Exploring the

Red Centre

Australia’s Red Centre is often referred to as the spiritual heart of Australia, a living landscape of breathtaking beauty that encompasses the World Heritage-listed Uluru and Kata Tjuta National Park, the bustling town of Alice Springs, the ancient West MacDonnell Ranges and dramatic Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park.

The traditional custodians, the Anangu, believe the Central Australian landscape was created at the beginning of time by their ancestors. Their descendants have protected these sacred lands for thousands of generations since.

Things to do in the Red Centre

Drive the Red Centre Way

If you want four day’s worth of non-stop fun with your friends, hire a 4WD and hit the Red Centre Way between Alice and Uluru. The 330km of unsealed road that is the Mereenie Loop is undoubtedly the best bit (maybe practise changing a tyre before you go.).

It starts at the West MacDonnell Ranges just out of Alice Springs and spits you out at Kings Canyon, providing a day’s worth of excellent adventure – expect extra excitement after rain, when the road may have developed a few new interesting twists and turns.

Outback road tripping tips

The Red Centre Way is not the only awesome outback road trip – The Explorers Way is an epic trans-continental drive from Adelaide to Darwin – here at AT we think that the section from Alice Springs to the Devils Marbles is one of the best bits.

Walk the Larapinta Trail

The Larapinta Trail, amid the splendid isolation of the West MacDonnell Ranges, is regarded as one of the greatest long distance walks in the country.

The 223-kilometre trail follows the high ridge lines of the West Macs, a landscape of deep gorges, dried creek beds and spinifex-covered plains dotted with termite mounds.

Highlights include the mighty Simpsons Gap and clambering to the summit of Mt Sonder. Walk it self-guided, break it up into a series of short half-day highlights, or join a six-day guided trek and bed down at night at semi-permanent bush camps, where hot showers and fireside meals await.

Best things to see in the Red Centre

Uluru and Kata Tjuta

The Red Centre’s spiritual heart, Uluru (Ayers Rock) is one of the world’s most recognisable natural icons – a towering sentinel rising proudly from the red earth.

No matter how many photographs you’ve seen, nothing does this majestic rock justice.

See it on a motorcycle, from the back of a camel or from above on a scenic helicopter flight. Walk around the mysterious red domes of Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) sacred under Tjukurpa law, the foundation of Anangu culture.

Alice Springs

Alice Springs is the gateway to the Red Centre – but don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s close to Uluru, it’s a five-hour drive away so if you want to fly directly to Uluru, book your flights to Ayers Rock Airport in Yulara.

But that doesn’t mean Alice Springs isn’t worth a visit, it’s the outback’s most exciting town.

East & West MacDonnell Ranges

Another mistake that many people make is assuming that the Red Centre is flat and featureless.

The MacDonnell Ranges that stretch out to the east and west of Alice Springs are home to some of Central Australia’s most spectacular scenery, including some truly amazing waterholes and hidden gorges. A real highlight is swimming in the gorges of the West Macs – must-dip spots include Ellery Creek Big Hole and Ormiston Gorge.

Kings Canyon

Uluru is far from the only wondrous site in this region.

To the north-east, the mighty Kings Canyon cleaves deep into the earth, Australia’s very own Grand Canyon. Trek to the rim for views across the bluffs and gorges of Watarrka National Park.

Popular Places to Stay

Ayers Rock Resort and campground

Aside from top-end ‘glamping’ option Longitude 131, Ayers Rock Resort is the closest accommodation to Uluru and has accommodation options to suit all budgets, from a five-star hotel and self-catering apartments to shared bunkhouse rooms and a campground.

Accommodation at Kings Canyon

Kings Canyon Resort, which is just 7km from the entrance of Watarrka National Park, has motel-style rooms as well as powered caravan and camping sites. You can also stay at Kings Creek Station, the largest exporter of wild camels in Australia, 36km from the national park entrance.

Camping in the West Macs

There are national park campgrounds in with basic facilities (thatr means there are toilets but forget about hot showers, or even cold ones) at Ellery Creek Big-Hole and Redbank Gorge. If you want a hot shower camp at Ormiston Gorge and there is a commercial caravan park and motel-style accommodation at Glen Helen Gorge.

Best Dining Experiences

Dining out beneath a blanket of stars at Ayers Rock Resort’s Sounds of Silence dinner atop a desert dune as you watch the sun set at Uluru in one of Australia’s most memorable meals. But there’s plenty of other memorable meals to be found in Alice Springs as well.