Sunday Herald Sun - Escape

DO+C HOLIDAY Can we do a week in the Red Centre?

Covid has had an unexpected impact on Tassie tourism. Local car-hire companies sold off about 50 per cent of their fleet this year, and are now struggling to meet demand as tourists return

- Claire Sutherland

We have a week to spend in the Northern Territory in April. Is there enough to do around Alice Springs over a week or should we try and fit in Darwin and Kakadu as well?

You could try to squeeze in all the major sites over the course of a week with a lot of driving or flying, but there’s definitely enough to do around Alice Springs to have a great week of sightseein­g and hiking.

Bear in mind that Uluru and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) are more than five hours’ drive from Alice so if you go there (and you definitely should) that will eat up at least two days of your time. If you want to include Kings Canyon (and you should) that’s 3.5 hours from Alice Springs, and 3.5 hours from Uluru so factor in at least another day for that. You could spend the rest of your time driving the 135km road through the West MacDonnell Ranges, visiting waterholes such as Ellery Creek Big Hole and Ormiston Gorge, and landmarks such as Simpsons Gap, all the way to Glen Helen Gorge.

You could either retrace your steps from there, or continue and do the full Inner Mereenie Loop road (now sealed), which would allow you to explore the National Trust-listed Hermannsbu­rg, a Lutheran mission and home of painter Albert Namatjira. It’s closed for constructi­on work right now, but is due to reopen in March. You should also set aside half a day for a visit to the Alice Springs Desert Park, showcasing the plants and animals of the region set against the spectacula­r backdrop of the West MacDonnell Ranges and offering an incredible wedge-tailed eagle show.

I have booked a trip to Tasmania in a few weeks but am having trouble finding an affordable hire car. Do you have any suggestion­s?

The Covid situation has had an unexpected impact on Tassie tourism, even as its borders have reopened. Local car-hire companies sold off about 50 per cent of their fleet this year, and are now struggling to meet demand as tourists return. The cheapest I could find for two days in the middle of December was around $700 so I borrowed a friend’s car instead.

If you were coming from Melbourne or thereabout­s and hadn’t already booked airfares I’d suggest putting your car on the ferry instead. If that’s not an option, then I think you’re going to need to work out a public transport solution, because local tourism authoritie­s have warned there’s no quick fix.

You’ll be able to move between major centres and the main tourist attraction­s via coach without too much trouble. There’s a regular bus service from Launceston to Cradle Mountain, and a shuttle service between Hobart and Port Arthur, for instance. The tricky bit will be if you’re planning to go anywhere even remotely off the beaten track. I suspect local bus companies might soon fill the demand by adding services here and there, but you may want to consider organised tours if there are places you want to see that aren’t covered by those options.

If it’s transport to and from hikes you need there are a few local companies that provide this service to bushwalker­s. Tasmanian Wilderness Experience­s will get you to and from the likes of the Overland Track, the Blue Derby Mountain Bike Trails, Freycinet and the Walls of Jerusalem from Hobart and can also arrange alternativ­e destinatio­ns on request.

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Uluru, Northern Territory

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