Take the family on these amazing trips to create some lifelong memories.
4X4 touring and kids don’t always go hand in hand on long trips, so planning an adventure which gives all the family a bit of a buzz can be tough. Luckily, each Aussie state has plenty of great school holiday length tours that will keep the whole family busy and get you back home again in two weeks. Here’s four of our top school holiday trips out of capital cities.
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BRISBANE TO BRISBANE
Kids love dinosaurs, so why not treat them to a bit of a dinosaur adventure and head out through Australia’s best dinosaur fossil region, following the Dinosaur Trail around Winton in Central Queensland? There are plenty of route options when it comes to getting to Winton as your central destination. Whether you head up the coast to Rockhampton and across through Emerald and Barcaldine, or take the slightly more direct inland route through Toowoomba and Roma, there’s certainly plenty to see and do along the way. Either way, plan for a few days in and around Winton and Longreach – and the family will love you for it!
Longreach itself has plenty of iconic Outback Queensland attractions to keep the dream alive with the Stockman’s Hall of Fame, the Qantas Founders Museum and there’s even the Kinnon & Co paddle wheeler which runs down the majestic Thompson River. But it’s the dinosaurs around Winton which will really hit the kids for six. The Age of Dinosaurs Museum runs short dinosaur fossil tours as well as longer dino experiences … like their 1 to 10 day ‘Prep a Dino’ package. Check it out and you won’t be disappointed.
Without doubt however, one of the greatest dinosaur experiences in the country has to be the Jurassic Park-like dinosaur stampede at the Lark Quarry Dinosaur Trackways. It’s the world’s only evidence of a real dinosaur stampede, fossilised into the rock surface. Situated 100km south of Winton, it’s a dinosaur experience not to be missed.
Region: Outback QLD
Distance from Brisbane: Winton is approx. 1,360km from Brisbane.
How to get there: From Brisbane, head out through Toowoomba, Roma, Barcaldine, Longreach, and then on towards Winton.
Accommodation: Self-sufficient camping, Station Stays and Caravan Park options along the way.
Additional touring options: Head down through the Diamantina National Park towards the hot spring at Bedourie and then check out the biggest dune in the Simpson Desert – ‘Big Red’ – just outside of Birdsville.
PERTH TO PERTH
North or South? Either way you can’t lose when it comes to our most westerly capital city; but we thought we’d stick to the western theme and head north to Australia’s westernmost point for the school break – Steep Point and Shark Bay.
With two full weeks at your disposal, taking your time is the best way to see what the WA coast has on offer. Head north along the Indian Ocean Drive towards Geraldton and you’ll have terrific coastal scenery and dozens of little towns, beaches and bays to drop into along the way where you can stop to cool off. Don’t miss the opportunity to see one of the most unique landscapes in the country, too – the lunar-like terrain of the Pinnacles Desert. Combine this with some off-road action on the dunes near Wedge Island, or try the caves of Stockyard Gully, and you’ve got yourself a few days of 4X4 adventure on your way north.
Continuing north towards Shark Bay, I recommend you take a detour through to Kalbarri and the Kalbarri National Park where you can peek through ‘Nature’s Window’ onto the Murchison River below. Lucky Bay and the Murchison Off-Road Adventure Park also offer some great 4X4 and camping options here.
Denham and Monkey Mia (with its resident dolphin feeding program and dugong population) are the main tourist hot spots in Shark Bay – but it’s the south-western side of the Shark Bay region itself where the 4X4 adventure begins. There’s real ‘getaway’ beach-style camping via Tamala Station (bookings essential), and the last 30km into Steep Point is through very soft sand dunes and, therefore, lower tyre pressures are a must! Steep Point also offers pre-booked, self-sufficient beachside camping and is the access point to the historic Dirk Hartog Island. It is renowned as one of the best land-based game fishing spots in the country. Either way, take the family and spend a week with your tent or camper trailer right on the sand in front of the crystal waters of Shark Bay … and we can guarantee you that home will feel so far away.
Region: Shark Bay Marine Park.
Distance from Perth: Denham is approx. 835km from Perth.
How to get there: From Perth, head north on either the Brand Highway or Indian Ocean Drive through Geraldton, then onto the North West Coastal Highway until the turnoff at Denham-Hamlin Road through to Denham.
