From the Top
Start with a peek at tropical Darwin before exploring the wildlife-rich wetlands of Kakadu National Park, known for its saltwater crocs and abundant birdlife, hiking to key attractions such as Jim Jim Falls. Then move on to Arnhem Land to learn about Aboriginal culture, from cruising the East Alligator River to admiring the rock art of Ubirr.
Nitmiluk National Park promises opportunties to kayak down Katherine Gorge and swim at Edith Falls with further watery wonders in nearby Litchfield National Park, such as Wangi Falls and Buley Rockholes.
While you could drive the 900 or so miles to the country’s Red Centre, many tours double back to Darwin to fly to Alice Springs.
The area around Alice offers all manner of Outback experiences, from camel farms to hiking amid stunning landscapes and the rock formations of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, while the highlights of Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park unfold on hikes such as the four-mile Rim Walk. And who doesn’t want to watch a sunset or sunrise over Uluru
Interactions with locals offer fascinating insight into Aboriginal culture, with different perspectives offered by visits to old Outback mining towns such as Coober Pedy. A filming location used in the apocalyptic Mad Max movie franchise, the town is known for its opals and its underground dwellings.
Other impressively remote towns include William Creek on the unsealed Oodnadatta Track to Lake Eyre — Australia’s largest lake (when it fills with water).
Flinders to Melbourne, via Adelaide
Excellent hiking and outdoor action awaits in the Flinders Ranges, along with wildlife such as emu, wallabies and kangaroos. Sightseeing flights take in the majesty of the enormous natural amphitheatre of Wilpena Pound, returning to the ground to walk its rim and grab a selfie on St Mary’s Peak. More adventurous options include hiking the section of the Heysen Trail from Wilpena Pound to Parachilna Gorge, around 40 miles. Those with a few months to spare could consider tackling the whole 750 miles. Next up Adelaide, via the scenic wine country of Clare Valley, and on to the Grampians, home to emblematic sites such as the Jaws of Death, MacKenzie Falls and Reeds Lookout. Seal the deal with a drive along the Great Ocean Road — one of the country’s most iconic routes — before reaching Melbourne.
HOW TO DO IT
Intrepid Travel’s 17-day BASIX tour Darwin to Melbourne Overland takes in all of the above, with accommodation options ranging from tented camps and hostels to an underground dorm in Coober Pedy. From £2,015pp. intrepidtravel.com
More upmarket options include Audley Travel’s 12-night Outback Explorer tour, from £4,715pp including flights. Good bets for repeats include Intrepid’s 15-day Kimberley Trail — Broome to Darwin (from £2,785pp). audleytravel.com
Intrepid Travel notes increased interest in First Nations culture and in-depth localised tours, as opposed to wider ‘highlights’ itineraries. It has also launched a range of Australian Native Food tours to satisfy the growing appetite for foodie trips.
Building in flexibility continues to be an important trend, with operators such as Intrepid and G Adventures adding a dizzying range of shorter tours for visitors to combine or bolt on to their stay.
Expert-led photography tours are gaining in popularity. Wildlife is a key focus as on Steppes Travel’s Tasmania With the Photographer Sue Flood (12 days, from £7,995pp).
While hiking remains the most popular way of exploring the country operators continue to add cycling options and horseriding tours such as In the Saddle’s six-night Bush & Beach tour in Queensland, which runs from March to November.