Camper Van and 4WD for Alice Springs area

by David

The Mereenie Loop Road  (Alice Springs area)

The Mereenie Loop Road (Alice Springs area)

I will be coming with my family in August to visit the area around Alice Springs, and we have allocated about 6 days for this area. We are thinking of renting a campervan, and I was wondering if we would need to specify a 4WD van to be able to drive on some of the dirt tracks in the area.

Most campervans seem to be 2WD. If we could only get a 2WD campervan, would this greatly restrict where we could realistically visit in 6 days?

Also, are there any problems camping out in that time of year? I guess it must get cold at night.

If possible I would like to hire a van at Ayers Rock Airport and drop it off at Alice Springs airport. Would that be possible?

Final question. Although I can find general itineraries and ideas for touring in the area, is there somewhere where I can find detailed itineraries which indicate a choice of "ideal" tours in the area, mentioning good places to camp, etc?

Thanks in advance and keep up the good work.

Comments for Camper Van and 4WD for Alice Springs area

Click here to add your own comments

by: Birgit

Hi David,
Well, if you take a 2WD or a 4WD depends very much on what exactly you want to do. Any dirt roads require a 4WD. You are not allowed to take 2WD vehicles on unsealed roads.

So if you plan to drive from Kings Canyon to the West MacDonnell Ranges on the Mereenie Loop Road, you'd need a 4WD. In a 2WD you'd have to make a big detour. You would also need a 4WD for places like Palm Valley, Chambers Pillar, and some places in the East MacDonnell Ranges.

But 6 days is not a lot of time, and there are many places in the Alice Springs area that you can access with a 2WD. Even with only a 2WD you could certainly do a lot in those 6 days. The only draw back would be the big detour to get from Uluru/Kings Canyon to the West MacDonnells.

Here is a map of the area that shows where everything is, which roads are sealed and which aren't.

For itineraries you could do a web search for Alice Springs tours or Ayers Rock tours, and see what the tour operators are doing. That usually gives a good idea of what's possible and makes sense to fit into one day. The NT Tourism bureau also has some suggestions on their site, here.

You'd have to first decide if you go by 2WD or 4WD, and what places you'd like to see, before anyone can tell you much about an itinerary.

Have a read through the information that's available here for the attractions in Alice Springs.

Also have a look at the reader questions on the Ayers Rock page. There were a couple of questions where we discussed itineraries for that area. You may find those helpful:
Alice Springs to Ayers Rock - 5 1/2 days
Planning Outback trip to Red Centre

by: Birgit

(The stupid software only lets me enter a limited number of words, so here is the rest...)

If you stick to your plan of arriving at Ayers Rock and leaving from Alice Springs, you would spend a night or two at Ayers Rock, one at Kings Canyon, then one or two somewhere in the West MacDonnells. Then you could go for a dash into the East Macs or you take it easy and see more of Alice Springs.

You will need to talk to the individual hire companies to find out what they can do for a one way hire from Ayers Rock to Alice Springs. I'm also not sure you can get a camper at the airport. I would consider driving from Alice to Alice, but see what you can find.

There are no problems with camping out at any time of the year, but you will need warm clothes and a good sleeping bag. It will get very cold. The lowest night temperatures will on average be around 5°C, but they can also drop below zero!

Hope that helps! (Thanks also for your kind words about my website. I didn't publish them, but I certainly appreciated them!)

Ernest Giles Road
by: Spannerman8

Having just done some of what you suggest, my advice would be, whether 2WD or 4WD, stay away from the Ernest Giles Road, it is very poorly maintained (if at all) and is a nightmare to drive on. I had a 4WD Toyota Land Cruiser Campervan which was awesome. 4WD is a must for the Mereenie Loop. Campgrounds are great value apart from which, it is simple to camp "off road" as there is just a tad of space in The Outback :-)

2WD or 4WD
by: Anonymous

It is not correct that 2WD vehicles are not allowed on unsealed roads in the NT. Just as many 2WD vehicles as 4WD vehicles travel these roads every day. In any vehicle common sense is needed.

Car Hire
by: Birgit

My post was not a general statement, it was an answer to the original poster's question. See the original question. David is hiring a car. No hire company allows you to take 2WD vehicles on unsealed roads.

2wd or 4wd?
by: Pete

I'm just interested in whether the Mereenie Loop is quite doable in a personally owned higher clearance 2wd, like a Ford Territory - or is a 4wd really required? Either because the road conditions demand it, or because 2wd is just prohibited. And while I'm asking - is 4wd actually required for the roads into places like Palm Valley or, again, is it really clearance that's needed?

Thanks to whoever knows and can give an opinion.

Mereenie Loop and Palm Valley
by: Birgit

Mereenie Loop: check the road conditions at the time. It should be ok in a Territory, and if in good condition even negotiable in a 2WD. But don't count on it, always check current conditions.

For Palm Valley you want a high clearance 4WD.

Mereenie Loop
by: Pete

Thanks Birgit - much appreciated

Attraction in Australia
by: Sherlin

The Alice Springs Desert Park, a multi-award winning park, is the first of its kind in the world and showcases the plants, animals and landscapes of Australia's deserts and their traditional use by Aboriginal people.
But i liked the Reptile Center, as my kids were happy after holidaying here. This huge reptile display is paradise, featuring over 30 species and a chance to feed and get up close to many of them. As compared to the other developed cities of Australia, the Alice Springs is a town in itself. It takes a few days to see everything properly in Alice.

2WD or 4WD
by: Anonymous

Just done Ernest Giles Rd with Volvo 940, no problem, just drive within the capabilities of vehicle. Also continued on dirt from Uluru to Laverton same vehicle, again no problems, again drive according to road conditions. I carried extra spare tires plus fuel, plus sufficient water in case of breakdown. 4WD not needed but take care.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Australian Outback Travel Questions.

Return to top

Return to Outback Australia Travel Guide home page