Ask Lonely Planet: Road trip to Uluru

Adelaide to Alice Springs direct is about 1500km, with another 500km to Uluru. Photo / Supplied
Adelaide to Alice Springs direct is about 1500km, with another 500km to Uluru. Photo / Supplied

We are two over-70s, active women planning a trip to Adelaide this year. Can you suggest an interesting way to get from Adelaide to the Red Centre? Can we incorporate the Great Ocean Road into our adventure? - Alison Brown

Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett & Lee Slater write:

A road trip in Australia is an amazing experience. The quickest route from Adelaide to the Red Centre is north to Port Augusta, the start of the Stuart Highway that runs 2834km through the centre of the country, ending in tropical Darwin in the Northern Territories. From Adelaide to Alice Springs direct is just over 1500km and around 16 hours of driving, although you'll need to factor in another 500km (seven hours) for the detour to Uluru (Ayers Rock).

Northwest of Port Augusta the Stuart Highway stretches into the vast empty spaces of South Australia's outback. A logical first stop is Woomera, with its dark legacy of nuclear tests and shiny collection of leftover rockets. Further on, the opal-mining town of Coober Pedy is an eerily fascinating spot amid blistering, arid plains.

Incorporating the Great Ocean Road into your trip will involve a lengthy and circuitous detour into Victoria from Adelaide and more or less back again. The route suggested below involves an extra 2000km and ideally a couple of weeks, but if you can spare the time you will encounter numerous incredible sights along the way.

The western end of the Great Ocean Road starts 614km west of Adelaide and hugs the coast for 250 glorious kilometres between Warrnambool and Torquay. You could drive it in half a day but easily spend a week exploring the wild coastline. The dramatic Twelve Apostles - rock stacks carved by the ocean - are only part of the story, with seaside towns and classic surf beaches to enjoy, too.

From Torquay, it's north through the Goldfields to Ballarat, home to some of Australia's finest Victorian streetscapes. Two hours drive away are the Grampians' rich diversity of flora and fauna, unusual rock formations, Aboriginal rock art and bush walks.

Tracking north again for around five hours (380km), you'll reach Mildura, an irrigated oasis and thriving tourist town with lush golf courses and vineyards, Art Deco buildings and cruises along the Murray River.

From Mildura, it's a day's drive back towards your starting point of Adelaide and a fork-in-the-road decision onward to Port Augusta and the post-apocalyptic scenes of Woomera and Coober Pedy along the Stuart Highway, or due north to the jagged escarpments of the scenic Flinders Ranges.

The choice is easy.

Continuing northwards, you'll reach Marree and the start of the Oodnadatta Track.

This legendary, lonesome 620km unsealed road traces the routes of old railway lines and passes through a varied landscape of red gibber plains, saltbush flats and flood plains. Lake Eyre, the world's sixth largest lake, lies just off the road.

It ends at Marla on the Stuart Highway, some 450km south of Alice Springs.

A reliable 4WD vehicle should ensure your trip is safer and more comfortable. Get Outback driving tips and the latest track conditions at traveloutbackaustralia.com. Plan your adventure with an atlas, guidebook and distancecalculator.globefeed.com.

Most travel deals, for example at Flight Centre online, are for a couple or two adults and two children. Are there any deals for larger families; for example, two adults and four children? - Cameron Waddel

Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett & Lee Slater write:

Most family travel deals online or in print are advertised as two adults and two children as this represents the traditional "nuclear family".

Deals for larger families and groups are available, and travel agents - including Flight Centre - are experts at finding them for you.

Bear in mind that once your children reach a certain age they're considered adults in terms of costs. Most airlines will charge a full fare for ages 12 years and above, and some accommodation and package-deal companies may raise the cut-off age to between 15 and 18.

- NZ Herald

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