Brisbane to Darwin Road Trip Itinerary Ideas & Essential Stops

Ok, so you might have done a road trip before. But the chances are you’ve never done one quite like a Darwin road trip from Brisbane!

To drive Brisbane to Darwin is an epic cross-country adventure that traverses Australia‘s vast and diverse landscapes. It stretches for over 3,400 km (and that is just the quick route!), taking you through untamed wilderness, remote towns, and iconic natural wonders that offer an unforgettable experience of the Australian Outback.

From Queensland’s capital of Brisbane to the tropical paradise of Darwin in the Northern Territory, this road trip unveils this expansive land’s remarkable beauty and cultural richness. With its rugged terrain, ever-changing scenery, and encounters with exotic wildlife, the Brisbane to Darwin road trip is a pilgrimage for those seeking a deeper connection with Australia’s soul.

As you journey between the two destinations, you’ll encounter ancient rainforests, rolling plains, and the heart of the Red Centre, revealing Australia’s incredible geological wonders and indigenous heritage. You’ll pass through iconic places like Tennant Creek, Uluru and Alice Springs. Depending on which way you travel, you can also see incredible beaches and visit some of the most historic small towns in the country.

This comprehensive guide will outline all the best places to stop on a road trip to Darwin from Brisbane. If you visit them all, you’ll be in for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Plan an Australian road trip graphic

What is the Distance Between Brisbane to Darwin?

The time it takes to drive from Brisbane to Darwin by road varies significantly depending on your route.

The quickest and most direct route is via the A2 and Stuart Highway. It covers a distance of around 3425 km and will take about 36 hours of non-stop driving as you pass through places like Roma, Charleville, Longreach, and Winton en route to the Northern Territories.

However, should you prefer to go on a real adventure, the Newell Highway/A39 will take you to Adelaide, from where you can travel on the A87 through the guts of Australia. This epic journey covers a distance of 5040 km and takes about 53 hours of pure driving time.

Alternatively, you can hit the coastal route along the Bruce Highway up to Townsville before heading inland to Darwin. Doing this incorporates around 41 hours and 30 minutes of driving, covering some 3755 km.

  • If you are setting off from further north to cross the top end, we suggest you also check out this Darwin to Cairns road trip itinerary, which will cover some of the more northerly stopping points of interest along the Savannah Way.

How Long Is the Drive From Brisbane to Darwin?

Irrespective of your route, you will need a minimum of four days to complete the journey. However, this period will largely be taken up with driving and does not leave much time for sightseeing.

For this reason, it is a good idea to set aside at least a week to undertake the Brisbane to Darwin drive. Doing so will enable you to have a rest day from driving and spend some quality time at a handful of the places you choose to visit. But if you can devote ten days to two weeks to the journey, then all the better.

One option to consider is to travel up to Darwin via one route and return to Brisbane (if you plan to) on a different route. That way, you get to see even more of this beautiful country.

Best Time of Year to Drive from Brisbane to Darwin

The best time of year to drive from Brisbane to Darwin is during the dry season, typically from May to September. 

At this time, the weather is generally mild and pleasant, with lower humidity levels and clear skies. The average daytime temperature hovers around 25 -30 degrees Celsius, making for a much more comfortable drive. That said, nights can be cooler, particularly in desert areas, so packing some warm clothing is recommended. Overall, the road conditions are generally good, and all the main attractions and services should be open along the way.

The period between October and November is known as the build-up season and marks the transition from dry to wet. At this time, temperatures start to rise, and humidity levels increase. There may also be occasional rainfall and thunderstorms, but it is less intense than during the wet season. However, some parts of the journey, particularly closer to Darwin, may experience road closures due to flooding.

Between December and April, it is well and truly the wet season. Attempting the journey at this time is not advisable because of the monsoons. Characterised by high humidity, heavy rainfall, and the possibility of tropical cyclones, driving can be treacherous, especially when you head inland from Adelaide or Townsville. Flooded roads, reduced visibility, and the risk of water crossings are not uncommon, and you might find some areas inaccessible.

Whenever you decide to start your adventure, checking out the weather forecasts and road conditions on your planned route before heading off would be a good idea.

Good resources for this information are The Australian Bureau of Meteorology and RACQ websites.

