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Explorers Way from Alice Springs to Darwin in Northern Territory Australia
From Alice Springs to Darwin the Exporers Way is on the Stuart Highway
A tourist selfdrive hire guide and information

Alice Springs

In 1861-62, John McDouall Stuart led an expedition through Central Australia, to the west of what later became Alice Springs, thereby establishing a route from the south of the continent to the north.

A settlement came into existence as a result of the construction of a repeater station on the Overland Telegraph Line, which linked Adelaide to Darwin and Great Britain. The OTL was completed in 1872. It traced Stuart's route and opened up the interior for permanent settlement. It wasn't until alluvial gold was discovered at Arltunga, 100 km east of the present Alice Springs, in 1887 that any significant settlement occurred. Until the 1930s, however, the town was known as Stuart.

The telegraph station was sited near what was thought to be a permanent waterhole in the normally dry Todd River and was optimistically named Alice Springs after the wife of the former Postmaster General of South Australia, Sir Charles Todd.

The Todd River was named after Sir Charles himself. The original mode of transportation in the outback were camel trains, operated by immigrants from Pathan tribes in the North-West frontier of the then British India (present-day Pakistan) who were misnamed 'Afghan' Camellers. In 1929 the Palmerston and Pine Creek Railway was completed from Darwin as far as Birdum, while the Great Northern Railway had been completed in 1891 from Port Augusta as far as Oodnadatta, South Australia, 700 km south of Alice Springs.

Araluen Centre for Arts and Entertainment - Alice Springs Cultural Precinct.

The lines wouldn't meet until 2003. On February 4, 2004, the first passenger train arrived in Darwin from Adelaide.

During the 1960s it became an important defence location with the development of the U.S/Australian Pine Gap joint defence satellite monitoring base, home to about 700 workers from both countries, but by far the major industry in recent times is tourism.

Almost in the exact center of the continent, Alice Springs is some 1200 km from the nearest ocean and 1500 km from the nearest major cities, Darwin and Adelaide. Alice Springs is now the midpoint of the Adelaide-Darwin Railway.

During World War II, Alice Springs was a staging base, known as No. 9 Australian Staging Camp, and a depot base for the long four-day trip to Darwin.

The Australian Army also set up the 109th Australian General Hospital at Alice Springs. Seven mile aerodrome was also constructed by the Royal Australian Air Force.


The "Springs" that gave the town its name.

The Arrernte Aboriginal people have made their home in the Central Australian desert in and around the site of the future Alice Springs for more than 50,000 years. The Aboriginal name for Alice Springs is Mparntwe.

Three major groups Western, Eastern and Central Arrernte people live in Central Australia, their traditional land including the area of Alice Springs and East/West MacDonnell Ranges. They are also referred to as Aranda, Arrarnta, Arunta, and other similar spellings. Their neighbours are the Southern Arrernte, Luritja, Anmatyerr, Alyawarr and Western Arrernte peoples. There are five dialects of the Arrernte language: South-eastern, Central, Northern, Eastern and North-eastern.

Arrernte country is rich with mountain ranges, waterholes, and gorges; as a result the Arrernte people set aside 'conservation areas' in which various species are protected.

According to the Arrernte traditional stories, in the desert surrounding Alice Springs, the landscape was shaped by caterpillars, wild dogs, travelling boys, two sisters, euros, and other ancestral figures.


Alice Springs Desert Park, Sand Drawing Aboriginal.

There are many sites of traditional importance in and around Alice Springs, such as Anthwerrke (Emily Gap), Akeyulerre (Billy Goat Hill), Ntaripe (Heavitree Gap), Atnelkentyarliweke (Anzac Hill), and Alhekulyele (Mt. Gillen).

There are roughly 1,800 speakers of Eastern and Central Arrernte, making it the largest spoken language in the Arandic family, and one of the largest speaking populations of any Australian language. It is taught in schools, heard in local media and local government.