Accommodation: Self-sufficient camping, Station Stays and Caravan Park options along the way.
Additional touring options: Book a couple of days camping, fishing and adventure on Dirk Hartog Island. It’ll be worth it.
DARWIN TO DARWIN
Kakadu is just so ‘last year’ … and rather than hanging around in the ’burbs of Darwin, why not get out of the humidity and head south to Alice Springs and the West Macdonnell Ranges?
Plan to spend a week in and around the West Macs and you won’t be disappointed. Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge and Redbank Gorge are all spectacular but tourist-friendly locations, so why not try your hand through some of the lesser known, but just as impressive, gorges and waterholes? Palm Valley with its resident dingo population will send shivers down your spine as they howl in the rising moon at night. Owen Springs Nature Reserve has a beaut little track running north to south, bringing you out on the Stuart Highway near the entrance to Rainbow Valley … and well worth the drive in for a sunset spectacular.
One of the most challenging 4X4 tracks in the area has to be the drive through the Finke Gorge National Park. The track runs north-south and follows the Finke River as it meanders its way between the spectacular gorges and chasms with permanent waterholes along the way. Boggy Hole would have to be one of the best camps in the region – but be prepared, this area is remote and requires a high clearance 4X4, recovery gear and the knowledge of how to use it properly. The track is mostly sand driving, so lower tyre pressures are also a must. Remember to take a couple of tyre inner tubes for the kids to float around on (and they double up as great little afternoon champagne water lounges for the mums, too).
Region: West Macdonnell Ranges.
Distance from Darwin: The West Macdonnell Ranges are approx. 1,500km from Darwin.
How to get there: From Darwin, head south on the Stuart Highway through Katherine, Daly Waters and Tennant Creek to Alice Springs. The West Macdonnell Ranges are situated directly west of Alice Springs.
Accommodation: Self-sufficient camping, National Parks and Caravan Park options along the way.
Additional touring options: If you have some more time, use it to take in Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) as well as King’s Canyon and Gosse Bluff.
ADELAIDE TO ADELAIDE
The Flinders Ranges are often regarded as the Outback jewel in the South Australian crown, but why not combine a trip to the Flinders and take in the sights and surrounds of the lesser-known Gammon Ranges too?
A stone’s throw from Adelaide (well… almost), the Flinders and Gammon ranges are an excellent choice to spend a couple of weeks of relaxing off-road adventure. Whether you decide to stay at Wilpena Pound or one of the many and varied National Park campgrounds or station stays, this whole area is a pleasure just to be in. A trip to the Flinders can’t go by without driving the Bunyeroo Valley Scenic Track and stopping for a happy snap at Razorback Lookout – undoubtedly one of the most impressive views in the country.
By far the best 4X4 driving is on some of the privately-owned working stations. A number of these stations allow access to private vehicles in order to experience some of the more stunning vistas the Flinders Ranges has to offer. It’s certainly money well spent for a few days of amazing driving, or even a few days of camping. The whole area abounds with wildlife, which the family will love. The ever-present emus will fascinate as they stroll around the camp; and keep your eyes peeled for the once almost extinct yellow-footed rock wallabies which now frequent Brachina and Wilkawillana gorges.
Situated just south of the well-known Arkaroola Station and Village, the Gammon Ranges offer a quieter touring option than the more renowned Flinders Ranges; but are arguably just as impressive. The ‘4X4 only’ drive around the Wortupa Loop Track offers unsurpassed scenery as it winds its way around the rugged landscape towards Grindells Hut and campground – which would have to be one of the quietest campsites in the area. Used as a base, or even a day trip from the Flinders Ranges and surrounding areas, the Gammon Ranges offers a quieter, alternate addition to an easy touring holiday from Adelaide.
Region: Flinders Ranges and Gammon Ranges National Parks.
Distance from Adelaide: Approx. 450km.
How to get there: From Adelaide, head north on National Highway A1 to Port Augusta then onto the Flinders Ranges Way up through Quorn and Hawker.
Accommodation: Self-sufficient camping, Station Stays and National Park options along the way.
Additional touring options: A trip to Flinders Ranges can’t go by without stopping in at the Prairie Hotel at Parachilna for the FMG (Feral Mixed Grill).
Words and photography by Tim Stanners