Best Stops on a Brisbane to Darwin Trip

As mentioned previously, you can take three main routes if you drive from Brisbane to Darwin – we’ll be covering the highlights of each route.

All three routes will lead you to Tenants Creek in the Northern Territory, and complete your journey via Katherine on the A87. Here are some of the main places you can stop at on the way.

Option 1: A2/Stuart Highway Route Brisbane to Darwin

If you decide to travel along the A2 and Stuart Highway route on your Brisbane to Darwin road trip, the following destinations are well worth checking out.

DriveDistanceEstimated Drive TimeWhere to Stay
Brisbane to Roma479 kms (298 miles)5 hours 25 minutesRoma
Roma to Charleville267 kms (166 miles)2 hours 55 minutesCharleville
Charleville to Longreach515 kms (320 miles)5 hours 30 minutesLongreach
Longreach to Winton179 kms (111 miles)1 hour 50 minutesWinton
Winton to Mount Isa468 kms (291 miles)5 hoursMount Isa
Mount Isa to Darwin1600 kms (994 miles)16 hours 45 minutesDarwin
Estimates only; times will vary based on traffic and road conditions

Roma (1 night)

Situated in Queensland’s Outback, about a 5.5-hour drive from Brisbane, Roma is a fascinating place to visit.

One of the main drawcards here is the Big Rig, which showcases the region’s history of oil and gas. Kids particularly will enjoy this attraction as there is lots of big machinery to stimulate their imagination as they climb aboard them.

Another fascinating place to visit is the Roma Saleyards. One of the largest cattle-selling centres in Australia, you can witness live cattle auctions and gain first-hand insights into the area’s agricultural heritage. 

For those wanting a more relaxed experience, the Roma Bush Gardens is a beautiful park with walking trails, picnic areas, and a playground. While there, stroll along the Adungadoo Pathway to see scenic views of the surrounding countryside. 

Roma also has a rich Indigenous heritage, which you can learn about at the Bungil Cultural Centre. Their interactive displays and exhibits provide a thought-provoking glimpse into Aboriginal culture and traditions. 

Charleville (1 – 2 nights)

About three hours drive up from Roma is the charming town of Charleville.

One of the main reasons to come here is to check out the fantastic Charleville Cosmos Centre and Observatory, where the whole family can marvel at the wonders of the night sky. You’ll have a lot of fun participating in fun-packed interactive displays and stargazing sessions while touring the observatory. 

AU Brisbane to Darwin Road Trip - Charleville Railway Station

You shouldn’t miss the Charleville Bilby Experience as well. Not only will you learn about the conservation efforts for this iconic Australian marsupial, but you will also get to cuddle these cute and endangered creatures!

At the Charleville Historic House Museum, you’ll get a taste of outback history as it showcases the region’s heritage with fascinating exhibits and artefacts.

Also, take a trip to the Charleville School of Distance Education, where kids can learn about the unique educational system for remote students. If you are into trains, remember to visit the Charleville Railway Station and experience the nostalgic charm of a bygone era. 

Longreach (1 – 2 nights)

Longreach is known as the ‘Heart of the Outback’ for good reason. There is plenty to see and do for a town of just 3000 people.

Begin your time here by exploring the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame, an interactive museum that celebrates the rich history of Australian stockmen. Kids can learn about horsemanship, driving, and the challenges faced in the Outback.

The Qantas Founders Museum is a must-visit destination. There you can discover the story of Australia’s iconic national airline. You can also climb aboard a Boeing 747 or explore the museum’s collection of aircraft and artefacts.

For a unique experience, hop on the Cobb & Co Stagecoach Experience and embark on a thrilling ride through the Outback. Alternatively, you can enjoy a leisurely cruise along the Thomson River, where you can spot exotic wildlife like kangaroos and marvel at scintillating sunsets.

Kids can also enjoy a ride on a paddleboat at the Longreach Waterhole, and for a fully immersive outback experience, why not visit a working sheep station and witness shearing demonstrations?

Winton (1 – 2 nights)

Australia has a rich dinosaur history; nowhere is this better illustrated than at Winton.

The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum is a fascinating place to visit. It enables you to explore the captivating world of dinosaurs through interactive displays and fossil exhibits. Whilst there, you can also participate in the thrilling Dinosaur Canyon adventure and search for fossils of yet undiscovered creatures.

