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A Guide To The Red Centre of Australia

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The striking Red Centre of Australia is an extraordinary natural treasure. It is packed with desert adventures, Aboriginal sacred sites, and will dazzle you with its gorgeous colours. One of the most memorable attractions of Australia beautiful Red Centre is Uluru Ayers Rock. It has a peaceful and spiritual atmosphere which creates an unforgettable experience for travellers. Alice Springs is another great spot for many fascinating adventures.

This travel guide will take you on a virtual tour to the very best places in Australia’s Outback.

Australian Red Centre with Uluru

Where is the Red Centre located and how to get there

There are many viable options that you can use to get to the astounding red centre of Australia. You can take a direct flight to your destination or plan a road trip. Buses and trains are also available.

Here is a Red Centre travel guide on how to get there and around:

  • Taking a flight

    The Red Centre can easily be reached from all of the major airports in Australia. There are many direct flights from the main cities to Alice Springs or Ayers Rock airport. Once you arrive, you could hire a car and drive to your accommodation. If you are heading to Uluru Australia, the Ayers Rock Airport is just 25kms away.

  • Self-Driving Trip

    There are many beautiful things to see on your fun-filled Red Centre trip to Alice Springs. You can choose to take the Stuart Highway from Adelaide or Darwin to get to there. A good part about this is that you can have some of the best road trips without a 4WD, from Sydney or Melbourne on the sealed roads. Driving to Uluru is also very easy, and you will traverse through some of the most beautiful streets in Australia.

  • A-train journey

    The legendary Ghan train is the best way to get to the Red Centre of Australia and see the most of it. It is a trip spanning three days and four nights through Australia from Darwin to Adelaide. This train runs once a week in the summer months, and it is an exciting way to travel.

  • Bus rides

    If you are looking for a budget-friendly travel option, then hop on a bus. Some buses travel down the Stuart Highway directly to Alice Springs. And from there you can take the bus to visit Uluru. This is because there aren’t any that ply from Adelaide or Melbourne to Ayers Rock. You can even buy a Kilometre Pass from Greyhound which lasts for 12 months and allows you to hop on and off as much as you want. There are backpacker bus options packed with hostel or camping accommodation, sightseeing opportunities, and meals.

How to discover the striking Red Centre Australia

The best way to travel to the heart of Australia is to hire a car and take a road trip to Uluru. This is not only one of the cheapest ways to enjoy your trip, but it also allows you to have a better itinerary.

You can cruise along the 1135km Red Centre Way from Alice Springs to Uluru in a 4WD or 1750km on a 2WD. Your road trip via the Kings Canyon will be along 1200km without visiting the McDonnell Ranges. There are so many astounding things to see on this journey.

The Australian Red Continent icons like the West MacDonnell Ranges, Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon, and Alice Springs are explored.

The Red Centre Way Uluru

  1. Travelling By 2WD

    Many tourists have a misconception that you need a 4WD to get to Central Australia, which is not true. Hiring a 4WD is expensive, and it is best to rent a 2WD to get to specific locations.

    You do not need a four-wheel drive when visiting Ayers Rocks, or while travelling from Alice Springs to Kings Canyon. The 470km trip from Alice Springs to Kings Canyon is doable with your handy 2WD itself. You can hire a 2WD without worrying since the roads are sealed, and there are no detours that you will have to take on unsealed dirt roads.

  2. Travelling by 4WD or campervan

    You can hire a 4WD or a campervan to drive across the Australian Outback on the unsealed roads. It will allow you to explore the rugged landscape of the Western MacDonnell Ranges. On your way don’t forget to explore the enchanting Palm Valley, Rainbow Valley, see the Aboriginal rock art of Roma Gorge, and even camp at 2-Mile. Some 4WD only locations should only be undertaken by experienced drivers who have the right equipment and supplies. Going with a local tour guide is also great for such trips.

