Aus NT Rainbow Valley outback 4wd
AUS_SA_Coober Pedy
Aus nt alice springs Glen Helen
2986 Northern Territory Indigenous Tours darwin litchfield national park waterfall
Aus NT Rainbow Valley outback 4wd
AUS_SA_Coober Pedy
Aus nt alice springs Glen Helen
2986 Northern Territory Indigenous Tours darwin litchfield national park waterfall
One of the best long distance drives in the world

Discover the Stuart Highway

Get ready to embark on a one-of-a-kind road trip through the heart of Australia. A drive also known as the ‘Explorer Highway’ will take you on a remote journey through spectacular wide-open landscapes. Stop at quirky places along the way, meet the friendly locals, learn more about the fascinating history and visit an assortment of natural wonders. This epic adventure is guaranteed to leave an everlasting impression.

The ultimate guide to Stuart Highway

There are many quirky surprises along the Stuart
© Daniel Westergren
Kayaking over Katherine River | Australia active holiday
Be enchanted by the beautiful nature

Where is the Stuart Highway?

The Stuart Highway is one of Australia's major highways and longest roads. It stretches 2834 kilometres across the heart of the Australian continent. From Port Augusta in South Australia through Central Australia to Darwin in the Northern Territory.

The south to the north has proven to be the most popular route. Many people travel between Adelaide, 300 kilometres south of Port Augusta, and Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park. The road further north takes you from the arid desert to the lush tropics in the Top End.

Start your route in Adelaide...
And complete your journey in Darwin!
© Liam Neal

Welcome to the Stuart Highway

The highway is named in honour of explorer John McDouall Stuart. In 1862, he became the first man to successfully cross Australia from south to north and make it back alive. Stuart’s journey remains one of the most incredible achievements in the history of exploration.

Follows in the footsteps of John McDouall Stuart

Considering he did it on foot without a permanent source of running water for 2415 kilometres between Port Augusta and the Katherine River in the far north. His expedition took nine months going north and another five months getting back to Adelaide. Approximately 150 years later, even driving along the paved road that roughly follows his route feels like an epic challenge and is one of Australia’s most remarkable roads.

Home to the legendary Old Ghan Train route

Following the same route as Stuart Highway is the Old Ghan Train Route. On 25th November 1980, the Old Ghan train stopped running which marked the end of a significant chapter in South Australia's and the Northern Territory's railway history. Today, you can visit The Old Ghan Heritage Railway and Museum in Alice Springs. Or stop at special sights on The Old Ghan Railway Heritage Trail and soak up the history along the way.

Travel aboard The Ghan between Adelaide and Darwin
An unforgettable journey and one of the world's greatest rail journeys

The Australian Overland Telegraph Line

This unique route was also used to establish the Telegraph line (providing a connection between the outback and the outside world). You can visit the Tennant Creek Telegraph Station in Tennant Creek, 500 kilometres north of Alice Springs. Situated along the Stuart Highway, this country town is famous for being one of the last gold rush sites in Australia, during the 1930s.

The Royal Flying Doctors

Today, Flying doctors even use some parts of the Stuart Highway as a runway if they have to land nearby for an emergency. Every day, the Royal Flying Doctor Service helps around 100 patients in Central Australia.

Visit the Tennant Creek Telegraph Station Historical Reserve
© Tourism NT
Learn more about Australian history along the Stuart Highway
© South Australian Tourism Commission

Port Augusta to Coober Pedy - 540 kilometres

Today, the Stuart starts 305 kilometres north of Adelaide from the town of Port Augusta. From Adelaide, you can choose to take a detour through the stunning Flinders Ranges or travel along Port Wakefield Road through the fruitful vines of Clare Valley.


  • Kati Thanda - Lake Eyre National Park
  • Lake Eyre
  • Pimba
  • Woomera
  • William Creek
  • Coober Pedy


Discover the first settlement along the Stuart Highway, Pimba. It was established as a worker's camp for the Transcontinental Railway in the early 20th century. Today, travellers onboard the Ghan or Indian Pacific can stop here upon request. One of the highlights is the scenic salt lake Island Lagoon, found 15 kilometres south of Pimba.

Travel along the route known as the Explorers Way

It is also the gateway to Woomera, Andamooka and Roxby Downs. On Borefield Road, you can travel all the way through the Oodnadatta Track from Roxby Downs on a well-maintained sealed road. Andamooka is renowned for its high-quality crystal seam opal, opalised fossils, and stargazing Approximately 50 kilometres past Pimba, keep an eye out for the famous Lake Hart lookout and admire one of South Australia’s salt lakes.

