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Travel Guides

The Red Centre

The Red Centre

This travel guide exploring Australia's Red Centre kicks off at Uluru and Kata Tjuta, features Kings Canyon and Palm Valley and finishes up at the MacDonnell Ranges and Alice Springs. Links to book all your accomodation, National Park passes and tips if travelling with kids will help you to plan the ultimate holiday.

Red Centre Road Trip map

We kicked off our trip by flying in to Ayers Rock Airport and picking up our 4WD. This allowed us total flexibility during our stay. While I had pre-booked all our accomodation, and had a list of the walks I hoped to do, we left the rest up to how we felt on the day and the weather forecast. It worked a dream.

Sunrise Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

For the first part of our trip we stayed at the beautiful Sails in the Desert for 4 nights, giving us ample time to explore Uluru and Kata Tjuta. It is a lovely hotel, conveniently located close to the National Park, the staff are warm and welcoming, and the food is amazing.  

Uluru Red Centre Travel Guide
Drive to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Tip: You can pre purchase your Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park pass online before you go. It saves queueing.

Our first walks were smaller ones, as it was freezing cold on this day. We did the Mala Walk at Uluru, Karu Lookout (part of the Valley of the Winds walk) and the Walpa Gorge walk at Kata Tjuta. It was a great introduction to the National Park. Even though it meant we spent a bit more time in the car this day, we didn't mind. Seeing these rock formations from the car is a stunning spectacle.


Kata Tjuta, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park 

Please remember that this is sacred land. Be respectful of the Anangu people. Walk quietly, tread lightly and stay on the track. Photography is allowed in Walpa Gorge however you are asked to keep both sides of the gorge in frame when you do.

The next day we took on the Uluru base walk. This walk is absolutely incredible. It gives you a real sense of the rocks enormous scale. Uluru is 348m high, and the base walk is almost 10km. There are so many different angles to see it from, the light and shade completely change the colours of the rock and its surroundings at different times of day. There are also so many different sections to the walk, some more sheltered and green others more exposed and parched. It is an absolute must do if you visit.

The Anangu people ask that you refrain from photographing some sections of Uluru, as these areas are sacred. Please respect their wishes, it is possible to do so and also capture spectacular photographs of Uluru. 

Uluru Red Centre Travel Guide
Uluru, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

If you are travelling with kids (or even if you aren't) a trip to Uluru Camel Tours is a must. Not only can you visit and ride the Camels but they have a small collection of other animals including an emu called Jules (who has a penchant for stealing jewellry).

Next stop on our itinerary was Kings Canyon. This is an easy 3 hour drive, as it is a sealed road all the way. We made brief stops at Curtain Springs Station, Mt Conner Lookout and Kings Creek Station. All are worth a visit.

Kings Canyon Resort is a simple affair. Splurge on a spa room if you fancy a hot spa after a long walk. The new glamping tents look great as well. It is a comfortable base for a couple of nights while you explore the majestic Watarrka National Park.

Sunset over Watarrka National Park
 Kings Canyon rim walk, Watarrka National Park

Our first full day at Watarrka we did the Kings Canyon rim walk. This walk is absolutely incredible and was hands down my favourite of the trip. The scenery is breathtaking. The textures and colours of the rocks had me wondering if I was still on planet earth. The vistas are constantly changing, from the desolate domes of 'The Lost City' to the lush 'Garden of Eden'.

Kings Canyon rim walk, Watarrka National Park

The next day we did the easy Kathleen Springs walk. We then went back to Kings Canyon and did the Kings Creek walk. This was a nice gentle day.

The drive from Kings Canyon to Alice Springs is a long one. As we had a 4WD we took the Mereenie Loop, which includes 160km of unsealed road. A permit is required for this trip, pick this up at the Kings Canyon Resort petrol station. Drive safely and look out for native wildlife, camels and brumbies. We had to stop a couple of times as brumbies were on the road and in no hurry to get off it. We also saw some galloping across the road, thankfully behind our car. If you see a kangaroo that has been hit by a vehicle please safely check the dead kangaroo as there may be a joey in its pouch. 

