10 Easy Tracks in Northern Territory

Although NT is among the most sparsely populated regions of Australia, it has a wealth of 4WD tracks that you can explore. Even though you’re still new to the off-roading world, there’s a track that has scenes and attractions that will truly blow your mind.

Are there 4WD tracks for beginners in NT? The most accessible trails in the area are the Carpentaria Highway, West MacDonnell Ranges, and Barkly Highway among others. But if you want a bit more challenge, you can go to Roper Bar, the Outback Way, and Chambers Pillar. 

So, do you want to know more about these 4WD tracks? Read more below!

Carpentaria Highway

Location: 

Difficulty: Easy 

Track Length: 396.12 km

Track Time: 1 day

Terrain: Sealed road

The Carpentaria Highway is a sealed road with a narrow one-lane strip across the centre of the Northern Territory linking the Gulf country to Central Australia. It is the most northernmost route on this part of the continent, and it is passable throughout the whole year. The terrain is mainly shrubby and the area marked with cattle, both synonymous with travel through the remote Barkly Tableland region. 

If you’re looking for places of interest along the way, make sure to stop and wait for the sunset in the Bullwaddy area. A rest area is located right off the highway might bring delights of prolific birdlife if conditions are right.

West MacDonnell Ranges

Location: 

Difficulty: Easy 

Track Length: 297.55 km

Track Time: 2 days

Terrain: Sealed road

There’s a lot of things that you should see in the Alice Springs region that you need to plan your route accordingly. With a 4WD vehicle, you get the opportunity to avoid backtracking and can reach all the major and lesser-known sites over a comfortable one week period. If you are a keen bush walking enthusiast, photographer, or artist, you would certainly want to allow two weeks or more. A lot of sites have several tracks to explore that ranges from easy walks of a few hundred metres to multi-day hikes. There are a lot of opportunities for taking in the surroundings on foot, but if you are in a rush, excellent bitumen roads link all the major attractions to within a day’s drive of Alice Springs. 

This route we describe here is 2WD accessible as it follows the bitumen Larapinta Drive out of Alice Springs passing John Flynns Grave, Simpsons Gap and Standley Chasm. It then swings east on the Namatjira Drive to Ellery Creek Bighole, Serpentine Gorge, Ochre Pits, Ormiston Gorge, Glen Helen Gorge. A good dirt road continues the trek to Redbank Gorge, Gosse Bluff and Hermannsburg with a 4WD only diversion to Palm Valley.

Rainbow Valley

Location: 

Difficulty: Easy 

Track Length: 106.33 km

Track Time: 1 day

Terrain: Sand and unsealed road

Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve is accessed just 75km south of Alice Springs from a turnoff along the Stuart Highway. A 22km access road that is unsealed with sandy patches leads to the reserve, which offers vehicle access, camping and walking.

The area gets it to name from the scenic sandstone bluffs and cliffs that show rainbow-coloured bands. These are particularly striking at dawn/dusk when the colours are enhanced.

Owens Spring Reserve

Location: 

Difficulty: Easy 

Track Length: 55.48 km

Track Time: 1 day

Terrain: Sand and unsealed road

Travelling around 66kms south-west on the Stuart Highway from Alice Springs will take you back to the starting point of the trek. It can be finished in a minimum of half a day, although a full day trip is recommended to explore the area thoroughly. The track measures a total of 55.5 kilometres along a single-dirt road, which is mostly an easy drive on a hard surface excluding a couple of places with patches of very soft sand where it turns into the Hugh Riverbed. Camper trailers and 4WD caravans can also be towed along this track. The Owen Springs track terminates at the junction of the Larapinta Drive, which is bitumen for the final 50km return to Alice Springs. 

There are two significant areas for bush camping (no facilities), namely at Redbank Waterhole on the Hugh River (a 2km sidetrack), and also inside Lawrence Gorge. Redbank Waterhole provides a peaceful rest area among the River Red Gums, but they only offer a limited amount of shade. There is also often enough water in the hole during the peak season, and the hole shows signs of having more water after good rains, so you won’t have to worry about running out of water. 

Further along the track, exciting stops are at Haunted Tree Bore and the ruins of the Old Owen Springs Homestead. Also, you could expect to see Red kangaroos and a lot of species of birds such as Port Lincoln Parrots and Honeyeaters, and several corkwood trees.

