The Australian outback has a barren beauty that is truly breathtaking.
There are many well-known natural attractions to see (such as Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon), but hundreds of lesser known ones as well. And many Aussies are setting out under their own steam to discover more of the vast interior.
If you’ve decided to embrace ‘van life’ as a travel option for 2021, here are ten top Australian outback campervan destinations to tick off — all of which are accessible via sealed roads. Arrange your campervan or car hire, then hit the highway!
1. Broken Hill, New South Wales
Broken Hill is a mining centre in the Far West region of New South Wales, and offers access to incredible desert landscapes, a rich history to explore, and plenty of classic outback hospitality. In 2015 Broken Hill was recognised for its historical significance when it became the first Australian city to be added in its entirety to the National Heritage List.
There are more than 14 museums and galleries to visit, including the Pro Hart Gallery and the Bruce Langford Visitors Centre at the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Head out to the famous Living Desert Reserve to see 12 sandstone sculptures framed by the arid landscape and skyline. They are particularly stunning at sunset. It’s a nine-kilometre drive from town, then a 1.5-kilometre walk.
2. Longreach, Queensland
The name Longreach didn’t come from this destination’s remote location or distance from any other major town; Longreach is a reference to a section of the nearby Thomson River. The town was supposedly put on the map in the late 1800s by Captain Starlight — one of Australia’s most famous bushrangers — who stole a thousand head of cattle and herded them to South Australia.
Whether or not that’s true, the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame is one of Longreach’s main attractions. The Qantas Founders Museum is another (the airline was founded in nearby Winton). Travel out to Longreach by campervan and enjoy everything this welcoming outback town has to offer.
3. Coober Pedy, South Australia
Coober Pedy is a historic opal-mining centre that should definitely be on your outback travel bucket list. In addition to its remote outback location, it has one very peculiar twist that draws plenty of inquisitive visitors: a major part of the town is situated underground.
The concept of living in ‘dugouts’ dates back to the arrival of the first opal prospectors, who soon worked out that the best way to beat the searing heat was to reside underground. Today you’ll find hotels, churches, shops and restaurants if not completely, at least partially underground. And tourists can’t get enough of the subterranean lifestyle!
4. Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory
The Northern Territory’s Top End is home to some of Australia’s most iconic nature-based experiences, and Kakadu National Park is one of the highlights. From estuaries packed with wildlife to soaring escarpments and plunging waterfalls, this UNESCO World Heritage-listed region boasts almost 20,000 square kilometres of biological and topographical diversity. Here you can also view ancient rock art that dates back some 20,000 years.
Kakadu has a number of managed campgrounds, along with bush campsites with very basic facilities (some of which are free to stay in, and some that attract a small fee). It’s ‘first in, best dressed’ at many sites, so if you want to stay in a particular area, get there early to secure your spot. Book managed campsites well in advance.
Watch our video of five top things to do in Kakadu National Park:
Welcome to The Big Bus tour and travel guide’s YouTube channel. UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory is one of Austral…
5. Alice Springs, Northern Territory
Alice Springs sits in the very heart of the Red Centre and offers a range of experiences that showcase the parched beauty of this incredible part of the country. If you only have time to tick off two or three during your stay, don’t miss doing a camel ride through the desert and a hot air balloon flight. Pyndan Camel Tracks is located just a short drive from town and offers relaxed afternoon and sunset camel rides. Outback Ballooning operates balloon flights over the serene landscape at dawn, and this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Walkers should head west of town to stunning Simpsons Gap. It’s an easy 15-minute return walk to the Gap itself (keep an eye out for the resident black-footed rock wallabies), or do the slightly more challenging trek to Cassia Hill for fabulous views. It will take you an hour or so to complete. Ensure you carry plenty of drinking water.
Watch our video of the top things to do in Alice Springs:
Welcome to The Big Bus tour and travel guide’s YouTube channel. Only got a couple of days to get to know the city of Alice Springs in Australia’s Northern Te…
6. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory
Soaring Uluru is a sacred Indigenous site and one of the world’s most famous natural landmarks. It’s located in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park — 4.5 hours’ drive from Alice Springs. The road is sealed and well maintained.
There is no accommodation or camping permitted inside the national park. All accommodation is located within Voyages Ayers Rock Resort, and includes a campground with excellent amenities. There’s a central square at Voyages that has a supermarket, bank, post office and cafes, and as a guest (even if you’re camping) you can participate in a range of free daily activities (including some excellent guided walks).
7. Kununurra, Western Australia
The vast Kimberley region of Western Australia’s North West stretches from the remote inland city of Kununurra all the way to Broome on the coast, and offers access to remarkable waterways, enormous gorges and age-old rock formations. Unassuming Kununurra is a hub for tourist activities on the western side of the Kimberley, including cruises on the vast expanse of Lake Argyle and the Ord River, and fly in/fly out day trips to Purnululu National Park and its famous Bungle Bungle Range. The sight of these orange and black-striped beehive-shaped domes from the air is incredible.
Watch our video of ten top things to do in the Kimberley:
Welcome to The Big Bus tour and travel guide’s YouTube channel. In this video, we bring you ten amazing things to do in the Kimberley in Western Australia’s …
8. Broome, Western Australia
It’s an 11-hour, 1,000-kilometre journey by road from Kununurra across the vast heart of the Kimberley to bustling Broome. The trip can be broken at key regional centres, including Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing. Take a detour from Fitzroy Crossing to magnificent Geikie Gorge, which was part of a massive reef 350 million years ago. The resulting gorge walls look a bit like Swiss cheese.
Time your visit to Broome to include a Saturday (or Sunday from April to October), so you can check out the fabulous Courthouse Markets. A camel ride on famous Cable Beach at sunset is another of the region’s signature experiences.
Watch our video of the top things to do in Broome:
Welcome to The Big Bus tour and travel guide’s YouTube channel. Only got a couple of days to get to know amazing Broome in Western Australia? In this video, …
9. Kalgoorlie, Western Australia
Historic Kalgoorlie-Boulder is a drive of just on 600 kilometres from Perth along the Great Eastern Highway. This is the heart of the Western Australian Goldfields region, and the centre of Kalgoorlie is a trove of incredible period architecture that was built on the back of the gold rush of the late 1800s. The Federation Free Classical-style Kalgoorlie Town Hall is just one glorious example.
To learn more about the gold rush, drop by the excellent Museum of the Goldfields. Hannans North Tourist Mine also brings the prospecting past to life, while the Super Pit is firmly rooted in the present. This 3.5-kilometre-long and 1.5-kilometre-wide open pit mine pulls around 800,000 ounces of gold from the ground each year.
10. Flinders Ranges, South Australia
A visit to the epic Flinders Ranges is another opportunity to experience the character and colour of outback Australia in all its glory. There’s an extensive array of adventure activities on offer here, including mountain biking, four-wheel driving, soaking in thermal springs, or simply taking innumerable photographs of the majestic vistas. The region also offers a rich Aboriginal heritage to delve into.
Travelling through the Australian outback is an amazing experience, but it requires careful planning and preparation. Make sure you seek the advice of the relevant local authorities when arranging your trip.