5 Days in Central Australia - Signature Experiences of Australia
From the desert town of Alice Springs to the towering undulations of Uluru, one of Australia’s most iconic outback routes, the Red Centre Way, is a road trip that takes in Aboriginal culture, from galleries to forested canyons. Devote at least five days to it.
Ringed by purple-hued mountains, Alice Springs is rich in urban delights, including Aboriginal art galleries and a burgeoning foodie scene. Kings Canyon is a majestic destination featuring 300-metre-high sandstone walls, palm-filled crevices and breathtaking views across the desert. At Uluru, you’ve reached the beating heart of the Red Centre and little compares to the jaw-dropping experience of witnessing this glowing monolith up close.
At a glance:
Start your morning inside Olive Pink Botanic Garden, an Australian arid region flora reserve. The garden features a rustic outdoor eatery, the Bean Tree Café, known for its delectable coffee and fresh fare.
Head west a few kilometres and explore Alice Springs Desert Park, a sprawling 1300-hectare space dedicated to Central Australia’s desert culture and environment. Resident animals include princess parrots, bilbies and the 50-centimetre tall mala, or rufous hare-wallaby, which is a key Creation figure for the Traditional Owners of Uluru.
In late afternoon, join RT Tours Australia for their Mbantua Starlight and Bush Dinner Tour. Journey to the West MacDonnell Ranges ghost gum country and take a walk in the bush before settling in for a yarn with owner, Bob Taylor, and a three-course dinner cooked over mulga wood.
Bed down at Vatu Sanctuary, a private villa curated by a former gallery owner.
Hit the road and set out on the Red Centre Way. About 90 kilometres west of Alice you’ll find Ellery Creek Big Hole, a swimming spot that cuts through a red-toned gorge in the West MacDonnell Ranges.
From here, drive the unsealed road to Watarrka National Park, and stop at Karkke Aboriginal Experience & Tours, about a three-hour drive from the swimming hole. The one-hour Aboriginal Cultural Tour covers bush food, medicine, hunting weaponry, art and Luritja and Pertame language and culture.
In the afternoon, embark on the 6km Kings Canyon rim walk, where a 100-metre ascent over rose-coloured rocks and boulders gives way to lush bush, including the Garden of Eden, a peaceful pool flanked by ferns and cycads.
Spend the night at Kings Canyon Resort.
Depart Kings Canyon and drive to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. This region is the Dreaming site for the Anangu people, Uluru’s Traditional Owners, who see these lands as a living map of ancestral heroes’ births, battles and deaths.
Check into Ayers Rock Resort’s Sails in the Desert and opt for a room with views of the Rock.
In the late afternoon, drive to Kata Tjuta. Wander to its western side for a stroll through Walpa Gorge, a men’s sacred ceremonial area, before watching as the sun sets over Kata Tjuta.
Back at the resort, visit in-house restaurant Ilkari, which features Indigenous flavours and offers an extravagant three-course buffet and chocolate fountain.
Rise early and travel to the Talinguru Nyakunytjaku sunrise viewing area to witness Uluru’s changing colour palette at dawn.
Afterwards, head to the Kulata Academy Cafe, staffed by members of Ayers Rock Resort’s National Indigenous Training Academy, for breakfast and stock your backpack with sandwiches and salads for the rest of the day.
Next, get creative and craft your own dot painting at Maruku Arts. At twice-daily workshops, an Anangu artist will help you work some magic onto your canvas, while introducing you to traditional art, symbols and tools.
After a leisurely afternoon at the resort, return your gaze to Uluru at a Sounds of Silence dinner. Relax among sand dunes, enjoy a three-course meal, and listen to the resident star talker decode the southern night sky.
Meet SEIT Outback Australia and accompany the Traditional Owners to their homelands south of the Rock on the Patji day-tour. Just outside the limits of the National Park, explore the Patji homelands by 4WD in the company of an Aboriginal guide, as you learn about the history of the Anangu.
Over afternoon tea, hear stories detailing Paddy Uluru’s fight for Indigenous recognition in the park, as well as an overview of centuries-old bush survival techniques.
From atop a private sand dune, farewell your day by witnessing a final exquisite, multicoloured sunset against the silhouettes of Uluru and Kata Tjuta. This Red Centre journey has reached its finale.