KYLIE BRADY and her family hit the road in their motorhome and travel 5,000 kilometres from Melbourne to Uluru via Coober Pedy (and back!)
Playful sibling rivalry always plays a role in our family trips – and this one was no exception. Bathed in a perfect orange sunset that illuminated the ‘Red Centre’, we farewelled Uluru on camelback. Giggling, our three youngest children decided to name one of the camels Zara, in honour of their older sister. Later, Zara herself shrugged this off finding humour in the situation.
It was a typical day in our family of six’s 5,000km return motorhome holiday from our home in Melbourne to the Northern Territory. After being the most locked down city in the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was fair to say we were eager to hit the road. We hightailed it across Victoria to spend our first night in Dimboola, where we experienced the splendour of the Pink Salt Lake, before crossing the border and heading to Hahndorf the following day.
Hahndorf, South Australia
Our visit to Hahndorf, just 30 minutes from Adelaide, was perfectly timed. The varied colours of nature shone vibrantly in this quaint little German town. We excitedly explored the quirky Main Street shops before indulging in a German-style feast at Arcobrau Brauhaus – a riot of laughter as we taught our kids how to German slap dance.
Leaving Hahndorf, we hit the Stuart Highway. Boy, we underestimated the vast distances between rest stops along the straight and dusty road that travels through the centre of Australia! Once we passed through South Australia’s port towns, wide open plains of red dust, grasses, and shrubs surrounded us. Stopping for lunch in Port Germein, we stretched our legs by running along the 1676 metre-long pier.
We stayed overnight at Lake Hart Rest Area, our base to explore the expansive salt lake, with a friendly RV neighbour sharing his telescope so the kids could marvel at the thousands of stars in the remote night sky.
Coober Pedy, South Australia
Dirt mounds (spoil from opal mines) appeared on the landscape, signifying our approach to Coober Pedy. This dirty and dusty town is, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere.
From the spaceship on the main street to buildings dug into the earth, Coober Pedy is a town created to survive harsh Australian outback conditions. The Serbian Church is a standout attraction, as are the house and former opal mine that Fay, a town pioneer, opens for tours. The town has numerous opal shops for those who like to indulge, but we were happy to simply take a picture with the iconic sign.
Josephine’s Kangaroo Orphanage was a highlight for the kids, who were fascinated to discover that these majestic creatures love wasabi peas! The Big Winch 360 was the perfect place to watch the sun set over the red dirt for dinner.
After another overnighter at the Erldunda Roadhouse, we were on our way to Uluru and Australia’s ‘Red Centre’.
Uluru, Northern Territory
Having been to Uluru before, I was so excited to show my kids the culture and history of Australia’s First Nations people. Donning our Akubras, complete with obligatory fly nets, we set off for a sunset tour. With temperatures reaching almost 40 degrees celsius, most of our exploring was done in the early morning, late in the day, or evening. While my children enjoyed learning about how the First Nations people lived off the land and the meanings behind their art works, seeing ‘The Rock’ for the first time shocked them – they simply could not believe its size.
We rose early the next morning to experience Bruce Mungo’s Field of Light. This impressive expanse of multi-coloured lights is artistically placed in a large field in front of Uluru. A solar powered installation, the lights dim then shine brightly as the sun rises – a captivating illumination of Uluru at first light. Revelling in the magnificence, we enjoyed breakfast on the sand dunes before spending the day exploring the Yulara community and Ayers Rock Resort, which includes several hotels and the town centre, with shops, a café, grocery store, and art gallery. Many free activities and education sessions are offered here.
Alice Springs, Northern Territory
Our next stop was Alice Springs, just in time to experience Parrtjima – A Festival in Light. In this annual exploration of First Nation culture, lights project onto the MacDonnell Ranges, where we headed next to set up our final camp.
Based in Ormiston Gorge, we explored the ancient landscapes, marvelled over the red cliffs, and swam in water holes. Our favourite walk took us to a lookout high above the gorge then back along a trail, through the riverbed. At one point we had to wade through chest deep water. It took us a while to figure out the best way to do it, and we end up swimming fully clothed. Floating alongside my loved ones in the clear water is a memory I know I will cherish forever.