Uluru, Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory © Tourism NT/Jason Charles Hill
Australia's best outback experiences
Head into the Australian outback for unforgettable experiences you won't find anywhere else.
By Bonnie Jackson
If your image of the outback is limited to vast stretches of flat land and red dirt, you’re missing the best of this unique destination. The outback is a region that is as diverse as it is vast, it’s a place to see impressive natural wonders while immersing yourself in the world’s oldest living culture. You can certainly come to relax and disconnect, but you can also fill your itinerary with exciting and memorable experiences that will stay with you forever. Here are a few of Australia's best outback experiences.
Explore the ancient Flinders Ranges
About five hours from Adelaide in the Flinders Ranges, you’ll find incredible rock formations dating back millions of years, charming country pubs and rich Aboriginal history. Take in the view from the best seat in the house on a scenic flight of Wilpena Pound, where you can also soar over the vast Lake Eyre, a glistening salt pan that transforms into a pink-hued lake when flooded with rain.
How to experience it: Stay the night at Wilpena Pound Resort, where you can explore inside the Pound and even climb up over the rim.
See the Mars-like landscape of Mungo National Park
Located in the south-west corner of New South Wales, Mungo National Park feels more like Mars than it does Earth. The ancient landscape holds insight not only into Australia’s geology, but also the history of its First Nations peoples. This is the important archeological site where the remains of Mungo Lady and Mungo Man (said to be roughly 40,000 years old) were discovered. Here, you’ll find fragile, fascinating sand and clay formations sculpted by thousands of years of erosion.
How to experience it: Take a tour guided by a First Nations ranger to the Walls of China, one of the most unbelievable landscapes in outback Australia.
Witness the magic of Uluru
There are countless ways to absorb the beauty of the massive red monolith, Uluru. Whether it is listening about its rich history of the oldest living culture on a guided tour, dining in five-star style at a Sounds of Silence (pictured), or immersing yourself in the award-winning exhibition Field of Light. There’s simply nothing quite as incredible as Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
How to experience it: If you are dining at the Sounds of Silence, book your seat early, as the dinner is only available for 20 guests at one time.
Connect with living history
One of the best ways to experience Australia’s First Nations culture is at one of the many festivals held around the country each year. Here, you will commonly hear the ancient stories and traditions that are passed down from one generation to the next. At Barunga Festival you'll dance, listen to live music, tour art shows, cultural workshops, and much more over three incredible days.
How to experience it: While you are there, make your way to the sandstone country of Nitmiluk National Park and explore the 13 stunning gorges on foot, by canoe, boat or helicopter.
Live life underground in Coober Pedy
South Australia’s outback is full of surprises. In the opal mining town of Coober Pedy, just under nine hours from Adelaide, most people live underground in a bid to beat the summer heat. Here, you can visit houses, cafes and churches all carved into the earth, but perhaps the most immersive way to experience the Coober Pedy way of life is to sleep underground. The Desert Cave Hotel is dug into the sandstone hillside in the main street of town. The rooms are quiet and pitch black when you turn off the light, so you are almost guaranteed to get a good night's sleep.
How to experience it: During your stay visit Crystal Cafe, the underground bar that will keep you (and your drinks) cold, even in the summer heat.
Witness Broome's staircase to the moon
One of Western Australia’s most mesmerising outback experiences happens only after the sun goes down. Three nights a month, between March and October, the coastal town of Broome, in the remote Kimberley region, is where you will witness the unbelievable Staircase to the Moon. A natural phenomenon caused by a rising full moon reflecting off the tidal flats of Roebuck Bay.
How to experience it: Wander down the markets that are held on the first two nights, with lots of entertainment, food stalls and didgeridoo performances.
Swim in the waterholes of Kakadu National Park
Less than three hours from Darwin lies Australia’s biggest national park, Kakadu National Park. With countless ways to experience it, this dream outback destination is perfect for everyone. Fly over waterfalls, hike along the rugged cliff-tops, discover ancient Aboriginal rock art or cruise along the tranquil billabong at sunset.
How to experience it: Kakadu is known for its six dramatically different seasons, so before you book, check what season best suits your experience bucket list.
Step into another world in The Pinnacles Desert
The stunning limestone formations known as the Pinnacles are near Cervantes, located 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Perth. The Pinnacles loop is found in the Nambung National Park and can be driven or walked in about an hour. The park can be visited all year round, but there's a bonus in spring, when the wildflowers and wattles are in bloom.
How to experience it: Visit at dawn or dusk to see the shadows cast by the unusual formations. You might also see wild emus stalking among the spires.