Discover Kati Thanda - Lake Eyre National Park
© Grant Hunt Photography
Keep an eye out for unique wildlife
© South Australian Tourism Commission


Approximately, 181 kilometres north of Port Augusta, and 7 kilometres from Pimaba is Woomera. Set up in 1947 as a military town, its vast swathes of land around it – including the stretch that the Stuart Highway passes through – are still used for weapons testing and space research by the Australian government and private companies.


Located 592 kilometres north of Adelaide, Glendambo is an important place along the Stuart Highway. It is the last place where you will find any more facilities if you are travelling the 255 kilometres further to Coober Pedy. With only 30 people living here, you can find a petrol station, caravan park, hotel, a restaurant, and a general grocery store.

Stop at weird and wonderful places along the way
© TravelEssence

Coober Pedy

Uncover an Australian town filled with quirkiness in the sun-baked outback of South Australia. Renowned for being the opal capital, it is estimated that 70% of the world’s opals come from Coober Pedy. With the majority of the town living underground, this unique place is a must-visit during your time on the Stuart Highway. Be sure to stop by the Umoona Opal Mine and learn more about this fascinating part of the world and the opals found here.

Cadney Homestead

Approximately 150 kilometres north of Coober Pedy, you will find the Cadney Homestead Roadhouse. The gateway to the Painted Desert offers a great place to spend the night after a long day of driving.

Discover a quirky Aussie town!
© South Australian Tourism Commission
Sleep in an underground bed and breakfast
© heidi who photos

Get ‘off the grid’ on the OODNADATTA TRACK

Would you like to feel like a pioneer? Take a detour from the highway and conquer the Oodnadatta Track. Used for centuries by the Indigenous people of Australia, this is the original road John Stuart took and the route of the Old Ghan Railway. Although a 4WD is recommended, it’s one of the easiest outback tracks to drive, with solid gravel roads and a lot of things to see. You can enter the Oodnadatta Track from Marla, 235 kilometres north of Coober Pedy on the Stuart Highway.

Marvel at the colours of the Oodnadatta Track
© Julie Fletcher
You may find quirky things along the Oodnadatta track
© Graham Meyer Unsplash

Coober Pedy to Alice Springs - 685 kilometres


  • Breakaways

  • The border crossing

  • Ghan

  • Standley Chasm

  • Uluru


Covering approximately 15,000 hectares of arid landscapes is the Kanku-Break­aways Conservation Park. Located approximately 25 kilometres north of Coober Pedy. The land is owned by Antakir­in­ja Matu-Yankun­yt­jat­jara Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion.


​​Ghan is a locality in the Northern Territory of Australia located about 1470 kilometres south of the territory capital of Darwin at the intersection of Lasseter Highway and Stuart Highway. Ghan offers the perfect base to spend the night, and revive.

Standley Chasm

Known as Angkerle Atwatye, meaning ‘Gap of Water’ by Indigenous Australians, Standley Chasm is a natural wonder set amongst the West MacDonnell Ranges.

Explore Kanku Breakaways Conservation Park
© South Australian Tourism Commission
Watch the sunset
© South Australian Tourism Commission

Alice Springs

Located halfway between Adelaide and Darwin, is the gateway to the Red Centre of Australia. Alice Springs is the biggest town on the route and is located approximately 450 kilometres from the iconic Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Discover red sand deserts, tropical rainforests, impressive rock formations, deep ravines, and waterfalls.

Be charmed by Alice Springs
Kangaroo Alice Springs | Australia holiday
Meet the locals!
© Tourism NT
Aus Waterlilies in Kakadu Darwin NT

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Alice Springs to Tennant Creek - 504 kilometres


  • Karlu Karlu - The Devils Marbles

  • Barkly Tablelands

  • Tjoritja/ West MacDonnell Ranges

  • Tennant Creek

Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve

Formed over millions of years, the Devils Marbles are a sacred site known as Karlu Karlu in the language of the traditional owners, the Warumungu people. Located 105 kilometres south of Tennant Creek and 393 kilometres north of Alice Springs. These gigantic boulders have become an internationally recognised symbol of Australia's outback and are best seen at sunrise and sunset.

Tjoritja/ West MacDonnell Ranges

Located 1234 kilometres south of Darwin and stretching 161 kilometres west of Alice Springs is the Tjoritja/ West MacDonnell Ranges. Here you can discover waterholes, mystical waterfalls, and thermal pools. Are you feeling active? Conquer the 223-kilometre Larapinta Trail.

