Travelling to Darwin mid June

Submitted: Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 08:14
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Haven't done it before. First long trip. Towing off road cub camper. Want to stop at the major tourist places, e.g. Coober Peedy, Uluru, Kings Canyon etc. also want to do Kakadu and Litchfield. Not particularly concerned about seeing Darwin, may as well if we have time just to say we made it. We are travelling for 6 weeks.
Want to try some free camping and wanted to ask you guys for some suggestions of safe camping sites, preferably with toilet (if possible).
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Reply By: Les - PK Ranger - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 09:17

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 09:17
Where are you heading from Judith ?

Suggest go up or back on the Stuart blacktop for speed, and if set up ok for some outback tracks, go via the Flinders, take tracks like Oodnadatta, side trip Painted Desert, Dalhousie, Mt Dare, Old Ghan to Alice with Chambers Pillar detour.
So much to see up that route.

6 weeks will go in a blink with what your route has to offer, but you will experience so much for sure.
Get wikicamps app if you have suitable phone or tablet, it is well worth the $7.50 cost.
It lists loads of site to stay, with info re toilets and a whole host of other facts, comments, pics.
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Follow Up By: Judith C1 - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 10:30

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 10:30
Start our trip from Melbourne. So looking forward to it. It is our first big trip with the camper trailer.
Will definitely look into the wikicamps app. It has been recommended by other as well. Currently with Optus mobile so will have to look into getting Testra connection which should give us better mobile coverage.
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 12:26

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 12:26
Wikicamps is ok done all offline Judith, you download the current map, and comments you might wish to have is optional (but can be helpful sometimes).
I just downloaded them all at home over the wifi.

From Mexico hey ? :)
If you really wanted some adventure, you could go up through the Vic Desert Parks (Wyperfeld / Big Desert, Border Track (Ngarkat Cons Pk SA).

Suppose you need to sit down and look at a good route up / back, and then try and estimate distances coverable in a day by road or track.
Then look at what you really want to see and modify until it fits 6 weeks ok.

The Vic Desert Pks can be done seperately, better to make the dash perhaps until say the Flinders, then take your time on one leg, or break up the up & down legs into some slower runs both ways, with a little blacktop thrown in from time to time.

Going up the Stuart you also have the West Macs, and Palm Valley, which are awesome.
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Reply By: Nomadic Navara - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 09:28

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 09:28
Free camping up that way is perfectly safe if you keep away from communities and towns (20 km or more.) Camping near communities is similar to someone camping in your front yard.
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Follow Up By: Judith C1 - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 10:31

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 10:31
I am quite nervous about the free camping but will try to get the courage up to try it out. Thankyou
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Lynne - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 10:44

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 10:44
There is no need to be at all nervous about free camping along the way. There will be a great number of other travellers on the roads at that time (it is the height of the travelling season for campers and caravanners). You are more likely to find camp places full if you arrive a bit late than be nervous about being all alone in a wilderness. The Outback is huge and there really aren't low lifes driving out hundreds of k's looking for campers to attack! They know most campers don't carry much worth stealing! The low lifes are much more likely to be hanging around in Melbourne where there are many more opportunities available. (Make sure you notify your insurer if you are leaving your home empty for 6 weeks or more!)
It is a great trip. Relax and enjoy and don't try to see everything in just one trip! Too much driving to meet an unnecessarily elaborate itinerary can really spoil a trip. Lynne
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Follow Up By: Judith C1 - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 10:49

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 10:49
We are really looking forward to it. I have said the same thing to my partner, I don't want to rush, what we don't see this time we will see next time.
Thanks for your time to reply to my concerns.
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Follow Up By: Bigfish - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 10:59

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 10:59
Good idea about getting a Telstra mobile. Far more coverage. Even if you only get a prepaid and have your optus number diverted to the new mobile number. Good peace of mind.

Alice Springs at night is not recommended. I have spent a lot of time there and the after sunset people can give you grief. Ensure you lock your car up when not near it, have valuables insured and don't leave anything inside that can be seen thru a window. Really nothing you wouldn,t do at home!!

You will have a great time and don't be afraid to ask fellow travellers if they know of any spots in the area you are camping. Many people stick to the tourist spots and miss a lot of good scenery, people and places.
As has been said...don,t rush it and its all about the journey..not the destination.


