Driving from Alice Springs to Adelaide

Posted on October 29, 2012 by

The Australian Outback is a big patch of arid, empty land inhabited by nothing more than a few groups of Aboriginals and wild animals. To see this part of the country, we decided to do a road trip on a campervan along the famous Explorer Way. It’s  the only motorway that links Australia’s top end to the far south, cutting through the country vertically crossing swathes of desert and some of the most remote areas of the area. Thanks to Britz Campervans, we had the enormous 6-berth Renegade as our comfortable home for the week.

Our journey started from Alice Springs in Northern Territory, from which we explored Uluru/ Kata Tjuta National Park as well as the West MacDonnell Ranges.  We covered over 1,500 kilometers (930miles) to get to Adelaide in South Australia. Here’s an account of our road trip including details on our expenses and kilometers covered to help you plan your Australian road trip.

driving from alice springs to adelaide

Driving from Alice Springs to Adelaide

Day 1: Leaving Alice Springs

In the early morning, we picked up our motorhome for the week, the Britz Renegade. It’s a big-scale campervan designed for six passengers and extremely spacious for just the two of us. Besides the driver’s seat, the cabin area is equipped with two seating lounges, a kitchen (with microwave and stove) as well as a toilet and shower.We literally had a home on wheels and all we needed to spend on was fuel, campervan parking lot (from time to time) and food.

To stock up for the road trip, we stopped at a supermarket in Alice Springs before starting the journey – it is usually cheaper to shop in towns than at the roadhouses along the way. This part of Australia is very expensive, especially as compared to the south. We packed our campervan with some basic food, enough for the next few days, including pasta, bread, tuna, water, sausages and beef steak (to treat ourselves) and spent a total of $55.

The drive was easy and relaxing (you can’t go wrong along a straight road), passing through the rugged terrain of Central Australia. Red plains studded with spinifex and Eucalyptus trees flanked both sides of the highway. Along the way, we passed several dead kangaroos on the road – this was something we were particularly careful about as we’d been warned by many about the danger of driving at night because of kangaroos hopping out onto the highway. After just three hours of driving, we spent the night at a free parking just across the South Australian border. A few other Australian campers were out watching the sunset just as we arrived and they warmly welcomed us with a glass of wine. By nightfall, we were tucking into our grilled steaks with wine under the star-lit skies.

  • Distance covered: 300km
  • Expenses: Petrol – AU$80; Groceries – AU$55
driving from alice springs to adelaide
Crossing the border to South Australia
driving from alice springs to adelaide
Long way down

Day 2: Exploring Coober Pedy

The next day, we headed off early to cover more ground and spend some time exploring Coober Pedy, an opal mining town that seems like quite an interesting stop. The landscape along the way had transformed quite drastically from flat, reddish brown desert plains to colorful rocky hills. Just before arriving into town, we took a lunch break at Breakaways Reserve where we made some quick sandwiches and relaxed to a view of the multi-hued hills in the distance.

By late afternoon, we rolled into Coober Pedy and headed straight to visit the Catacomb Church, an underground church dug out in the mid 1970s. Many of the houses and buildings in this area are built underground, with their interiors made of natural rock and drill holes that open to the sky. The Desert Cave Hotel, in particular, has a cool exhibition on the mining and underground housing history of the area. Before sunset, we drove over to the Moon Plain,16km northeast of Coober Pedy, so named for its resemblance to the surface of the moon. This was once an inland sea, and is now rich in fossil deposits. It has been used in several Hollywood blockbuster movies including “Mad Max” and Val Kilmer’s “Red Planet” as a lunar setting.

To recharge our campervan’s battery, we checked into the Stuart Range Caravan Park to park for the night. The park charged an additional fee for almost everything, from water to WiFi.The only thing we enjoyed at the caravan park was the swimming pool; other than that, we felt that it was a waste of money ($30 per night). We did enjoy a nice dinner in our comfy campervan and had a good night sleep.

  • Distance covered: 380km
  • Expenses: Petrol – AU$120; Groceries – AU$29; Caravan park lot – AU$30
driving from alice springs to adelaide
 Opal mines of Coober Pedy
driving from alice springs to adelaideThe Catacomb Church

Day 3: Heading to Port Augusta

From Coober Pedy, we hopped back onto Stuart Highway and made our way towards Port Augusta. With our gas tank almost three-quarter full, we figured we would have enough to get us to the next roadhouse which was 250 km away. As it turned out, we were obviously wrong.  Just 20km away from Glendambo, our fuel tank ran dry completely and we had to pull away to the kerb and call for help. Thankfully the Aussies are a helpful bunch, a couple gave Alberto a ride to the gas station where he picked up some petrol and hitched another ride back to our campervan. It got us through the short trip to the station and soon enough we were back on the road again.

On our way to Port Augusta, we saw several salt lakes, out of which Lake Hart was the most easily accessible from the highway. We stopped over at a lookout point with shade and a water tank for lunch, where the shimmering white salt lake sparkled in the distance. With the desert behind us, the landscape transformed from dry, dusty desert to slightly greener pastures. At the Arid Land Botanical Gardens, we saw the whole landscape covered in greenery and water. The impressive Flinders Ranges loomed in the distance while Port Augusta sprawled beneath us. By the time we closed in on Port Augusta, the sun was setting. We found a comfortable free parking spot next to the port and warmly welcomed the sea breeze.

  • Distance covered: 540km
  • Expenses: Petrol  AU$150
driving from alice springs to adelaide
driving from alice springs to adelaide

Day 4: Entering Adelaide!

