Central CoastNSW to Uluru etc Winter 2011 Itinerary ideas

Submitted: Monday, Apr 18, 2011 at 22:52
ThreadID: 85730 Views:3248 Replies:6 FollowUps:3
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We are planning a 6 week tour of duty through the centre of this great land. June/July 2011. We have a lifted, kitted out 2005 Nissan Pathfinder and will be towing a "Light offroad" camper trailer (Canvas Tent). Mum, Dad & 4 kids (10; 8; 5; 4). The plan is a "round trip".

We will also have travelling with us 2 sets of grandparents - One set in a Hyundai Santa Fe towing a medium sized on road caravan; and the other set in a 1999 Toyota Prado - sleeping arrangements still to be determined. One set live in Penrith (Sydney); the other set live in Toowoomba (Qld) - and we'd like to pick up one set at the beginning of the trip, and drop off the other set towards the end.

So we have a couple of questions we would love some feedback on ...

Clockwise or anti clockwise??? I know there's a few schools of thought out there. Will we really save petrol travelling anti clockwise because of prevailing winds??? Do we really know that much about wind behaviours to know which way it's going to blow??? And which way is most of the traffic heading?? If I can travel against most of it I'm thinking it's probably worth burning a bit extra fuel.

What's not to miss??? There's the obvious things like Uluru, Kings Canyon, Cooper pedy; etc - but is there anything else we should look out for??

What shouldn't we forget?? - Whilst we plan to stay predominantly in caravan parks, we hope to be semi-independent so that we can do an overnighter or two in unserviced camping areas. We'll have gas cooking, hopefully some 12volt lighting, portable chemical dunny, obviously will ensure we have sufficient water etc. I hear it does get pretty stinkin cold at night - is it survivable without some form of in tent heating??

And at the risk of opening a huge can of worms - what guide-book &/or Maps would you recommend. (We will have at least 1 GPS in the travelling party - but we think it's just plain stupid to rely on that as your only source of navigation)

OK so I'll leave it at that, but will gladly welcome any comments, advice etc that will help us finalise the details of this trip which is creeping much closer much too quickly.


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Reply By: Motherhen - Monday, Apr 18, 2011 at 23:55

Monday, Apr 18, 2011 at 23:55
Hi The Gitts

As you have a large range of age groups to consider, my main advise would be to have something for everyone - even the youngest, and make sure all are involved in the planning and their ideas considered. You have only a short time to see so much, so i presume Central Australia will be your main goal. We travelled without children, and only the two of us and a rough dirt road capable rig. Our Central Australia trip reports can be found at Our travelogues. 2009 took us north of Alice, but that is not on my website yet. There are heaps of ideas for keeping camping simple in the Tips and Hints sections which is also still growing. I hope this helps you find something for each and every on of your family group to enjoy. For the children, the Desert Park, and the Reptile Centre in Alice Springs.

Clockwise or anticlockwise doesn't come into it - the winds will blow the way they want to and usually against you. The wind theory pertains mainly to the Nullarbor and is very general. Some quote the shorter distance (tongue in cheek) when doing a full lap anticlockwise because you are on the left side of the road. At that time of the year traffic will be going in all directions.

Take a good spade - because there are only public dump points in Central Australia; one is at the waste disposal area in Alice Springs, and the other in the industrial area at Yulara. Fortunately there is a lot of desert sand in between! Take a good spade and go well away from water courses, rest areas and civilisation.

To keep warm at night, extra track suits and thick bed socks over the children's pyjamas, and hot water bottles to warm Grandma's toes. With good sleeping bags and extra clothes plus bed socks, and a blanket over the top when needed should keep all warm at night. A well insulated mattress or added insulation if sleeping in a tent as the cold comes up from the ground more than it come down on you.

You say a round trip - what way are you intending to return to Toowoomba? You have some long distances to travel in the time, and the youngsters may not appreciate day of long driving; same for the older generation. Allow plenty of time for the youngsters to run around, and for the Grannies to rest and relax (Mum and Dad too!).



