much appreciated. Regards judee and laurie.
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Follow Up By: Les PK Ranger - Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 20:42

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 20:42
Pleasure Judith, happy to help.
You might have picked up on it, but planning is something I love about trips, maybe as much sometimes !

I think you'd be fine with your setup, experience, etc doing the above.

You'll pick up experience and have fun camping in the new rig, just trial cooking / fridge setups, for sleeping maybe get a a 12v fan or two in the cub (if not already) to help circulate still / more humid air you'll strike.
(2nd battery ?)

Reduce tyre pressures (lux and cub) for a lot of those non bitumen roads for better ride and to protect tyres.
Keep the weight down as much as you can, travel like you are going overseas with a backpack only.

If time gets the better of you then you can always have a date you cut out and high tail it home on the black stuff.
Just go over maps online, Google maps etc really well, and research (Google again) like crazy.
Read lots of trip reports to pick up places to visit.

I wouldn't worry booking before you leave, but would have a list of places and contact numbers (email if yu have access on the road) and contact places a few days before to book or check space.
Some places you might luck out, but with your setup, you can generally get off the road a bit up a track (make sure it's not a driveway !!) and set up for the night.

Have a great trip, and if I see any way I can help with advice further, I'll try and assist more.
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Follow Up By: Judith C1 - Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 20:50

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 20:50
Thanks again. We wish you were sitting at the kitchen table trying to plan this trip with us. All we were worried about was the car and camper being tiptop and then just following our bullbar.
I suppose we don't have to worry too much about food supplies as there seems to b plenty of opportunities to stock up.
As this is our first trip we will probably just do all the touristy things and then plan on coming back next time to revisit what we missed.
Thanks again.
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Follow Up By: Les PK Ranger - Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 20:55

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 20:55
Don't stress too much, one motto you can use on the trip is this . . .

"If you don’t have a plan, you can end up doing some interesting things."
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Reply By: Member - rooster350 - Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 19:35

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 19:35
There are lots of free o/n camping spots between Pt.Augusta and Darwin you could probably go all the way without going into a caravan park if you really wanted to. Booking into parks is usually not required , but we phone ahead a day or so before arrival just to be sure of getting in. 6 weeks is not very long for this trip as there is lots of things to see , up one way and back another you will see much more of the country but in 6 weeks not a lot of the good things to see. Our last trip we came back via Qld and the centre of NSW to Vic. but then we had 12 weeks and we had a great time...cheers
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Follow Up By: Judith C1 - Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 19:49

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 19:49
We thought 6weeks was a long time. Oh we'll, it is our first trip, we will do the best we can. Thought we would see as much as we can heading up to Darwin say at least 4weeks then travel home.
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Reply By: Member Andys Adventures - Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 21:40

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 21:40
Hi Judith,

You might want to buy a copy of Camps Australia 7, it shows all the free camps and other camps that you could use.

Darwin at that time of the year will be busy and I would book a spot ahead. All other places you will be ok.

There is a lot to see in the NT, so I would chose what you want to see as you won't see it all in 6 weeks.

My choice would be 1 week Kakadu 1 week Litchfield NP/ Adelaide river. 2 days Katherine Gorge 1 day Douglas hot springs NP 2 days Mataranka / Bitter springs 1 day Daley Waters 1 week Alice Springs and Uluru. It will take 1 week to get to Darwin and a week back.

Enjoy your travels

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Follow Up By: Judith C1 - Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 22:34

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 22:34
Thank you.
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Reply By: Member - Judy and Laurie - Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 21:46

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 21:46
Hi, we did a trip to the kimberley in june, july 2014 in our camper trailer and we visited moree, mt isa, lawn hill national park spent 2 days here (a must see), then on the savannah way to boroloola, lorella springs, mataranka, darwin(spent 3 days ) litchfield national park, victoria river, kununurra, wyndham, on to the gibb river road, to elquestro, home valley station, drysdale river station, mitchell falls ,windjana gorge, tunnel creek, derby and a week in broome,which included a visit to the horizontal falls, fitzroy crossing , halls creek, and a couple of days in the bungle bungles before heading back to kununurra then down to alice springs for 3 days, ayres rock, coober pedy renmark, and back to sydney, this was done in 8 weeks, we saw a lot we didn't rush, but we did a lot of planning and made a rough itenerary so we had an idea of what we wanted to see . This saved time when we got to a town, we knew what we wanted to see. We didn't book ahead, in the accasional town we booked ahead, like in alice we rang the day ahead to book into the macdonnell ranges holiday park(really great) other wise we had no problems. Hope you have a great trip, do plan a little before you go and travel safe
regards Judy and Laurie
ps if you need and more info just contact us
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Follow Up By: Judith C1 - Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 22:39

