The Stuart Highway is an epic drive from one end of Australia to the other. From south to north it’s full of wow moments and surprising sights. Here are just a few.
Everything Natural on a Grand Scale
The differing landscapes take your breath away. The things you don’t see every day but are so grand in scale that you can’t help but be impressed. For instance at Port Augusta there is a huge wind farm popping up on the edge of the highway which will have 50 wind turbines as part of a solar-wind hybrid plant and renewable energy project.
There are a number of huge salt lakes in the north of South Australia which can change from a dazzling white to shades of pink depending on the weather conditions and time of year. They are fascinating to see from lookouts, you can stay overnight in rest areas and in some cases get an even closer look.
Just because there are wide open plains, doesn’t mean it’s not interesting. The contrasting colours of a big blue sky, red earth, black top road and golden grasses for as far as the eye can see is quite beautiful, and if you really take notice, you just might spy animals out there too.
The land may be quite flat and seemingly the same for hundreds of kilometres but you need to keep alert and watching for unexpected things all the time. We were lucky to see a few large mobs of emus, lizards big and small ambling across the road and spectacular wedge tailed eagles feeding on road kill. Make sure to give them a toot with the car horn to move them away before you get too close.
Stock with more space than some Cities
As well as native animals you have to be alert for wandering stock and those that attempt to cross the highway. You’ll see signs for various stations along the way and will pass over some cattle grids, a good reminder to keep paying attention. The stations run cattle or sheep and some have been returned to become reserves to protect the animals, birds and plants of these desert regions.
The size of these stations are mind boggling, for instance one sheep station is around 309,600 hectares and runs over 26,000 merino sheep. In the Northern Territory there is a cattle station that the Stuart Highway dissects and it occupies an area of 294,900 hectares with anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000 head of cattle. In South Australia off the Stuart Highway, you’ll find the second largest sheep station in Australia at 1,000,000 hectares which runs 30,000 sheep and is larger than Melbourne. Aircrafts, helicopters and motorcycles are used for mustering and surprisingly, it takes only a small number of staff to run these massive stations.
From Desert to Tropics
There is a gradual shift in the look and feel of the landscape as you head further north, into the tropic region from around Daly Waters and northwards. The drier scrub gives way to more lush greenery dotted with giant termite mounds, palm trees and tropical flowering plants. The bright colours of plants like bougainvillea are more common in the towns you pass through.
Quirky Pets and Humour
As you stop along the way, especially at station stays or roadhouses and their campgrounds, the ‘pets’ they keep become far removed from your average household type. We saw cattle, donkeys, emus and more all happy to have the company of visitors passing through.
Of course if these are the resident pets then it only stands to reason that the humour in these places is going to be a little, let’s say…quirky, too.
Road Trains Carry Everything
From boats, to helicopters, aircraft steps, prefabricated houses and trucks and tanks of the Australian Army, we saw them all moving through the centre of Australia on the back of a road train. Then there were the usual cargo of animals, fuel and hay being carted across the country too.
Satellites and Aliens
You can definitely encounter satellite communication on the journey, thanks to some roadside mobile phone signal boosters if it’s needed, and if you believe the stories, we are not alone out there with the locality of Wycliffe Well proclaiming itself to be the UFO capital of Australia. Apparently for decades there have been UFO sightings regularly in this locality.
What a weird and wonderful country Australia is!
Enjoy the journey