Many Arrernte people also live in communities outside of Alice Springs and on outstations.

The modern town of Alice Springs has both western and Aboriginal influences. The town's focal point, the Todd Mall, hosts a number of Aboriginal art galleries and community events. Alice Springs' desert lifestyle has inspired several unique and interesting events such as the Camel Cup, the Henley-on-Todd Regatta and the Beanie Festival.

The town of Alice Springs straddles the usually dry Todd River on the northern side of the MacDonnell Ranges. The region where Alice Springs is located is known as Central Australia, or the Red Centre, and is an arid environment consisting of several different deserts.

In Alice Springs, temperatures can vary by up to 28C and rainfall can vary quite dramatically from year to year. In summer, the average maximum temperature is in the high 30s, where as in winter the average minimum temperature can be 7.5C.

The annual average rainfall is 279.2 mm, but in 2001 741 mm fell and in 2002 only 198 mm fell.

The Alice Springs Desert Park

The Alice Springs Desert Park was created to educate visitors on the many facets of the surrounding desert environment. The arid climate botanic garden, Olive Pink Botanic Garden is a short distance from the town centre.

They were named after anthropologist, naturalist and artist Olive Pink, who lived in the town for almost 30 years and died in 1975. She was well known locally and referred to by all as Miss Pink. The Alice Springs Reptile Centre is located in the town centre.

Explorers Way - Adelaide in South Australia to Darwin in the Northern TerritoryThe Explorer's Way follows the route of John McDouall Stuart, a famous Australian explorer who was the first to traverse the continent in 1862. This drive connects Australia's south and north, from Adelaide in South Australia to Darwin in the Northern Territory, and takes in many of Australia's best-known icons, including the Flinders Ranges, Alice Springs, Uluru (Ayers Rock) (as a detour), Kakadu National Park (detour) and Darwin.

Explorers Way From Alice Springs northboundWycliffe Well to Tennant Creek Wycliffe Well to Tennant Creek, 130 kms. Explorers Way - Wycliffe WellWycliffe Well is also known as Australia's UFO centre'


Explorers Way - Devils Marbles

Marvel at the extraordinary Devils Marbles, finely balanced piles of huge boulders believed by Aboriginal people to be the eggs of the Rainbow Serpent (it's explained at the Nyinkka Nyunyu Culture Centre). Explore the friendly town of Tennant Creek in the afternoon.

The site of Australia's last major gold rush in the 1930s, the town offers many opportunities to experience gold fever - with tours, heritage sites, fossicking and panning for gold. Cool off with a dip in nearby Mary Ann Dam. Tennant Creek to Daly Waters Tennant Creek to Daly Waters, 400 kms.

Explore the scenic Elliott and Newcastle Waters Discovery Trail, a network of roads (some are four-wheel-drive only) branching off the main highway to huge cattle stations, character-filled outback pubs and landmarks of World War II. Spend the night at a wayside inn, at the junction of the Stuart and Carpentaria highways, the gateway to the fishing paradise of the Gulf region, or continue on to Daly Waters, a tiny hamlet built around the Territory's oldest pub. eart of Darwin.

Explorers Way - Daly Waters to MatarankaThe site of Australia's last major gold rush in the 1930s, the town offers many opportunities to experience gold fever - with tours, heritage sites, fossicking and panning for gold. Cool off with a dip in nearby Mary Ann Dam. Tennant Creek to Daly Waters Tennant Creek to Daly Waters, 400 kms. Explore the scenic Elliott and Newcastle Waters Discovery Trwheel-drive only) branching off the main highway to huge cattle stations, characteail, a network of roads (some are four-r-filled outback pubs and landmarks of World War II. Spend the night at a wayside inn, at the junction of the Stuart and Carpentaria highways, the gateway to the fishing paradise of the Gulf region, or continue on to Daly Waters, a tiny hamlet built around the Territory's oldest pub. Daly Waters to Mataranka Daly Waters to Mataranka, 165 kms. Call in at the historic Larrimah Wayside Inn for a cool drink - and make time for a visit to the Larrimah Museum for a fascinating look at the area's World War II heritage. Continue to Mataranka for a pleasant dip in the warm thermal springs. Stay at a motel or campsite at Mataranka, or camp overnight in Elsey National Park. Mataranka to Katherine Mataranka to Katherine, 105 kms.