We awoke with an urge to hit the road, since we were so close to our final destination. We were just approximately 3.5 hours away from Adelaide, so we quickly finished breakfast, packed, and headed down the coastal highway and straight to Adelaide. The scenery this time was even more drastically different from what we’d left behind. Rolling green hills with vast swathes of yellow wheat fields flanked both sides of the highway, resembling the Tuscan countryside. We meandered past wineries and agricultural lands, exploring a very different side to Australia.

It was only noon when we drove into the big city, overwhelmed by the traffic, tall buildings and basically the bustling activities – we had been in the outback for two weeks and it was oddly strange yet refreshing to be back in civilization. Looking back at the distance we covered, it felt like we had come a long way though yet another journey was awaiting.

  • Distance covered: 300km
  • Expenses: Petrol – AU$90 + $130 (fill up tank to return)
Finally on the beach!


Driving a campervan in Australia is a brilliant way to see the outback, especially in a part of the country that is largely unexplored. Here, towns are few and far in between; we spent much of our time camping out, meeting Aussies on the road and sleeping under the stars.  There were no tall buildings, nice hotels, or fast food restaurants – just caravan parks and gas stations along the way. While it was a journey worth taking, it was also quite an expensive one. As we were driving a huge 6-berth campervan, we spent a lot more effort and time maintaining it and definitely way more money than we usually would spend. Would we do the journey again? Hell yeah (but perhaps with a smaller campervan next time!).

  • Total distance covered: 1520km
  • Total expenses: AU$679 (approximately US$700)
  • Total cost of campervan hire and insurance: AU$1,130 + AU$360 for one-way fee = AU$1,490 (US$1,540)

Sleeping under the stars

Disclaimer: This experience was made possible by Tourism South Australia and Britz Campervans, but all opinions expressed above are our own.

About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

16 Responses to “Driving from Alice Springs to Adelaide”

  1. Eric October 30, 2012 4:52 am #

    As much as I enjoyed reading this I think you're doing your readers a disservice by omitting the costs to rent and insure a Britz, or other camper van hire in Australia. Is the purpose of the article to show us the unique experiences available to us and how to do it? Or to show us the unattainable life of a career travel blogger?

    • Nellie November 3, 2012 6:34 am #

      hi Eric, thanks for the comment. I actually forgot to include the cost of vehicle rental – as much as I wanted to include it in the first place. Im going to add that in once I find out the current cost from the supplier. I wrote this article with the aim of helping others who are planning this same road trip with budgeting and itinerary – and no other ulterior motives.

      • Eric June 7, 2013 7:32 pm #

        Seeing as your camper would likely run ~$1,500-$2,000 AUD a week, a figure you forgot to list, I'm not sure how your article would help anyone with budgeting. I was surprised too to see that you're still responding to comments here even though you never came across or posted the rate for your rental. It's articles like this that are why I stopped following wildjunket. This is a puff piece prepared solely as an advertisement for THL.

        • Eric June 7, 2013 7:35 pm #

          I just realized that you did you did go back and post the rental cost. I'm sorry I accused you of being a corporate shill.

  2. Orapin November 6, 2012 8:24 pm #

    have driven from Alice Springs,to the Northern Territory and the gateway to the world-famous Uluru/ Kata Tjuta National Park. Its a great drive and a lot of wildlife. Campervan is the way to travel.

    • folgen hier August 12, 2013 8:30 pm #

      Australia is a good mix of coastal scenery, urban landscapes, awe-inspiring outback and quaint towns, living all of these in a caravan trip, what adventure!

  3. Brianbrooks1 November 22, 2012 11:01 pm #

    Very nice places you shared in this post. The complete fun of visit these places with family are only possible with the vans. That is bigger, comfortable and easy to hire with affordable prices.

  4. AussieCampervans February 11, 2013 8:22 am #

    Alice Springs is one of the best places for tourist in Australia. It offers lots of amazing locations for entertainment. I would like to say thank you so much for sharing nice post and beautiful experience with us.

  5. katena March 7, 2013 4:40 am #

    Australia is a great place to visit and these camper trailers adds more enjoyment with family as they provide sound and safe journey. Thanks for our ancestors that we are getting stylish lifestyle. http://www.bigtrailerwarehouse.com.au/

  6. Amanda June 1, 2013 7:17 pm #

    Hi there, great article with costs eats, but has two errors in it. Darwin – not Alice Springs- is the capital of the Northern Territory. Also, describing Alice as ‘the gateway way to Uluru’ is misleading, given that Uluru is almost 500km (half a day’s drive) from Alice. The town of Yulara is actually the gateway to UKTNP. Alice would more correctly be described as the gateway to Central Australia or the MacDonnell Ranges. Not trying to be narky, but just trying to make sure that your article is factually correct. Yes, I’m an Alice local.

    • Nellie June 7, 2013 10:30 am #

      hey Amanda, thanks for pointing out our errors! Sorry we didnt do a proper fact-check before publishing. I actually wrote this piece during our road trip. ;) We had a great time in Alice Springs and definitely hope to go back soon. The next time we are there, we will definitely send you a message!

  7. car insurance uk comparison July 3, 2013 5:17 am #

    Undeniably imagine that which you said. Your favourite
    reason seemed to be at the net the simplest thing to take note of.
    I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while other people consider concerns that they plainly don’t recognize about. You managed to hit the nail upon the highest and outlined out the entire thing without having side-effects , people can take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

  8. Zeta July 10, 2013 12:26 am #

    What a great article and introduction to the concept of driving (camper style) from one end of Australia to the other. I especially loved your photos. Also, props to you for taking with such maturity "criticisms" (constructive) of your article, and remedying the issues quickly.


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