Follow in the footsteps (or hoof prints) of Scottish explorer John McDouall Stuart’s 1861 convoy as you travel from Adelaide to Darwin on the Explorers Highway.
It took Stuart and company almost a year and a half to cross the continent, through unforgiving, unchartered lands, from Adelaide to Darwin. Stuart’s experience and care for his fellow explorers meant that he didn’t lose any of his companions to the harsh conditions, which was quite a feat in those days.
Start just outside of Adelaide at Port Augusta, where you can explore the Memorial Cairn dedicated to Captain Matthew Flinders, marking the spot where he stood in 1802. Here, you’ll be treated to excellent views of the Flinders Ranges and the very top of Spencer Gulf.
It’s more than five hours’ drive from Port Augusta to your next stop, Coober Pedy, so take a break halfway and explore the fascinating Lake Gairdner National Park. Lake Gairdner is a large saline lake system surrounded by deep red sand hills, and when it’s not in flood, the dry lake bed glistens brilliantly white in the sun. In some parts of the lake, the salt layer can be up to one metre thick!
Your next stop on the highway is Coober Pedy, the opal capital of South Australia. See how the pros do it at Tim’s Working Opal Mine, or visit the free Umoona Opal Mine & Museum for a comprehensive look at the story of opal in the town, as well as some history and an Aboriginal interpretative centre. Stop in at Opalios to pick up a piece of bespoke jewellery to commemorate your visit to Coober Pedy.
Another absolute must while you’re in Coober Pedy is to ditch your caravan and book a room in an underground hotel for the night! They may be a little darker than your average motel, but these cave-like digs have all the creature comforts you’d expect, including air conditioning for those extra-hot days.