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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Monday, Apr 18, 2011 at 23:57

Monday, Apr 18, 2011 at 23:57
Check out travelogues for 2008 on the link (sorry, missed saying 2008 above).

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Reply By: Member - MUZBRY(Vic) - Tuesday, Apr 19, 2011 at 07:09

Tuesday, Apr 19, 2011 at 07:09
Good morning
Don't forget to take your jumper leads . And it dose get cold. We were in that area in September and had ice on the vehicles and tents . Keep warm .

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Reply By: Member - John and Val - Tuesday, Apr 19, 2011 at 08:35

Tuesday, Apr 19, 2011 at 08:35
Hi Gitts,

You should have a great time. You mention a round trip but give no clue about your route. More detail required if you required help in that regard. As MH says, clockwise etc is not an issue - only relevant if planning a 6 months+ trip across the Nullarbor and taking seasonal issues into consideration.

Yes it will be cold - have been in -4 temps around Alice, but the days will be glorious. Take good warm clothes, beanies, gloves as well as warm sleeping gear. A tarp to throw over your canvas can help a bit. Also take and use heaps of hand cream and lip screen as the dry cold weather tends to cause lips and fingertips to develop small but painful cracks.

A day or 2 back there was a post about what to see in the East MacDonnell Ranges, have a look at that and have good look around this site as there is a mass of info. The Obvious places - Uluru, KC, will be crowded, but there are many other places that are just magic where there wont be quite so many people. We have mentioned quite a few in our blogs if you have a look there.

Maps - its essential to have paper maps as a backup for any GPS. We carry the Hema Australia road and 4WD atlas, plus maps for specific areas - Hema have a good selection and are available through the EO shop. If you also get a copy of Camps Australia it has the same Hema maps and will pay for itself after you have used 2 or 3 good free camps.

My preference is to use bush/free camps as much as possible, rather than CPs, although when you are in Alice you will need to be in CPs. You will pass through country that is very different to the coast so its good to get the children observing the passing scenery, looking for animals, flowers, rocks etc to build their interest. Also if you are travelling in 3 vehicles UHF could be useful for communication while travelling. Don't forget the camera.

Have a great trip,


J and V
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Reply By: The Gitts - Tuesday, Apr 19, 2011 at 20:48

Tuesday, Apr 19, 2011 at 20:48
Thanks for the help so far.

The kids travel pretty well; having done an annual trip to Sunshine coast Qld pretty much every year since birth. MOST of those trips were Bathurst - Toowoomba in 1 day then on to the coast from there.

So Basically our Goal is Uluru, Kings Canyon, Alice and around those areas. So essentially by round trip we mean from home (central Coast) to alice & back - Via Penrith & Toowoomba (at either 'ends' of the trip). We don't have a set route yet but are looking at Port Augusta, Coober Pedee, Uluru etc, Alice, Tenant Creek, West Qld, Toowoomba, then home - or the other way around. But we're happy to take advice on whether there are other/better routes to take - especially between Alice & Toowoomba.

Thanks Again

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Follow Up By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Tuesday, Apr 19, 2011 at 21:15

Tuesday, Apr 19, 2011 at 21:15

In addition to what I wrote below about Longreach area, from there you could head east to Emerald, then down to Canaravon Gorge NP.
Beautiful walking through the Gorge, though difficult to compare, I think it is better than any of the sandstone parks I've seen west of Sydney.

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Reply By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Tuesday, Apr 19, 2011 at 20:58

Tuesday, Apr 19, 2011 at 20:58
Dear The Gitts

We have done a couple of family runs including to the centre even with the 75 year old Grandmother who'd never left the coast. As you have 6 weeks you should be able to do it in a leisurely fashion.
We were blown away by Broken Hill, didn't expect it, even our teenage kids.