  3. A Round Trip Itinerary From Alice Springs To Uluru

    Make the most of your Red Centre trip by self-driving from Alice Springs to Uluru. A 2WD can take the 445km journey from Australia’s centre on the Stuart and Lasseter Highways. It is an easy stress-free route with four fuel stations along the way. Just be aware that fuel prices are quite steep! If you decide to take the Mereenie Loop to get to Ayers Rock, you will need a 4WD.

    This is a scenic road that will require you to have a sturdy vehicle and a permit. Check out this self-drive itinerary to the Red Centre. On your self-guided Uluru road trip, here are some of my tips that will come in handy.

View of Alice Springs from Anzac Hill

Alice Springs Travel Guide: what to do and see

Located in Australia’s Northern Territory Alice Springs is a popular tourist gateway. Most people fly into Alice Springs and hire a car to set off to Uluru and Kings Canyon. But there are loads of things that you can do during your stop here too.

Here is an Alice Spring travel guide with the best things to do on our visit:

  • Botanic Gardens

    You can head out early in the morning and take a stroll to the Olive Pink Botanic Garden. This garden has a relaxed cafe set amongst gorgeous flora and fauna. You might even get a chance to spot a wallaby, one of the cutest Australian Outback animals.

  • Kangaroo Spotting

    If you want to see the native wildlife, you can visit the Alice Springs Kangaroo Sanctuary. It will give you a chance to see baby kangaroos and maybe cuddle one too.

  • Aboriginal Artwork

    As you take a stroll around this beautiful town, you could even get the chance to buy Aboriginal Artwork from the local artists. If you wander down Todd Mall, you are sure to find many Aboriginal artists selling their gorgeous work.

  • Hot Air Balloon Sights

    You can treat yourself to a hot air balloon ride with a magical view of the desert plains in the evening. These rides can range from half an hour to an hour, and they are splendid.

  • Desert Park Activities

    If you plan to stopover for longer than a day, you can also see the gorgeous Alice Springs Desert Park. It is a vast place spanning 1,300 hectares which is why you’ll need at least 4-6 hours to spend in this Outback Desert. Throughout the day, there are always cool activities, and birds show to check out.

  • West MacDonnell Ranges

    Going on a day-tour of the Western Mc Donnell Ranges is a great way to explore Alice Springs surroundings, especially if you travel alone, it gives you a nice break from your road trip adventures. The West MacDonnell Ranges offer many beautiful spots for swimming in a rock pool and walking through towering red cliffs and gorges. You can go on a self-drive road trip and stop at Ormiston Gorge and Glen Helen to mention a couple of beautiful gorges.

Cool things to do at Uluru and Katja Tjuta National Park

From beautiful Alice Springs head to Uluru Ayers Rock. You will not fall short of things to do and places to see here. Here are some of the best attractions for a fantastic Uluru itinerary:

Uluru and the Mala Walk

  1. Interesting Uluru walks

    The best thing about Ayers Rock is its numerous walking trails. It is an excellent place for hiking or taking long sightseeing trips.

    The Base Walk goes around the base of the big rock, which is about 9km in circumference and 348 metres in height. It takes about 3-4 hours to go round. Start early after sunrise and take lots of water with you. You will come to many boulders, cliffs, and cave formations with painted and marked walls illustrating the ancient people’s stories and legends.

    The Mala Walk along Uluru’s base allows you to follow the Aboriginal Ancestors footsteps. It is a place of great cultural and natural beauty and is also wheelchair accessible. This walk starts at 8.00 am (Oct-Apr), and 10.00 am (Sept-Mai). From the base to the northern face of the big Rock, this daily free guided walk tells about the arrival of Mala people at Uluru, their climb to the top of Uluru to erect a special ceremonial pole, their attack and killing among indigenous tribes.

    The Kuniya Walk is another cultural route which will teach you a lot about the dramatic creation story of Uluru.

    The Mala Walk at Uluru Red Centre

  2. The Uluru Cultural Centre

    Uluru has a magnificent cultural centre. If you want to learn more about the Anangu people, the ancient aboriginal owners of the land, there are audio and visual displays providing a fascinating insight into the relationship to their land through rituals and ceremonies.