AU Brisbane to Darwin Road Trip - Winton

Another must-visit attraction is the Waltzing Matilda Centre, which celebrates the iconic Australian song and showcases the region’s rich cultural heritage. Kids can learn about its history and significance through engaging displays and exhibits.

The Winton Waterhole is a lovely, natural swimming spot for those wanting to cool off from the intense heat. While The Outback Festival, held annually in September, is a must-visit, featuring exciting events like camel races, rodeos, and live music performances.

Mount Isa (1 – 2 nights)

Mount Isa is the last city in Queensland you’ll visit on the A2 route before entering the Northern Territory. But there is plenty to do there which will keep you in the Sunshine State for a bit longer.

One of the main highlights here is the Outback at Isa, a fantastic interactive museum that offers insights into the region’s rich mining heritage and cultural history. Children can engage in hands-on exhibits, try their hand at gold panning, and even enjoy a ride on the famous ‘Hard Times Mine’ tour.

If you are a family of animal lovers, a visit to the Mount Isa City Lookout and Animal Park is a must. Here, you can encounter native wildlife, such as kangaroos, wallabies, and emus, while enjoying panoramic views of the city.

The Riversleigh Fossil Centre is another highlight, offering a fascinating glimpse into Australia’s prehistoric past with its collection of ancient fossils. Additionally, those wanting a more serene experience should head to Lake Moondarra, a picturesque spot where families can enjoy picnicking, fishing, and water activities amidst stunning natural surroundings.

Option 2: M1 – Coastal Route Brisbane to Darwin

Are you planning on taking the coastal route to Townsville along the M1 before heading inland through Outback Queensland on your Darwin road trip?

These are some of the most exciting places you can visit during the drive.

DriveDistanceEstimated Drive TimeWhere to Stay
Brisbane to Hervey Bay290 kms (180 miles)3 hours 27 minutesHervey Bay
Hervey Bay to Airlie Beach864 kms (537 miles)9 hours 34 minutesAirlie Beach
Airlie Beach to Townsville272 kms (169 miles)3 hours 8 minutesTownsville
Townsville to Darwin2504 kms (1556 miles)26+ hoursDarwin
Estimates only; times will vary based on traffic and road conditions

Hervey Bay (1 – 2 nights)

About a 3.5-hour drive up the Bruce Highway from Brisbane is the stunning coastal paradise of Hervey Bay.

The town is known for its excellent beaches and fabulous waterfront promenade, which boasts playgrounds, cafes, several picnic areas, and stunning bay views. If it’s a warm day, your kids will want to spend hours running along the sandy shores, playing on the beach, and splashing in the calm waters. They can even rent kayaks, paddleboards, or jet skis to explore crystal-clear waters.

AU Brisbane to Darwin Road Trip - Hervey Bay

You’ll be around for the whale migration season if you visit between July and November. So take the opportunity to go on a whale-watching tour to witness these majestic creatures up close.

The Fraser Coast Discovery Sphere is somewhere else you should go. It is an interactive educational centre where kids can learn about the region’s diverse marine life and ecosystems. 

Over at the Hervey Bay Botanic Gardens, you can enjoy lush greenery, walking trails and observing diverse plant species. 

Airlie Beach (1 – 3 nights)

Airlie Beach is another fantastic destination known as the ‘Gateway to the Whitsundays’.

One of the main drawcards is the Airlie Beach Lagoon, which offers a safe, enclosed swimming area with shallow waters perfect for young children. The lagoon also has grassy areas for picnicking and shaded spots to relax.

Whilst at Airlie Beach, you can take a family-friendly cruise to the breathtaking Whitsunday Islands – including Hamilton Island and Whitehaven Beach – where you can snorkel, swim, and explore coral reefs teeming with marine life.

Another must-visit attraction is the Whitsunday Crocodile Safari, where you can spot crocodiles in their natural habitat and learn about these fascinating creatures. If you are in town on a Saturday, visit the Airlie Beach Markets to browse local arts, crafts, and delicious food stalls.

Townsville (1 – 3 nights)

Before heading inland towards Mt ISA and Tenant’s Creek, it is worth checking out Townsville.