I guess you should see the Flinders and or Arkaroola in the Gammon Ranges.
That would easily occupy 3-4 days
Further north, make sure you drop in on Woomera, most kids don't know we had our own Rocket Launching base.
Just north of Coober Pedy the Breakaways are a must for a 2 hour detour and you may want to wander on over to the Painted Desert 2-3 hours east of there again. Up to you whether you go onto the Pink Roadhouse at Oodnadatta at the head of the track
I don't think the Santa Fe towing a road caravan would be wise going to the Breakaways, Painted Desert or Oodnadatta, but on it's own it would be fine. Perhaps a day trip from a Coober Pedy base.

We rushed the West Mac ranges as a family, but you can easily spend a few days between Ormiston Gorge, Redbank Gorge, Palm Valley. I went back and spent a week there on my own a couple of years later I was so impressed by them. I had a friend who spent 10 days in Alice Springs using it as a base for exploring 100km east/west of there. Take your walking shoes as there are some great walks. Depending on how into walking you are, you could do some of the day sections of the Larapinta Trail.
I never did the East Macs, but many people tell me they are more beautiful than the better known West Macs, certainly look impressive from the Plenty Highway.
Most people say 3 days at Uluru & The Olgas is sufficient.
Stay at Kings Ck Station, not the "resort" at Kings Canyon. It is important our kids get some idea of the local communities and the struggles they have, so you don't just see it from the Alice Springs/Coober Pedy perspective. Where possible stay at various stations which offer camping, especially if it enables you to interact with the residents/locals. Less chance of things going "missing" at those places as opposed to town caravan parks as I unfortunately found out in one town. (Keep valuables out of sight and locked up).

In Alice, really depends on what takes your fancy. At the Art gallery you can see Namajirita's hanging on the wall. If you are into wildlife the Desert Park is good. Our kids were just pleased to have some "civilisation" again.

We went back east via the Plenty Highway which was in 2009 an easy run, I don't know about today. We came down through the Diamantina Lakes NP, which our kids enjoyed (including swimming in July), but again the Santa Fe and road caravan would be very unwise. You can spend 3-4 days around Longreach and Winton, Stockman's Hall of Fame, Qantas Museum, School of the Air, Dinosaur Exhibits, plenty of ways to spend your $s there. Book those CP a day or so in advance.

We had two -3 mornings, ice on my swag, but my mother in law from the NSW north coast was warm enough in the camper Trailer with good sleeping bags. Beanies make you much warmer when sleeping, as does a sleeping bag liner for the kids. If it is cold at night, it will be warm the next day with typical 20C diurnal range.

As I doubt you will be leaving the bitumen for long with a road caravan, you won't need a GPS. Just get some basic Hema maps. If you do leave the bitumen for long periods (Plenty Highway, Oodnadatta Track, Flinders) there are some good track specific road atlases sold in the Shop, which break the journeys down into short sections and far more detail.
I'd suggest some UHF radios if you will be travelling in a convoy, 2W hand helds should be fine, but 3W or 5W give better range.

AnswerID: 451818

Reply By: The Gitts - Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 22:33

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 22:33
OK so some brilliant hints tips and advice so far. Thanks somuch!!! So we're finalising our itinerary but have had a last minute thought about adding Lake Eyre in to the visit.

We are heading AntiClockwise and I'm thinking about cutting across to the Oodnadatta Track from either Coober Pedy or follow the Sturt down a bit further and cut up to Roxby Downs and to the Oodnadatta from there along the Borefield Rd (That's obviously less direct). Plan C is hit the track right from Marla - but not as keen on that idea.

Now I've read various comments (Including one on this forum) suggesting that the Oodnadatta is ususally pretty suitable for 2WD (Obviously with some reservations!) but nothing tells me about the likelihood of towing on it - especially towing a caravan. My gut says NO WAY (Especially considering it's my in-laws towing the van - and they're towing with a Sante Fe) - but I do want to check, cause I'd hate to miss it if it's doable.

Once again thanks for sharing your insight & experience!!!

AnswerID: 454636

Follow Up By: The Gitts - Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 22:39

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 22:39
Oops - just re-read Mark's comments above. Yes a Day trip into lake Eyre from Coober Pede does seem the most doable. With 300+ ks each way it would make for a long day though. Is it wise travelling back along those roads just on or after dark???
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