We made a detour to Palm Valley in Finke Gorge National Park. The last leg of this trip is definitely 4WD only. It was pretty wild. By the time we arrived we were all shaken up (literally), so we quickly did the Arankaia Walk and headed back to the comfort of sealed roads.

Palm Valley, Finke Gorge National Park
 Palm Valley, Finke Gorge National Park

We stayed at the Double Tree Hilton in Alice Springs for the last leg of our trip. From here we explored the West MacDonnell National Park. You can visit your choice of Simpsons Gap, Stanley Chasm, Ellery Big Hole, Serpentine Gorge, or the Ochre Pits. You can grab a light snack or lunch from Glen Helen or Ormiston Gorge before heading back to Alice.

Drive to Tjoritja (West MacDonnell) National Park
Ormiston Gorge, Tjoritja (West MacDonnell) National Park

While in Alice we also visited the Kangaroo Sanctuary. This tour is run by Brolga. His passion and commitment to kangaroos is inspirational. I highly recommend this tour, book online before you go to avoid missing out. There is a wonderful documentary series about Brolga and his work called Kangaroo Dundee which is well worth a watch. 

Kangaroo Sanctuary Alice Springs
Kangaroo Sanctuary Alice Springs

We then flew out of Alice Springs airport, dropping our Avis hire car off at the airport. It was so easy. 

This is a trip, that if you bring your full heart and soul and a sense of adventure will leave you feeling in awe of this beautiful landscape and all those who call it home. 

The nitty gritty at a glance.

Highlights:

Uluru base walk

Uluru Camel Tour

King Canyon rim walk

Kangaroo Sanctuary Tour

    

    

Clockwise from top left Uluru, Camel tour, Kings Canyon, Kangaroo Sanctuary

Wishlist:

Aboriginal Cultural Tour (runs Wednesday to Sunday only)

The National Parks:

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Watarrka National Park

Finke Gorge National Park

Tjoritja (West MacDonnell) National Park

Uluru Red Centre Travel Guide     

     

 Clockwise from top left Uluru, Walpa Gorge, Valley of Winds, Mereenie Loop road

Where to stay:

Sails in the Desert

Kings Canyon Resort

Double Tree by Hilton

Where to eat:

Yulara 

Walpa Bar - Highly recommended

Ilkari Restaurant - Highly recommended

Arnguli Restaurant - Highly recommended

Ayers Wok Noodle Bar 

Kings Canyon

Carmichael's Restaurant

The Thirsty Dingo Bar

Outback BBQ and Grill

Alice Springs

Saltbush

Hanuman - Highly recommended

The Deck Bar

What to pack:

Sturdy and comfortable walking shoes

Mosquito/fly head nets

Suncream

Warm clothes (in winter)

The itinerary:

Day 1

Arrive Ayers Rock Airport Yulara

Pick up 4WD from Avis Car Rental

Drive Yulara

Stay Sails in the Desert

Day 2

Drive Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Mala Walk, Uluru 2km 1hr

Karu Lookout, Kata Tjuta Valley of the Winds Walk 2.2km 1hr

Walpa Gorge, Kata Tjuta 2.6km 1hr

Day 3

Drive Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park 

Uluru Base Walk 10.6km 3hrs

Field of Lights 

Day 4

Uluru Camel Tour

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Sunset

Day 5

Drive to Watarrka National Park 3hrs

Stay Kings Canyon Resort

Day 6

Kings Canyon, Watarrka National Park

Kings Canyon Rim Walk 6km 3hrs

Day 7

Kings Canyon, Watarrka National Park

Kathleen Springs Walk 2.4km 1hr

Day 8

Drive to Alice Springs via Mereenie Loop 6hrs+

Palm Valley Arankaia Walk 1hr

Day 9

Ormiston Gorge, Alice Springs Tjoritja (West MacDonnell) National Park 

Day 10

Kangaroo Sanctuary tour, Alice Springs

Day 11

Drive to Alice Springs Airport

Fly home

A bit about us. I am Charlotte, owner and designer of Love From Shop, an online Australian gift store. My husband Mark is the owner and all round sound guru of ISM Studios and Smack Heads. We have two gorgeous girls, Asha (10) and Evie (8). We call Sydney, Australia home and we love to travel.