    Moreover, there is the Maruku Arts and Crafts, an arts co-operative representing aboriginal people from West, South and Central Australia. Inside the centre, you can also buy unique clothing, books, paintings and if you wish you can join the Anangu Tours, their guided walks are really worth it.

  3. Cooling Waterhole

    If you want to cool off amidst nature, head down to the Mutijulu Waterhole. It is a beautiful waterhole with so many gorgeous birds. It is a place where you can sit quietly and listen to the sounds of nature. You might even catch a glimpse of wallabies among the lush grass. There are places around for you to read Aboriginal stories.

  4. Sunsets

    One of the biggest attractions at Uluru is watching it at sunset. The same for Katja Tjuta. In my experience, Uluru sunset and Kata Tjuta sunrise are the best. At Uluru there are 2 viewing platforms: one for the sunset and one for the sunrise, and there is 10 min drive distance between them.

    The experience is always different depending on the weather conditions. It can glow a fiery red, to a deep purple and change dramatic colouring, especially when heavy storm clouds and sunlight break through the horizon. If you prefer not driving, book the shuttle transfer from your hotel. Or join one of the sunset tours, click here below see our pick.

    Uluru Sunset Colours

  5. Camel Rides

    You can start your day by enjoying a sunrise camel ride against the incredible backdrop of Ayers Rock. You will be led through the Outback by an expert guide as you can take in the changing colours at dawn. This fantastic Uluru tour will teach you a lot about the desert’s ecology and wildlife while enjoying a camel ride.

  6. Starry Dining

    The night-time is a brilliant opportunity to have the ultimate “starry-dining experience“. The Sounds of Silence dinner at Ayers Rock takes place atop a red desert dune. You can sip on wine while watching the beauty of the setting sun.

    Olgas Katja Tjuta Australia Red Centre

  7. Walpa Gorge

    Twenty minutes from Uluru is the Walpa Gorge. It’s an excellent place to take a walk through the 30 red domes of Kata Tjuta. In winter, the entrance to the gorge often has beautiful pink daisies. You can head to the Kata Tjuta sunset viewing area in the evening for some peace.

  8. The Valley of the Winds Walk

    This walk is a more strenuous walk than the shorter Walpa Walk, but worth it. The 4 hours walk will reward you with spectacular scenery, colourful vegetation and birdlife are prolific around the base of the domes and within the gorges. At the Olgas, you will not find crowds like at Uluru, but it’s best to plan this walk early morning, soon after sunrise.

  9. The Sunrise from the Dunes Viewing Area

    You cannot miss out on this superb sunrise for a memorable experience. On the way to the Olgas from Uluru, stop at the Dunes Viewing Area, from here you can view the beautiful contours of the domes and the Uluru in the distance. Kata Tjuta means “many heads“, and consists of over 30 spectacular domes separated by gorges and watercourses. A truly natural treasure offering spectacular walks and amazing views.

What to do and see at Kings Canyon

Just three hours from Uluru is the majestic Watarrka National Park. This national park is home to Kings Canyon which is its biggest attraction. It will help to have a good pair of walking shoes with you if you want to visit here.

If you don’t drive, from Ayers Rock there is a comfy shuttle bus transfer to Kings Canyon.

Red Centre with Kings Canyon Walk

  1. Take the Kings Canyon Rim Walk

    One of the most raved about walks is the Kings Canyon Rim Walk which should be on your adventurous Red Centre itinerary. It is unique in the early morning, and the view is incredible. This 6 km loop takes about 4 hours to complete. You will find yourself marvelling at the weathered sandstone domes called the Lost City at the top of the canyon.

  2. Enjoy the Garden Of Eden

    At the Canyon Rim Walk, you can also find some peace and calm in a sheltered valley called the Garden of Eden. It is a permanent waterhole, with lush greenery set against the orange rock formations. You can rest here and also set up a picnic in this scenic spot.