Marvel at natural beauty of Karlu Karlu - Devils Marbles
© Callum Parker Unsplash
If you love hiking the Larapinta Trail is a must-do!
© World Expeditions Great Walks of Australia

Barkly Tablelands

The Barkly Tableland covers 283,648 square kilometres, stretching from the eastern part of the Northern Territory to western Queensland. Featuring a rolling plain of grassland and some of the best beef cattle grazing country in Australia. With the lowest population of any region in the Northern Territory, most people live in the main towns of Tennant Creek and Renner Springs.

Tennant Creek

​​Located approximately 1000 kilometres south of Darwin, and 500 kilometres north of Alice Springs is Tennant Creek. Here, you can visit the Tennant Creek Telegraph Station Historical Reserve. The traditional land owners of this area are the Aboriginal Warumungu people.

Local tip: Approximately 225 kilometres south of Tennant Creek is the Barrow Creek Hotel. An ideal spot to stop and revive!

The locals along the Stuart love to have a chat

Tennant Creek to Katherine - 673 kilometres


  • Elliot

  • Dunmarra Roadhouse

  • Daly Waters Pub

  • Birdum

  • Mataranka thermal pools

  • Katherine

  • Nitmiluk National Park


Approximately halfway between Darwin and Alice Springs on the Stuart Highway is the township of Elliot. Here, you can find a petrol station and accommodation for an overnight stay.

Daly Waters Pub

In the Northern Territory, the best Aussie tucker comes from the Daly Waters pub in the town of Daly Waters. Its take on surf and turf, a beef and barramundi barbecue, is almost as legendary as the pub itself. This classic Outback watering hole is covered in banknotes, T-shirts and underwear donated by travellers from all over the world.


Approximately 420 kilometres southeast of Darwin, is the tiny town of Mataranka. A great place for travellers to stop and revive with an assortment of things to do and see. Especially the sandy-bottomed, crystal clear thermal pool in Elsey National Park, which is a must-visit!

Be amazed by the stunning desert landscapes
Drink in Outback pub | Australia couples holiday
Enjoy a cold beer at the local pub


Katherine is located 320 kilometres, southeast of Darwin and lies on the banks of the Katherine River. The perfect blend of the outback and the tropics! Katherine Gorge can be found in the Nitmiluk National Park, a system of canyons that have been carved by the Katherine River over hundreds of years.

Cool off in natural swimming holes
© Tourism Australia
Spend the night under the Milky Way

Katherine to Darwin - 343 kilometres


  • Litchfield

  • Kakadu

  • Adelaide River

  • Berry Springs

  • Darwin

Litchfield National Park

Uncover the mystery of a water wonderland and outdoor playground, Litchfield. Located approximately 100 kilometres southwest of Darwin, this fascinating place covers 1500 square kilometres. Discover an ancient landscape and national park that has been shaped by water. A favourite hangout for the locals, here you can swim in natural swimming pools, trek through monsoon forests and learn more about the oldest culture on the planet.

Adelaide River

Renowned for its rich concentration of wildlife, the Adelaide River crosses the Stuart Highway and the township of Adelaide River. The scenic village is located 114 kilometres south of the capital city of the Northern Territory. And is an ideal place to stop between Darwin and Katherine.

Berry Springs

Just before you reach Darwin, be sure to stop at Berry Springs. Enjoy a picnic and take a refreshing swim in the Berry Springs Waterhole.

Nature Litchfield | Australia holiday
Discover termite mounds taller than you!
© TravelEssence
Learn more about the fascinating Indigenous culture
© TravelEssence

Kakadu National Park

Take a detour off the Stuart Highway from Pine Creek and explore Australia’s largest national park. Covering an area of over 20,000 square kilometres, Kakadu National Park is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Kakadu National Park | Australia holiday
Be mesmerised by Kakadu
© Tourism NT | Shaana McNaught
Admire ancient rock paintings
© Peter Eve and TNT

Darwin - your final destination!

Welcome to the gateway of the Top End of Australia. A vibrant and friendly place with many attractions and an abundance of natural wonders. Take a trip to Arnhemland, Tiwi Islands, Litchfield and of course Kakadu National Park is a must-visit.

© Tourism Australia

Things you should know before you go

Before you leave on this great adventure, you need to ensure that you fully prepare your car for the trip. Here is some information to help you get ready for a trip of a lifetime.

What should I do if my car breaks down?