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Follow Up By: Member - rooster350 - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 11:06

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 11:06
Plenty of free camps along the way , but you have to get in early...3 pm off the road and pick a spot and set up ,be nice and try not to take up to much space as there will others coming in later looking for a spot...the early stoppers get the best spots, been there and done that...cheers
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 12:26

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 12:26
Alice Springs, yes sadly when we were there a few years ago, walking around town you'd see parked cars with smashed windows.
We flew in for a few weeks walking in the West Macs and had no issues with no vehicle there.

I would avoid staying there altogether if possible, or stay in a secure caravan / tourist park.
It is an interesting town, with lots to see, and the gateway to the West Macs / Palm Valley / Hermannsburg, loads of history.
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Follow Up By: AnneC5 - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 14:07

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 14:07
Responding to the comment about Alice Springs. It has changed a great deal in recent years, we spent a few weeks there last year and had no problems at all. We used it as a base to see much of the surrounding area. There are a number of good caravan parks.
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 14:36

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 14:36
For sure Anne, times / places change and sometimes increased times of heavier policing will damper down problems is areas too.

As you said, there are good cara pks in town for better security, but I would still be very careful day and night, and as Bigfish said always lock up even if in sight of your car, and never leave anything of value visible inside for opportunists.

I would also be very careful about night time wanderings if tempted.
When we were there 2008, we were warned not to bother going out as much of the town just stays in, and don't go too many remote / dark or known trouble spots.

There are those sort of places in most major town and cities, but statistically I am sure you would have more chance of vehicle vandalism / theft or assault in Alice in the right (bad) circumstances.
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Follow Up By: Judith C1 - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 15:08

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 15:08
What do you recommend regarding refuelling. Is it best, price wise, to do it in the major towns if possible. Are the prices higher on the highway rather than in town where there is a bit more competition.
Aso do we need to be worried about drinking water. Camper only carries 80 litres, are there places we can fill it up. We hope to do some free camping but will also be spending time in caravan parks to catch up on showers and washing clothes.
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 15:25

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 15:25
A rule we follow when travelling in remote areas is never to pass up an opportunity to refuel - on some roads there are long distances between refuels so its best to take advantage of what opportunities are available. On the Stuart highway though there are plenty of fuel outlets so you should not need to carry extra unless you are planning a longish detour off the bitumen. WRT price there is probably not much difference between roadhouses and towns.

We always carry a number of smaller (3l) water bottles as well as bulk water. That way we can top up small amounts, and if it is poor quality it does not have to contaminate the water in your main water tank. You do need to be careful and frugal with your water use but 3l is enough for a satisfactory shower. Ask when you refuel if you can top up water bottles - some places will baulk at you filling tanks but usually bottles are OK.


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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 15:34

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 15:34
Refuelling is a mixed bag, sometimes it's cheaper in small centres just outside main towns . . . town fuelcos seem to take advantage of being close to each other to monitor (fix) pricing, I am sure, and make a bit more profit.

Small places out of town need your biz, and I ahve seen fuel 4 or 5 c a litre less up to 100km in some regions.
When you get WAY out, yeah, prices are usually reflected.
Eg. Mt Dare if you go that way is usually around $2.40 a lt for diesel or ULP.

Water, best to top off at cara pks, you'll probably be staying in these every 3 or 4 days ?
If you need more in between, you can carry a few 10lt water bladder casks from the supermarket.

In cara pks, they may guard their water (not 100% sure, as I rarely stay in them !) so take a container about 10lt or 15lt, that you can fill and top off the camper tank (funnel too ?) . . . likewise, a short hose to reach from a basin to the container on the ground next to it.

I have made a clear 10m food grade hose with tap fittings (small and parge adapters), so I can park next to, and connect to a tap.
Make sure you get some suitable proper grade hose, as normal hose will taint the water and tank.
You can buy these from most stores like BCF.

Also get a 4 way security tap handle for those places that security tap bodies, doesn't hurt to be prepared.
I take one for council park taps which are often fitted with those handle-less tap bodies.