A vibrant city offering plenty of family-friendly activities and attractions, you’ll want to spend some time at The Strand, a beautiful beachfront promenade with a water park, playgrounds, and picnic areas. 

AU Brisbane to Darwin Road Trip -Townsville

Kids will love splashing around in the water park and playing on the sandy beach. The Reef HQ Aquarium should also be of interest to them. As the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium, it allows visitors to marvel at the colourful marine life, walk through a tunnel surrounded by sharks and rays, and even participate in interactive feeding sessions.

If you have time, you should also visit Magnetic Island. Just a short ferry ride away, you can explore pristine beaches, go hiking, and spot wildlife like koalas and wallabies in their natural habitat. Castle Hill is also worth a visit for a wonderful panoramic view of the city and surrounding islands.

After Townsville, you will re-join the Stuart highway route through Mount Isa, Tennant’s Creek and Katherine.

Option 3: Stuart Highway Brisbane to Darwin via NSW & South Australia

If you want to embark on a real Aussie road trip adventure, you should drive from Brisbane to Darwin via the back roads of New South Wales & South Australia (A32/A87 route)

DriveDistanceEstimated Drive TimeWhere to Stay
Brisbane to Moree480 kms (298 miles)5 hours 21 minutesMoree
Moree to Dubbo364 kms (226 miles)4 hours 8 minutesDubbo
Dubbo to Broken Hill754 kms (468 miles)7 hours 56 minutesBroken Hill
Broken Hill to Port Augusta413 kms (256 miles)4 hours 33 minutesPort Augusta
Port Augusta to Coober Pedy540 kms (336 miles)5 hours 37 minutesCoober Pedy
Coober Pedy to Uluru756 kms (470 miles)7 hours 45 minutesUluru
Uluru to Alice Springs468 kms (290 miles)4 hours 49 minutesAlice Springs
Alice Springs to Tennant Creek508 kms (316 miles)5 hours 4 minutesTennant Creek
Tennant Creek to Katherine675 kms (419 miles)6 hours 57 minutesKatherine
Katherine to Darwin317 kms (197 miles)3 hours 11 minutesDarwin
Estimates only; times will vary based on traffic and road conditions

If you do that, try stopping at the following destinations.

Moree (1 night)

Located about a 5.5-hour drive from Brisbane, Moree in New South Wales offers visitors plenty to see and do.

After a long day of driving and sightseeing, the Moree Artesian Aquatic Centre would be a welcome first stop. There you can rest and rejuvenate in the warm, mineral-rich waters of the artesian pools. 

If the kids have the energy to burn, Jellicoe Park is a spacious parkland with playgrounds, picnic areas, and walking tracks. Kids can enjoy the playground equipment and run around the open spaces until their heart’s content.

The Moree Plains Gallery also offers Aboriginal cultural tours and experiences if you want to learn about the local Aboriginal culture. 

While the Moree Plains Gallery often hosts exhibitions and workshops suitable for children, allowing them to engage with art and creativity. 

Additionally, take advantage of the opportunity to explore the beautiful natural landscapes surrounding Moree, such as the Gwydir River or the nearby Waa Gorge. 

Dubbo (1 – 2 nights)

Dubbo is a major regional centre in New South Wales, so it is worth stopping there to refuel and pick up supplies.

Once there, though, there is plenty to keep you entertained, especially if you are travelling with kids.

AU Brisbane to Darwin Road Trip - Taronga Western Plains Zoo

A trip to the Taronga Western Plains Zoo should be high on the agenda. It houses hundreds of animals, from lions and kangaroos to elephants and giraffes, offering an immersive wildlife experience that includes feeding sessions and encounters.

If you plan to stay overnight, The Dubbo Observatory is another attraction kids will love. They can marvel at the wonders of the night sky through powerful telescopes and learn about astronomy from knowledgeable guides.

For a fun and educational experience, visit the Old Dubbo Gaol, where you can step back in time and explore the fascinating history of the former prison. Alternatively, Dubbo Aquatic Leisure Centre is perfect for water-loving kids, as it has pools, slides, and a splash pad.

Dubbo also has several excellent parks and playgrounds, including the Victoria Park Nature Reserve, where you can enjoy picnics, bike rides, and nature walks.

