Many, many moons ago my (now) hubby and I went on a school trip where we drove with 40 other students in a double decker bus from Melbourne through to Darwin and back again. We left on the 22nd of June and arrived back on the 7th of July (2 weeks). It was a fun filled adventure where we swam in thermal pools, climbs Uluru, slept in underground bunkhouses and much, much more! To this day, it remains one of my favourite trips in Australia.
Day 1: We all packed into the double decker bus at 3:30pm after a long day at school. We spent much of that first night on the road, watching movies… until at around midnight, in the middle of nowhere, the trailer holding all the food and our supplies. Someone (okay, me!) started a rumour saying it was where Wolf Creek originated and everyone started freaking out. We were stuck there for a fair few hours.
Day 2: We drove through Adelaide and arrived at Woomera early the next day. We stopped for breakfast and walked around the outdoor rocket display and the Woomera Museum (honestly cannot remember much from this, obviously didn’t leave a big impact). From here, we travelled on to Glendambo and then Coober Pedy. Coober
Pedy was an interesting experience, as we took a tour of the town and visited an underground mine, underground house (which has a pool!), a church and watched an opal polishing demonstration.
That night, we slept in an underground bunkhouse which wasn’t the most comfortable experience, but it was something everyone should do.
Day 3: We left Coober Pedy nice and early. We drove past the opal fields and the Dog Fence (which runs for 5300kms) and stopped at the Northern Territory border for a photo. Before stopping at Alice Springs, we stop over in Kulgera to stretch our legs for a while. We soon arrived at Alice Springs where we stayed the night.
That evening, we went and watched an Aboriginal Dance Performance which was great!
Day 4: Busy day was had as we visited Dr John Flynn’s grave, Simpson’s Gap (truly beautiful) and Stanley Chasm to see the unbelievable cliffs (trust me, photos do not do
this justice). After a brief lunch, we returned to Alice Springs to view the town and MacDonnell Ranges from Anzac Hill (we didn’t really look at the town, but rather take a million photos of us being idiots) then visit the Flying Doctor Centre.
Dinner that night was at Barrow Creek before spending the night sleeping on the bus, watching movies, to head to Mataranka. Whilst at Barrow Creek Pub, we spent much of the evening dancing on the bar, writing our names on the walls to leave our mark and dancing to ‘Grease’ in the desert.
Day 5: Arrived at Mataranka at around 6:30am for breakfast followed by a swim in the Mataranka thermal pool. Word of warning, these pools were so nice and relaxing to swim in due to how warm they are, but boy oh boy do they smell!!!
Shortly after a lengthy shower to rid ourselves of the smelly water, we boarded the bus once again to travel to Katherine for a tour of Katherine Gorge.
After the cruise, we left for Jabiru in Kakadu National Park where we set up camp for the night and spend a relaxing night by the pool.
Day 6: On day 6 we climbed Ubirr Rock to view ancient rock art as well as viewing the wetland, which look like they never end. The views here are sensational.
Next we visited Cahill’s Crossing which is the entry to Arnhem Land. After lunch, we went to Nourlangie Rock, Warradjan Aboriginal Centre and viewed native birdlife and crocodiles whilst on a 2 hour Yellow Waters Sunset Cruise. This cruise was one of the highlights of the trip as the views were amazing, watching the sun set over the water, watching nature (and fearing for our lives as some people decided to “drive the boat” and nearly drove it into another cruise!
Day 7: Headed off to the Adelaide River to visit the Windows on the Wetlands, and on the way there we stopped at the Mamukala Wetlands Lookout as well as giant termite mounds – these things are HUGE!
This is followed by a short drive to Darwin, where we set up camp into the holiday resort. The holiday resort is nice and has all the amenities anyone would need.
That night we went to the Mindil Beach Market to watch the sun set over the beach and eat the most amazing crepes I have ever eaten, but on the way, there was a little bit of an accident. Okay, not so little, it was a pretty big accident where our double decker bus crashed in to the back of a car and resulted in a four car pile up in peak hour traffic. Thankfully, no one was hurt!
The Mindil Beach Markets was a great night out, eating plenty of food and enjoying plenty of shopping.
