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Melbourne to Uluru Self Drive Adventure

Driving from Melbourne to Uluru, with our kids in tow – 8 and 11 years old was one of the best Australian road trips we have done. The huge distances between places can sometimes deter people from driving, especially with kids, but it is an awesome experience and highly recommended. Flying from Melbourne to Yulara (Uluru) takes about 3 hours… quick, but lacking in scenery!

Nothing quite prepares a person for the sight of Uluru, but there is so much more to discover along the way.

Two weeks to do the trip was ok, though another week would have been even better. It’s a long drive, though nothing compared to a full lap of Oz.

We drove from Melbourne to Uluru & Kings Canyon then on to Alice Springs and return in 14 days with no problem and saw some incredible countryside. The Melbourne to Uluru drive is an excellent introduction to the Outback of Australia.

All the roads we used were sealed and perfect for 2 wheel drive cars. 4 Wheel Drive only roads are plentiful for the more adventurous.

Route & Distances from Melbourne

RouteDistanceTimeGreat Accommodation
Total Distance:5365.50 km / 3334 m
Melbourne to Murray Bridge655 km / 407 miles7 h 10 minAdelaide Road Motor Lodge
Murray Bridge to Port Augusta366.5 km / 228 miles4 h 10 minAcacia Ridge Motel
Port Augusta to Coober Pedy542 km / 337 miles5 h 30 minRiba's Underground Camping
Coober Pedy to Yulara Resort (Uluru)732 km / 455 miles8 hYulara Campground
Desert Gardens Motel
Uluru (Yulara) to Kings Canyon304 km / 189 miles4 hKings Canyon Accommodation
Kings Canyon to Alice Springs475 km / 295 miles6 hChifley Alice Springs Resort
Alice Springs - Coober Pedy687 km / 427 miles7 h 30 minAli's Underground Motel
Coober Pedy to Port Augusta542 km / 337 miles5 h 30 minHighway One Motel
Port Augusta to Horsham & Grampian Mountains805 km / 500 miles9 hPloughman's Motor Inn
Halls Gap / Grampians to Melbourne257 km / 160 miles3 hHalls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park

Melbourne to Murray Bridge – Day 1Giant Koala Dadswell Bridge, South Australia

 The first day we left Melbourne and travelled via Ballarat, Nhill …. past the Giant Koala at Dadswell Bridge and

finished the day in Murray Bridge at a clean and comfy motel. There is plenty to see and do along this stretch of the trip if you have time and are not in a hurry to get to ‘The Rock’.

Accommodation at Murray Bridge: Adelaide Road Motor Lodge

A super motel with a spacious family room, heated swimming pool for the kids and a BBQ area for the evening meal. It was an ideal stop over for the kids to relax and then make an early start the next morning.

Melbourne to Tailem Bend

Melbourne to Murray Bridge in South Australia.

Murray Bridge to Port Augusta – Day 2

As we were wanting to do the drive to Uluru without spending too much time along the way, we made a quick stop in the German settlement of Hahndorf. It’s such a sweet little village that it seemed a shame to not stop in there.

The girls found their first opp shop of the journey in Hahndorf. Although no great bargains were to be found, it satisfied them ever so slightly! (Opp Shop/Opportunity shop= Charity shop). This is one of our favourite ways to keep Happy Kids on Road Trips - Free e-Book, find some bargains in an opp shop or two along the way…

Heading straight for Central Australia, we by-passed Adelaide and reached Port Augusta for the evening. Pulling into the pre-booked motel with a swimming pool, the Acacia Ridge, it was a welcome stop at the end of the day.

Accommodation at Port AugustaAcacia Ridge Motel

Another good overnight stop, the Acacia Ridge also had a swimming pool which was well used by the kids. This is a good stopover option and we were rearing to go in the morning as Coober Pedy was high on the list of places to visit…

Tailem Bend to Port Augusta Drive

Murray Bridge to Port Augusta Drive

Port Augusta to Coober Pedy – Day 3

Up and on the road, heading north and finally getting into the Outback of Australia! It took us about 9 hours as we stopped along the way and dawdled a bit.

Port Augusta to Coobe Pedy - a long drive, but interesting and with a few road houses and fuel stops along the way.

Port Augusta to Coober Pedy – a long drive, but interesting and with a few roadhouses and fuel stops along the way.

Coober Pedy Accommodation – Underground Camping

We camped underground at Riba’s, just outside of Coober Pedy. The world’s only underground camping ground! It is fine to lay a ground sheet and simply sleep in the underground area, but we wanted to put the Kombi campervan tent up, just for the amusement value.