  3. Visit the General Grant Grove

    In the higher portion of the park, you can visit the General Grant Grove. This is the location of General Grant, who is the second tallest tree in the world. He is a 1,700-year-old sequoia tree and is 267 feet tall. This grove also has several sequoia-trees situated around a half-mile loop. Here are more trails like the Big Stump Trail, Redwood Canyon Trail, and the Big Baldy Trail that visitors can access. Once you move past Grant Grove, you can visit the panoramic viewpoint. It has unmatched views of the entire pine-covered valley.

  4. Do the Kings Creek Walk

    This is an easy walk to take along the red rock cliffs. This route follows the floor of the canyon and allows you to enjoy the vegetation along the way. At the end is a fabulous lookout point where you have astounding views of the towering walls. It is also wheelchair accessible.

Here are a few more reasons why you should visit Kings Canyon Australia.

Where to stay in the Red Centre of Australia

When putting together your itinerary, keep in mind all the attractions you want to visit. You will need enough time to explore all of the remarkable Red Centre highlights. When planning your Central Australia itinerary, make sure that you spend at least two days at Alice Springs. If you visit the Western McDonnell Ranges, it will make sense to spend more time exploring it, adding one more day to exploring it.

Yulara Resort View of Uluru

Best Places to stay in Alice Springs.

Alice Springs has many beautiful accommodation options. There are multiple resorts, and inns for travellers to spend the night. If luxury hotels aren’t your things, there are budget-friendly hotels in Alice Spring, Australia. Staying at hostels is also a great place to stay without making a dent in your budget. The Alice Springs YHA is a hostel that used to be an outdoor movie theatre. Very often, movies are still screened there!

After you visit the West MacDonnell Ranges, you wind down at the BIG4 MacDonnell Range Holiday Park, just a 5-minute drive away from Alice Springs. Beautiful MacDonnell Ranges surround it.

Book your accommodation in Alice Springs

Best places to stay at Uluru

There are many well equipped Ayers Rock accommodation options. The most famous place to stay in the Ayers Rock Resort or Yulara. It is 25km away from Uluru. It is a great place to stay with a supermarket, multiple shops, a petrol station, restaurants, and a host of other essential services.

Within the resort, you could choose to stay in an apartment, a luxury hotel, or check out its cheaper hotel options. The budget accommodation at Yulara costing around 55 Euros or 60 Dollars is the cheapest place to stay at shared rooms and shared facilities.

This resort holds tours for guests and has many other fun activities. Many people wonder how many days to spend in Uluru. Since there is so much to do here, it is best to keep aside at least two days to enjoy this splendid location fully.

Book accommodation at Ayers Rock Resort

Kings Canyon Resort

Best places to stay in Kings Canyon

There are some fascinating places to stay at while in Kings Canyon. The Kings Canyon Resort is just a few kilometres from the there. It has powered sites for caravans, unpowered tent sites, and many camping options available.

The Kings Creek Station is 40kms from the canyon. It has a campground available and safari-style tents and cabins. These Kings Canyon camping grounds are fantastic to get the feel of the beautiful Red Centre.

Book your accommodation at Kings Canyon

What is the best time to visit the Red Centre Australia?

The best time to visit the magnificent Red Centre of Australia is between April and September. This is a pleasant time to visit since the temperature is between 20-30degrees. Since the weather is cool, you can go walking, hiking, or swimming. From October to March, the heat during the day soars, and it can get scorching. Summer also brings along with it flies that can make camping a nightmare.

Winter is also not the wrong time to be in the Outback. The desert will be cold during these months and is a good hiking time. Springs and autumn are beautiful times to visit, and you can even take a self-guided road trip by car or campervan in these seasons.

How much time for exploring

When putting together your itinerary, keep in mind all the attractions you want to visit. You will need enough time to explore all of the remarkable Red Centre highlights. When planning your Central Australia itinerary, make sure that you spend at least two days at Alice Springs. If you visit the Western McDonnell Ranges, it will make sense to spend more time exploring it, adding one more day to exploring it.

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The Red Centre Australia Itinerary Travel Guide by Rocky Travel

first published in 2012, last updated Jan 2021

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