Day 8: Off to the Territory Wildlife Park this morning where we watched the much-talked about Bird of Prey Ranger Talk. It is a nice activity to do to see the native animals to the Northern Territory and enjoy the beautiful weather Darwin has. Shortly after we ventured to Berry Springs where we had lunch and had a swim in the waterhole. This was another highlight of the trip as it is such a beautiful place to go and swim, with a small waterfall (which some people tried to use as a water slide). But! As it is a natural water hole, beware there will be plenty of animals around. I had the unfortunate experience of having something beside me slither into the water and glide through my legs, I pray to this day it was just a lizard but fear it was actually a snake!!!!
The day was capped off with a visit to the Planet Pin Bowling Centre in Nightcliff where Ikicked all the guys butts in tenpin bowling.
Day 9: Today we walked around Darwin city centre to do a bit of shopping, visit the World War II oil storage tunnels and then wander around Stokes Wharf, Parliament House, the Esplanade and the heart of Darwin. Lunch was back at Mindil Beach with a round or five of beach cricket.
That afternoon was a visit to the Darwin Museum and then back to the resort to relax by the pool.
Day 10: On our last day in Darwin, we went to the Crocodyllus Park to see monstrous crocodiles (and maybe kiss a few).
After a short lunch at Casaurina Beach, we went off to buy fireworks to let off at Mindil Beach that night to celebrate Territory Day. Fun Fact: Fireworks can ONLY be sold/picked up on the 1st of July in the Northern Territory to celebrate Territory Day.
This night was one of the scariest of my life, as fireworks are being let off by EVERYONE, it felt like a scene straight out of Saving Private Ryan, there were people running everywhere, explosions in your face, it was a nightmare! There were a few injuries sustained to limbs that night.
Day 11: Heading back towards home, we stop off for a leisurely day at Litchfield National Park. Here we swam at the famous Wangi Falls and Buley Rockholes. Wangi Falls were beautiful and are a must-visit when near Darwin, pictures cannot do this place justice.
The Buley Rockholes are another must-visit, they are a set of rock holes and are perfecting for a refreshing swim.
We soon left the relaxation of the waterholes and headed to Adelaide River to go to the Adelaide River War Cemetery which is the largest war cemetery in Australia, this was a surreal and eye-opening experience.
That night as we headed to Alice Springs, we stopped by the Devil’s Marbles to take photos by the moonlight – well, other people went and took photos, I stayed curled up in my boyfriends (now hubbies) arms on the bus, where I slept for a long, long time.
Day 12: After breakfast in Alice Springs, we moved on to Kings Canyon (that famous place from Priscilla Queen of the Desert where they walked all dressed up in drag). I walked along the rim of Kings Canyon and saw the Garden of Eden. This walk was a beautiful sight to behold and it is insane some of the views we saw.
That night, we set up camp again and sat around the campfire telling horror stories.
Day 13: After an early wake up call to pack up camp at Kings Canyon, we set off for Ayers Rock, to – you guessed it – set up camp again.
After lunch, we all head off to Ayers Rock – where some of us that were brave enough – to climb to the top. Hubby is scared of heights so after a few feet upon realising how steep the climb was, he went back down to the base whereas I soldiered on and made it all the way to the top! The hike is a long one due to how steep it is and how dangerous it is in parts (no lie, there are parts where you are clinging to a flimsy metal chain in fear of mis-stepping and falling off the side). Thankfully I did it back then, as you no longer can climb ‘The Rock’, so it literally was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Later in the afternoon, we took a helicopter ride over ‘The Rock’ to take in how majestic it really is. My friend at the time had never flown before and was freaking out, but was glad we forced her to do it in the end.
Day 14: Today we went to the Cultural Centre to look at the Aboriginal displays, and then visit the Olgas to walk the Valley of the Winds.
At 5:00pm, we left to view ‘The Rock’ at sunset. Unfortunately our afternoon was a cloudless one so couldn’t witness ‘The Rock’ changing colours, but was still a pretty sight.
That night was spent at the Ayers Rock Observatory and this is insane! They told stories of how the stars and the sky was created, and the views here, being in the middle of the desert, were second to none. There was no city light pollution to interfere and limit visibility, the sky lit up just from the stars. I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing, but me being a big space nerd, loved this night.
Day 15: After packing up the tents for the final time, we head on home to Melbourne. On the way, we stop at Mt Ebenezer, Kulgere and Coober Pedy, where we stopped for some pizza. Tonight was spent on the bus watching movies.
AS you can see, it was an action packed trip but was amazing. I would happily do it all over again, as the experiences we had, a lot can never be replicated ever again. If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Northern Territory, whether you’re from Australia or overseas, you must do it, you will not regret it.