Darwin to Alice Springs – and the crazy places en-route!!!!
After our time in Darwin we headed to Alice Springs on the Stuart Highway. Checkout these National Parks as you explore the area.
From Litchfield National Park, we headed to the lesser explored Butterfly Gorge and Douglas Hot Springs Park. We set up camp at Douglas Hot Springs (operated on an honesty box system). From the campsite it was a17km 4WD track to a small car park in Butterfly Gorge. We hiked the two walks by linking them with a walk along the sandy banks of the gorge and then a fun rock scramble over the rocky out crop. A lot of people must have also undertaken this route as an obvious path had been carved. The pool was beautiful and we had planned to swim across it and through the narrow gorge to the upper pool. However there were a few freshwater crocodiles hanging around the narrow entrance, which put us off. Although these crocs are relatively harmless, we didn’t fancy meeting them in a confined space….perhaps we were being a bit chicken, but the few people we saw there had the same thoughts and instead spent their time here fishing. The fish appeared to just jump onto their lines.
Once back at the campsite we headed straight into the amazing natural hot springs, which were just behind where we were camped. We had been told by some fellow travellers, the best pool is up stream a few 100 meters and we soon found this perfect spot. Here the water temperature was just perfect as a spring gushes into the river, creating a deep pool at a perfect spa temperature. We met a lovely family here and we got chatting to them about the Gibb River Road and picked up lots of tips. There youngest said this was the secret pool….so maybe we shouldn’t be telling everyone about it. We did have to be careful where we sat, as some pools were so so hot. The campsite is rustic and beautiful, but sadly its tranquility was spoilt by some hoons, driving in at midnight, making as much noise as possible to announce there arrival and after a drunken time in the springs, drove out in a similar fashion.
From Douglas Hot Springs we headed back to Elyse National Park. This time we stayed at Bitter Springs Cabins and Camping which was only 500m from the springs and spent the early evening floating down the hot springs.
The next morning after a lazy start to the day, we continued our journey south. We had morning tea at Fran’s which is one of the most bizarre cafes we have ever been in. It’s a ramshackle place, which is part of its charm, with teddy bear picnics scenes set up and a collection of battered old furniture. We asked for a scone and coffee and were told the only option was a scone with a plate of cakes on the side. It’s all homemade and her baking was okay. (I’m not really a cake person) but I’m not sure of the cleanliness of the place and what goes on in her kitchen. There are no price lists too and you get a bit stung when you come to pay (There is a scribbled note on la white board, saying don’t complain about the prices, it’s homemade and I have been doing this for 20 years and still here) It’s worth a drop in for the experience and the coffee was great, apparently the pies too……but we only heard that from Fran herself.
We arrived quite early at the Daly Waters Pub and caught up on a bit of blogging in the courtyard (There was free NT WiFi, but it was a bit patchy) This place is brilliant, it’s been done so well. Every inch of the pub is decorated with travellers memorabilia from ID cards to bras and knickers. We stuck a FFA bumper sticker on the bar, let us know if you spot it. That evening we joined in with the live music and Steak & Barra BBQ. Everything was pre-ordered when we checked in, so our steaks were cooked just as we like them….medium rare. The salad bar and homemade bread were excellent too. The country music singer was fantastic and he had us up on the dance floor slapping our thongs and dancing!
A group had brought in a plastic manikin which provided so much entertainment with a couple of grey nomads dancing around with him. The second singer wasn’t as good, but he did a few good 60s numbers. The campsite is next to the pub and there is also free camping further down the road at the Stuart tree.
The next morning we set off at 8am for a big day of driving. After a quick stop at the Stuart tree (very quick) as it was pushing its luck as a tourist attraction, we headed to the ghost town of Newcastle Waters.
In Newcastle Waters we explored the old Tavern and General Store. There are now a few people living here in caravans and a couple of the buildings which look a bit more water tight, so its not as ghosty.
The best thing we saw all day were the Devils Marbles, don’t miss these huge round granite rocks. There is a little walk around them where you get to see the split rock and cottage loaves.
We stopped over at the UFO campsite Wycliffe Well, arriving just after 4pm and were very disappointed. The place is pretty derelict, which is sad as it has the feeling of a place which once thrived as a fun alien destination. The meals were very average and the toilets and showers a little unclean. If we were doing this again we would look at the following options for an overnight stop.
The Devils Marbles campsite is a type A National Park site and 25 minutes before the Wycliffe Well. It would have been a great stop over and the rocks glow at sunset or sunrise. For a free roadside camp with a toilet, Taylors creek was 35min South of Wycliffe Well. Or an hour on Barrow Creek hotel where there is full 3G, you can visit the old telegraph station and the bar is billed as one of the eccentric pubs of the outback. There is also an impressive red rock perched on a hill….but sadly we didn’t stop here.
Day 3 we set off really early to get to Alice, with only fuel and coffee stops at the roadhouses.