Just north of Larapinta Drive, there are more camping spots at Reedy Waterhole and Birthday Gap Waterhole, which can be accessed from Namatjira Drive. But you need to be attentive as the turnoff is around a hundred metres before the Hugh River causeway and is unmarked. Both these places are accessible without fees or permits. For more information on this area in general, see our West MacDonnell Ranges Trek Note.

Barkly Highway

Location: 

Difficulty: Easy 

Track Length: 755.5 km

Track Time: 2 days

Terrain: Sealed road

The Barkly Highway, now promoted as part of the Overlander’s Way, is a sealed road connecting the states of Qld & NT. The road links the Three Ways Roadhouse in the Northern Territory to Cloncurry in Queensland.

The Barkly Highway plays as the main transport route between Queensland and the Northern Territory, so it is used heavily by road trains and tourists.

Between Cloncurry and Mount Isa, this road weaves through the panoramic Swelwyn Ranges. Around Camooweal you’ll see vast expanses of Mitchell grass plains and spinifex woodland. Meanwhile, when you get closer to Tennant Creek, the Barkly Tablelands are a massive expanse of scrubby grasslands and cattle stations. These habitats don’t support a wide variety of wildlife with just antechinus, brushtail possums, and dunnarts being the rare mammals known to live in this area.

Tablelands Highway

Location: 

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Track Length: 378.25 km

Track Time: 1 day

Terrain: Sand and sealed road

The Tablelands Highway is an isolated stretch of single-lane sealed road which has also become a popular route for caravan tourists. This track is getting recognised because it affords a perfect opportunity to wander into the land that is between the major east-west roads – the Barkly and Carpentaria Highways. Although it is around 190km east of the Stuart Highway, it is an alternative route to get some north-south mileage under your wheels on a more isolated stretch of road if you’re okay with the remoteness.

But the Tablelands is a significant cattle grazing area, and sometimes you may encounter cattle trucks carrying stock, so you should always drive carefully.

Although it is called a “highway”, the Tablelands Highway is much closer to a rural service road passes through grazing land. Also, a large part of it is not fenced, so red kangaroos and cattle go across the bitumen

. To prevent any issues, you should always be on the lookout. 

Every June, the Brunette Races draws a lot of people. Held on Brunette Downs Station, this is a 4-day outback carnival with rodeo, racing, and camp drafts. There’s also an adults and kids gymkhana, a fancy dress party, and the Battle of the Barkly. Participate or spectate – camping onsite.

Roper Bar

Location: 

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Track Length: 868.46 km

Track Time: 3 days

Terrain: Sealed road

If you have a 4WD, you can experience solitude in the Northern Territory wilderness first hand. This trek starts from Borroloola – Katherine and leads you through some of the most remote areas of the Top End. From Borroloola the track will head north through the Nathan River HS towards Port Roper and finally at Roper Bar. It was once a secret with the locals, but it is now a popular spot for fisherpeople who want to catch big barramundi.

 

It is still a tranquil place, more so out of the barramundi’s peak season. Usually, very early in the summer months, the barramundi is at their prime. It is pretty much futile to attempt fishing here without a boat although fishing tours are plentiful during this season.

The way from Roper Bar into Katherine passes through the Elsey National Park and the Mataranka Thermal Springs which is nearby. After the long and dusty road that you’ve just travelled, this oasis may be the perfect place to recharge. The Katherine region is filled with excellent little spots, still remote and relatively untouched but slowly becoming more famous with the massive increase in tourism in the Northern Territory in general. 

Outback Way

Location: 

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Track Length: 2770.98 km

Track Time: 3 days

Terrain: Sand and dirt

The Outback Way goes across three states for over 2,750 km. It starts from Laverton in Western Australia, passes through Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, and ends Winton in Queensland. Seven connected roads and highways make up the Outback Way route including the: Tjukaruru Road, Great Central Road, Stuart Highway, Lasseter Highway, Plenty Highway, Donohue Highway and Min Min Byway.

The trip itself houses an impressive collection of sites and exciting places for travellers. These include instantly recognisable scenery like the Ayers Rock, Peterman Range, the Olga’s, and MacDonnell Ranges. You can also indulge in a lot of activities like bird and wildlife watching in several waterholes, nature walks that go through oak forests and mulga scrub, viewing indigenous art galleries at selected communities, gem fossicking, and geo-caching. This fun world-wide GPS activity involves finding hidden caches (34 in total, around 80kms apart) along the route. 