Broken Hill (1 night)

Broken Hill offers a fabulous blend of art, culture, and outdoor adventures, which might surprise you, considering its remote location near the border of South Australia.

One of the biggest attractions here is the Albert Kersten Mining and Minerals Museum which takes you deep underground to discover the fascinating world of mining. The Broken Hill Mining Memorial is also a fascinating place to learn about the city’s mining heritage.

The Menindee Lakes is a picturesque spot where you can enjoy boating, fishing, and picnicking by the water. At the same time, the Broken Hill Regional Aquatic Centre offers pools, slides, and water play areas.

Fans of art should enjoy exploring the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery, which houses a remarkable collection of paintings, sculptures, and indigenous artworks. Similarly, Living Desert Sculptures is a unique outdoor gallery. It features impressive sandstone sculptures set against the backdrop of the outback landscape, which kids will love to see.

Port Augusta (1 – 2 nights)

Situated near the head of the Spencer Gulf, Port Augusta is a terrific place for a pit stop before venturing deep into the guts of Australia.

AU Brisbane to Darwin Road Trip - Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden

A lovely place to start your visit is at the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden, where you can take gentle walks, enjoy a picnic, and discover the unique plant life of the region. If you are more of an animal lover, the Port Augusta Wildlife Park lets you get close to native Aussie wildlife, including kangaroos, emus, and koalas.

Another popular attraction is the Wadlata Outback Centre, where interactive displays and exhibits showcase the history and culture of the region. Also, don’t miss the chance to visit the Australian Arid Lands Observatory, where you can stargaze and learn about the wonders of the night sky. 

If your kids need to run around, the Port Augusta Adventure Playground has play equipment, water play areas, and plenty of space to enjoy themselves.

Coober Pedy (1 – 3 nights)

Coober Pedy is an iconic destination in South Australia that should be on every road trippers itinerary.

Known as the ‘Opal Capital of the World’, this outback town offers the whole family an exciting and educational experience. The best place to start is by exploring the underground wonders of Coober Pedy, where many homes, shops, and even hotels have been carved into the rock.

You should also visit the Umoona Opal Mine and Museum to learn about the mining history and see dazzling opal displays. While you are there, be sure to try the one-of-a-kind experience of noodling – searching for opals in the mine dumps. 

If you are a fan of the silver screen, take a guided tour to the Moon Plain, a filming location for countless movies, TV shows and commercials, where you can imagine yourself in a Hollywood setting.

Don’t forget to visit the Big Winch, a popular photo spot with a giant miner statue and check out the Breakaways Reserve, where you can marvel at the stunning desert landscapes and enjoy panoramic views. 

Uluru (1 – 2 nights)

Visiting Uluru in the Northern Territory is one of the most awe-inspiring and culturally enriching experiences.

The magnificent red rock formation holds deep significance for the Anangu people and offers a range of educational and exciting activities. Whilst there, take a guided walk around the base of Uluru, where you can learn about its geology and cultural significance and hear Dreamtime stories. Also, be sure to witness the breathtaking sunrise or sunset over Uluru when the rock transforms with vibrant colours. 

AU Brisbane to Darwin Road Trip - Uluru

The nearby Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) is worth exploring, too, with its striking domed rock formations and family-friendly walking trails. Take a cultural tour to learn about Aboriginal traditions, including dot painting and spear throwing. Kids can also participate in ranger-guided activities, such as bush tucker demonstrations and guided walks, to learn about the unique desert environment, flora, and fauna.

If you are so inclined, camping under the stars in the designated campgrounds is a memorable experience. 

Alice Springs (1 – 3 nights)

Alice Springs is a famously remote town in the Northern Territory with a rich Indigenous culture. Nestled halfway between Darwin and Adelaide (both are 1500 km away), it is known for its stunning outback landscapes.

One of your first ports of call here should be Alice Springs Desert Park. There you can encounter a variety of desert animals, participate in interactive exhibits, and learn about the region’s unique ecosystems.

The Alice Springs Reptile Centre is another notable attraction, offering an up-close encounter with reptiles, including snakes and lizards.

