The Northern Territory. A place of vast, majestic desert plains and ancient stories of the Dreamtime. Significantly less populated than anywhere else in Australia, and totally unlike any other place on Earth. The Northern Territory and it’s points of interest draw visitors from all over the world, and the outback towns are just one of its many drawcards.
This week, Thrifty takes a look at just a few of the unique outback towns of note on the long and epic Alice Springs to Darwin drive. You never know – you may find yourself passing through one of these true-blue Aussie towns on one of your future road trips!
Driving in the outback
Before you get into the thick of it (the outback), there are a few things to be aware of. The distance from Alice Springs to Darwin is a bigger trip than most people realise. The journey itself is just under 1500 kilometres, which will take around 16 hours to complete. Make sure you’ve got plenty of water, fuel and somewhere to rest along the way. Whether that’s in one of the outback towns below or in the back of your car/van/caravan.
If you’re taking off from the gateway to the Red Centre, be sure to spend some time here first. There’s so much going on here, you might have a hard time deciding on just what to do Alice Springs! Our top recommendations are discovering the Aboriginal art galleries all throughout the city, exploring the West MacDonnell Ranges that stretch hundreds of kilometres each side of Alice Springs and trekking the Larapinta Trail – a 23-kilometre trail with 12 sections that can be walked in part or in full.
If you’re in need of car hire in Alice Springs, look no further than Thrifty. Located in both the city centre and at the airport, our team will help you get what you need for your exploration of the great outback. Whether you’re looking for a family car, truck, 4WD or anything else, there’s plenty of choice at Thrifty.
When you drive into the town of Ti Tree, 193 kilometres north from Alice Springs, you are actually smack-bang in the geographical centre of Australia – and that’s something to tick off the travel bucket list!
A small settlement, the population of Ti Tree itself hovers around 150. Indigenous communities bordering the area boost the region’s population, and the locals are exceptional artists. You can check out some of their artworks within the town – the Red Sand Art Gallery and the Aaki Gallery are both well worth a visit.
If you need to stock up the car or refuel your tank, you’ll be pleased to know that Ti Tree has a hotel, petrol station and police station. It’s also renowned for its production of fruit and vegetables, so be sure to try some local offerings before you set off!
You’ll stumble across Barrow Creek after 280 km of straight driving on the lonely Stuart Highway. And if you thought Ti Tree was tiny, this is something else. Not only does Barrow Creek have a population of just 11 people (as of the 2011 census), but it is also only home to a sole roadhouse – built in 1926 and still with its original bar.
This pub is a popular place to pull up from the highway, and it’s filled with an amazing collection of memorabilia for travellers to check out.
If you’ve always wanted to see a real, tiny outback town reminiscent of the iconic Aussie film Crocodile Dundee, Barrow Creek is for you. With an average temperature reaching the high 30s in summer (and only dropping to 22 in winter) it’s the ideal spot to stop for a refreshing drink.
620 kilometres south of Darwin is the town of Daly Waters – an arid hotspot in the heart of the Northern Territory outback. And as with many isolated desert towns, the main attraction of this town is its pub.
This historic landmark is famed for its Aussie charm, and is a popular oasis in the heart of the outback. It’s a great place for a feed, with cold beer and delicious barbecues. Once inside, you’ll see an impressive collection of clothing items left by visitors wishing to leave their mark. What kind of clothing items, you ask? You’ll have to go and see for yourselves!
As you near your final port of call, Darwin, you’ll find the outback Northern Territory town of Humpty Doo. Not only is it fun to say, but Humpty Doo – 40 kilometres south of Darwin and with a population of just over 5,000 residents – actually has a thriving tourism industry year-round.
You can take a look at the Big Boxing Crocodile on the Arnhem Highway, or visit Reptile World for its huge array of snakes (if you dare). Or you can simply stop off, like many visitors do, on their way to Kakadu National Park. There are a couple of petrol stations so you can fill up your tank, and various places where you can grab a meal.
Of course, this journey doesn’t have to end here. There are plenty of small outback towns that welcome visitors with open arms – so if you have the time, why not explore more of them?
Book your hire car today
The Northern Territory is a must-see for any serious Australian explorer, and Thrifty makes discovering everywhere between Darwin to Alice Springs easy with our convenient car hire locations. With primary locations at Alice Springs and Darwin and their respective airports, we also service those within the Northern Territory with car rental locations in other outback towns, including Katherine, Jabiru and Tennant Creek.