Thinking of embarking on the Red Centre but wondering where to start? We don’t blame you – the Red Centre is a big area, and it can be hard to know where and how to begin.
From Uluru to Alice Springs, and beyond to Tennant Creek, Australia’s Red Centre is full of history and cultural and natural wonders that will amaze you. A visit here will leave you with lasting memories and encounters you’ll never forget. Whether it’s camping in the outback for the first time, seeing a kangaroo or discovering the mighty Uluru, every experience out here will make you fall in love with the Outback.
Here’s how to plan your Red Centre experience, with everything from what to pack to where to visit. Now all you need to do is book your ticket!
Flying into Uluru or Alice Springs is the easiest way to get into the Red Centre.
There are more direct flights to Alice Springs than Uluru. As flying to The Rock can often include a few stopovers, heading to Alice first cuts out a good chunk of travel time.
Uluru can be reached by plane from Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Cairns Brisbane, Hobart and Darwin. Flight times vary depending on stopovers and departure point.
Alice Springs is easier and faster to get to, with most cities offering direct flights. You can reach Alice Springs from Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Cairns Brisbane, Hobart and Darwin. Flight times will vary depending on stopovers and departure point.
If you’re opting to self-drive, your best bet is to fly into Alice Springs first and rent a car from there. Remember that distances in the Outback can be quite long – it’s about 470 km to Uluru from Alice Springs and about 475 km to King’s Canyon. You’ll need to leave enough travel time in the day for stops and sightseeing along the way. Given the roads are very straight with little traffic, the actual driving part is quick – it’s just the distances that take a while!
|Alice Springs to Glen Helen at the end of the West MacDonnell Ranges||132 km||Approximately 2 hours|
|Glen Helen to Kings Canyon||234km||Approximately 3.5 hours|
|Kings Canyon to Kata Tjuta||350km||Approximately 4.5 hours|
|Kata Tjuta to Uluru||60km||Approximately 1 hour|
|Uluru to Alice Springs||470km||Approximately 5-6 hours|
WHERE TO VISIT AND WHAT TO DO
ULURU (AYERS ROCK)
It’s the must-see on any Red Centre trip. The Rock is truly spectacular and you really need to visit to experience its powerful energy! A visit here is a unique opportunity to learn about the local Aboriginal culture as well as see one of Australia’s most iconic landmarks.
Do and see
Make sure you manage to catch either a sunset or sunrise here. Even better – do both and sit back to watch an impressive light show as The Rock changes from orange to red to purple before your eyes
Take a walk around the base of Uluru, one of the best ways to soak in the beauty and get up close to The Rock. It’s a 9.4 km track around the base, and you’ll discover rock art sites, waterfalls and secret caves. You can do this walk easily yourself, but if you opt for a guided tour, you’ll learn about the Aboriginal history and the flora and fauna of the area as you go.
Visit the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Culture Centre. This is a great place to start your Uluru expedition. You can learn more about local Anangu culture and get an overview of the park and activities available. Here you can take part in Maruku Arts workshops and demonstrations with local, award-winning Anangu artists and create your own dot painting.
Check out the Field of Light. This is an exhibition created by artist Bruce Munro and consists of 50,000 spindles of light. They’re arranged in a garden-like scene and flicker to light in front of the Rock as the sun sets. If you’re visiting Uluru on a tour, you can add on the Field of Light – just chat with us about the best option. Tickets will be separate from any booking. Prices start from $42 per adult and $30 per child (2+ years).
Embark on a 30-minute scenic flight over Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Seeing these famous landmarks from the air is a special experience.
If you’re after a REALLY epic Uluru experience, you can actually skydive over the Rock! From 12,000 feet you’ll be treated to views of Uluru (Ayers Rock) Kata Tjuta (the Olga’s), Mt. Connor and Lake Amadeus.
For an ultimate desert experience, take a camel ride with the sun setting or rising over Uluru as your backdrop.
Begin your Central Australian journey here. People often bypass this little town on their way to Uluru, but stop here for a while and you’ll discover just how much it has to offer.
