Approx time for this outback trip?

Submitted: Monday, Apr 25, 2011 at 18:45
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We are at the beginning stages of planning our trip for next year and was just wondering what the professional's ( you guys) think how long this trip will take and any other info you think will be beneficial for us. We currently have 2 utes in our convoy which will include a 5 and 3 yr old.

So we are starting in Sydney heading to broken hill, down to Oodnadatta track up to Oodnadatta down to Coober peady then up to Ayres and Olgas then to Kings Canyon possibly to Alice then to Dalhousie and across the Simpson to Birdville and down the birdsville track then somehow home haven't got that far yet.

So how long do you think we would need for this trip? This is obviously a very quick version as the more we look into it all the more we find out and new places to visit along the way so any good places that we HAVE to stop at let us know.

We were looking at leaving late May to coincide with some of our school holidays now looking at the road closures now we would have no hope in crossing the simpson if we had planned it for this year so getting abit worried although yes its a year away.

Thanks for your help and ideas
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Reply By: Member - John and Val - Monday, Apr 25, 2011 at 19:04

Monday, Apr 25, 2011 at 19:04
You could do a trip like that in 3 weeks or 3 months! It will depend on so many things that its almost impossible to give a definitive answer. Travelling with small children may mean that you will need to allow time for running around and playing. Maybe aim to do no more than about 300 or 400km each day as a starting point for driving times.

There is so much to see that you could spend a month around central Australia and still not see it all. Assuming there is no more heavy rain the Oodnadatta and Birdsville Tracks could be in good condition so not difficult driving. We have been over much of that ground so have a look at our blogs for more info on what to see and places to camp.


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Follow Up By: Litlbalt - Monday, Apr 25, 2011 at 20:35

Monday, Apr 25, 2011 at 20:35
Thanks Val have just been reading your blogs and makes me want to leave now not have to wait a year but its all in the planning so hopefully we can have a great trip next year.

We have planned on it taking approx 4wks as we dont want a flying visit but also need to get back to work and school.
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Reply By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Monday, Apr 25, 2011 at 19:24

Monday, Apr 25, 2011 at 19:24
With kids and a wife or on your own/ with a mate?
Used to driving 10 hours a day (in winter we made Broken Hill on night 1), or happy with driving 6?
Want to say "Been there done that" as you drive by ands tick it off the list or do you want to learn from the locals?

Two years ago we did basically your trip to Alice (but included Dalhousie on the way north) with 3 kids & wife and home via Plenty Highway & Diamantina Lakes(not Simpson) in 3 weeks.
Wished we had at least another 2-3 days.
Spent 3 nights at Uluru, 2 at Kings Canyon (Ck Station) and 2 in Alice Springs.
Wouldn't want to do it any quicker, you would probably want to allow an extra day or 3 for the Simpson over what we did.
If you want to see the Flinders, throw in another 2-3 days minimum
Based in Tamworth we have about 1.5 days advantage over someone starting in Sydney.
I would suggest 3 weeks 4 days minimum via Simpson with kids.
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Follow Up By: Litlbalt - Monday, Apr 25, 2011 at 20:32

Monday, Apr 25, 2011 at 20:32
Thanks it will be wife and kids plus a mate at this stage.

We have done a 12hr driving day this year on the way home from Fraser Island but dont think we will be up for too many of them, we want to been there done that but also learn about the country side aswell so we dont want it to be a flying trip.

We had planned on it taking approx 4wks would love to stretch it out to 5wks but with work and school will have to see when we get a bit closer.

The wife had planned the same amount of nights at Uluru and Kings Canyon as you, do you think that was a good amount of time or wished you could of stayed at either place longer?

Just hope that next year isn't as wet as this year and the Simpson is open
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Follow Up By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Monday, Apr 25, 2011 at 22:03

Monday, Apr 25, 2011 at 22:03
Our experience was three nights at Uluru about right, depends if you want to climb it or do as the Rangers say the traditional owners want you to do and not climb it. There are more days where it is closed than open (too wet, hot, windy). You may need 3 days to "jag" the right conditions if you want to climb it.
Most people I have spoken to find the Olgas (Katu Juta?) more worthwhile than Uluru.

Kings Canyon is one full day (not for your 2-5 year old though). We liked Kings Ck Station, would have been happy to have stayed another day.