There are many places where you can top-up on fuel or provisions, or even stay overnight. Yulara and Alice Springs have a variety of accommodation facilities; Winton, Boulia and Laverton have a motel, hotel and caravan park facilities, while most roadhouses en-route provide campgrounds suitable for caravans and camper trailers. To travel the entire Outback Way requires no less than 3 to 4 days of daytime travel (driving at night is not recommended). However, typically 6 to 7 days of daytime travel is required to stop and enjoy a majority of the highlights of central Australia.

Chambers Pillar

Location: 

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Track Length: 160.92 km

Track Time: 3 hours

Terrain: Sand and dirt

This trek starts at Alice Springs and heads south on the Old South Road passing through some ruins on the small town of Maryvale. It then heads south-east to Chambers Pillar which is a fantastic rock formation in the Chambers Pillar Historical Reserve. This part of the trek is incredibly scenic and is an excellent start to the type of scenery that you would witness in the Simpson Desert. But the route passes between dunes and is relatively easy.

The track to Chambers Pillar is not recommended for trailers. Still, other than a little bit of sand, a rocky low range steep descent, and some strips of corrugations, it is straightforward. There are red dunes on both sides of the track, bits and pieces of historic ruins, and not a car in sight. The road is mostly sand and has good drainage when wet.

You can go up to the base of the ascending section of Chambers Pillar to see the inscribed names of the famed explorers who have been here before the Telegraph and Ghan were completed. Aside from that, there’s a nice walk at the foothills of Castle Rock. Also, late afternoon is the best time to view the rainbow colours of the ridge that glow when struck by the golden rays of the setting sun. 

Savannah Way

Location: 

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Track Length: 3867.51 km

Track Time: 11 days

Terrain: Sealed road

The Savannah Way is more than 3,700kms long so that it could be done in as little as three days. But why would you do that? You should make the most out of it, and give yourself a couple of weeks to take in the exciting towns and impressive attractions that you’ll pass by along the way. Although most of the road is sealed, making large sections doable for 2WD sedans; there are sections where a 4WD is required. It includes the stretch between Normanton and Borroloola in the Carpentaria Gulf (with some sections impassable during the November to April). Generally, the Savannah Way is easy to follow the route that features clear signage, informative displays, detailed maps, and brochures. Aside from that, they also have a comprehensive visitor information centre network for visitors.

This fascinating drive cuts through some of Australia’s most impressive scenery, which includes four World Heritage Areas and fifteen National Parks – ideally suited for the ultimate getaway! Marvel as you journey through diverse and dramatic landscapes featuring rock pools, ancient gorges, salt pans, waterfalls, and hot springs. So, you’ll never be bored along the way. 

Although starting from Broome, the highlights of this trip in a particular order could include Geikie Gorge and the massive Fitzroy River flood plains, Purnululu (Bungle Bungle) National Park, Lake Argyle close to Kununurra, Timber Creek (the entrance to Gregory National Park), Katherine Gorge (one of NT’s most picturesque natural attractions). Aside from that, you will also pass by the small township of Roper Bar, the remote fishing community of Borroloola, the bird-filled wetlands between Normanton and nearby Karumba, and the Undara Lava Tubes (in the Undara Volcanic National Park). The national park boasts the largest and most preserved lava tubes system on earth.

Related Questions

Can You Camp At Wilbinga?

Camping is not allowed at this location with the risk of an on the spot fine. Also, there are a lot of places for camping, from on the beach to behind the dunes. There is a vast stretch of beach and many dunes and tracks to explore.

Can You Drive On Preston Beach?

If you have a four-wheel drive, Preston Beach is a great place to visit for day trips. You can drive on the island from north to south, and vice versa. Also, you can enjoy the endless, clean beach. So, it is a great place to do a bit of four-wheel driving, but the beach can be reasonably soft at times. If you don’t lower your tyre pressure, rightly expect to get stuck!

Am I Allowed To Camp On The Beach In Western Australia?

Beach camping laws and more: Though it varies from state to state, in Australia, it is generally illegal to “wild” camp (including sleeping in your parked car) unless it is in an authorised area. … And in WA, the state’s Parks and Wildlife Service says that camping is only permitted in designated campgrounds.

Can You Sleep Inside Your Car In Byron Bay?

Byron Bay is a particularly tricky spot to find spots, where you can comfortably sleep in your car without facing a fine for illegal camping. 

Can I Put A Tent On The Beach?

Tents can easily be set up at almost any place, but not on the beach. Since the beach is a sea of sand, tents can’t stand because there’s no solid, hard ground. On the other hand, sand is fine and smooth, making it hard to be used as the foundation of tents.

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