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The Central Australian Get Away.

The sights and scenes of a week on the road through Australia's red centre


This article is written by Andrew Mevissen.



Australians have always loved roadtrips, perhaps because our vast continent lends itself to so many epic journeys. The excitement, adventure and raw joy of a roadtrip holiday to the Australian outback is unique and compelling.


Whenever I’m cocooned in the office, I feel the pull of the open road, big skies, far horizons, red earth, friendly pubs, colourful characters, enticing road signs and a captivating sense of wonder. And then there’s the camaraderie with your partner or friend as you sing along to your favourite tunes, share lifer stories, tell jokes or solve all the problems in the world. It’s time, it’s space, it’s an escape, it’s a journey of many kinds – and there’s nothing quite like it.


So when my mate and I realised recently we had a week’s window away from our busy family and work lives to indulge our love of roadtrips and the outback, we grabbed a map and plotted a boys’ own adventure from Adelaide to Alice – the long way, via the Flinders Ranges, Oodnadatta Track and a big rock called Uluru.


Mates trip to Uluru in a 4wd campervan

Credit: Andrew Mevissen


Flying to Adelaide, we kicked off our desert safari with a luxurious stay at the Adina Apartment Hotel Adelaide Treasury which occupies one of the oldest and most historically significant buildings in the city. Completed in 1876, this stately colonial building – and now deluxe, boutique hotel - was once the hub of South Australian politics, boasting a network of underground tunnels once used to transport gold and now used as guest passageways.


After living it up in the gym, pool, jacuzzi and wine bar, we headed next morning to pick up our mobile home for the week, our Apollo Motorhome 4WD camper. Tailor-made for dirt road touring, this pop-up 4WD camper with external, slide-out kitchen was perfect for our journey, offering comfortable lower and upper beds for two, middle-aged blokes! Road tunes lined up and excitement piqued, we headed north from Adelaide, taking our ‘Apollo’ mission into the great, empty interior of Australia.


Just over five hours north of Adelaide, the giant, jagged peaks of the Flinders Ranges rear their rugged heads. We were here to fulfil a life-long goal of mine to climb St Mary’s Peak, the tallest mountain in the ranges. After a hearty meal, refreshing ale and overnight camp in our Trailfinder at Wilpena Pound Resort, we set off for the lofty, 1171m-high summit on a steep, six-hour return trek which challenged our lungs and legs but rewarded us with exhilarating, jaw-dropping vistas over the rocky ranges and beyond to the desert plains. 


Andrew standing in front of the Oonadatta Track road sign

Credit: Andrew Mevissen


Some might say those endless desert plains are boring but for us they are head-clearing, eye-dazzling, soul-stirring expanses of raw, wild beauty. After a banter over a beer with the locals at the Marree Pub, we pointed the Trailfinder to one of Australia’s iconic dirt highways – the Oodnadatta Track. A warm bore water soak in Coward Springs and the edge of Lake Eyre – Australia’s largest lake and lowest point at 15m below sea level – broke our journey briefly but sometimes we just stopped to walk in silence into the never-never to feel the pure, primal power and overwhelming stillness of the desert. 


Andrew in front of Trailfinder 4WD camper on Oodnadatta Track

Credit: Andrew Mevissen


Our next overnight stop was the remote hamlet of William Creek - South Australia’s smallest town with a permanent population of just one – Trevor Wright, the owner of the quirky, character-filled pub, which is pretty much the only building in ‘town’. He also owns Wrightsair – a fleet of light planes which offer scenic flights over Lake Eyre and the wonderful, little-known attraction of Painted Hills which stretch across Anna Creek Station – the largest cattle station in the world, equal in size to a third of Tasmania. No roads reach the Painted Hills so flying low over these remarkable, ochre-topped, sandstone formations was enthralling.


The cowboy mining town of Cooper Pedy was next on the horizon where we stretched our legs and muscles with a gym workout before rejoining the bitumen and the Stuart Highway for the long leg up to the Northern Territory and the physical and spiritual heart of Australia, Uluru. 


Coming face to face with the massive, 348m-high monolith, plonked improbably in the middle of the desert, is a powerful and moving experience that will live with you forever. We circled the base of the rock by bike along a fun and easy 11km circuit that reveals the secret canyons, caves, waterholes, multi-coloured textures and colourful ancestral stories of this amazing rock. An even better view of Uluru was revealed on a brief but thrilling flight with Ayers Rock Helicopters – a must-do experience that will become more popular now that the climb up the rock is closed.


Andrew and Glen on bikes at the base of Uluru

Credit: Andrew Mevissen


We toasted the last night of our desert journey at Sounds of Silence, a spectacular, outdoor dining experience that began with chilled sparkling wine and canapes atop a sand dune as we watched the sun set on Uluru, followed by fine cuisine enlivened by indigenous flavours and a guided, astronomical scan of the night skies above us. 


Alice Springs was our destination next morning to drop off the Trailfinder at the Apollo depot and fly home but for now, huddled around the roaring logfire at Sounds of Silence, shiraz in hand, we soaked in the views across the darkened desert, in the middle of nowhere but at the centre of everything, and reflected on our escapade, vowing to feel the freedom of the open road again soon. As they say, life’s either an adventure or nothing at all!


The writer flew to Adelaide with Jetstar and from Alice Springs with Qantas

2023 Update: Heading to central Australia? Check out Apollo's NEW 2023 model 4WD Adventure Camper! Featuring updated layout and design features based on customer recommendations, the 4WD Adventure Camper is the perfect choice for your NT experience. Check it out here.


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