I was so fascinated by the Mac ranges I went back and spent a week in the ranges in a later year. Suppose if I had any advice it may be to use Alice Springs as a base to see the east and west Mac ranges.
But if you want to stick to your itrenary, unless you alot more than 4 weeks total I don't think you will have much more time than a 1 day excursion and a drive by.
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Follow Up By: Maggie C - Monday, Apr 25, 2011 at 22:44

Monday, Apr 25, 2011 at 22:44
You mentioned you liked Kings Creek Station rather than Kings Canyon. What is the attraction at the Creek Station as compared to Kings Canyon. How far is the station from the start of the Kings Canyon walks. Thanks for your advise
Maggie C
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Follow Up By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011 at 10:51

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011 at 10:51
Kings Ck Station is approx 30km south of the Canyon, the resort (mini Uluru camping area) is about 3-5km north. You have to drive from either. The resort is very good, nothing wrong with it, but you may as well be in a 4 star caravan park anywhere in Australia, except there is no grass.
Beats me why people travel 2000km to stay in a caravan park almost identical to one just up the road from where they live.
Edith (?)Ck is about half way between the Gorge and Station and is well worth the 2-3km walk to see how stockmen of 50-100 years ago used the creeks and gorges to manage stock, as well as the little oasis. Makes you more aware of how water is life.

The Station is owned by the Ian and Lyn Conway who initially developed the Station for cattle then camels utilising the feral camels. They can show you what station life and mustering camps were/are about (not some Gold Coast spectacular). Their camp sites are spacious and well spread out, many with shade and lawn.
I found they employed staff who had lived in the area for a while (one staff member we struck was a former guide at the Gorge, another was a retired ringer). The resorts are great if you want to get the low down on Amsterdam, London or Munich as they are predominantly staffed by friendly European backpackers who knew nothing of the local area.

Ian Conway has an interesting upbringing and he is trying to do something for the local communities through education, Google Conway kids. There was an Australian Story episode filmed on them.

Enjoy your time through central Australia.
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011 at 15:35

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011 at 15:35
I think you mean Kathleen Gorge Mark?

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Follow Up By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011 at 15:43

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011 at 15:43
Thanks Mother Hen, that's the woman!

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Reply By: Crackles - Monday, Apr 25, 2011 at 21:19

Monday, Apr 25, 2011 at 21:19
Allowing for driving at a steady pace, stopping briefly at most key attractions & a couple of spare days to recharge, I'd suggest the Simpson loop is a minimum 2 weeks from Sydney, 3 weeks including the rock & 4 with Alice Springs.
From Birdsville one interesting way back to Sydney could be Cordillo Downs to Innaminckah, Tiboorburra, White Cliffs then Bourke. (Add another week)
Cheers Craig.......................
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Follow Up By: Member - Duncs - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011 at 07:55

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011 at 07:55
It's hard to argue with this.

We did pretty much this trip but set off from Broken Hill and took 3 weeks.

You can drive the Hill to Sydney in a day but most people are surprised by how far it is. Especially the bit from Cobar west. Coming out of Sydney an overnight at Cobar is common. If you want to have a look at BH I think you need at least a week. I spent 4.5 years there and didn't see everything.

The run from Birdsville, as suggested by Craig is really pretty and while big distances are involved it is easy driving. Going White Cliffs then Bourke is almost back tracking and I would probably visit one or the other. If you come via White Cliffs there are a couple of interesting things to see near by and then I would come down via Tilpa and Cobar,

So you could do your trip in 4 weeks but I would aim for 5 and if I could get 8 I would be happier.

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Reply By: rumpig - Monday, Apr 25, 2011 at 21:49

Monday, Apr 25, 2011 at 21:49
we did a similar trip last year but out of Brisbane and did it in 3 weeks, 4 weeks is a much better time frame though IMHO. we did the trip including 2 families of kids (5 kids all up) as young as 3 years old up to about 10 years old.
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Reply By: Motherhen - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011 at 15:41

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011 at 15:41
Hi Litlbalt

Do you have to set a rigid agenda? Try just travelling at a comfortable pace, taking time to see what you are passing, and not straining the children with too long a drives. You will pick up ideas for lesser known places from others as you go (locals and travellers). You may not get it all in, but you will get a better look at where you do travel. When you are about half way through your time frame, turn around, picking different roads where possible. The rest can wait until next time. Relax and enjoy what you do see.

