Tennant Creek & Barkly Region 7 day itinerary
With a week in the Barkly Tablelands, you'll have time to get in touch with your inner stockman and go horseback riding, discover the ancient rock formations, and perhaps even strike it rich panning for gems.
Set out on a Central Australian road trip along the Explorer’s Way and head to Australia’s heart of gold, Tennant Creek. Explore mines, stop at Aboriginal arts and cultural centres and watch the sunset over the mysterious Karlu Karlu/Devils Marbles.
Get set for your Central Australian Adventure
Rise early this morning, ready to embark on your Central Australian adventure. This itinerary will take you from Alice Springs, all the way up to Elliott, so make sure you pack your tent or swag if you want to make the most of some great camping opportunities. If you don’t have equipment of your own, visit one of the businesses in Alice Springs who will hire you everything you will need. Not a camper? There's a range of accommodation options along the way that will suit every comfort level.
Selfie stop at the Tropic of Capricorn marker
It’s time to hit the road. Travelling north, today’s first stopover is the Tropic of Capricorn marker, just 30 kilometres north of Alice Springs. Be sure to get your photo taken next to the unique marker which was designed by a local Alice Springs man to mark Australia’s Bicentenary.
Make your way to the gem fields
Back on the road, continue north to today’s final destination, the Gemtree Caravan and Tourist Park. Just 140km north-east of Alice Springs, Gemtree is a true oasis in the mulga country and is a gateway to the Central Australian gem fields. Arrive in time to join a Fossicking Tour to try your luck at finding your own gems, and have them appraised on-site by experts.
Explore the bushland trails
If you'd like to stretch your legs and further explore the area, Gemtree has 250 acres of natural bushland, along with many self-guided nature trails and self-guided drive tours. Spend time spotting some of the extensive birdlife that call Gemtree home.
Settle in with dinner and entertainment
A set menu is on offer each evening in the Campoven Kitchen, followed by entertainment including Campfire Karaoke on Sundays, quiz and movie nights and drinks by the pool.
Accommodation ranges from air conditioned cabins, on-site caravans to campsites, however make sure you call ahead to book in, as cabins are very popular during high seasons.
Journey to the centre of Australia
Hit the road again this morning, continuing north along the Stuart Highway. Your first stop over will be Central Mount Stuart Historical Reserve. Stop a while and stretch your legs – you're standing in the dead centre of Australia! Make the most of the photo opportunity and while you're here, visit the historical reserve that commemorates John McDouall Stuart’s discovery of the Centre of Australia.
Experience the local Indigenous art and culture
Enjoy the desert scenery views as you continue your journey. Make a detour to Ali Curung, which isn’t too much further away, just an hour and 25 minutes. Here you'll find the Arlpwe Art and Culture Centre which comprises an Aboriginal Art Gallery, two Art Centres and a Pottery Training Studio. View one of their latest projects, a bush tucker and bush medicine garden. Meet the artists at work in the centre to learn about their stories and techniques, and wander through the gallery to admire finished artworks. All work is for sale and comes with a certificate of authenticity.
Hear tales of the extraterrestrial
Continue north and make one more stop over before you reach your final destination tonight. After approximately 45 kilometres you'll come to Wycliffe Well, a very unique outback town famed for its frequent UFO sightings. Hang out in the roadhouse and enjoy some refreshments as you read about the details of paranormal encounters across the shop walls. It's the perfect place to pick up a souvenir or two.
Check-in to the Devils Marbles Hotel
Drive on to the Devils Marbles Hotel, where you'll stay tonight. Chill out this afternoon at the hotel beer garden or cool off with a dip in the swimming pool. The hotel offers a variety of accommodation options from motel style rooms to caravan and camp sites.
Bask in the sunset glow over the Devils Marbles
Just before sun down make your way to the Karlu Karlu/Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve to witness a spectacular Central Australian sunset over the mysterious giant boulders. These ancient rock formations seem to have dropped from the skies, appearing to defy gravity. They have a great significance for the Aboriginal people and one of the main Dreaming stories of the area tells that the Devils Marbles are the eggs of the rainbow serpent.
Relax with dinner and a night cap
Head back to the Devils Marbles Hotel tonight to enjoy an excellent meal at their restaurant. Be sure to check out their extensive wine cellar and indulge in a night cap before bed.
Hit the road for Tennant Creek
Enjoy a delicious cooked breakfast from the Wauchope Hotel this morning before you hit the road again. Tennant Creek is just over an hour's drive away. Tennant Creek has a rich gold mining and cattle droving history and has been shaped by its strong Aboriginal culture. It's a town that represents the real outback Australia. There's lots to learn about the town and plenty to see and do.
Lunch by the lake
Relax with lunch today down at the popular man-made lake, Tingkkarli/Lake Mary Ann. This spot is a cool oasis just 5 kilometres north of Tennant Creek and provides an area large enough for swimming or canoeing. If you're feeling active, check out one of the walking paths around the lake, one of which winds its way through the beautiful Honeymoon Ranges.
