Best way to travel Outback from Cairns to Alice Springs

Cairns to Alice Springs: at the Devils Marbles

Cairns to Alice Springs: at the Devils Marbles

We plan to travel from Cairns to Alice Springs, via Uluru, and we'd also like to see Coober Pedy! We are a family of six (2a and 4k) and plan to travel with a family of four. We have planned to fly to Cairns, see the reef, pick up a van and then travel inland.

Are standard campervans "up to" the job on outback roads? (We wouldn't be planning anything too adventurous dirt track wise.)

Do you think we would be tackling too big a job? We have allowed about 10 days on the road so to speak with a couple of days at the "main things".

Having never been outback before, we want to make sure we do it as right as we can... Many thanks for your thoughts.

Response To Best Way To Travel The Outback From Cairns To Alice Springs

Hi Jacqi,

"Are standard campervans "up to" the job on outback roads? (We wouldn't be planning anything too adventurous dirt track wise.)"

Fear not, any vehicle is up to those "outback roads" :-). The roads are really no different to any other roads. The Barkly and Stuart Highway are well maintained highways with plenty of roadhouses along the way.

Regarding the dirt track adventures: be aware that most hire companies will not allow you to take 2WD vehicles on dirt roads. If you plan to take any unsealed roads, even totally unadventurous ones, you will need a 4WD.

"Do you think we would be tackling too big a job?'

Well, to be honest, my first thought was, "Oh my, the kids will be sooo bored!"

But it is not the size of the job that I see as the problem, it's the route. Is there any particular reason why you want to drive all the way? It's just that in my opinion the drive from Cairns to Alice Springs is really not a very attractive one, especially with kids.

Here are some points that I think you should consider:

  • You can't drive to Alice Springs via Uluru, you drive to Uluru via Alice Springs.

  • It's over 2400 km from Cairns to Alice Springs.

  • Uluru is another 450 km further on.

  • Coober Pedy is over 700 km from Uluru.

  • I doubt you will be able to drop a campervan in Coober Pedy. And if, there'll likely be a hefty fee.

  • That is a very long drive you are planning there, and there isn't much to see (except for the Devils Marbles) until you get to Alice Springs.

  • There is, however, a lot to see and do in the Alice Springs area.

Here are the two options that I would consider if I was in your situation, wanted to see those places and to experience some outback driving:

  1. Fly from Cairns to Alice Springs and pick up a van there. Take a good week or so to explore the area around Alice Springs:

    West MacDonnells, East MacDonnells, Kings Canyon, Uluru and Kata Tjuta.

    Then head south via Coober Pedy and drop the van in Adelaide. Consider visiting the Flinders Ranges on the way.

  2. Another possibility is to fly to Darwin, pick up a van there and drop it in Alice Springs or Adelaide.

    On the way from Darwin have a look at places like Kakadu NP, Litchfield NP, Katherine Gorge or Mataranka. (Of course you may have already done that in a previous holiday.)

That way you still have the experience of driving on these endless straight roads, but you will have a lot more variety, more stops and more things to do.

Well, just some points and options to consider. I don't think you'd be tackling too big a job if you drove from Cairns to Alice Springs. But I feel that you could get more out of the time and money you'll be spending on this trip if you flew to Alice Springs or Darwin.

Cairns to Coober Pedy or Adelaide would mean pushing it and will end up being very strenuous. I doubt you'd enjoy the trip.

Comments for Best way to travel Outback from Cairns to Alice Springs

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exactly as stated
by: jason92037

Great recommendations. While the the adults with infinitely longer attention spans can enjoy the 'drive through nowhere' adventure, the kids will likely rebel. The vacation time spent driving from Cairns is not nearly as enjoyable as exploring areas around Darwin and Alice Springs. Better to spend vacation exploring than simply driving.

Just a question
by: Anonymous

Hi, I am at this stage living in Alice Springs and am planning a roadtrip up to Cairns to join some friends for NYE. I don't care if the trip is boring, I'm just wondering how long we should plan the trip on taking if we do minimal stops??


Alice Springs to Cairns
by: Birgit

Hi Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous,

If it's just to get from A to B then it's a simple calculation. (If it's to see the country it's not so easy.)
I would grab a map, add up the kilometres, figure out what your car does on average on the highway, figure out how many hours per day you can drive, and then do the maths.

I'd say 3 days should do it.

Great suggestions/alternatives
by: Barbara

I stumbled upon here with pretty much the same question. Just wanted to say thanks for the great response.

Thanks for the tip!
by: Lisa & Adam

My boyfriend and I are doing the reverse of the journey - Alice Springs to Cairns and wondered if there was much to see on this section of our campervan adventure... Now I know to simply plan our driving and sleeping time only rather than worrying if we have missed much on the way!

Very grateful x

What route
by: Dan

Hi! I also have a question. We are doing the trip from Cairns to Alice and Google Maps is coming up with a few different routes to get there. Can anyone suggest the fastest and easiest to take?

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