Oh the great Red Centre of Australia – a land of expansive skies, open possibilities, incredible colours and unforgettable adventures! For many, this is perfect road tripping country, one where the expansive landscapes force you to rip up your itinerary, to slow down and to switch off! Even if you don’t get to travel through the Red Centre at your own pace, sensing even just a part of this wild country is bound to set your hairs up on end and keep you hankering for more. Australia’s Red Centre is a place of vastness, where everything from the horizon to the milky way and back is super-sized! So, just to fuel your wanderlust and make sure you don’t miss out on this great part of the country, here are the 10 things you must see while visiting Australia’s Red Centre
No. 10 of Australia’s Red Centre: Rainbow Valley
Coming in at number 10 is the wonderful natural wonder of Rainbow Valley. This great expanse of coloured, sandstone rock glistens with hues of purple, orange and gold as the sun’s reflecting glow creates a dazzling spectacle. Best seen either with the rising or setting sun, Rainbow Valley makes the perfect day trip from Alice Springs or a great overnight camp spot if you’re looking to get amongst the wilderness of the Red Centre a little more.
No. 9 of Australia’s Red Centre: Alice Springs
The capital of Australia’s Red Centre region, Alice Springs is a diverse and fascinating town, most interesting because if its variance. If you’re only used to towns on the east coast of Australia, then Alice is going to feel wildly different … and this is the best thing about it! Explore some great galleries in town and be sure to check out the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens too. Oh … and make sure you stock up on any supplies. There’s not much else in any direction for a few 1000km after this!
No. 8 of Australia’s Red Centre: Uluru
The big daddy of them all, Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock) is probably one of Australia’s most famous icons and certainly the major drawcard when it comes to travelling the Red Centre. Ignore all those who say Uluru is “just a big rock” and be sure to go judge it for yourself. Once you get there, the immense of power and awe-inspiring qualities of this huge monolith are hard to put into words.
No. 7 of Australia’s Red Centre: Views from the Ghan
If there is any possibility of you getting to experience a ride on the Ghan, then you must. Rated as one of the world’s best rail journeys, this wonderful passenger train runs weekly services all the way from Adelaide up to Darwin and back. Seeing the incredible landscape of the Outback whizzing past you through a train window is surely one of the most exotic ways to travel the Red Centre. With plenty of stops along the way, catching the Ghan is an experience sure to last you a lifetime and, best of all, they offer backpacker and student discounts!
No. 6 of Australia’s Red Centre: Sunset from a Camel
So, little did I realise before I visited the Red Centre that wild camels, as well as emus, roam this great arid land! Originally brought over by Indian and Afghani traders as a means of transport, motorcars soon became the preferred way of travelling the great distances of the Red Centre and the camels were left to roam free. Now there are several camel farms in the area that cater for visitors. After all, what better way to take in the views of the dry Outback than on the back of the most iconic desert animal! There’s plenty of options to choose from if you’re looking for a camel tour in the Red Centre, but my personal recommendation is the award-winning sunset ride at Uluru. With breathtaking views guaranteed, what a way to end a day in this magical place.
No. 5 of Australia’s Red Centre: Palm Valley
So-called because of the Red Cabbage Palm, which exists only in this area globally, Palm Valley is part of the Finke Gorge National Park – an area of great significance for the local aboriginal people. With some fantastic bush walking around, some great 4WD tracks and some wonderful camping facilities, this is the place to really get a sense of the remoteness of the Outback. The scenery here is amazingly lush and green, due to a precious year-round water supply, and contrasted against the red earth this is a photographer’s paradise.
No. 4 of Australia’s Red Centre: Devils Marbles
I absolutely loved Devil’s Marbles when I visited on my drive from Alice Springs to Darwin, although I can’t really tell you why! I guess it’s something about the way these crazy round boulders sit on top of each other in towering and bizarre patterns, with little else around them, that makes them so special. Either way this is a must-see in Australia’s Red Centre, particularly if you’re on a road trip – you get to stretch your legs by climbing over some rocks and can enjoy a picnic with a great view too!
No. 3 of Australia’s Red Centre: Ormiston Gorge
Situated in the West McDonnell Range, just west of Alice Springs, Ormiston Gorge is a fantastic spot you definitely must check out if you are travelling the Red Centre way. With a great walk that meanders around the gorge, stunning views for miles and a refreshing (to say the least!) waterhole to swim in at the end, this is a great spot to enjoy an afternoon. Many people day trip out here, but you can also stay the night either in a campground at the foot of the gorge or in the nearby Glen Helen Resort. Staying out here is a great idea as it gives you longer to explore all the other attractions of the West MacDonnell Range including Simpsons Gap, Standley Chasm and Ellery Creek.
No. 2 of Australia’s Red Centre: Kings Canyon
Whereas Uluru stands out from the ground at an impressive height, Kings Canyon seems to bury itself into the earth of Australia Red Centre at an impressive depth! Yes, the staggering walls of this natural canyon fall away so sharply that even the trees here seem to desperately cling to the side of it, and a peek over the edge is a sure-fire vertigo inducer! Follow the Mereenie Loop – a great unsealed road – around from Uluru to get to King’s Canyon and stay the night nearby if you can. That way you’ll be able to undertake the famous Kings Canyon Dawn Walk, which is one of the most impressive in the whole of Central Australia and well worth getting up early for.
No. 1 of Australia’s Red Centre: Kata-Tjuta
Literally next door to Uluru is the far less famous, but (in my opinion) even more beautiful rock formation known as Kata-Tjuta. Ok, maybe it’s not right next door, but being 53 km away it’s only considered a short drive in the Red Centre! Add into the mix that these 2 great beauties are both situated in the same National Park and it’s almost a done deal that they are neighbours! Whereas Uluru is one giant rock, Kata Tjuta is a series of smaller (although still huge) rocks all deposited together. Their silhouette against the otherwise flat landscape is perhaps even more stunning at sunset than that of their giant neighbour and the Valley of Winds walk, which takes you directly through Kata Tjuta, is an absolute must.
So those are the 10 must-see’s in Australia’s Red Centre. No matter how you travel the distance to get to them, the most important thing is that you make sure you do!
Updated on the 25/11/2019. Initially published on the 20/09/2018.