Listen and learn
Driving in the Outback is best with a guide, writes Tara Ravens
SELF-drive travellers are being encouraged to find room for one more item in the boot – a virtual guide. The Northern Territory’s long stretches of lonely Outback road have now gone digital to try to cash in on the region’s burgeoning self-drive tourism market.
About 217,000 interstate and 86,000 international visitors get behind the wheel in the territory each year.
But former tour guide Laurelle Halford said that for travellers to truly understand and appreciate the Outback, they needed to share in its many and varied secrets.
Ms Halford has designed audio sightseeing tours available on CD or MP3 download, with the idea for the ‘‘do it yourself tour guide’’ coming from the many years she had spent travelling around Australia as a guide with a large coach touring company.
‘‘The Outback has a wider story to tell than people realise,’’ she says.
‘‘ Many travellers see Australia’s Outback highways as lonely, straight stretches of bitumen.’’
Ms Halford says the audio covered famed Northern Territory drives such as the road from Alice Springs to Uluru and the Red Centre Way, from Alice Springs to Uluru via the West MacDonnell Ranges and Kings Canyon.
‘‘ Our product gives selfguided travellers a new experience by bringing to life the stories of our early pioneers, Aboriginal culture, flora, fauna and natural history,’’ she says.
‘‘ The tours feature stories from local characters and field experts about things like life on a cattle station, how Aboriginal people read animal tracks and frogs that live in the desert.
‘‘ The result is a rich and entertaining journey that will even keep the kids quiet.’’
Earlier this year, Federal Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson urged Australians to get behind the wheel, hit an Outback road and help save the economy.
‘‘For the first time since World War II the world’s tourism organisation has predicted a decline in international tourism,’’ Mr Ferguson says.
‘‘For far too long the tourism industry has not been focused on the fact that 75 per cent of the industry in Australia is actually domestic tourism.’’