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Driving

The Northern Territory has some of the best roads in Australia, so good there are no speed limits outside towns and cities. Driving in the territory involves vast distances, usually in very hot conditions. The trip from Darwin to Alice Springs is more than 1500 kilometres and takes 15 hours actual driving time at a reasonable safe speed. More than 95 per cent of roads between major towns and attractions are sealed. There are food and fuel stops every 200 to 300 kilometres. There is also a network of well made gravel and dirt (compacted earth) roads to lots of other interesting places, and rough tracks to remote areas.

Fatigue is a major cause of accidents, so take a rest every two hours. Drink some water. Change drivers if possible. Always carry at least 20 litres of drinking water in the car. You can never have too much water.

Huge trucks called road trains frequently travel the Territory’s roads. These can be up to 53.5 metres long and 2.5 metres wide and are made up of three trailers behind a very powerful prime mover. You should be able to see at least a kilometre of clear road ahead before trying to overtake. Stay well behind road trains on gravel and dirt roads. Flying gravel is almost guaranteed to damage your windscreen. The dust cloud raised by road trains is virtually impossible to see through. If you see a dust cloud coming towards you, slow down, move to the left, and make sure there is no traffic behind you in case you have to stop. Make it a habit to drive with your headlights on during the day so other vehicles can see you.

Most of the territory is not fenced and stock animals and kangaroos wander freely. Watch for cattle, horses and kangaroos near the side of the road as they may cross without warning. Avoid driving at dusk, dawn and at night when many animals are most active. Do not swerve or brake suddenly to miss small animals crossing the road as this can cause you to lose control, especially on gravel and dirt, but also at high speed on sealed roads. Remember there could be someone travelling very quickly behind you.

Most drivers are not used to travelling at very high speed so it is vital you do not try to exceed your own comfort zone. Driving fast on gravel and dirt roads is particularly dangerous, especially around corners. There have been many very serious accidents where drivers have over-corrected skids and vehicles have rolled over.

Some territory roads are subject to flash floods brought on by rain which may be many kilometres away. Do not try to drive across flooded bridges or causeways unless you are absolutely sure the water is not too deep or flowing too fast. Part of the roadway may be washed away or blocked by a tree for instance. Stop and wait to see if other vehicles of a similar size get through. Flash floods usually pass in 24 hours.

If your car breaks down or you become lost, do not leave your vehicle. Find shade if possible. Ration water. There is enough passing traffic on most roads for someone to advise the next fuel stop or Police Station of your predicament and send help.

If you choose to go off-road in a four-wheel drive, tell someone where you are going and how long you expect to take to get there or when you expect to get back. If you are seriously overdue, Police will mount a search, by air if necessary. Make certain you check in and advise the people at your last checkpoint that you have arrived safely.

Remember all Australians drive on the left hand side of the road. Seat belts must be worn. Drink driving is a serious offence and the legal blood alcohol limit is .05 per cent. It is best to avoid alcohol altogether during the day as the heat heightens its effect.

Northern Territory Driving Distances

From

To

KM

Miles

Approx Time

Darwin to

Ayers Rock 

1852

1216

19 hours

 

Alice Springs

1491

927

15 hours

 

Jabiru (Kakadu) 

257

160

3 hours

 

Katherine 

314

195

3 hours

 

Litchfield Park 

129

80

2 hours

 

Mataranka

420

261

4 hours

 

Pine Creek 

226

140

2 hours

 

Tennant Creek

986

613

10 hours

 

 

 

 

 

Katherine to

Edith Falls

62

38

40 mins

 

Elsey National Park

114

71

1 hours

 

Jabiru (Kakadu) 

300

186

3 hours

 

Katherine Gorge

30

19

25 mins

 

Mataranka 

106

66

1 hours

 

Tennant Creek

672 

418 

7 hours

 

Alice Springs

1177

731

12 hours

 

Please Note: All driving distances are rounded to the nearest 5km. Driving distances may vary according to the route taken. Please consult a quality map for more specific driving distances.

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