  • In case of a breakdown, always stay close to your car. It is easier to spot a car than a person. Your car also offers protection from the sun.

  • Be sure to have some basic knowledge about car mechanics such as changing a tyre, checking fuel and water, and controlling tyre pressure. There aren’t many car repair garages in the Outback.

  • Make sure you let someone know where you are and where you are heading in advance.

Stock up on supplies

  • Four litres of drinking water per person per day.

  • Make sure you have enough water supply for at least three days.

  • Fill up your water at every possible opportunity.

  • Please also bring a sufficient amount of food. There are not many restaurants or shops in the Outback.

  • Carry your own petrol can when driving long distances. The petrol stations are spread apart by large distances, so make sure you plan ahead

Red Center | Australia holiday
Be sure to stop regularly along the way
© TravelEssence
Watch out for wildlife

Look out for wildlife

Avoid driving at dusk or dawn, as this is when animals are their most active and can unexpectedly jump in front of your car - especially sheep, cows and kangaroos. Drive slowly, so you can react and see animals faster. If you happen to encounter an animal, reduce your speed and wait until the animal has gone.

Watch out for road trains

Have you ever seen road trains? These massive trucks pull three or more trailers. They don’t move aside for you! This means if you come across one of these, give them some room! Take your time if you want to overtake them.

Take regular stops

The road is long and you will have to drive for hours! Even though the scenery is stunning, it can feel like the same view for hundreds of kilometres. Make sure to stop regularly to avoid fatigue. Take a break, stretch your legs, enjoy a snack and switch drivers if possible.

When is the best travel time?

The best time to plan your trip on the Stuart Highway is from May to September, in the Australian winter. During this period, it is dry and the temperatures are mild and enjoyable. You can take as long as you want to drive up or down the Stuart Highway, but we advise you to take at least two weeks, especially if you also want to explore Uluru.

Waterfalls in Litchfield National Park
Go waterfall hopping
© TravelEssence
Stop and enjoy a canoe ride

Where to stay?

At TravelEssence, we focus on small-scale accommodation hand-selected by us. Run by friendly hosts who love to share local tips you won't find in a travel guide. A unique spot to experience the hidden gems of Australia and meet the locals. This is the greatest way to discover Australia.

A journey where your accommodation is an experience in itself

Your travel specialist will match you up with accommodation along the Stuart Highway route that suits your wants and needs. We have found the perfect places for you to have the absolute best Aussie road trip.

Kakadu wilderness bungalow bedroom
Sleep in the heart of nature
The states and territories of Australia

South Australia

With a size of 983,482 square kilometres, South Australia is an outdoor wonderland. Discover more than 300… read more

Enjoy a bespoke holiday with all the things you love


Are you a foodie and a beach lover? Australia's fifth-largest city is a vibrant holiday destination with friendly… read more

The states and territories of Australia

Northern Territory

Are you ready to conquer the jewels of the Northern Territory? Six times larger than the United Kingdom, this… read more

Enjoy a bespoke holiday with all the things you love


Discover Darwin, the capital city of the Northern Territory. Australia's smallest capital city is laid-back and… read more

The cities of Australia

Alice Springs

Uncover the mysterious and lively city of Alice Springs. The third-largest town in the Northern Territory is… read more

The perfect blend of the outback and the tropics

Nitmiluk National Park

Have your own slice of tropical paradise in Nitmiluk National Park. Often overlooked by visitors to the Top End,… read more

Why book with us?

  • Well-organised holiday, designed just for you
  • Small-scale accommodations run by friendly local hosts
  • Carefully recommended activities based on your interests
  • A travel tempo and driving distances that match your needs
  • Ingrained sustainability in all facets of your holiday
  • 30 years of experience in travel to Australia
  • Peace of mind with a local network in Australia and a 24/7 emergency number

Let's design your holiday together

We'll take the time to get to know you to match your fully bespoke holiday with your pace, your interests, and anything you desire. Combined with first-hand, local knowledge, you'll receive a mapped out itinerary from us - but the process isn't done until you are 100% satisfied. We take care of every detail, so you can focus on relaxing, rejuvenating and reconnecting with yourself and the world around you. Get in touch to get started now.

Ready for the holiday of a lifetime?

Discover a world beyond ordinary

At TravelEssence, we specialise in crafting custom-made holidays that take you off the beaten path and create memories to last a lifetime. We believe in connecting with the heart and soul of a place, introducing you to the locals who call it home. Engage in conversations with fascinating individuals who will share their stories, traditions, and way of life, leaving an indelible mark on your journey.