Australia's Red Centre in 8 days
The Red Centre is rich in both culture and beauty. Here's your how-to guide on experiencing one Australia's most epic icons.
What to expect
- See Uluru up close
- Swim in a waterhole hidden deep inside a gorge
- Learn about the Aboriginal culture of the Anangu and Pitjantjatjara people
- Time: 8 Days
- Transport: Car
- Price: $$
Day 1: Alice Springs
Known to locals as simply "Alice," the town of Alice Springs is the beating heart of Australia's Red Centre. It's a great base for exploring the Northern Territory's outback, including Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon and much more.
Stay in true Territory-style at Hale River Homestead, located about three hours outside of Alice Springs. Here, you'll get a taste of Australia's outback lifestyle, with bush walking, bird watching, mountain biking and 4WDing adventures on offer. The outback station has a range of accommodation, including a campsite and bunkhouse, so there's something to suit every budget.
Day 2: Explore the West MacDonnell Ranges
From Alice Springs, head to the West MacDonnell Ranges, a drive of about one hour. Sitting within West MacDonnell National Park, the ranges offer panoramic landscapes, waterholes and gorges. Stop at Ellery Creek Waterhole and Ormiston Gorge for water sheltered by the nearby rocks. The area is calm and quiet, making it the perfect spot for a refreshing dip.
After your swim, visit Glen Helen Lodge. The lodge is a destination in its own right, so spend your afternoon exploring various sites such as Glen Helen Gorge, which offers towering sandstone walls and stunning views, and the Ochre Pits - a sacred Aboriginal site. Don't miss Serpentine Gorge for an epic lookout.
At the end of the day, grab a beer before dinner in the Namatjira Gallery Restaurant, or if you’re handy with a BBQ, cook your own feast while enjoying the sunset over the stunning cliffs of the Glen Helen Gorge.
Day 3: Drive back to Alice Springs
Spend the morning exploring further around Glen Helen Homestead. There's plenty more to discover, like Standley Chasm, Simpsons Gap, Mt Sonder and Tylers Pass, all of which provide a rugged backdrop for photos.
In the afternoon, drive back to Alice Springs to spend the night. Try out Uncles Tavern for dinner. It’s the perfect place for a beer or two after a long day of sightseeing.
Day 4: Adventure to Kings Canyon
Kings Canyon may be a five-hour drive from Alice Springs, but the views are totally worth it. Kings Canyon has been 440 million years in the making. It rises 270 metres (295 yards) above sea level and has been forged through layers of sandstone and hard shale creating soaring domes and plateaus that plummet to an oasis of natural rock pools and native flora and fauna.
Day 5: Kings Canyon Rim Walk
Dust off your hiking boots for a day of adventure.
You’ll want to get up before the heat sets in and watch the sun come up from the top of Kings Canyon. Allow at least four hours to tackle the six-kilometre (3.7-mile) Kings Canyon Rim Walk, with its spectacular views of the gorge and surrounding landscape. If you want to hear about the local Aboriginal history as you explore, opt for a guided walk with an Aboriginal elder and learn about the significance of the area to its traditional owners.
Alternatively, experience the area a little differently. A Quad Safari will have you cruising over rolling red sand dunes and weaving through thick Mulga scrub and golden fields of spinifex. Your adventure takes you through part of the King Creek Station property where you may get to see some Shorthorn cattle, as well as camels, horses, the occasional kangaroos and even the odd dingo. If the quad ride is not for you, try a Kings Canyon scenic flight for a bird’s eye view.
After the day's activities, stay in a safari tent at Kings Creek Station, an operational camel and cattle station located 30 kilometres (19 miles) from Kings Canyon.
Day 6: Arrive at Uluru
Today you'll experience Australia's outback icon: Uluru.
It’s a four-drive from Kings Creek Station to Uluru, located in the heart of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia’s Red Centre. There are many ways to experience Uluru; take a walk with an Aboriginal guide and learn about ancient traditions and stories, see it from the skies by helicopter, hot air balloon or with a skydive experience. You can even ride across the desert on a Harley Davidson motorcycle or on the back of a camel.
At sunset we suggest the sunset camel experience with Uluru Camel Tours. You'll get to take in the spectacular sunset colours as you and your group meander across the red dirt on camelback.
Return to the farm at twilight to relax and enjoy beer, wine, and champagne with outback bush foods including famous freshly baked beer bread damper. Stay overnight at Uluru Outback Pioneer Hotel.
Day 7: Art and culture at Uluru
While the outback's sunsets are amazing, witnessing a sunrise over Uluru is an absolute must. This morning we suggest you try something different with Uluru Motorcycle Tours. These guys offer a fun-filled adventure on the back of a Harley Davidson Motorcycle or a Three Wheeler Trike.
After such an early start you will have the entire day to explore the area. Emu Run Experience offers a great day tour option to explore Kata Tjuta, the Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Uluru, the Mala Walk and Mutitjulu Waterhole.
Alternatively, take a Maruku Arts Dot Painting Workshop to learn the basics of Aboriginal art. You'll learn about traditional symbols, tools and stories as you create a masterpiece of your own.
If you're brave, consider adding a skydive adventure to your itinerary. Sign up with Skydive Uluru to spot the stunning landmark from the sky as you free fall.
Day 8: Drive back to Alice Springs
After an unforgettable adventure at Uluru, head back to Alice Springs for your last night in the Red Centre. The drive takes about five hours, so be sure to take in the outback scenery as it passes by.
Once in Alice Springs, check into Alice Springs YHA, kick back and relax before a Night Sky Tour with Earth Sanctuary Tours. With few city lights and crystal clear skies, the outback is the perfect place to gaze up at millions of stars.