I love the outback. And my guess is that you do too. The endless red expanse, a sky that stretches into eternity, and an ageless beauty that cannot be described.
But in my experience, kids are not always as enthusiastic about the outback as their parents. One of the reasons: the travel time involved to reach your destination. The other: a lack of wi-fi and other 21st century conveniences.
Therefore, to drive down that outback track in search of a free-camp as far from civilisation as possible is not particularly feasible if you’ve kids in tow. Instead, you’ll need to tailor your trip to destinations that have some ‘essential’ facilities. The trick, of course, is to balance those needs with your desire to have a genuine outback experience.
Here are three destinations that we think fit the bill…
To explore the Flinders Ranges, SA, there are a number of places to stay. But for my money, Rawnsley Park, a station stay overlooking the southern side of Wilpena Pound – the Flinders’ most famous attraction – is a clear-cut winner.
In fact, Rawnsley Park is so well set-up that you can have an incredible Flinders experience all without leaving the station.
The station has all of your needs covered, with a range of accommodation options, from luxury villas to basic unpowered sites and everything in between. And yes, wi-fi is available too.
Like Yulara, Rawnsley Park is accessible by 2WD vehicles and no special equipment is necessary. Anyone can visit, regardless of their rig.
Rawnsley Park is a working sheep station. The onsite ‘Woolshed Restaurant’ actually serves the station’s lamb – you won’t taste red meat any fresher than this!
If you’re feeling adventurous, the station offers helicopter flights over Wilpena Pound – scenic flights in fixed-wing aircraft are available too.
And honestly, all of this is just scratching the surface. Rawnsley Park Station: I highly recommend it.
Yulara is the township built to service the needs of travellers who’ve made the pilgrimage to Uluru-Kata-Tjuta National Park – a must for every Australian, in my opinion.
Complete with a well-equipped shopping precinct and much more, Yulara is also home to Ayers Rock Resort, a holiday park within sight of Uluru itself.
A range of accommodation types is available, from apartments to powered RV sites, and the facilities on offer are of a high standard. With over 100 tours and experiences on offer around Uluru, there is no reason for anyone to be bored. And if you need wi-fi, there is some available.
The road to Yulara, the fully sealed Lasseter Highway, begins at Erldunda and runs for 244km. However, there are points of interest along the way that offer a sense of the outback, such as Curtain Springs Roadhouse (the main stop for fuel after Erldunda). Be sure to stay a while, have a meal and enjoy the hospitality.
Of course, you’ll need to purchase a ticket to access Uluru-Kata-Tjuta National Park; however, this will give you access to both of these attractions – Uluru and Kata-Tjuta.
So if you’re travelling the Red Centre with kids, Yulara is an essential destination. You will be comfortable, with all needs easily met, and your kids will have an experience to remember for the rest of their lives.
In order to see the ‘real’ Kakadu – the oases, waterfalls, and jaw-dropping landscapes, a 4WD is preferred, and in some cases essential. Many of the roads and tracks leading to these spots are heavily corrugated, and it should go without saying that the dry season is the better time to visit.
Having said that, Cooinda Lodge Kakadu is a large resort in Jabiru, the heart of the national park and there are plenty of tours on offer that depart from the park. Because the lodge is easily accessible by 2WD, you can therefore still have an ‘authentic’ Kakadu experience should you not have an offroad setup.
Boat tours on Yellow Water (magnificent at sunset), 4WD tours to places such as Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls, guided tours of breathtaking Aboriginal rock art… it’s all on offer.
And the best bit: Cooinda Lodge has everything you’ll need to keep the kids entertained – even a swimming pool! – and to keep you comfortable. Access from the north is via the Arnhem Highway, while if you’re approaching from the south on the Stuart Highway, take the Kakadu Highway. Both highways are paved with bitumen.
The nearby information centre, known as the Bowali Visitor Centre, provides a fascinating insight into the cultural significance of Kakadu, the things you can do and when, and much more. Highly recommended.