Unless you can take a year off to really explore this world-unto-itself you’ll never be able to see everything you want to. Unless, of course, you fly point-to-point in your own aircraft. Which brings you to the Great Australian Aircruise; taking off at Sydney and calling at Longreach, Katherine, Kakadu, Darwin, Kununurra, Broome, Uluru, Alice Springs and Birdsville.
Sydney – Longreach
What a contrast. The sparkling harbourside nightlife, the world famous architecture of the Sydney Opera House and the fusion cuisine of the restaurants of Sydney…against the wild ruggedness of an outback town like Longreach, named after its remote situation on the Thomson River. The Champion family will relive their experiences of the harsh environment for you, and you’ll also be able to visit the Qantas Museum for a gala dinner and celebration of Australian aviation history.
Stay: One night in the Albert Park Motel.
Browse around the Stockman’s Hall of Fame before boarding your private plane for a hop to Katherine in the Northern Territories. You’ll see – and photograph – the Gulf of Carpentaria and the ravines, rapids and falls of Katharine Gorge. The gorge is particularly beautiful at sunset, with the falling light illuminating its eroded sandstone walls.
Stay: One night in the Paraway Motel.
Kakadu National Park
Today a local Jawoyn elder takes you on a cultural tour of the region and gives you an insight into the Original Owners’ heritage and dreamtime legends. Then it’s time to explore the magnificent Kakadu National Park with its Jim Jim Creek and Yellow Waters. The area teems with wildlife, including saltwater crocodiles, buffalo and fabulous birdlife.
Stay: One night in Mecure Gagudju Crocodile Hotel.
Kakadu National Park – Darwin
Rise early and visit the superb examples of Aboriginal art to be found at Ubirr Rock, on the edge of the Nadab Floodplain. Studying the pictures will reveal the Original Owners’ close spiritual relationship with the environment and its co-inhabitants. Later your aeroplane will soar above Arnhem Land escarpment on the way to Darwin.
Stay: Two nights in Mantra on the Esplanade.
Now you have a full day to explore the rollercoaster history of this far north town – from the Fannie Bay Gaol and the Darwin Museum to the World War II storage tunnels and the reminders of Cyclone Tracey that devastated the town on Christmas Day 1974. In the evening you can take a sunset cruise on a traditional pearl lugger, across scenic Darwin Harbour
From Darwin you fly over the Bungle Bungle Range with its geologically striped, beehive shaped sandstone domes – a World Heritage listed Site – and the Purnululu National Park. You’ll touch down in Kununurra to see how the irrigation system has reshaped the landscape. You’ll be able to cruise along the Ord River to Dam Wall at Lake Argyle, before visiting the historic Argyle Homestead.
Stay: One night in Kimberley Grande.
Today your private aircraft swoops you over the remote far northwest coastline to the rarely seen Buccaneer Archipelago; almost impossible to access from the ground. You’ll see the two-tiered Mitchell Falls, the Prince Regent River and perhaps even the horizontal falls in Talbot Bay, created by massive tidal moments and surely one of nature’s greatest wonders. Finally you’ll fly into the old pearling port of Broome, with its notable Chinese and Japanese cemeteries and dinosaur footprints at Gantheaume Point.
Stay: One night in Cable Beach Club Resort and Spa.
Time to relax and explore the gentle town of Broome. It’s a lovely example of a remote Australian town, but with special features like the quaint Chinatown and, of course, the famous pearl shops, as well as the historic pearl lugger and other reminders of the town’s pearl industry. You could even watch a movie in the world’s oldest al fresco cinema, take a camel ride or simply stroll along beautiful Cable Beach at sunset.
Stay: One night in Cable Beach Club Resort and Spa.
Alice awaits and your plane will take you to this remote outpost of civilisation – birthplace of the Royal Flying Doctor Service – before hopping over to Standley Chasm, a natural wonder carved through quartz by surging floodwaters over hundreds of thousands of years. You’ll also visit the Telegraph Station standing on the site of the original Repeater Station, and discover the source of the name ‘Alice Springs’.
Stay: One night in Lasseters Hotel.
Uluru – Kata Tjuta
The world turns red today as you swoop over the outrageous Red Centre of Australia, bound for Ayer’s Rock – the sacred natural wonder of Uluru that dominates the surrounding desert. Kata Tjuta is no less impressive, and in the evening you’ll dine under the stars at a ‘Sounds of Silence’ dinner. In the morning you’ll have an early start – all the better to appreciate the true wonder of Uluru, as the rising sun sets it ablaze. Later you’ll visit the 36 conglomerate domes of Kata Tjuta with its 22 km circumference.
Stay: Two nights in Sails in the Desert Gardens Hotel.
Birdsville – Sydney
Your final day sees you landing – appropriately – in Birdsville to explore this archetypal Queensland outback town, founded in 1887 and now famous for the Birdsville Races. You’ll have lunch in Australia’s most remote pub before flitting on to Sydney to connect with your international flight home.