Katherine is a town situated 320 km southeast of Darwin in the "Top End" of the Northern Territory, Australia. It is the third largest settlement in the territory after the capital Darwin and Alice Springs. At the 2001 census, Katherine had a population of 6,488. Set in promising grazing and future agricultural country, the town's main economic source has often been gold, but this has lessened after the closing of the mine at Mt Todd.

There is increasing tourism and the RAAF Base Tindal 17 km southeast of town is also contributing to the economy. The town has several churches, sporting clubs, parks, a well kept golf course, and a showground.

Katherine Gorge in the Nitmiluk National Park

The well known and spectacular Katherine Gorge in the Nitmiluk National Park near the town has many ancient rock paintings. These often become flooded during "the wet season" as the river can rise 18 m in the narrow passage. In a particularly wet season, the paintings higher up can become flooded, damaging these ancient treasures. The Park features many activities such as camping, swimming, fishing (lures only), sightseeing, canoeing, boat cruises and bush walk trails. Butterfly Gorge, within a 6 km walk across the escarpment from the visitor centre, features a large valley filled with lush monsoon rainforest that extends down to the river.

The Jatbula Trail

Nitmiluk also features the country's ultimate buswalking experience, the Jatbula Trail, an extended trail winding some 46 km over stunning landscapes stretching from the gorge to Edith Falls to the north. The town was given its name after the daughter of one of the sponsors of John McDouall Stuart who first saw the area in 1862. The original inhabitants of the area belong to the Jawoyn, Dagoman and Wardaman language groups. Katherine is situated on the banks of the Katherine River, which is part of the Daly River system. The upper reaches rise into the Arnhem Land escarpment and Kakadu to the north east. The topography of the region is predominantly tropical savanna woodland. The township of Katherine is set amongst a Karst landscape of ancient limestone formations, outcrops, and subterranean caves. Other ecosystems include open eucalypt forest and rocky escarpment country and isolated pockets of monsoon rainforest/vine thickets.

Katherine is located 320 km south of Darwin and has a monsoonal subtropical climate with distinct wet and dry seasons. The annual rainfall is 1,132mm and daily temperatures normally range from 24 - 35C, occasionally reaching 40C with very high humidity at times during the build-up period to the wet season, when the region begins to receive some of the country's most spectacular electrical storms along with vigorous lightning displays. Dry season nights can get quite cool, regularly dropping to 7C overnight in the middle of the dry season.

Low elevation and frequent rainfall, as well as the town's situation on the banks of a river, means that the area is prone to flooding. A flood on Australia Day in 1998 was particularly destructive. Ex-Tropical Cyclone Les produced between 300 and 400 millimetres of rainfall during a 48 hour period, causing the Katherine River to rise to 21.3 metres and claim the lives of three people Floods are not just the only threat the town faces every wet season. Severe thunderstorms and lightning are also familiar dangers every wet season. Large hail to 2,5cm diameter has also been reported within the area. Katherine is also located in one of the most lightning struck areas in the southern hemisphere and caution should be heeded outdoors in the summer months. The central business district of Katherine is set 350 metres from the banks of the Katherine River.

The township services the other regional centres of Pine Creek, Mataranka, Borooloola, Douglas Daly, Daly River and Timber Creek.

The RAAF Tindal Base is located 17 km from Katherine and plays a significant part in the local economy. Tindal Airbase officially opened on 1 October 1988.