Riba's Underground Camp Ground, Coober Pedy, South Australia

Riba’s Underground Camp Ground

Riba’s run their own underground opal mining tour and offer the first-night camping free with a mine tour booking.

It is definitely worth joining a mine tour when in Coober Pedy and there is a choice of a few. Most people live underground to avoid the heat and a tour of an underground house is available too.

The Dingo Fence & Breakways are worth adding to the list of ‘to do’s’.


Coober Pedy to Uluru – Day 4 

After a good look around Coober Pedy, we headed north again. Along the way are roadside stops for petrol and food etc., plus accommodation options. No need to worry about everything being too remote, no need to carry spare fuel unless heading off road BUT do carry water and a spare tyre!

We arrived at the Yulara campground, about 20 minutes drive from Uluru/ Ayers Rock, late afternoon and found a great camp spot, perched on a small area of grass! The girls bolted for the pool as it was high 30’s that day, while we put up the Kombi tent etc…

Yeah, finally arrived at Yulara Resort to camp and go see Uluru!

Yeah, finally arrived at Yulara Resort to camp and go see Uluru!

Accommodation – Uluru (Yulara Resort) Yulara campground 

The only camping option at Yulara, but it has access to everything and an easy stroll to the supermarket etc.

Last night Accommodation – Desert Gardens Hotel

It was a pleasant experience to enjoy air conditioning and a pool with a bar and cafe after camping out. Getting the kids out of the pool took some bribing…

Uluru- Day 5

Nothing can quite prepare you for the first sighting of Australia’s monolith – Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock.

It is stunning and one of the truly iconic images of this country.

Uluru/Ayers Rock Drive

Some facts about Uluru…

  • 348 metres (1141 feet) high
  • 3.6 km long (2.2 miles)
  • 1.9 km wide (1.2 miles)
  • 9.4 km or 5.8 miles around the base
  • covers 3.33 km2 (1.29 miles2)
  • extends approximately several km’s into the ground.
  • 862.5 metres above sea level

To say this entire area is awesome seems an understatement. It is such an inspiring, stunning place to visit and should be on everyone’s list of ‘must do’s in a lifetime’. We loved it all and are so glad to have made the trip by car, as it was an incredible experience for the girls to get an idea of the distances in Australia – there is always something well worth seeing every km of the way.

Definitely the highlight of the trip for the girls – they were desperate to go see the rock. Visitors are discouraged from climbing Ayers Rock / Uluru.

Uluru Aboriginal Experience Tours

Join a traditional owner of Uluru, a member of the Uluru family, on his traditional homelands and spend time learning about the oldest living culture in the world. Explore this extraordinary environment by 4WD with your Aboriginal guide, stopping along the journey to hear stories such as how Paddy Uluru fought for Aboriginal land rights to where Uluru is today. The traditional owners of Uluru want to share their personal story with you on their land. Join them for a yarn and afternoon tea at a remote shelter and hear how they survived in this environment before tourism started in the region. End the day at a private sand dune overlooking Uluru and Kata Tjuta while enjoying drinks and light snacks at sunset.


Uluru Base Walk – Day 6

We did various walks at the base of Uluru (it takes about 3.5 hours to walk all the way around the 10km circuit) and spent time at the Cultural Centre. Later in the day, we drove out to the Kata Tjuta/Olgas for the sunset view and some more awesome walking.

UluruSept 2013 - Ayers Rock (211)5

The base walk around Uluru is about 10kms, it takes around 3.5 hours.

UluruSept 2013 - Ayers Rock (222)6

This spot is affectionately referred to as ‘the brain’!

Uluru Base Walk

…. continuing the base walk around Uluru.

Melbourne to Uluru 2013

Kata Tjuta – The Olgas

Kata Tjuta/Olgas

Kata Tjuta Reasonably high temperatures and winds meant the ‘Valley of the Winds’ trail was closed the day we were there, but we made the most of other walking tracks and watched the glorious sunset.

Watarrka National Park / Kings Canyon – Day 7

We drove over to Kings Canyon (Watarrka National Park) about 4 hours away, backtracking along the Lasseter Highway to the turn off. Too late to do any hiking, but we did get to appreciate the sunset over the ranges and camped out in the local camp ground… I slept out of the tent with the girls on our camp beds, falling asleep all too soon as we counted stars and listened to the Dingoes howling…

Accommodation at Watarrka National Park

Uluru to Kings Canyon Drive

Kings Canyon1

Hiking the Canyon – Day 8

Today we walked the trail up and around the canyon. To say it is awesome, would be an understatement really. This is something not to be missed in an outback adventure. Not too strenuous, but not a walk that should be done during the heat in the middle of the day though. Take Water. Take snacks. Take a hat and take sunscreen…and a camera of course! Read the Parks PDF for walk details.