We spent five weeks in and around Alice Springs in 2008 (see My Blogs).


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Follow Up By: Litlbalt - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011 at 15:54

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011 at 15:54
We were just having a round about plan on where we wanted to go but after reading many articles in mags and on sites etc they have all been planned down to the finest detail so was thinking that is what would be needed for such an isolated trip.
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011 at 16:03

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011 at 16:03
The beauty of camping is no hotel bookings or rigid schedules. Just get out there and enjoy what you see. Also in the mags, they only tell you about the high profile places where someone can make money out of you. There is a lot more out there to see as well.


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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011 at 16:53

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011 at 16:53
Totally agree with Motherhen. While its not a bad idea to have a general idea about where you might go, what you want to see, its definitely NOT a good idea to plan an itinerary down to the last detail, especially when going remote. Why? Many reasons but especially when you are going into unknown (for you) territory you simply cant make a decision while sitting at home, about how long to get there or spend there.

Also there is much than can go wrong and upset your plans - rain forcing road closures, vehicle problems, children getting sick etc etc. I wouldn't wish problems on anyone but they do happen, so make it easy for yourself by not having a tight fixed schedule - it is a good way to spoil a trip.

In 4 weeks you will certainly not see more than a fraction of what there is to see - and the best bits are seldom mentioned in travel magazines. (You find out about them from locals and other travellers, and that's one of the things that turns a trip into an adventure). But they will still be there for next time. The important thing is to make the trip so enjoyable that you want there to be a next time.



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Follow Up By: geocacher (djcache) - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011 at 23:12

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011 at 23:12
You also find them by getting into Geocaching.

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Reply By: geocacher (djcache) - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011 at 21:51

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011 at 21:51

Saw your post while sitting at the branch covering while nightshift are out on a job. You are in the position we were in about 7 years ago when this sort thing played on our minds planning trips. We did it for a couple and then gave up on plans.

You could always do what we do (me, wife, two girls 11 & 7). Set off with a rough idea & make it up as you go along.

Our trip last year saw us leave Victoria with the intention to see Lake Eyre with water in it & the kids wanted to see the rock. Other than that we had no itenerary or plan. Eases the stress that way. Just 4 weeks and two destinations. We had the Patrol & camper packed. At least two weeks meals in the fridge & drawers & headed off.

We thought one way to achieve it was to go up the Oodnadatta all the way to Alice Springs.

The rain that fell last year saw so many track closures that a week out from the trip we didn't know if we could go where we wanted. The day we left we didn't know if we were going up the Oodnadatta, or up the bitumen.

We did 950km to Tailem Bend in the first day with me thumping the steering wheel listening to the Collingwood/Geelong draw Grand Final.

We decided with track closures to go up the bitumen & come back down the Oodnadatta. Having done the Stuart more than a few times, I was tiring of bitumen (gee that happens quickly) when we left Woomera after an overnight stay there & we decided on a detour out to show the kids Kingoonya & the modern day ghost town at Tarcoola. (Highlight #1 of the trip for the kids, riding scooters in the empty pool & playing what may have been the first game of cricket on the school pitch since '97.)

Had we not detoured we'd not have seen so many Sturt Desert Peas. We hit the bitumen again below Coober Pedy & headed up to Uluru over the following day.

3 nights at the rock was just enough. I'd stay a fourth next time & spread the sightseeing over another day. (Highlight #2 - helicopter flight, Highlight #3 - running into friends from Lakes & watching the Pies win in their apartment.)

We headed to Kings Canyon from there and spent 2 nights, again I'd add a night here. (Highlight for the kids # 4 - The Roadies - while for Mum & Dad sitting in the front row of sites at the resort camp area watching spectacular sunsets. (I'd stay here rather than the station & we tossed up both.) Kings is more impressive than the rock we decided - and our neighbour made a big call and said it was better than the Bungle Bungles.

We then headed around the Mereenie Loop - just before it closed again - and camped at Palm Valley for a night - sensational spot - highlight #5.

Then 5 nights in Alice Springs at the Big 4 (MacDonnell Range CP). We decided given how wet the back track from Hermansburg to Gosses Bluff was to leave the Gorges out of Alice for another trip.

