Wycliffe Well

When it comes to Outback tourist attractions that punch above their weight, Wycliffe Well is in a class of its own.

What should have been little more than another dusty Stuart Highway roadhouse where road-weary grey nomads stopped for a few minutes to fuel up and go to the toilet became something rather more compelling.

Located 130 kilometres south of Tennant Creek and 380 kilometres north of Alice Springs, it’s not what’s on the ground that put Wycliffe Well on the grey nomad map, but rather what’s in the skies above.

This is reputedly the UFO capital of Australia, and was once listed as one of the top five places in the world to see something genuinely out of this world.

Wycliffe Well began as a watering point along the stock route for the Overland Telegraph Line in the 1860s, and became a market garden centre to service troops during the Second World War. In 1960, a petrol pump was installed and travellers began to stop … and that’s when stories of strange lights in the sky became more commonplace.

A log book started recording all the UFO sightings and, in 1985, a man called Lew Farkas took over the roadhouse and van park and sent Wycliffe Well’s popularity into orbit. Mr Farkas told anyone who would listen that Wycliffe Well lured so many extra-terrestrials because of its ‘ley-lines’ or ‘energy lines’ that run along the earth.

As the reputation of this hotbed of extra-terrestrial activity spread across the globe, the entrepreneur was quick to maximise the opportunity. Model aliens were installed outside the holiday park, UFO signage erected and a wide array of extra-terrestrial merchandise sold to hordes of travellers. At its peak, there was nightly country dancing and singalongs, a mini zoo with kangaroos and emus, and one of the largest ranges of beers in Australia.

However, Wycliffe Well’s popularity took a hit when Mr Farkas sold the place in 2009. The holiday park covers 60 acres and offers a range of grassed sites for travellers. While not quite as ‘smicky’ as it was during its UFO heyday, new managers are currently renovating the facilities in an attempt to recreate some of the magic of yesteryear.

Wycliffe Well is also home to a large lake for fishing and recreation, as well as a restaurant and a bar. There are also some interesting spots in the area. The 4WD-only Davenport Range National Park is off to the east, and 35 kilometres or so to the north is the iconic Devils Marbles Conservation Park, which offers budget camping of its own.

When Mr Farkas was building the business in the ’80s, he described the Northern Territory as being like the Wild West.

“Anybody with inspiration, with ideas, you could just do what you liked,” he said.

And that’s why taking the Big Lap is still so wonderfully unpredictable.


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