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Things to do from Alice Springs to Tennant Creek

The trip by road from Alice Springs to Tennant Creek is a relatively simple drive, and although it’s quite long at 508km, there are plenty of incredible places to stop along the way, as well as magnificent scenery. You’ll have the chance to see Anmatjere Man, Karlu Karlu (The Devils Marbles), Wycliffe Well (the UFO capital of Australia!) and many more fantastic sites.

The Stuart Highway is your friend on this trip with the nicely sealed road giving drivers of all vehicle types easy access all the way up and down Central Australia in almost a completely straight line. In fact, if you’re heading north from Alice Springs to the great mining town of Tennant Creek, you may even find that the drive and some of the stops along the way become the highlights of your trip to Central Australia.

 

Turnoff to Tanami Track

Just 19km along the Stuart Highway north of Alice Springs you’ll reach the intersection for the Tanami Track. This road isn’t quite as well maintained as the Stuart Highway (some sections are just dirt and gravel), but if you’re game for it it’s well worth taking a detour and cruising the track to see Yuendumu, the Yuelamu community and the awesome site of the still functioning Granites gold mine. Plus plenty of picturesque desert landscape.

Turnoff to Plenty Highway

Further along the Stuart Highway, just 68km north of Alice Springs you’ll find the turn off for the Plenty Highway. This 249km stretch of mostly dirt road is only for those with a sense of adventure. But if you’ve got that sense then you’ll want to make a visit to the Gemtree fields for some gemstone fossicking, the Binns Track and the always stunning Harts Ranges, all located along the Plenty Highway.

 

Ryan Well Historical Reserve

125km from Alice Springs along the Stuart Highway, located literally next to the highway is Ryan Well Historical Reserve. Ryan Well was dug in 1889 and served as an important source of water for travellers, cattle and workers along the Overland Telegraph Line throughout the early 1900s. Stop in to visit the Glen Maggie homestead ruins and get a real understanding of what life was like in the desert back then. There is a car park onsite and entry is free.

Aileron

Just a little way past Ryan Well and 135km north of Alice Springs is the small township of Aileron. With a good fuel station, restaurant and convenience store it’s a great place to stop along the highway for a cold drink and a meal. And just nearby Aileron is the Anmatjere Man - a 17m high sculpture of an Aboriginal warrior carrying a spear and overlooking the town of Aileron. It is truly a unique sight to behold out in the middle of the desert.

 

Ti Tree

194km north of Alice Springs and just 60km from Aileron is the slightly larger township of Ti Tree. Another great stopping site for fuel, cold drinks and food, Ti Tree is also the closest town to the geographical landmark which closest represents the very centre of Australia - Central Mount Stuart. There are also multiple high quality art galleries in Ti Tree (for instance the Red Sand Art Gallery) showcasing amazing works from local artists both current and from the past.

Barrow Creek

Around 300km north of Alice Springs (roughly 3 hours drive along the Stuart Highway) is Barrow Creek. Barrow Creek might be small but there’s plenty of historical character to see here. It is the location of one of the Overland Telegraph Line’s major repeater stations, a site at which several early settlers were massacred by local indigenous tribesmen. But it’s also home to a local pub known as ‘The Pub’ which dates all the way back to 1926. The pub is a great place to stop for a drink and a meal and with accommodation available you may even enjoy spending the night in this warm and friendly town.

 

Wycliffe Well

Wycliff Well is 375km north of Alice Springs and just 75km further on from Barrow Creek. The area is utilised mostly as a fuel stop or place for short stays at it has a holiday park, but it also gets a lot of attention for being the self-proclaimed UFO capital of Australia. There are plenty of people (both locals and travellers alike) who claim that UFO sightings in the area are highly common - so if you’re looking for aliens, then spend a night or two here and find out for yourself!

Turnoff to Ali Curung

377km north of Alice Springs or close to 4-hours of driving is the turn-off to Ali Curung at Davenport. Ali Curung is an indigenous community and this makes it a great place to visit to really get an in depth understanding of Aboriginal culture and particularly its art. The Arlpwe Art & Culture Centre is exactly the place to do this with exhibitions changing throughout the year and an incredible shop to buy some of the locally made and inspired art. With many artists on site, this is exactly the place to go for real art aficionados - or anyone who likes incredible designs!

 

Wauchope & Karlu Karlu/Devils Marbles

Wauchope is the closest town to Karlu Karlu/Devils Marbles and sits around 375km north of Alice Springs on the Stuart Highway. The town itself is a great fuel stop with cafes/restaurants and places to stock up on groceries and snacks, but its real marvel is Karlu Karlu/Devils Marbles.

These bulb-like rock structures are scattered around 9km north of town and are well worth a visit just to see their precarious balancing acts. To get there just take the Stuart Highway north until you reach the signs to turn off. You’ll then find a free car park where you can follow an easy 15min walking track to get the best views of the marbles themselves.

Binns Track

The Binns Track is not for the faint of heart and only for those with a 4WD with plenty of ground clearance. So if that’s you, then get ready for an exciting adventure loaded with exceptional scenery, amazing wildlife and world-class camping stops along the way. Access to the Binns Track from the Stuart Highway can be found just past Karlu Karlu/Devils Marbles, heading into the Davenport Ranges.

Taking the track will give you access to the visually stunning Davenport Ranges National Park/lytwelepenty, home to some incredible camping and swimming spots like Old Police Station Waterhole and Whistleduck campground. But there are small costs associated with camping here, so check it out before you start driving.

 

Tennant Creek

Finally, just over 500km from Alice Springs is the historical town of Tennant Creek. Tennant Creek is a great place to make your base for visiting all sorts of regions & sights around like lytwelepenty, The Pebbles/Kunjarra, Battery Hill Mining Centre (you can even take an underground mine tour to learn all about the mine’s history as the location of Australia’s last gold rush!), plenty of art galleries and Tennant Creek’s Telegraph Station.

Or, since you’ve been driving through the desert, take some time to relax and unwind at Lake Mary Ann, where you can swim and do all sorts of water activities. It really is a fun and super interesting oasis in the desert!

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