Do and see:
Explore the West MacDonnell Ranges. These incredible formations offer stunning scenery, world-class hikes and plenty of waterholes to cool off in. You can visit them on a day tour from Alice Springs or drive yourself.
Visit the Desert Park and Reptile Centre, both home to some fascinating NT animals. There’s the option to handle local snakes and lizards at the reptile centre, which is an unforgettable experience! At the Desert Park, make sure you check out the Nocturnal House and stay to watch the ‘Free Flight Bird Show.’
KATA TJUTA (THE OLGAS)
This group of ancient rock dome formations is a must see marvel ! Located about 60km west of Uluru,you can easily visit them before or after heading to The Rock or spend a full day exploring. Hike around the soaring rock domes of Kata Tjuta / The Olgas at sunset and watch them glow and change colour with the surrounding desert landscape.
Do and see
Embark on one of the many walks here. It’s a short and easy stretch to the Kata Tjuta dune viewing area, which is a great spot to take in the majestic domes. Or take the longer, more scenic route on the Walpa Gorge Walk or the Valley of The Winds Walk, a 7.4 km circuit that takes you through the domes and creek beds, with rewarding views at the top.
Only 3 hours from Uluru, Kings Canyon is a majestic destination featuring 100 m-high sandstone walls, palm-filled crevices and views that stretch across the desert. Exploring this majestic canyon will take you on a journey back in time, as you pass palm filled crevices and catch views across the desert.
Do and see
Lace up your walking boots and explore the 6km Rim Walk – a must for those seeking magnificent views of the Canyon rim, the weathered domes of ‘The Lost City’ and the ‘Garden of Eden’.
Take a hot air balloon ride or a scenic flight to experience this wonder from the air. Kings Canyon Resort offers both these activities, and they’re a great way to see the desert sights from a different perspective.
And don’t forget to head to the Sunset Viewing Platform and watch the canyon come to life as the sun disappears.
WEST MACDONNELL RANGES
Tjoritja West MacDonnell National Park stretches for 161 kilometres west of Alice Springs. It’s a stunning spot close to town that gives you a taste of the beautiful desert scenery that’s around. There’s plenty of public picnic areas, camping spots and waterholes to enjoy.
Do and see
Cool off at Ellery Creek Big Hole, where you can enjoy a swim in the waterhole all year round.
Visit Ormiston Gorge, and embark on the Pound Walk, a 3-4 hour walk that will take you into the towering red walls of the gorge, past native flora and finish it off with a dip in the waterhole at the end.
Float on an airbed down the cool waters of Redbank Gorge or walk along the creekbed, nestled at the base of Mount Sonder (a great spot for walks but we’ll get to that later!)
Explore Glen Helen Gorge and have a bite to eat at the iconic Glen Helen Lodge. This is the only accommodation in the West MacDonnell National Park.
Walk a section of the Larapinta Trail. The whole trail is 223 km long, so unless you have ALOT of time, take your pick from overnight or day walks. Climbing Mount Sonder is the highest point on the trail, and a climb up here will take around 8 hours (16km).
Depending on where you are starting from and how much time you have, there’s a range of tours that will show you the best of the Red Centre.
Start and end point
|1 day||2 days 1 night||3 days 2 nights||
4 days 3 nights
|X||Overnight Uluru Adventure – 2 Days 1 Night||3 Day Uluru & Kings Canyon Camping Experience – End in Yulara|
Finishing Alice Springs
|X||X||Uluru (Ayers Rock) to Alice Springs – 3 Days 2 Nights
Starting Alice Springs
Finishing Alice Springs
|West MacDonnell Ranges 4WD Tour – 1 Day||
|Alice Springs Uluru Tour – 3 Days 2 Nights (Cockatoo)
Starting Alice Springs
|X||X||Alice Springs to Uluru Tour (Ayers Rock) – 3 Days 2 Nights|
You can also visit the Red Centre on a tour from Darwin, Adelaide, Cairns or Melbourne.
