Kakadu/Darwin or Uluru/Alice Springs?

Old Jun 2nd, 2005, 11:07 AM
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Kakadu/Darwin or Uluru/Alice Springs?

My fiance and I will be going to Australia for two weeks in July. The first part will be spent in Melbourne and Sydney (we have meetings there) but then we have about five days at the end of our time there and we'd like to take a trip into the outback. We are particularly interested in aborginal art/culture and the red rock landscape. Flying to Alice Springs or Uluru from Sydney would be closer than flying to Darwin and trying to go to Kakadu. I've read on the forum that Alice Springs isn't great but I've also heard that there are a lot of aboriginal art galleries there. Is Uluru overrated?

Kakdu and the area around Darwin sound good (including aboriginal art centers) but they are also a lot farther. Any thoughts or suggestions? Thanks a lot!
tintintoo is offline  
Old Jun 2nd, 2005, 01:13 PM
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I spent a week in Alice Springs, including a 2 day trip to Uluru, and absolutely loved it. Alice is full of Aboriginal art galleries and you can also take a trip out to see some of the artists at work. If you're there on Sundays, you will often see some of the artists selling their works in Todd Mall. There is so much to see & do around Alice, including a seriously good "Desert Park" just 10 minutes drive out of town. You can drive to Uluru, or take a tour for,say, 2 days as we did. Or you could fly there. I think if I had a bit more time, I'd drive because there's a lot of interesting places en-route (Kings Canyon to name one, and actually our tour went there too) that I would like to see/spend more time on. The countryside is spectacular, but, depending on how accustomed you are to long distance driving - it's a pretty fair drive. You could, of course, stay somewhere en-route if you wanted to take your time. At Uluru, there's an excellent Cultural Centre which I would recommend you visit prior to going to the Rock and Kata Juta (The Olgas). You can also arrange to have a local Aboriginal guide take you around Uluru and Kata Juta.

In the galleries, you will find a wide range of styles, traditional to very contemporary and contemporary tretments of traditional themes, from a number of areas. Of course, you will also see the touristy, mass produced stuff. I was recommended to 3 or 4 galleries and found their owners'advice invaluable, as I knew I'd be a "sitting duck for a fast buck" without it. In the end, I bought 2 beautiful pieces, 1 from Santa Theresa (Alice) and one from the Lockhart River (FNQ). There were at least 3 others that would have made the trip back here had wallspace & $$'s permitted ! (I'm renovating) LOL.
If you do go to Alice, make sure you take the "hop on hop off bus" (arrange through any of the local travel agents when you get there). It'll take you to all of the cultural & other places of interest within a 20km radius of the town.

I have a heap of info (having just been there at Easter) but don't want to "hog" the Forum, so please feel free to ask anything you like & I'll try to help you.

Have also been to Darwin a few times, and to Kakadu & Litchfield Park.

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Old Jun 2nd, 2005, 02:30 PM
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Tintintoo: Darwin & Kakadu are fantastic too - didn't mean to appear dismissive. It's just that I had more time in Alice to really immerse myself in the art as that was one of the primary reasons for my visit.

Darwin does indeed have some wonderful galleries and the annual Telstra Aboriginal & Torres Straits Aboriginal Art Award entries are hung there. (I can't remember the name of the gallery - but I think it might actually be part of the Museum complex). These works are astounding!

Darwin & Alice are quite different, as you'd expect by their locations; Alice is a biggish country town (by Aus. standards - about 28,000 I think)in the Red Centre; Darwin's a tropical city on the coast.

I guess whether one likes a particular place depends on one's own filters, expectations, experience, openness & flexibility. Trite, I know - but I often hear people say that "there's nothing in the outback" or "it's all the same" but I don't see it that way at all. Likewise, lots of people I know love Singapore because it's "clean, safe & everyone speaks English", whereas I find it a tad sterile. What do they say, "Different strokes for different folks"?

Given your interests & time frame, I'd tend to agree with Alice for this trip. (You'll have to come back !LOL) Flying time from Sydney is only about 2.5 hrs & there's a QF flight which gets in at lunch time. Lots of "specials" have a look at the Qantas.com.au website. Or travel.com.au. Don't think Virgin flies direct.

Couple of Restaurants to try: "The Lane" in Todd Mall. One of the best winelists I've seen anywhere (!) and great food. Ask James (Manager) about Art Galleries - he's a local (doesn't look like it(!), knows the local artists & "art scene" very well)

"BlueGrass" - charming atmosphere & excellent food.