Sweeping views at Bill Allen Lookout
In the afternoon, take in a sweeping 360-degree panoramic view of Tennant Creek at the Bill Allen Lookout. Read the plaques to learn about significant local sites as the day turns to dusk. This is the perfect spot to sit and watch a Tennant Creek sunset.
Take your pick for tonight's rest
Check into your accommodation and wind down for the evening. There are plenty of accommodation options to choose from, from motel style rooms, to cabins and caravan parks.
Take a drive to the historical Telegraph Station
Drop into one of the local bakeries or cafés for breakfast this morning before making your way to the Tennant Creek Telegraph Station. The historic building played a significant role in the late 1800’s when the Overland Telegraph Line was being constructed, and provided a refuge for linesman and travellers alike from the harsh surrounds. You can obtain a key from the Battery Hill Mining Centre if you'd like to explore inside the buildings.
Step back in time to the gold rush
If you're feeling lucky, Battery Hill Mining Centre is the place to go, where you can noodle for your own gold! Learn all about the outback gold rush of the 1930’s and get a glimpse of what it was like living in Tennant Creek during that era.
Check out the world-class minerals display and also the museum display ‘Freedom, Fortitude and Flies', which looks at social life on the goldfields throughout that time. Join an underground mining tour where you'll get to see the machinery in action, as well as the Gold Stamp Battery, which has been fully restored and operates during tours. Discover the Borella Exhibit and learn the story of Albert Borella, the NT’s only Victoria Cross recipient.
Engross yourself in local Aboriginal art and culture
Immerse yourself in local Aboriginal art and culture this afternoon with a visit to the Nyinkka Nyunyu Art & Culture Centre. Here you can learn about bush tucker and traditional medicines, Aboriginal life and history in the Tennant Creek region. One of the highlights is the audio tour which will take you through arid zone gardens, interpreting plants and landscapes through Aboriginal eyes.
As you wind up your tour, relax with afternoon tea at the on-site Café, which is well known for its food and coffee. Check our local arts, crafts and other great souvenirs on sale in the retail area and take a piece of Central Australia home.
Dinner your way
For dinner, there’s plenty of options in Tennant Creek including tasty Asian menus, pizzas, meet up with locals at the Sporties or Memo Clubs, or cookup a BBQ under the stars.
Bring out your inner-rancher
Get in touch with your inner jillaroo or jackeroo and saddle up for an adventurous horseback ride at Kelly’s Ranch. Your instructor and guide is owner Jerry Kelly, an experienced stockman and local Warumungu man. Sign up for a 1 hour riding lesson, or take a two and a half hour trail ride. Jerry will share with you stories about the life of a stockman and hunting bush tucker over a cup of billy tea. Everybody is sure to have a great time, and no prior riding experience is required.
Picnic at sunset
This afternoon, pack a picnic dinner and head north to Kunjarra/The Pebbles to see the sun set over these mysterious granite boulders. Also known as the smaller relatives of the Karlu Karlu/Devils Marbles, this is a sacred site where the women’s dancing and healing rites take place for the Warumumgu people.
The changing colours of the boulders as the sun sets are a sight to behold. Enjoy your dinner as you watch the colours vary from a glowing red and orange to a deep purple and grey as the sun fades over the horizon.
Set off on a bush camping adventure
Today you will embark on a bush camping adventure to Longreach Waterhole near Elliott, 3 hours north of Tennant Creek. The town itself is smack bang in the middle of the Northern Territory. To get to Longreach Waterhole, turn south west of Stuart Highway 1 kilometre north of Elliott, and then drive 12 kilometres to find the camping area on the bank of Lake Woods.
A birdwatcher's delight
Have your camera handy today as the area is a birdwatcher's paradise with thousands of birds of many varieties calling this glorious location home.
Set yourself up lakeside
Set up your camp ready for the evening before perching yourself lakeside with a rod and reel and try your luck at catching dinner for tonight. Enjoy your packed dinner while watching a stunning sunset across the glassy waters of the waterhole.
Journey back again
Pack up your camp ready for your journey back to Alice Springs. There are still lots of things to see on the way home. Travelling south, make a quick stop back in Tennant Creek for some refreshments.
Stop off at Barrow Creek
Continuing south for approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes, you'll come to Barrow Creek. Make sure you call in to visit the beautifully restored Barrow Creek Telegraph Station. It is one of 15 telegraph stations that formed the network from Port Augusta to Port Darwin. Call into the Barrow Creek pub for a bite to eat before continuing your journey.
See the Big Man in Aileron
Less than 2 hours down the road you'll come to the town of Aileron. A popular spot over Easter for its Bush Weekend – an action packed rodeo keeping all ages entertained. Also known for its Big Man statue that you'll want to get a picture with before you leave. Also close by and worth the visit is Ryan’s Well Historical Reserve. The well was incredibly hand dug in 1889 to supply water to travellers and stock along the overland Telegraph line.
Kick-back in Alice Springs
Only 1 hour and 45 minutes further south is your final destination for today, Alice Springs. Kick back with a drink tonight at one of the restaurants in town and reminisce on a week experiencing some of the best of Central Australia.