5 Days 4 Nights – Darwin to Alice Springs (including Uluru) – Kings Canyon, Kata Tjuta, and Uluru.
5 Days 4 Nights – Darwin to Ayers Rock (Uluru) Tour – visits Kings Canyon, Kata Tjuta, and Uluru.
5 Days 4 Nights – Darwin to Alice Springs – visits Mataranka, Daly Waters, Kings Canyon, Kata Tjuta, and Uluru.
WHERE TO STAY
Haven Backpackers Resort – 3 Larapinta Drive, Alice Springs
8 Share Dorms from $28.00 per night
4 Share Dorms from $34.00 per night
Alice Springs YHA – Corner Parsons Street and Leichhardt Terrace, Alice Springs
4 share dorms $32.50 per night
6 and 8 share dorms $29.00 per night
Desert Rose Inn – 15 Railway Terrace, Alice Springs
Backpacker Room with Shared Shower (sleeps 2) $65 per night
Budget Room with En Suite (Single/Twin/Double) $95 per night
Diplomat Motel – Corner Gregory Terrace & Hartley Street, Alice Springs
Budget Single Room $99 per night
Budget Double Room $109 per night
Alice Springs Tourist Park – 70 Larapinta Dr, Alice Springs
Powered Site $40 per night
Unpowered Site $35 per night
G’day Mate Tourist Park – Palm Circuit, Alice Springs
Ensuite Site $45 per night
Powered Site $36 per night
Outback Pioneer Lodge
4 Share Dorm $46 a night
Outback Pioneer Hotel
Standard Room (sleeps 2-3) $350 per night
The Lost Camel
Standard Room (sleeps 2) $390 per night
Sails in the Desert
Superior Room (sleeps 2-4) $555 per night
Ayers Rock Campground
Unpowered Site $40 – $50 per night (depending on pax)
Powered Site $48 – $63 per night (depending on pax)
Cabin $179 – $184 per night
WHAT TO BRING?
When you’re travelling the Red Centre, whether on a tour or self-drive trip, many of the areas you visit will be extremely remote. Because of this, you’ll need to come prepared. There won’t be washing machines when you’re camping, so bring enough clothes to last and be prepared to get a bit dirty. It’s all part of the fun.
There are washing machines at a lot of places so you’ll be able to wash clothes along the way
If you’re visiting in summer, temperatures will be high, so pack clothes suited to warm weather, don’t forget to pack your swimmers so you can enjoy the waterholes.
When travelling in winter, remember that it does get extremely cold overnight – sometimes into negative degrees – so pack plenty of warm layers you can put on throughout the day.
A hat is a must in any season, as while it might be cold, the sun in the Red Centre is pretty powerful. Whenever you’re walking and exploring outside, pop a hat on to avoid getting headaches or sunstroke.
A decent pair of shoes is a must as you’ll no doubt be walking a lot and trekking through some difficult terrain. A good pair of runners will do. It’s also a good idea to pack a pair of thongs or slip-ons, to wear when you go to the bathroom in the night. It’s not fun stepping in prickles in the dark!
It gets very dry in the desert, so bring some moisturiser and lip balm with you.
A pack of baby wipes can act as a bush shower when you’re out camping. If it’s hot and dusty a wipe with one of these can make you feel ten times better.
Sunscreen, which you’ll need to apply daily as the sun in the Red Centre is hot and strong.
You’ll also want to pack panadol, band-aids and any medication. Access to to pharmacies are limited on camping tours, so bring what you need.
Pack a small first aid kit if you’re driving yourself or a group.
Bit and pieces:
A water bottle is a must. To avoid dehydration in the high temperatures you’ll need to be drinking water regularly.
You’ll need a torch or a head torch at night. It makes finding firewood, your tent and the toilet much easier.
So, what are you waiting for? There’s all the information you need to go and make your dream Red Centre trip a reality! If you have any more questions, please get in touch with the Backpacker Deals team.