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 22:39
Thanks Judy and Laurie. Regards Judee and Laurie (what a coincidence)
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Reply By: Idler Chris - Vic - Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 22:00

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 22:00
Plenty of good suggestion here and as others have said, you will be fine. Only suggestion would be sightsee and side track on the way up and back. Do not fall into the trap of running out of time and have to put in long driving days to get home on time. If you can limit driving days to say 300 - 400 km's it makes for a very relaxed trip.
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Follow Up By: AlbyNSW - Thursday, Jan 22, 2015 at 08:19

Thursday, Jan 22, 2015 at 08:19
Yes we follow a very loose basic mud map as an itinery ( if you could call it that) and just follow our nose and have a good look around and enjoy the carefree attitude freedom
Towards the end of the trip we just calculate how many days we need to get home from where we are and then start heading in that direction

I would not be too concerned about where you are going to stay, just go and maybe stay in van parks for a few nights so you can pick up items in town of all the things you realise you don't have and then just get more adventurous from there

Once you get out there it will all fall into a rhythm

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Reply By: Motherhen - Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 22:44

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 22:44
Hi Judee and Laurie

Plenty of places to stay on the way up; roadside rest areas fill during the afternoon, but who wants to set up right by the highway? Not me.

Booking in Darwin would be the only time, and even phoning a few days ahead when your time frame is clearer should find you a place. We were lucky we got in to our chosen caravan park by phoning about an hour out of Darwin as the place we intended to stay for the night to arrive early in the day to get a place had been changed to day area only.

I have blogs from 2008 around Alice Springs, and from 2009 to Darwin. Or you can contact me with any specific questions about camping and sightseeing.

So much to see; as you can see from My Blogs we had to come back the second year, and there is still more in the Northern NT still to be seen.


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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 22:45

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 at 22:45
I should have asked if you need power every or most nights. I was working in the assumption that you don't.


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Follow Up By: Judith C1 - Thursday, Jan 22, 2015 at 05:54

Thursday, Jan 22, 2015 at 05:54
Hi Motherhen, (what a reassuring name),
Bit concerned about free camping along the trip. Is it safe? How do we know where to set up?
We have dual batteries in camper and vehicle and will be carrying solar panels.
We were hoping to at least alternate nights, one on road next off road (caravan park) or 2nights free camping then 3rd night in park to catch up with washing, water and recharge.
Regards Judee
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Follow Up By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Thursday, Jan 22, 2015 at 07:46

Thursday, Jan 22, 2015 at 07:46
I second Idler Chris's comment above about being realistic in how far you travel each day. In winter, most days you should want to be in camp by 3PM, allowing yourself a couple of hours to set up and cook in a relaxed manner in daylight.
Nothing wrong with planning the odd big strategic long day's travel with night set up, but not regularly, besides roos at night make it unwise to travel.
You don't have to stay in a CP most nights, even in a camper without a shower. If you are passing through a town in the middle of the day, most will allow you to use their amenities block and have a shower for $5-10/ head.
As a family we have pulled over and camped in the middle of no where often, but not on main highways because of the noise.
Recommend you look at some of the well travelled persons blogs on this site, look at Motherhens, John and Val's, The Landy are quite detailed. There are many others as well, just trawl through the index.

Also remember that it will be quite cold at night in central Australia, temperatures of -3 are not unheard of (I've often camped out around Alice with frost/ice on my swag/sleeping bag in the morning). Not a problem is you are prepared with warm bedding and clothing for evening and first thing in the morning.
Personally I find a pair of overalls keep me warm in camp at night and importantly keep your clothes clean from the dust which will coat every external surface once you are off the highway.

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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Thursday, Jan 22, 2015 at 11:00

Thursday, Jan 22, 2015 at 11:00
One benefit of the sub zero nights in central Australia (and likewise where I live in the south west of WA), they mean clear warm sunny days; perfect for sightseeing and walking.


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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Thursday, Jan 22, 2015 at 11:15

Thursday, Jan 22, 2015 at 11:15
Hi Judith - you have a good name too ;)

So long as you are not in or close to towns it is quite safe camping. Petty thefts only occur in towns, so we don't feel safe in caravan parks, and axe murderers are only in the movies. Best if you can get out of sight of the road, and it will be quieter. We don't join those crammed into the roadside rest areas, but get out on our own in much nicer places. Some but not all of the 24 hour roadside rest areas have pit toilets, but we have our own on board bathroom so do not want these facilities.

We have adequate solar power, and can camp away from caravan sites for weeks. I have reviewed all the good places to camp between Alice Spring and Darwin that we found or know about, and can share this if you contact me which you can do through my blogs.

We toured Kakadu (for more than a week just seeing the basics) while heading north, and spent three days in Litchfield National Park on the return south, as per my blogs and links.


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