Kings Canyon

From the car park… a good workout going up the multitude of rock steps…

Kings Canyon

Looking out from part way up the steps.

Kings Canyon

With all their climbing and exploring, the girls must have covered double the distance of the entire walk overall!

Kings Canyon

Look closely for the people sitting at the lookout area… shows the scale of the area well!

Kings Canyon

Heading down the steps towards the Valley of Eden, a glorious little water hole and sanctuary from the heat.

Kings Canyon

A great lookout perch!

Kings Canyon8 1

The best time to visit Kings Canyon / Watarrka is during the cooler winter months from May-September. It is possible at any time of the year, of course. Be prepared for much higher temperatures during summer.

Watarrka to Alice Springs

Kings Canyon to Alice Springs

Alice Springs – Day 9

We headed to Alice Springs after doing the Kings Canyon Rim Walk, about a 5-hour drive. As we had a trailer on down the sealed road to the Lasseter Highway and up to Alice that way. There is another option, of heading to Alice on the dirt road, but it’s quite corrugated and we chose not to risk breaking an axle on the trailer (I’d have loved to go on the back road though… next time, perhaps).

Accommodation in Alice Springs

Alice offers loads of accommodation options. We recommend the Chifley Alice Springs Resort. Not over priced and family friendly with a fabulous swimming pool for the kids.

Standley Chasm Central Australia

Standley Chasm

Standley Chasm / Angkerle Atwatye – Day 10

The day was spent looking around Alice and out to nearby Standley Chasm / Angkerle Atwatye. A fantastic place to experience, a short walk into the chasm, which is best seen around noon when the walls of the chasm are easier to distinguish. This is considered to be the best lighting at this time of day.

Alice to Coober Pedy – Day 11 

Sadly, we had to head home. Darwin was now closer than Melbourne by a long shot… we would have loved to have had the time to go further… past the Devils Marbles etc…

Down again to Coober Pedy, stopping at the roadhouses along the way for icy poles and such. 

Accommodation in Coober Pedy

We chose to stay underground again in Coober Pedy on our return trip… a little bit of fun! Ali’s Underground. What a great experience. It is family friendly, relaxing and a great experience.

Port Augusta – Day 12

On down to Port Augusta where we stayed in the Highway One Motel for the night.

Horsham & Grampian Mountains – Day 13 

We had planned to go home via Mildura and the Murray River region, but decided to take the girls into the Grampian Mountains instead, so headed that way and stayed the night in Horsham.

Accommodation in Horsham

Grampian Mountains – Day 14

A drive through the Grampian Mountains and a quick stop in the township of Halls Gap was not doing this beautiful area of Victoria justice, as days can be spent exploring this region. That will have to keep for another holiday!

Victoria's Grampian Mountains - wonderful hiking, rock climbing and stunning scenery.

Victoria’s Grampian Mountains – wonderful hiking, rock climbing and stunning scenery.

Grampian Mountains Victoria

One of the lookouts with vistas across the valley and farmlands.

We headed for home that night after travelling over 5,000 kilometres and having a brilliant family holiday. An extra week or two would have been ideal, but we still made the trip without feeling too hurried.

[bctt tweet=”MELBOURNE TO ULURU/AYERS ROCK – 2 Week Self-Drive Holiday.”]

Suggested alternative itinerary for this trip from Melbourne to Ayers Rock/Uluru, if time allows:

Melbourne > Geelong > Along the Great Ocean Road (perhaps staying at Apollo Bay as an overnight stop).

Apollo Bay > Port Campbell > North to the Grampian Mountains ( overnight in the Grampians)

Grampians > Horsham > Hahndorf > Adelaide ( overnight in  Adelaide..)

Divert down the Fleurieu Peninsula  if you have time, even pop across to Kangaroo Island )

Adelaide > Port Augusta ( not a long trip, could drive further to Woomera or Glendambo Hotel/ Pub or campsite ( about 3 hrs from Port Augusta)

Return …. Alice Springs > Port Augusta > Flinders Ranges > Barossa Valley >Mildura> along the Murray River

Tour Options – A number of companies offer one day and multiple day trips leaving from Alice Springs and Yulara. We have searched for a few that offer good value and experiences: