Lexy Hutchinson was the lucky winner of our incredible competition to win the Ultimate Bucket List Adventure to the Red Centre. She travelled to the Northern Territory with her family this past April, and if you have ever wondered how a dream prize holiday unfolds… Lexy shares all the details with us…
Day 1 – Uluru
Our outback adventure began as we flew into Ayers Rock and a rush of heat hit us as we exited the plane. We excitedly checked in to Desert Gardens Hotel then jumped in the car to go get our first taste of Uluru. It was amazing seeing it tower in the distance and then get larger and larger on our approach. We were in absolute awe of the sheer size of it and it looked different depending on what angle we were looking at it from.
We had a giggle at all the people wearing fly nets but after about 15 minutes were adamant they’d be a great investment. We stopped for photos at the sunset viewing area and were surprised we could drive right up to the rock.
Uluru will be closed permanently to climbers in October this year however when we arrived it was open to climb. We were shocked by how steep it was and the people at the top looked like little ants. We opted not to climb but got some great photos on the base which was lucky as the next two times we visited they had closed it due to high temperatures and strong wind. Just an amazing experience and we felt very lucky to visit such a significant Australian landmark. Side note: don’t wear white clothing, red dust gets everywhere!!!!
Day 2 Uluru / Kata Tjuta / Fields of light
Today we ventured out to Uluru, this time with fly nets in place, for a morning of cycling around the base of the rock thanks to “Outback Cycling”. We hired 2 adult bikes, one fitted with a toddler seat, and set off at the earliest time of 8:00am. It’s a fairy easy flat 15km ride which we completed in approximately 2 hours, stopping often along the way to explore and take photos.
After our bike ride we drove to Kata Tjuta (also known as The Olgas). Like Uluru, they were a spectacular sight in the distance but with a very different shape. We did the Walpa Gorge walk which was fairy easy.
Later that night we attended the “Field of Lights” art installation and experienced the coloured lights light up the desert. The artwork covers an area the size of seven football fields and is beautiful to walk through.
Day 3 – Driving Uluru to Alice Springs
No better way to start the day than watching the sunrise over Uluru, stunning and a must do.
Before coming on this adventure I had no idea how far Alice Springs was from Uluru, I thought they were pretty much the same place. I was so wrong and after researching we allowed a day to take our time on the 5 and half hour drive. There is one big stop along the way at Erldunda Roadhouse to recharge and have a stretch and grab something to eat. Also on the drive you’ll see Mount Conner in the distance, this rock formation fools a lot of people who think it is Uluru.
Day 4 – Exploring Alice Springs
I was picked up by the amazing guys at Outback Ballooning at 5:40am for a gorgeous sunrise hot air balloon ride with amazing views of the MacDonnell Ranges. I have to admit to being a little nervous for my first ever time in a hot air balloon but once up in the air, moving smoothly and taking in the spectacular views, I felt quite calm and so happy I got to have this experience.
The team were so professional from start to finish and we even got to see some kangaroos from up in the air. An amazing once in a lifetime experience.
Thanks to Tourism NT they also gave us a family pass to Alice Springs Desert Park, a unique location which showcases native animals and plants, and educates visitors on Aboriginal culture. We were very fortunate to get up close to an eagle and hold an owl.
After our busy day exploring Alice Springs we finished off with a sunset camel ride with Pyndan Camel Tracks soaking in the stunning views of the MacDonnell Ranges. The experience was well organised and the staff were lovely and efficient getting our group of around 14 ready to go. My daughter sat in front of me and we rode for an hour in the calm of the evening. When we returned we enjoyed a refreshing drink and chat with the group. Highly recommend this Red Centre experience.
Day 5 – Arriving in Darwin
Happy Easter! We said goodbye to Alice Springs and the flies and left to go to the airport and fly to our next destination – Darwin! Our daughter was beyond excited when we arrived at our accommodation Big4 Howard Springs Holiday Park.
We stayed in a 2 bedroom cabin and this place is a child’s dream with waterpark, huge jumping pillow, park and large swimming pool. She had an absolute ball and we absolutely loved Darwin weather!
Day 6 – Exploring Darwin City
Today we drove into Darwin exploring the Esplanade, shops and cafes. We took a self guided tour of the WW2 oil storage tunnels which is an interesting piece of history.
Then it was straight to the amazing Darwin Wave pool for a swim, such a great location and great place to cool off.
Day 7 – Litchfield National Park
One of the absolute highlights of our trip for me was our day trip to Litchfield National Park – WOW! About an hour and a half drive from Darwin, Litchfield is truly a place of beauty.
Our first stop were the termite mounds which can stand up to 2 metres high. Next we drove to Florence Falls. After a short walk we could view the falls down below us which were stunning. I could see people swimming and I was so excited as this had been on my bucket list ever since I was lucky enough to win this amazing experience.
The hike down was completely doable, our 3 year old managed on her own but there are quite a lot of stairs. It was quite a busy time when we arrived. The water was so refreshing and swimming up close with the waterfalls was unreal. We spent a long time here and it’s a must do for anyone visiting the park.
Next we walked back to the top and relaxed with a picnic before hopping in the car and driving to check out “Buley’s Rockhole” a collection of deep Rock pools perfect for swimming. We were only intending to have a look but couldn’t resist and spent another few hours here, just beautiful!
Day 8 – Jumping Croc tour, Berry Springs, Royal Flying Doctors and Humpty Doo.
Another must do in Darwin are the Jumping Croc tours. We went with the Original Adelaide River Queen jumping crocodile cruises. The boat was a little smaller than I was expecting but this meant we got to be up close with these amazing creatures.
At times it was nerve-wracking seeing the crocs following after the boat and our guide did an awesome job of getting them to jump up in the air to grab their food. The guide was also very knowledgeable and it was a fantastic experience seeing crocodiles in their natural environment.
Next we stopped at Humpty Doo Tavern for lunch then went for a drive to Berry Springs. There are some beautiful natural springs that you can swim in but unfortunately were still closed on our visit, reopening in May.
Finally we visited the Royal Flying Doctors tourist facility. This provided great insight into how the Royal Flying Doctors service originated and also was an educational facility about the bombing of Darwin. The virtual reality experience was incredible.
Day 9 – Anzac Day: Dawn service, Anzac Day Parade, Aquascene, Mindil beach markets
It was really special to be spending Anzac Day in Darwin as both our Grandfathers were involved in WW2 and spent time here.
We got up for the dawn service which was very moving and had so many in attendance including (then) opposition leader Bill Shorten. This followed later on in the morning with the Anzac Parade through the city and aircraft flyovers. Such a beautiful and moving morning.
We visited Aquascene later in the morning to be involved in the fish feeding, which was a lot of fun. Hundreds of fish turn up every morning to be fed bread. We could stand ankle deep in the water with the fish or on the edge. Our daughter particularly enjoyed this and we also spotted some stingrays.
By far another highlight of our trip were the Mindil Beach markets which are a must do. Not only are there plenty of delicious food stalls, but it’s the perfect location to watch the sunset which was INCREDIBLE! Live music and fireworks also added to this fantastic night.
Day 10 – Howard Springs and dinner at Stokes Hill Wharf
I spent the morning with my daughter enjoying the swimming pool while Shane went to check out the Aviation museum. We checked out Howard Springs which had a great playground and toddler pool. For our last night in Darwin we went out to dinner at Stokes Hill Wharf, great views of the Harbour in a relaxed environment with a variety of food options.
Day 11 – Fannie Bay Goal and home time
After sadly checking out of our fantastic accommodation we drove into Darwin and checked out the Fannie Bay Gaol. This was the location of the last person executed in Darwin and was interesting to learn about some of the history. We also went for a drive through Charles Darwin National Park to view the WW2 weapon stores. There is so much war history in Darwin, it was fascinating.
Our trip was really a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we created so many special family memories. We can’t thank “Places We Go” enough for granting us such a rare opportunity and we’ll be forever grateful.