Tracks Through Australia – The Stuart Highway

Stuart Highway, NT Australia

The Stuart Highway knifes through Central Australia like a Roman road connecting the Adelaide in the south with  Darwin but we are heading north from Alice Springs to Tennant Creek today. This is the Outback, a road dotted with tiny settlements consisting of a service station, a pub and accommodation for tired travellers meandering through some of the harshest terrain on the planet.


Aileron, 130km north of Alice Springs, welcomes visitors into their aboriginal art gallery, meet local artists and watch them create their unique objects. Displayed in the roadhouse are numerous original landscapes by Albert Namatjira.

Ti Tree

At Ti Tree, the local dingoes welcome visitors but do not succumb to their wily charms and provide a free meal to the scavengers. Dingoes look as docile as your neighbour’s collie but they are wild animals and should be left alone to live naturally.

Barrow Creek and Wycliffe Well

Further up the Track, you can visit the telegraph repeater site at Barrow Creek, a vital communications link in the 19th and early 20th Centuries but today it is a lonely backwater. Whycliffe Well is often visited by out of towners from the far reaches of the universe. If you believe in landings by extraterrestrial beings then this is where they come most often, why I’m just not sure unless they love a beer (the bar serves the largest selection in the Territory).

Karlu Karlu (Devil’s Marbles)

Uluru gets the press but I think Karlu Karlu is the most spectacular natural sight in the Northern Territory deserts. Commonly called the Devil’s Marbles, the massive granite slabs have been wearied by time to form the marble field. Campers should set up their tent in the campgrounds and enjoy the changing colours of the Marbles at sunset and sunrise, take the self-guided walk and learn about the bounty in this country that sustained the aboriginal people for thousands of years.

Tennant Creek

Tennant Creek, 100km north of Karlu Karlu, is the largest town between Alice Springs and Katherine with good accommodation choices, and everything a weary traveller needs to recover and refuel. It is also a natural jumping off point for the long trip to Mt Isa in Queensland. Originally settled to mine the local gold deposits, Tennant Creek is a thriving community and many locals recall arriving for a ‘short stay’ 20 or 30 years ago. While in town, relive the mining boom at Battery Hill, relax at Lake Mary Ann and listen to bush poetry and enjoy a taste of bush tucker with Jimmy Hooker.

Driving Tips

Carry water and food, while the road is well travelled dehydration occurs quickly in this environment.

Take frequent breaks. The long straight road can be mesmerising and single car accidents are common.

Road trains hauling 3 or 4 trailers ply the road night and day, take extra care overtaking these behemoths.

The Northern Territory Government recently imposed a 130kph speed limit on their highways and is establishing a demerit points system for Australian drivers.

On my most recent drive up the Track, I had to submit to a random breath test at a police check point well outside any significant township. The .05 blood alcohol limit is strictly enforced even in this remote area.