One of the most bizarre and amazing experiences of our travels occurred at Stuarts Well, 90 km south of Alice Springs.
I haven’t linked to a map because it’s idiot simple to find- just look for the straight line between Alice Springs and Adelaide on any map and you’ve found the highway! Look for the eastern turnoff to Rainbow Valley, and just south of this you’ll find Stuart’s Well nestled in the hills.
Also known as ‘Jim’s Place’, it’s a roadhouse with a bar and restaurant; but also contains motel and cabin accomodation and a caravan park/campground with powered and unpowered sites. It’s also right next door to a camel farm, with rides and safaris available.
We’d driven past Stuart’s Well a few times en route to and/or from Alice Springs, but on this trip, after the wonders of Wycliffe Well, we craved new experiences, or at the very least places we hadn’t stayed at before. This time we got both!
A short walk from the caravan park up the low hills gives an archetypically Central Australian view of the complex and plains, also reflected in the friendly service at the roadhouse and restaurant. And while the Stuarts Well restaurant is quiet by day, at night it provides an entertainment experience unparalleled in Australia, if not the world! After all, where else would you get to see a performance by an internationally acclaimed, award winning, singing, piano playing dingo?
Immortalised by a question in a recent version of Trivial Pursuit, and looking a little like a feral labrador, ‘Dinky’ the dingo performs nightly in the restaurant. A random audience member is selected to play the piano. Once the music starts, Dinky jumps up on the keyboard and ‘plays’ by prodding the keys with his paws. He also ‘sings’ by howling and when the music stops, Dinky continues to play and sing until the performance is over. The walls and shelves are lined with awards, letters from international fans and fellow performers, and newspaper clippings of his exploits. AMAAAAAZING!!
Reading about the owner, Jim Cotterill’s exploits is also fascinating – his family once owned and operated tours to King’s Canyon and the story of how their business was lost, and he was left to start again with nothing at Stuarts Well is a cautionary tale for anyone who thinks greed is confined to politicians, urban areas or multinational companies.