We left Alice & headed down the Ghan to Chambers Pillar for a night - wow. Great sunset. Had campground to ourselves. Warm in October but it has it's advantages.

Then on to Mt Dare for a night, and then to Dalhousie where we'd planned lunch but not to camp. (Mozzies put us off) Dalhousie was great so we decided to stay.


Waking at 1 am ot the sound of light rain, I waited for the morning to assess the damage. Not good. Doesn't take much to make tracks impassible here.

Talking to two SA govt guys camped at Dalhousie they reckoned that we'd have struggled towing the camper to Oodnadatta before it rained with the track as wet as it already was, so we decided to head back to Mt Dare with two other vehicles also heading out.

It kept raining, & raining & raining. It took 3 hours to do the 70km to Mt Dare & by half way Lynne declared she didn't mind rocks & corrugations anymore. We saw more of the sides of the camper in the rear vision either cos the truck was sideways & it was straight or vice versa.

Highlight of highlights resulted. We were stuck at Mt Dare for 8 days before we could get out - even then it involved tens of kilometres of flooded outback roads to get out to Kulgera.

Those 8 days would have had most people panicking about the rest of their trip plans. We didn't. We had a ball. It was one of the best weeks away I've ever had.

I ended up working around the pub, fitting Dave's new cruiser ute up with dual battery, UHF, HF, Compressor etc. We pulled the body off his rolled offroad racer, put up a HF antenna & reinstalled the HF from the old pub in the new one. The kids watched school of the air, went to meet the mail plane, played with Dave & Mel's kids & rode bikes & motorbikes. It was sensational. We were stuck with a good crew of others too. (Our pic is in the letters section of issue 160 of 4wd Action.) We made new friends, and I very nearly got to go on a recovery out into the Simpson but fortunately for the caller (& not so fortunately for me) they got out of their bind before needing rescue.

We did see Lake Eyre in the end, by air, on a flight from Coober Pedy on the way home. It had to be done one way or the other & the Oodnadatta was still closed so getting to William Ck was out of the question.

Just before Pimba heading south we did a clutch on the Patrol... too much work in the floods towing the camper.... we limped into Adelaide. 600k on a quarter of a clutch. Lucky it's flat(ish).

That extended our trip by another day or so in Adelaide while we organised hire car & repairs.

I think the moral of the story, if I've not rambled too long & you stopped reading, is that if you plan stuff you often don't end up getting to follow the plan. That causes some people stress. My way of doing it without a plan stresses others - it's not for everyone - but it doesn't put destination or timeframe pressure on.

We're fortunate enough that we try to do a trip every year with the kids while they are young enough to pull out of school. If we don't see something we put it on the list for the next trip, or the one after that.

Aside from transport legs which can be as much as 900km in a day, we try to keep things easy - in camp by 3pm so we can set up & cook a meal, unwind with a beer & light the fire. No one night stays anywhere unless on a transport leg - and then sometimes we travel longer into the day and just get a cabin - the time you save from setting & packing up the camper gains you another 200km for the price of the difference between the cabin/pub room/motel & a campsite.

We are generally away for 4 weeks and average between 7000 & 10000km in a trip. Sounds like a lot but usually 3000-5000 or more of that is done in the few transport leg days of the trip leaving you about 3000-5000 over 3 1/2 weeks.

One last hint. There's a great book called A Woman's Look At Camping which will give you lots of hints, tips & recipes if you've not done this sort of trip before. I bought our first copy from EO bookshop here, not sure if they still have it but you can get it here. WLACamping My wifes worn our copy out. The checklists are fantastic too.

Anyway. I'll leave it at that. The nightshift crews back & I can go home.

AnswerID: 452399

Reply By: Member - Royce- Wednesday, Apr 27, 2011 at 18:56

Wednesday, Apr 27, 2011 at 18:56
I haven't read all the responsed closely. Has anyone mentioned how long a piece of string is?

The real answer is "How long do you want to take?"

If you want to spend a couple of days here and there, then it will be quite different to drive... have a look and drive on...

If it's your first trip then I think the best thing is to allow a few days stop at a few places. As you travel take note of the spot you would have liked to have spent more time at and then make sure you get back there in later years.

Start off by working out how long the road travel will take.. allow for the stops, then add a week? Enjoy. The planning is amost as satisfying as the doing.
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