Springvale Homestead

Springvale Homestead, built in 1879, is the oldest original homestead in the Northern Territory. The homestead was originally managed by Alfred Giles, an ex-Overland Telegraph linesman, but is now open to visitors.

Old Katherine Railway Station

The Old Katherine Railway Station is another historic attraction that served Vestey's Meatworks during their operation in Darwin and was a major hub of transport during World War II.

O'Keeffe Residence

Another historic site is the O'Keeffe Residence. Originally built as a recreation hut in 1943 for army officers during the Second World War, it is a good example of local construction practice, using local materials like Cypress pine and corrugated iron. Since the establishment of Nitmiluk National Park, Katherine has developed into a tourism destination.

Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park

Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park attracts large numbers of visitors each year. The town is well-equipped with a shopping centre and other modern conveniences and services. Katherine town and surrounds provide plenty of park and garden areas. Dakota Park, Giles Park, Jurassic Cycad Gardens, Jukes Park and O'Shea Park are in the town.

Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park, Kintore Caves Nature Park

Tourist attractions include Nitmiluk National Park and Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park, Kintore Caves Nature Park with its populations of endangered cycads, Low Level Nature Park, Springvale Homestead and Katherine Hot Springs.

Katherine Hot Springs

Along Riverbank Drive on the Katherine River, Katherine Hot Springs provide swimming, shaded picnic tables and BBQ facilities set amongst monsoon forest and tall paperpark trees where you can sit back and relax or enjoy the abundant birds and wildlife. Fishing for barramundi, tarpon and sooty grunter is also popular along the Katherine River.

The low level Nature Reserve and the hot springs

The low level Nature Reserve and the hot springs are regarded safe to swim. Both freshwater and saltwater crocodiles inhabit the river, always make sure you swim in recommended safe areas and avoid swimming in remote 'suspicious' waters. The town has had several locations since its settlement by John McDouall Stuart, and the present site was gazetted on 15 July 1926.

The original post office and the Overland Telegraph station were set just above Knott's Crossing and next to the Sportsman's Arms Hotel that had quarters for the station master at the Overland Telegraph station and a single room police station.

The Katherine River

The Katherine River, after which the town and the nearby gorge are named, was named by John McDouall Stuart when he passed through the area in 1862 on his sixth successful journey across the continent. On 4 July 1862, Stuart crossed the Katherine River and recorded in his diary: "Came upon another large creek, having a running stream to the south of west and coming from the north of east.

This I have named 'Katherine', in honour of the second daughter of James Chambers Esq." There is some conjecture over Stuart's accuracy. Chambers's wife's name was Katherine but, according to most sources, his The next stage of development of Katherine was the establishment of the Katherine Telegraph Station on 22 August 1872 and the completion of the Overland Telegraph Line later in 1872.

It was not until 1923 that construction began on the Katherine railway bridge, with construction completed in 1926. All shops were then moved to the opposite side of the river, where the town of Katherine now sits. The first train crossed the bridge on 21 January 1926. Construction began on a new rail line in July 2001. On 13 September 2003, the line was finished with a continuous track from Adelaide to Darwin. The Ghan passenger train commenced on 4 February 2004 and runs several times a week.

It stops in Katherine on both the northbound and southbound journeys. Dr. Clyde Fenton of Katherine became one of the first Flying Doctors in Australia when he raised 500 to buy a plane for his medical run. He soon earned himself the name of "Speed Gordon of the Territory Skies". During World War II, the Australian Army set up two hospitals around Katherine, the 101st Australian General Hospital and 121st Australian General Hospital.

The army also set up a Katherine Area Headquarters. On 22 March 1942, Katherine sustained its only air raid during World War II. One man was killed when a Japanese aircraft bombed the town. Katherine has a history of flooding, with documented accounts in 1957, 1974, and 1998 (on Australia Day).

