The Red Centre is an beautiful landscape of desert plains, mountain ranges, gorges and plenty of Aboriginal sacred sites. It is a truly breathtaking place and great place to get to know about the history and culture of the Aboriginal people. The Red Centre is essentially a huge outback region in the Northern Territory, and you can easily spend up to a month exploring here. This itinerary is made for people who are short on time and want to see a few of the major sites the Red Centre has to offer.
Want to expand this trip? Make sure you spend some time in Alice Springs, the West Macs and all the waterholes around Alice Springs. I’d recommend adding at least another 3 days to this itinerary.
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How to Get to the Northern Territory
There are two ways your can start your Red Centre Adventure, either by flying to Alice Springs or via driving.
You can fly to Alice Springs internationally or domestic. There are several airlines that fly from major cities around Australia. Qantas, Air New Zealand, Alliance Airlines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Virgin Australia, Cathay Pacific and American Airlines all fly direct to Alice Springs.
The quickest way to drive to Alice Springs is via the Stuart Highway through South Australia. There are many other routes, it’s just depends on where you are coming from. If you are short on time, I would recommend flying into Alice Springs and renting a car. This will save you hours of driving, because let’s face it Australia is HUGE! For this itinerary, if you are driving from South Australia, miss Alice Springs and drive straight to Kings Canyon.
Renting a Car
There are several car rental companies that operate out of Alice Springs, which are rental service you go with will depend on what type of car you want. If you are looking for a 4WD, I highly recommend looking into Red Sands Campers (if travelling from Darwin) or on Klook.
Today you arrive in the Red Centre, whether that be by plane or by driving. If you are are arriving in Alice Springs, use this day to get familiar with the area, to stock up on supplies and to rest up for the adventures ahead!
DAY 1- Kings Canyon
Today you will head out into Kings Canyon, which is roughly a 3.5 hr. drive from Alice Springs or a 4 hr drive from the SA border. After you’ve arrived at your accommodation, maybe look into booking a scenic helicopter flight or complete one of the shorter walks around the canyons. Kathleen Springs is a 2.4 km return walk, offering some great views of Kathleen gorge and a spring fed-waterhole (seasonal), a great one for families. Have an early night tonight, as tomorrow we venture out for the Kings Canyon Rim Walk!
Kings Canyon Resort: Offering impressive views of the gorge, sunset viewing area, short walks, helicopter flight and dining experiences. This is the best place to stay to complete the Kings Canyon Rim Walk. Accommodation options include:
- Glamping ($590 AUD p/n)
- Lodge rooms (from $180 AUD p/n)
- Standard rooms (from $540 AUD p/n)
- Deluxe spa rooms (from $600 AUD p/n)
- Camping (from $50 AUD p/n)
Kings Creek Station: A cattle station offering a range of accommodation options from glamping to camping. The station has a cafe, helicopter pad and buggy tours. Accomodation options include:
- Bush tents (from $118 AUD p/n)
- Camping (from $12 AUD p/n)
- Mort Conway camp (from $400 AUD p/n)
DAY 2 – Kings Canyon Rim Walk
Wake up nice and early this morning to complete the 6 km rim walk loop. I recommend starting as early as possible for two reasons. Firstly, the track closes at 9am if the temperature forecast is 36 C or above. As there is little shelter on the walk, you don’t want to be walking this in the heat. Secondly, if you start early enough you might have the track all to yourself and you will need a lot of time to explore this place, trust me. As a seasonal hiker a 6km hike usually wouldn’t take me longer than 1.5 hrs, however there are so many beautiful views on offer it took me about 3 hrs to complete the loop. Make sure you have your camera on you for this one! This hike must be walked in a clockwise direction.
If you don’t want to walk to full 6 km walk, you can complete the South Wall return walk, which takes roughly 2 hrs or a 4.8 km return. You will still get very impressive views of the canyon on this hike, keep in mind it is still strenuous going up. If you decide to take this route you will not get to see the Garden of Eden, which is a beautiful waterhole located in between the gorges. I highly recommend you complete the full rim walk.
Another short walk alternative is the Kings Creek walk, which is a 2.6 km return hike. This is the better option for families with children. It’s a relatively easy walk which leads into the canyon from below, following Kings creek which flows seasonally.
DAY 3 – Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
Today you leave Kings Canyon for a short 3 hr drive to the heart of Australia, Uluru. There are so many activities you can immerse yourself in in this beautiful area of Australia, which is why I have given 3 days to explore this area. Today you can take a short walk around Uluru , visit the cultural centre for information about the area and the aboriginal people or spend the day relaxing, getting to know the town of Yulara. Tonight you will experience the Field of Lights Star Pass ($98 AUD).
The Field of Lights are an art installation of 50,000 spindles of light, the size of seven football fields. While on the Star Pass, enjoy drinks and a selection of outback cuisine while you watch the sunset over Uluru from the private viewing platform. Afterwards head down into the art installation and walk around the beauitful lights. It’s a truly magical experience and I highly recommend you add this one to your itinerary.
If you are looking for a more in-depth guide to Uluru- Kata Tjuta National Park, you can read my guide here.
The only place to stay near the national park is in the Aboriginal-owned Ayers Rock Resort. This resort offers a range of accommodation options. Including, self-contained apartments, hotels, 5-star luxury accommodation, backpackers and campgrounds. There is something for everyone and every budget. The Ayers Rock Resort also contains shops, facilities, restaurants and guided tours, making it a great base. There is a bus that runs on a schedule making it very easy to get around! Bus stops are located outside of accommodation and facilities, it’s completely free.
Best Accommodation for:
Budget travellers/campers: Ayers Rock Campground
Mid-range Travellers: The Lost Camel
Luxury travellers: Sails in the Desert Hotel
Fully serviced apartments: Emu Walk Apartments
Extreme luxury: Longitude 131
DAY 4 – Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
Today wake up early to experience a sunrise over Uluru. Head down to the Sunrise viewing area (Talinguru Nyakunytjaku), secure a spot and watch the rock change colours as the sun rises. This is a must do when you visit Uluru. After you’ve watched the sunrise and embraced the true beauty of Uluru, head down the the Mala Car park and join a ranger for a guided tour one the Mala walk (2 km return). After this the day is yours! Spend the rest of the day exploring the other walks around Uluru or head back to your hotel to escape the Red Centre heat.
This afternoon head to the Uluru Sunset Viewing area a couple hours before sunset, set up a picnic and watch the sunset over Uluru. This is another must on your Red Centre itinerary.
DAY 5 – Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
Today you will head to Kata Tjuta early in the morning for sunrise. It takes about 45 mins to get to the sunrise viewing platform, so keep that in mind when planning. After you’ve watched the sunrise, head to the car park of the Valley of the Winds hike. You can either choose to complete the hike to the Karu lookout (2.2 km return) or the the Karingana lookout (5.4 km return). Please remember that no photography is permitted in the Valley of the Winds. Afterwards, head to Walpa gorge for a relatively easy 2.6 km return hike. When the temperature forecast is for 36 C or above, the Valley of the Winds hike shuts at the Karu Lookout.
This afternoon I recommend two choices. Either, a sunset helicopter flight or a sunset camel tour. If you wish to do both, you can complete one during the day. If i had to choose, I would complete the camel tour early in the afternoon and take a scenic flight for sunset.
This is the last day of this itinerary, so enjoy a nice dinner at one of the many restaurants at the Ayers Rock Resort or rest up for your travels home.
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