My alarm was set to go off at 4:30 am, but my roommates were up before me finishing their last minute packing. It was time for the second leg of my Alice Springs to The Rock to Darwin Tour with Mulgas Adventure Tours. If there was one consist factor amongst this tour, it was the early mornings. I didn’t mind as I was about to have heaps of time to sleep on the long drive to the Top End.
Jason, our funny tour guide who describes himself a bit like Homer, picked us up promptly at 5 am in front of Haven’s Backpackers in Alice Springs. And it was off to conquer the almost 1,500 kilometers to Darwin over the course of two days. Our first day was the worst – over 900 km.
Our little tour group consisted of three girls from The Rock Tour from the previous few days, four American exchange students, and a hodge podge of a few others from France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Most of us slept the first couple of hours while Jason quietly began the long drive.
Day One: Alice Springs to Daly Water Pub
Our first stop was out of this world – Wycliffe Wells, the UFO capital of Australia! Wycliffe Wells is not your typical roadhouse and motel; it has a “dead alien” in the backroom. The bathrooms are clean, the walls are covered in alien articles, and you can grab a cold drink for the road.
Just 25 kilometers up the road from Wycliffe Wells was our big stop of the day – Devils Marbles. Devils Marbles, or Karlu Karlu to the local Aboriginal people, are a collection of large, round red boulders that jut out of the landscape. They vary in size from just 50 cm up to almost 6 meters tall. The rocks formed over millions of years from molten lava that eventually broke up to form the shape that they do now.
Next to Uluru and Kata Tjuta, Devils Marbles is one of the most famous rock formations in Australia. They are located right on Stuart Highway, so you can’t miss them unless if you blink while driving by them. We stopped at another roadhouse nearby to grab lunch and ate at a small lakeside reserve near Tennant Creek before beginning our next leg to Daly Waters Pub.
Daly Water Pub is one of the most famous stops on the Stuart Highway. And, you certainly don’t want to miss it as the food is delicious (and included in the tour fee!). The pub was first opened in 1930 where good old Outback murders and shootouts took place. And, cattle ran rampant. Today, you’ll find great food, music, beers, and a crazy decor. The pub openly encourages you to leave your mark, which could be your bra or your dignity.
Day Two: Daly Waters Pub to Darwin
With most of the kilometers behind us, day two was a more leisurely drive. We got to sleep in a bit and were on the road by 6 am. Our first stop of the day was Mataranka Thermal Springs, where the water is a consistent 34 degrees Celsius. After four days and thousands of kilometers, the hot water felt awesome. Donned with an old pool noodle, we spent over an hour just floating down the crystal clear waters allowing our tired and sore muscles to release tension.
Once Jason pried all of us out of the water before we turned into prunes, it was back on the bus for another hour and a half drive to the small town of Katherine. Katherine is a charming Outback town of 6,000. We stopped to grab lunch at Woolworths. It was the first one I’ve seen since Alice Springs over a 1,000 kilometers to the south!
Our last stop of the day before arriving in Darwin was Edith Falls. Most tours will take guests to Katherine Gorge, which is supposed to be lovely, but it is filled with crocodiles. Mulgas Adventure Tours takes you to Edith Falls because the park management actively remove all the crocs and you can swim there! With the ever increasing temperature and humidity, we welcomed the refreshing, cool waters of the swimming hole.
We ate our lunch at the quiet swimming hole and enjoyed a dip in the cool waters. It was quite the change from the morning’s swim at Mataranka Thermal Springs. At first, we didn’t quite believe Jason when he told us there were no Salt Water Crocodiles in Edith Falls, but since we didn’t see anyone get eaten while swimming, most of us got in and swam over to the little waterfall.
Around 2 pm we changed and headed back to the bus for our final leg of the drive to Darwin. We arrived in the tropical city of Darwin around 5:30 pm and were dropped off at our respective hostels on Mitchell Street. We all made plans to meet up later in the evening at one of the pubs, but I ended up hitting the hay early as I was exhausted from the previous five days of fun in the Northern Territory.
Overall, I think taking the Alice Springs to Darwin Express Tour is an excellent way to get from one city to the next. While there is a lot of road to cover, especially on the first day, Jason made it fun for us. We played trivia games and had singalongs. It beats the Greyhound bus!
A huge thank you goes out to Mulgas Adventure Tours for hosting on the Alice Springs to Darwin Express Tour. I had a great time! Like always, no matter who foots the bill, you will always get my honest opinion.