The 1998 flood devastated the town, and the area was declared a national disaster. The flood resulted from the 300-400 mm of rainwater brought by Cyclone Les that caused the already full Katherine River to rise an additional 21.3 metres. The floodwaters inundated the town and much of the surrounding region, requiring the evacuation of many residents. Katherine suffered another serious flood in April 2006 with the floodwaters peaking at 19 metres. Damage, however, was not extensive, and the town recovered quickly.

Katherine is an important meeting place to the local Aboriginal people.

Katherine is an important meeting place to the local Aboriginal people. It is the point where the traditional lands of the Jawoyn (sometimes spelt Djauan), Dagoman, and Wardaman converged. With Katherine being the largest town in the region, it remains a meeting point for Aboriginal people from across the Katherine Region.

Today Katherine is a key regional centre supporting the cattle, horticulture, agriculture and tourism industries. Located at the junction of major tourism drives, Central Arnhem Road, the Savannah Way and the Explorers Way, Katherine is an important visitor gateway for the Northern Territory.


Explorers Way - Katherine to Lake Bennett Katherine to Lake Bennett, 260 kms. You might also chose to head to Kakadu National Park on the Nature's Way Tourist Drive, which branches off the Explorer's Way at Pine Creek. Meet some local characters at Wayside Inn on the way to the historic World War II township of Adelaide River.

Along the way from Alice Springs to Darwin the roadside stops, memorials, Inns, Fuel stops are great places to get a feel of the local atmosphere.Litchfield to Darwin Litchfield to Darwin, 130 kms.

Visit nearby Litchfield National Park and see stunning waterfalls and amazing termite mounds - and swim safely in crystal-clear swimming holes. Enjoy the first glimpse of the Timor Sea by following the Explorer's Way right into the heart of Darwin.

Explorers Way - the northern Territory secton from Darwin Darwin - End or Start of the Explorers Way
Howard Springs
Turn off onto the Arnhem Highway to Kakadu National Park
Berry Springs
Lake Bennett
Turn off to Batchelor then onto Litchfield National Park
Adelaide River - On the Explorers Way
Hayes Creek - On the Explorers Way
Emerald Springs Roadhouse - On the Explorers Way
Pine Creek - On the Explorers Way
Katherine - On the Explorers Way
Mataranka - On the Explorers Way
Larrimah - On the Explorers Way
Daly Waters - On the Explorers Way
Hi-Way Inn - On the Explorers Way
Dunmurra - On the Explorers Way
Newcastle Waters - On the Explorers Way
Elliott - On the Explorers Way
Renner Springs - On the Explorers Way
Sturt memorial - On the Explorers Way
John Flynn Memorial - On the Explorers Way
Three Ways - On the Explorers Way
Tennant Creek - On the Explorers Way
Devils Marbles reserve - On the Explorers Way
Wauchope - On the Explorers Way
Wycliffe Well - On the Explorers Way
Barrow Creek - On the Explorers Way
TiTree - On the Explorers Way
Aileron - On the Explorers Way
Alice Springs - On the Explorers Way

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Things to see in Darwin in a selfdrive motorhome rental - Darwin's Icon Tourist Attractions
The Indo Pacific Marine Exhibition The Australian Pearling Exhibition Aviation Heritage Centre Lyons Cottage Cullen Bay Marina Parliament House George Brown Botantical Gardens State NT Museum & Art Gallery East Point Military Musuem Sky City Casino Fannie Bay Goal WW11 Oil Storage Tunnels Stokes Hill Wharf Nightcliff Jetty Gardens Park Golf Links Darwin Golf Club Darwin Sailing Club The Esplanade

Things to do in Darwin in a selfdrive motorhome rental holiday whilst in Darwin:
Wave Pool Territory Wildlife Park Link Crocosaurus Cove Link Crocodylus Park Deckchair Cinema Nightcliff Market Places of interest Free Admission Darwin Fishing Tours Sea Darwin Parap Market Mindil Beach Market Rapid Creek Market

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