What to See and Do on an Outback Road Trip in Australia

Australia’s outback is a vast and diverse region that offers stunning scenery, rich culture and unforgettable experiences. Whether you’re looking for adventure, history, nature or wildlife, there’s a road trip route that will suit your interests and budget. Here are some of the best outback road trips you can take in Australia, along with some tips on how to plan and enjoy them.

The Nullarbor

The Nullarbor is a huge stretch of flat and treeless land that spans across southern Australia, from Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth. It’s one of the longest and most iconic road trips in the country, as you drive along the Eyre Highway and witness the changing landscapes, from rolling hills and farmlands to rugged cliffs and coastal views. Along the way, you can stop at various attractions, such as the Head of Bight (where you can spot whales from June to October), the Nullarbor Links (the world’s longest golf course), the Murrawijinie Caves (where you can explore underground chambers) and the Eucla Telegraph Station (a historic ruin near the border of Western Australia and South Australia). The Nullarbor road trip can take anywhere from four days to two weeks, depending on how much time you have and how many stops you want to make.

The Red Centre Way

The Red Centre Way is a circular route that takes you through the heart of Australia’s outback, where you can see some of the most iconic landmarks and natural wonders of the country. Starting from Alice Springs, you can drive to Ulu r u-Kata Tju t a National Park, where you can marvel at the majestic Ulu r u (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tju t a (The Olgas), learn about the Aboriginal culture and history of the area, and enjoy activities like camel riding, stargazing and helicopter tours. From there, you can continue to Kings Canyon, where you can hike along the rim or the floor of the spectacular gorge, and Watarrka National Park, where you can see ancient rock paintings and rare plants and animals. The Red Centre Way also passes through other attractions, such as Rainbow Valley (a colourful sandstone formation), Ormiston Gorge (a scenic waterhole) and Hermannsburg (a historic Aboriginal mission). The Red Centre Way road trip can take about a week to complete.

Adelaide to Darwin

Adelaide to Darwin is a classic route that takes you from the bottom of the country to the capital of the Northern Territory. It’s a long and diverse journey that covers different regions and terrains, from the wine country of Barossa Valley to the tropical wetlands of Kakadu National Park. Along the way, you can visit some of the most popular outback destinations, such as Coober Pedy (an opal mining town where most people live underground), Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park (see above), Alice Springs (the gateway to the outback), Tennant Creek (a gold rush town with Aboriginal heritage) and Katherine (a town near the stunning Nitmiluk Gorge). You can also detour to other attractions, such as Flinders Ranges (a mountain range with ancient fossils and rock art), Lake Eyre (the largest salt lake in Australia) and Litchfield National Park (a park with waterfalls, swimming holes and termite mounds). The Adelaide to Darwin road trip can take two to three weeks or more.

Perth to Broome

Perth to Broome is a route that showcases the beauty and diversity of Western Australia’s coast and outback. Starting from Perth, you can drive north along the Indian Ocean Drive and stop at various seaside towns and attractions, such as Lancelin (where you can sandboard on massive dunes), Cervantes (where you can see the Pinnacles Desert), Geraldton (where you can visit museums and art galleries) and Kalbarri (where you can explore Kalbarri National Park). From there, you can continue to Shark Bay World Heritage Area, where you can see dolphins at Monkey Mia, stromatolites at Hamelin Pool and shell beaches at Shell Beach. Next, you can head to Exmouth, where you can swim with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef Marine Park. Then, you can drive inland to Karijini National Park.

Karijini National Park

Karijini National Park is Western Australia’s second largest national park and one of the most spectacular destinations in the country. It’s a place where you can explore ancient gorges, waterfalls, pools and rock formations that date back over two billion years. You can access the park from Tom Price, Roebourne, Port Hedland or Newman, but be aware that distances are large and fuel is limited. The park has two main areas: the southern half, which is accessible by 2WD vehicles and has a campground and a visitor centre; and the northern half, which requires a 4WD vehicle and has an eco retreat. Some of the highlights of the park include Dales Gorge, where you can walk along the rim or descend to Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool; Weano Recreation Area, where you can hike through narrow gorges and swim in pools such as Handrail Pool and Kermit’s Pool; Hamersley Gorge, where you can see colourful rock patterns and a natural spa pool; and Kalamina Gorge, where you can admire cascades and rock arches. Karijini National Park is best visited between April and November, when the weather is cooler and drier.