The Red Centre is truly magical and often called the spiritual heart of Australia. The landscape is breathtaking and World Heritage-listed Uluru should definitely be on your bucket list when you visit Australia. It will be a trip you’ll never forget.
Before you go:
Most roads are sealed, however, we still recommend your rent a 4WD, if you want to go off road. Also, make sure you don’t visit during wet season but rather during dry season between May to October as some roads can be flooded during the other months. Some places might have no reception, so download an offline map and book accommodation in advance.
Day 1: Alice Springs
Start your trip in Alice Springs. It’s a less than 3 hours flight from Sydney or a 2 hours flight from Darwin. You can explore lots of nature and wildlife, for example in Olive Pink Botanic Gardens, Alice Springs Desert Park or Kangaroo Sanctuary. If you have an extra day and want to visit Palm Valley, a historic town, we recommend you book a tour as it’s not easy to explore this area by yourself. Stay the night at Alice Springs YHA.
Day 2: West MacDonnell Ranges and Glen Helen
Start your day early to head to West MacDonnell Ranges, which is a 1 hour drive from Alice Springs. It’s an absolute beautiful are with lots of hiking trails, waterholes to take a dip and stunning gorges. We recommend visiting Ellery Creek Waterhole and Ormiston Gorge. Afterwards, head to Glen Helen, which is another 1 hour drive, to explore Glen Helen Gorge and the Ochre Pits, an Aboriginal site. If you want to have an epic lookout and see an unforgettable sunset, don’t miss Serpentine Gorge. You can spend the night at Glen Helen Lodge, which is the only accommodation in the area.
Day 3: Glen Helen
Spend your day exploring more of the area around Glen Helen like Standley Chasm, Simpsons Gap, Mount Sonder and Tylers Pass.
Day 4: Drive to Kings Canyon
If you don’t have a 4WD, you can take the sealed road from Alice Springs, which would take you 6 hours. So, drive back to Alice Springs the day before to spend the night and make sure you get up early.
But if you have a 4WD, you can take Mereenie Loop Road through the Australian outback in the middle of nowhere, which only takes around 3 hours. You need to buy a Mereenie loop permit to drive this road, which you can get for example at Glen Helen Lodge. Drive slowly. If you’re lucky, you can see wild camels. Yes, there are camels in Australia! And fill up your car in Glen Helen, as there is no service station on the way, but expect the prices to be high.
You can spend the night at Kings Canyon Campgrounds and enjoy a beautiful sunset at Kings Canyon Sunset Viewing Platform.
Day 5: Kings Canyon
If you are an active person and love adventure, don’t miss Kings Canyon Rim Walk. It’s a 6 km walk and takes around 4 hours. It is recommended to star the hike at sunrise because it can get really hot later in the day. The walk offers stunning view of the gorge. You can also book a guided walk with an Aboriginal elder to learn more about the history of the area.
If this walk is too long for you, you can opt for the shorter Kings Creek Walk (2.6 km return), which also offers spectacular views over the Canyon but offers more shade.
But make sure you bring enough water, no matter which walk you choose.
If you are not a fan of hiking, but don’t want to miss out on adventure, how about a Quad Safari to cruise over the red sand dunes or a scenic flight to have the best view over the Canyon?
Day 6: Drive to Uluru
Today you’ll visit the place you’re probably most exciting about: Uluru. It’s a 4 hour drive from Kind Creek Station. The road is sealed and surrounded by red sand. The cheapest accommodations are Outback Pioneer Hotel or Ayers Rock Campground if you want to sleep under the outback sky. Don’t miss out to see Uluru at sunset. There are many spots where you can park to see the sunset, but be prepared that these places might be full of tourists.
Day 7: Uluru
After a spectacular sunset, you also cannot miss the sunrise over Uluru, so get out of bed early enough. Also, it’s good to start the day early before it gets hot. Spend the day to explore Uluru, Kata Tjuta National Park more. Be prepared to encounter swarms of flies, so you might want to bring a mosquito head net with you.
You can go hiking at Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), which offers lots of different walks for all levels. But again, if you go hiking, start early because of the heat and bring lots of water. Other fun things you can do in the area are motorcycle tours, skydiving (you’ll never forget this experience!) or take a painting workshop to learn about Aboriginal art.
Day 8: Drive back to Alice Springs
In the morning, you can explore more of the area and go for more walks. Uluru Base Walk takes you all the way around Uluru and takes around 4 hours, but you can also just choose shorter sections of this walk. Mala Walk to Kantju Gorge (1.5 km return) is a shorter walk in the shadow but still leads you through amazing landscape.
You can’t climb Uluru anymore. In the afternoon, head back to Alice Springs, it’s a 5 hour drive or longer, if you stop to take some pictures for the Gram as you’ll be driving through spectacular landscape. End your day with a Night Sky Tour.
Day 9: Tennant Creek and Devils Marbles
You can either fly out from Alice Springs today or, if you have some additional days and did not have enough adventures yet, you can drive up north to explore Devils Marbles, gigantic boulders which have a great significance to the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land. It’s a 4 hours drive from Alice Springs. It is a sacred site, also known as Karlu Karlu. There are some walking trails and a scenic bush camping area. You can spend the night here camping or head further north to Tennant Creek to explore its history of Australia’s last gold rush in the 1930s by taking an underground tour at the Battery Hill Mining Centre. You can also learn a lot about Aboriginal history and art or simply enjoy the beautiful nature around you.
Day 10: Renner Springs, Elliott and Newcastle Waters
Continue north, it’s a 1 ½ hour drive to your next stop, Renner Springs, a roadhouse on the Stuart Highway. You can fill up on food and petrol here. However, there is not much to do. You can visit Mud Springs and watch birdlife or go to Lubra’s Lookout. We recommend not spending too much time here but continue to Elliott, another 1 hour drive up north. It’s the halfway point between Darwin and Alice Springs and also provides basic accommodation, food and petrol. From here you can visit the remains of the 1960s budlings of Newcastle Waters, a ghost town and popular attraction for tourists.
Day 11: Daly Waters, Mataranka and Cutta Cutta Caves
Another 1 ½ hours north, you can find Daly Waters. The main attraction here is the historic and famous Daly Waters pub, decorated with banknotes and other memories that visitors have left. Make sure to stop to take a picture but don’t have a drink as you continue driving around 2 hours further north to Mataranka, located in Elsey National Park, where you can relax in the thermal pools and bitter springs after all the driving. It safe to swim here, so make sure you take a dip. Your last stop for today are the Cutta Cutta Caves, another 1 hour drive. You can see sparkling limestone formations inside the caves or even spot a harmless brown tree snake. There are some guided tours you can book. You can spend the night in Katherine, the biggest town you’ll see during your trip. From here you can start your Top End Northern Territory trip or head up to Darwin to fly out.
We hope you enjoy your trip around one of the most magical places in Australia. We guarantee you it’s a trip you’ll never forget. Have you ever visited the Red Centre? Let us know in the comments.