Julian Morgans from Vice hit to road in for a campervan trip from Darwin in the Top End, through the Red Centre and all the way to the cosmopolitan city of Melbourne. Here’s how he describes this experience…
Darwin to Melbourne is a long way. Exactly 3,753 kilometres actually, which breaks down to a few hours each day, if you want to do it over the recommended three weeks. And this is exactly what I did with my girlfriend back in early June. We got the Hitop campervan from Travellers Autobarn and filled it with food, water, hiking equipment, and a whole bunch of glow sticks that we never actually used. And how was the trip? Magical. And do we have any particular recommendations? Oh, you bet we do.
As mentioned, the glow sticks were a total waste of time. But strangely it was the last-minute items that really came in handy. In no particular order, I’ll HIGHLY RECOMMEND THE FOLLOWING ITEMS IN ALL CAPS:
We found the whole of the NT to be the most picturesque part of the trip. Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge) is utterly spectacular and open for swimming throughout the winter months. Also, the area is only home to freshwater crocs, which are the smaller and more timid cousins to the infamous saltwater variety. And do a dinner cruise if you can afford it. $200 gets you a five-course meal cruising down the river at sunset with wine. Incredible is an understatement.
Further south, and about two hours off the Stuart Highway, is the Iytwelepenty/Davenport Ranges National Park. This place is huge and beautiful, but fairly remote. If you want to camp by a pristine waterhole (also croc free) and have the place to yourself, check out Whistle Duck Creek.
Then of course, is Uluru. It’s very famous for a reason and you’ll be surprised how moving you’ll find it. But for the sake of karma or manners or whatever you believe in, maybe don’t climb it.
You know that town in Australia where people mine opals and live underground? That’s Coober Pedy. And to be clear, it’s really weird in a good, entertaining way and you should check it out.
You can get an underground motel room for about $120 a night, and you’ll find it surprisingly peaceful sleeping inside a rabbit warren. A lot of the underground buildings are former opal mines, but many are just designed to be buildings with pubs, restaurants, and churches all burrowed into the sandstone. John’s Pizza Bar & Restaurant is the best food in town and don’t forget to buy an opal. You’ll feel oddly fond of them after a day in Coober Pedy.
Australian wine is a big deal, and some of the best comes from the Barossa. Only an hour from the city you’ll find yourself among rolling hills and vineyards. If you’re on a budget just buy a bottle from a cellar door and a lump of Coon cheese. Then you set up the van’s outdoor table and watch the sun sink over the vines. It’s warm. It looks a bit like Tuscany—and it’s very much on the way to Melbourne.
So look, I’m from Melbourne, which for some reason makes it hard to recommend things in my hometown. But if I was a visitor I’d eat lots of food (around Brunswick Street in Fitzroy), see some music (in exactly the same area), and possibly not bother with the Great Ocean Road. For some reason, tourists love that road. But it’s just a long and slightly unnerving drive along a cliff. And frankly, there are better bits to see Victoria’s beaches.
Like Wilsons Promontory. That’s the most southern part of mainland Australia and it’s an utterly pristine national park. Drive the three hours down from Melbourne down to the Prom, and then do the day hike to Sealers Cove if you want a private beach in the garden of Eden.
And congratulations! You’ve just driven 3,753 kilometres from Darwin to Melbourne. And as promised you wore a lot of jumpers, used zero glow sticks, and had one of the most amazing experiences of your life. Or at least that’s what we did.
Looking to head out on a similar adventure? Travellers Autobarn has six locations around Australia, so you can travel north, south, or straight through the middle!
If you want to start out like Julian, hire a campervan from Darwin and kick-off your trip today!