The Red Centre of Australia is a land of endless possibilities, incredible colours and unforgettable adventures. For many, it’s the perfect place to go on a road trip, where the expansive landscapes force you to slow down and enjoy the moment. Even if you don’t have much time to play with, experiencing even a small part of the remoteness and wilderness of the area is sure to thrill you. This is a place where everything is super-sized – from the rocks to the distances you have to travel to see the places of interest! Make sure you don’t miss out on anything with our guide to the top 10 things to see in Australia’s Red Centre.
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Rainbow Valley is a natural wonder you won’t want to miss. This great expanse of coloured sandstone rock glistens with hues of purple, orange and gold as the sun’s glow creates a dazzling spectacle. Best seen either at sunrise or sunset, Rainbow Valley is a great day trip from Alice Springs or an overnight camp spot if you want to really experience the wilderness of the Red Centre.
The capital of Australia’s Red Centre region, Alice Springs is a fascinating and diverse town. If you’re used to towns and cities on the East Coast, this place is going to feel very different… Be sure to visit some of the art galleries in town, and check out the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens. Also make sure you stock up on supplies here, because there’s not much in any direction for a few thousand kilometres after this!
Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock) is probably the number one thing people want to see when they travel to the Red Centre. Ignore everyone who says it’s “just a big rock” and go see it for yourself. The immense power and awe-inspiring qualities of this huge monolith are hard to put into words.
Do you know that wild camels and emus roam the desert! Originally brought to Australia 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 to tourists. After all, what better way to take in the views of the arid 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 we recommend the award-winning sunset ride at Uluru. With breathtaking views guaranteed, what a way to end a day in this magical place!
Views from the Ghan
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 you’ll never forget and, best of all, they offer backpacker and student discounts!
Devil’s Marbles is on the drive from Alice Springs to Darwin. There’s something about the way the round boulders sit on top of each other in bizarre patterns, towering above the landscape, with little else in any direction around them! This is a great pitstop if you’re on a road trip – you get to stretch your legs by climbing over the rocks and can enjoy a picnic with a great view too. Stay until sunset to enjoy the view and the campsite close to the boulders.
Palm Valley is named after the Red Cabbage Palm, which is found nowhere else in the world apart from here. The valley is part of Finke Gorge National Park – an area of great significance for the local aboriginal people. This is the place to go to really get a sense of the remoteness of the Outback, with fantastic bush walks, 4WD tracks and camping facilities on offer. The scenery here is amazingly lush and green, due to a precious year-round water supply. The contrast with the red earth is incredibly striking – don’t forget to bring your camera!
Ormiston Gorge (West MacDonnell Ranges)
Situated just west of Alice Springs, Ormiston Gorge is a fantastic spot you need to check out if you’re travelling the Red Centre. 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 spend an afternoon. Many people take day trips 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 the night 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.
East MacDonnell Ranges
The range runs roughly parallel to the better-known West MacDonnell Ranges and offers visitors stunning views of rugged, red rock formations, hidden gorges, and scenic waterholes. The region is home to several important natural and cultural attractions, including the Emily and Jessie Gaps Nature Park, which features a unique rock formation with significant cultural significance to the local Arrernte people.
Trephina Gorge and N’Dhala Gorge are also worth a visit if you are doing the eastern section. They offer visitors the opportunity to explore deep gorges and scenic walking trails, and the Ross River Resort, a popular camping and lodging spot.
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. The walls of this natural canyon fall away so sharply that even the trees seem to be holding on for dear life, and a peek over the side of this natural canyon is sure to make you dizzy! 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.
Right next door to Uluru is the far less famous, but even more beautiful rock formation known as Kata-Tjuta. It’s actually 53km away, but this is considered a short drive in the Red Centre and they are in the same National Park! Whereas Uluru is one giant rock, Kata Tjuta is a series of smaller rocks all deposited together. Their silhouette against the otherwise flat landscape is perhaps even more stunning at sunset than that of their giant neighbour. The Valley of Winds walk, which takes you directly through Kata Tjuta, is an absolute must.