This link might be helpful:

A few of my favourite galleries were:
Gondwana - www.gallerygondwana.com.au
Red Sands - www.redsandart.com.au
There's also another gallery in the Lane just a few doors along from "The Lane" restaurant. The owner here is very good with information & advice.

If you have a look on E-bay, "Aboriginal Art", you'll get an idea of some of the artists, works & prices.

If you're looking at a "serious" work, you would expect, along with the certificate of authenticity & a biography, that there may also be a photograph of the artist & "work in progress".

Sorry - am rabbiting on !

Bokhara is offline  
Old Jun 2nd, 2005, 03:16 PM
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Kakadu has several spots where you can see ancient Aboriginal art 'on location', as opposed to in galleries or museums. Also, it is on the edge of Arnhem Land, which you can enter (with a permit and a 4WD vehicle) and visit communities where the artists actually live. In particular, the town of Gunbalaya (a/k/a Oenpelli) has a large number of artists, and a government-sponsored art cooperative that brokers the artwork to galleries. The Co-op warehouse is literally bulging with artwork at the end of The Wet season (May), when the roads improve to the point that the art can be shipped out. I don't know what the stock would be like in July, which is still in the earlier/middle part of The Dry.

There are also boat trips and 4WD trips to waterfalls that would round out a fine visit to Kakadu. You could even do a big driving loop that would take you to Nitmiluk National Park, and the spectacular Katherine River gorges; as well as perhaps a visit to Manyallaluk, an Aboriginal village that conducts cultural tours.

As noted above, Darwin has a lot of galleries, but they seem to me to be more upper-scale (and higher-priced) than most of the galleries in Alice.

There are other things to do around Alice before heading out to Ulura-Kata Tjuta, in particular the Desert Park and the MacDonell Range. Watarrka National Park is along the way - a sunrise hike into Kings Canyon is an unforgettable experience.

Uluru and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) are of course incredibly impressive, both aesthetically and culturally. One thing to do is book an Aborigine-guided tour along the base of Uluru. The sunrise and sunset views are justly world-famous. And the rock ramparts of Kata Tjuta are spectacular too.

As pointed out by Bokhara, you basically need to decide if you want to take a desert trip or a tropical trip. July is certainly a good time to go to either spot - dry in the tropics, cooler temps in the Centre.
ALF is offline  
Old Jun 2nd, 2005, 06:31 PM
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Thank you so much, Bokhara and ALF, for your thorough thoughtful replies. I've been surfing the Fodors forum for hours and now have new questions.

While quite a few people loved Uluru, Kings Canyon, and Kata Juta, others said the landscape could not compare to Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon, etc. and was not worth a separate flight out from Sydney, considering the time and expense. My partner and I have both been to Arizona and New Mexico--love that landscape--so now, after reading the posts, he's thinking he doesn't want to go to the Red Centre. But I'm still thinking about the aboriginal art (and nature) and am wondering if what we'd see in Alice Springs and Kings Canyon and Kata Juta would make the trip worthwhile. Thoughts? We do not like the usual "touristy" things (it doesn't sound like you two do either). And the lodging at both Uluru and Kings Canyon sound overpriced.

Also, if we rented a car, could we pick it up at, say, Ayers Rock airport and return at Alice Springs airport?; it might be be more efficient to fly in one airport and out the other.

If we end up not going out to Alice Springs and Uluru, do you recommend other places in the country? Have you been to Broken Hill or Willandra National Park? Or up the coast to the Great Barrier Reef? We would prefer something not super touristy, with art and/or nature. We will be visiting Sydney and Melbourne (and on a previous trip, I saw Brisbane and Canberra). Thanks in advance for your help!

P.S., Thanks, Bokara, for the restaurant and gallery suggestions--very much what I'm interested in!
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Old Jun 2nd, 2005, 08:25 PM
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Only you can decide between outback and reef...
however if you go outback....

broken Hill and environs is a good mix of most of the elements that make up the "outback" experience and it is closer to sydney.It does not have the standout feature of a giant rock or numerous rock art galleries or a collection of modern aboriginal art communities but it has a comprehensive mix.

outback mining town
opal town (white ciffs)
aboriginal culture old and new (mutawinjee and wilcannia)
the red vastness
the red ranges (barrier)
the eccentrics
the languid outback river and river town (darling and bourke)
the vast sheep stations (stay at one)

dont go to willandra...you can see and stay at similar along the darling or paroo rivers out of broken hill.

It is not on the international tourist trail and that can be a benefit.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2005, 04:38 AM
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not in galleries, but the Cape York (Far North Qld) town of Laura is close to the amazing Aboriginal Quinkan rock art. Also within easy reach of Great Barrier Reef.
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