Elsewhere, you should take a trip to the Alice Springs Telegraph Station Historical Reserve to discover the history of communication in the outback and explore the surrounding nature trails. The Alice Springs School of the Air is also worth visiting, as you’ll see how remote education is provided to children across vast distances.

For something you’ll never forget, take the chance to take a camel ride through the picturesque landscapes. Alternatively, embark on a family-friendly hike in the nearby MacDonnell Ranges.

Completing Your Journey – Tennant Creek to Darwin

Tennant Creek (1 – 2 nights)

It doesn’t matter which route you choose to take. You will eventually end up at Tennant Creek. Located in the heart of the rugged Australian outback, a visit here provides an opportunity to learn about the rich Indigenous culture of the region.

AU Brisbane to Darwin Road Trip - Devils Marbles

An excellent place to start is the Nyinkka Nyunyu Cultural Centre, where children can engage in interactive exhibits, art workshops, and storytelling sessions that highlight the traditions and history of the local Warumungu people.

The surrounding nature reserves, such as the Karlu Karlu / Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve, are also worth visiting. Kids should enjoy it as they can marvel at the giant granite boulders and learn about their cultural significance there.

Over at the Battery Hill Mining Centre, you can pan for gold while discovering the town’s gold mining heritage. If you feel energetic, the nearby Davenport Ranges National Park offers bushwalking, camping, and wildlife spotting opportunities.

Head over to the Tennant Creek Observatory at night, where you can stargaze through telescopes highlighting crystal-clear skies.

Katherine (1 – 3 nights)

Before heading to Darwin, be sure to spend some time around Katherine. You’ll need a few days here as there is plenty to see.

The first place to head to is Nitmiluk National Park, home to the spectacular Katherine Gorge. Whilst there, you can take a boat cruise or hire a canoe to explore the tranquil waters, spot wildlife, and learn about the Indigenous history and Dreamtime stories of the Jawoyn people.

Children can also enjoy swimming in the natural rock pools and even try their hand at fishing, while the whole family can relax in the warm thermal pools surrounded by lush vegetation at the Katherine Hot Springs.

For a unique cultural experience, visit the Top Didj Cultural Experience and Art Gallery, where children can participate in traditional painting, boomerang throwing, and didgeridoo playing. They can also interact with local Indigenous artists and learn about their customs and traditions. Additionally, visit the Katherine Museum to discover more about the region’s pioneering history through engaging exhibits and displays.

When staying in Katherine, you can also use it as a base for visiting the Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks if you weren’t planning to stop there en route to Darwin.

Darwin With Kids

Whichever epic cross-country route you’ve chosen from Brisbane to Darwin, Darwin, you’ll enjoy the refreshing change of scenery and relaxed vibe in the capital of the Northern Territory.

Enjoy the Mindil beach Sunset Market, indulge in delicious fresh seafood, take a dip in the Wave Lagoon, and embrace the warm, tropical weather.

Darwin’s unique culture and laid-back charm make it the perfect destination to rejuvenate and create lasting memories after a rewarding road trip adventure through the Australian outback.

We have a great least of suggestions for places to visit from Darwin you’ll want to add on to this itinerary.

Where to stay in Darwin

Travelling with a camper or caravan, a few recommended spots include Darwin Freespirit Resort, close to the CBD, or slightly further out, try Discovery Parks Darwin or the family-run Oasis Tourist Park

Alternatively, with a car, we’d stay in the heart of Darwin City Centre or the waterfront. Alternatively, Cullen Bay or Parap/Fannie Bay can make good spots for families looking for short-term rental properties.

Essential Tips for a Brisbane to Darwin Drive

  • When driving in the Northern Territory, ensure you have plenty of water. It is a good idea to bring at least five litres per person per day that you intend to be driving for on the remote stretches and keep replenishing your supply at servos and stores you encounter along the way.
  • In the Northern Territory, you will find rest areas on main roads specifically designed for drivers to stop at should they start to feel tired. Don’t be afraid to use them; they could save your life or someone else’s. 
  • Petrol stations are few and far between in the Northern Territory. Be sure to take extra fuel and top up every chance you get. 
  • Don’t forget to visit our guide to planning a road trip in Australia for more of our handy hints on preparing you and your vehicle for driving conditions in Australia. Our desert driving safety tips will also come in handy for this road trip.
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