We always try to get water form places without resorting to using the security tap handle, but sometimes you NEED water, and no one's around to ask.
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Reply By: Member - John and Val - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 11:25

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 11:25
Hi Judith,

Welcome to long distance touring and seeing some of the amazing things that are out there. You will have a wonderful time and 6 weeks will be all too short. I can understand your nervousness, but really its not warranted, so think of it as pre-trip excitement. When we first planned to explore the central Aust areas the Peter Falconio incident happened a couple of weeks before we were due to leave. That shook us up a bit and we wondered whether it was sensible to go. But once we got out into that incredibly wide landscape we soon realised that even if there was someone with evil intentions out there, the chances of them coming upon us were pretty remote. So we soon relaxed and had a great time. So dont be afraid to get off the bitumen for more of a look around. We try to get away from the established free camps or van parks, and find a nice camp in the bush by ourselves and out of sight of any road - its not hard to do. Toilets might be few and far between, especially in free camps. Suggest that for a small outlay you get a porta-potti and a folding shower tent. Just make sure you have practised folding it before you leave.

We have written plenty of blogs about our travels so a scan through them might give you some more info and ideas about things and places to see.



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Reply By: craigandej - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 20:23

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 20:23
Hi Judith,

Just factor into your journey, Alice Springs will be hosting the 40th anniversary Finke Desert Race June long weekend. The entire town will be booked out and many places north to Darwin will be quite busy with tourists. The V8 car races are at Hidden Valley Darwin a couple of weeks later, and accommodation in and around Darwin will be scarce also. Both great events which we never miss.

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Reply By: Kumunara (NT) - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 20:31

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 20:31

When you get to Katherine go to the Gorge. There are walks, boat cruises and helicopter rides. All worth doing.

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Reply By: Member - John - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 20:55

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 20:55
G'day, that time of the year it can be bloody cold South of Alice, I would get to the North of Alice as quick as possible, three days is possible and then start touring. Flinders etc can be done as a shorter trip from Melbourne at a later date, more suitable weather, etc.
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Reply By: Cecilyt - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 22:30

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 22:30
wikicamps can be downloaded free onto your phone if you have a smart phone. The comments we have found are very helpful. The time will go so to people where you stop..we found them most helpful. Take extra petrol and fill up whenever you can..we did this trip from nsw last year..thru Dubbo Bourke..had great advice from this forum. Some beautiful places on the nsw coast if you are coming back that way. We ran out of time ha ha...2 mths..good luck Cecilyt
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Reply By: Motherhen - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 23:53

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 23:53
Hi Judith

You are welcome to read My Blogs. We toured around Alice Springs in 2008, and the Stuart Highway from Alice Springs to Darwin in 2009 including Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks. Some, but not many of the Main Roads rest areas in the Northern Territory have toilets, and these rest areas fill early in the afternoon. We choose to go further from the road fro a quiet night on our own well away from the Highway, but we do have our own toilet. If you can take a portable toilet you will have many more options. I also have a My Blog on toilets.


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Reply By: Member - John and Lynne - Tuesday, Mar 17, 2015 at 08:35

Tuesday, Mar 17, 2015 at 08:35
Some replies recommend that you avoid Alice Springs. We would disagree. Last year we spent several weeks there, anchored by medical problems. To begin with we were very impressed with all medical services! A quick diagnosis and efficient treatment for John meant we were then able to continue our trip.
We stayed at Wintersun CP, 2kms north of the town centre. This was a very convenient
location and an excellent park with very helpful management (and good security).
No way did we hide behind locked gates and doors like some sort of caravanners' ghetto!. We went everywhere and parked conveniently, day or night as we wished. (The RSL Club was quite close to the CP and did great meals. There were other good places to eat too and they all had plenty of customers.) We never felt uncomfortable -and we have been uncomfortable at times in Melbourne!
A highlight of a visit to Alice is The Desert Park. This is fantastic and well worth spending at least a few hours. There are plenty of other things to see and do. The Alice Springs Tourist Information Centre is excellent and a good place to start.
There are bad stories about many places but times and places change. Go with an open mind and enjoy your trip. Lynne

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Reply By: Cecilyt - Tuesday, Mar 17, 2015 at 22:30

Tuesday, Mar 17, 2015 at 22:30
Great info about Alice, John and Lyn. We hope to get there this year so it's good to read your comments.
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