There are a few things that you should know about the Australian Outback and the Red Centre.
One – it’s very red out there! They don’t call the area around Ayers Rock and Alice Springs the Red Centre for nothing, you know!
Arriving in the Northern Territory Outback from New South Wales and the gradual yellowing of the land and drying out trees, you’ll eventually come across all this red earth. Even more so contrasting is if you are arriving at the Red Centre from the vibrant green vistas of the rainforests in North Queensland. However, if you arrive by plane, you will think you are in another world. Whichever way you get there, you will see it’s damn red out there!
Two – It’s HOT! Depending on what time of the year you go, there are varying degrees of hot. There’s humid hotness or the hotness that sees you dripping wet with sweat. There’s the type of dry heat that sticks dust up your nostrils. And then there’s stinking hot! Or a combination of the above.
Three – The flies bite. We’re talking about the average annoying buzzing fly actually trying to have a nibble, making it even more annoying. And there are lots of them in The Outback.
Sounds like a grand advertisement for visiting the Northern Territory’s Red Centre, right?
But that’s the trivia. The things that are going to more than make up for that mundaneness and annoyance and the harsh outback are the awe-inspiring panoramas and the massive rock (Ayers Rock). The surreal landscape, the expanse, and remoteness, the friendly locals, and the abundant wildlife make the Red Centre a place of excitement, adventure, exploration, and discovery!
The Northern Territory is enormous. It is 2,000 kilometers north to south and 1,000 kilometers east to west. More wildlife lives than you’ve ever seen in your life lives in the Red Centre. There are emus, kangaroos, camels, lizards, goannas, crocodiles, and thousands of varieties of birds.
Words can’t describe the incredible magical atmosphere. Pictures are only 2D images of what it looks like, but when you step inside, be prepared for another galaxy. And when you are driving along and see a herd of wild camels go past, you will understand what we mean when we say it’s like stepping into another world.
Ayers Rock (Uluru) – The Highlight of the Red Centre
Ayers Rock (Uluru) is the most memorable part of the Red Centre. You see it approaching from miles and miles away. It’s juxtaposed against the panorama. It’s Huge! Ayers Rock changes color in different lights and weather, so viewing at sunset and sunrise is a must for your travel bucket list. You’ll marvel at its greatness. Uluru is the heart and soul of Australia, and at the nearby cultural center, you can learn all about its cultural significance and the Aboriginal culture. Besides hiking around the rock, there are camel rides, helicopter flights, skydiving, and camping. The ten-kilometer walk around the base is an easy walk, and we loved it!
When we were there, we saw many people climbing and slipping on the rock. Uluru is a sacred site, and we chose not to climb it to respect the wishes of the Aboriginal community.
As of October 2019, climbing Uluru is forbidden.
The Ayers Rock Resort has a range of accommodations, from campsites and cabins to apartments and luxury hotels. We loved staying in the cabins and waking up early for sunrise, then going back for a nap before continuing our days’ adventures.
The Olgas (Kata Tjuta) are also inside the Uluru National Park. As the Aboriginal name suggests, there are many heads all over the landscape. The enormous domes complete the expansive spectacle. The hikes in The Olgas are some of our favorites.
There is a range of walks, from short and easy to strenuous. The Valley of the Winds hike is a challenging walk, but the views are breathtaking, and it’s 4 hours you will spend in another world.
If you don’t have time or inclination for hikes, there are viewing platforms. The views are phenomenal, and you can experience the unique beauty and panorama of Uluru National Park without the crowds of tourist buses.
Do go as early as possible if you wish to go on the Valley of the Winds walk. As we said earlier, it’s damn hot in the Red Centre, and the trails get closed if it is too hot.
Kings Canyon (Watarrka) – On your way further North towards Alice Springs, you’ll undoubtedly want to visit the extraordinary Kings Canyon. The three-and-a-half-hour walk is exhilarating, with sheer cliff drops 100 meters high. There is also the option of an easier 2-kilometer trek through the canyon valley. Again, we recommend you go early. Not only is the temperature more comfortable, but if you get there for sunrise, it’s absolutely amazing.
We stayed in the chilled camping ground at Kings Canyon Resort which is 7 kilometers away. We spent the nights stargazing and our days hiking. However, if you are not into camping, the resort has many options, from camping to luxury. The resort also offers many activities, from helicopter rides to quad bikes to Aboriginal Cultural Experience tours.
It’s not just about the Red Centre, you know! Read Next- The Top End, Northern Territory Will Blow Your Mind.
The center of the Red Centre is an isolated (but sufficiently developed and civilized) town with desert to the east, west, south, and north of it.
Alice Springs is a great base to explore the nearby stunning MacDonnell Ranges, with its amazing gorges and waterholes for swimming. It’s also an excellent place to experience Aboriginal culture and meet fellow travelers at the local backpacker hostels. There is a party scene to be had if this is what you desire!
Tours offered from Alice Spring include outback bush experiences, horse riding, and memorable 4WD trips to remote and scenic areas in Central Australia.
The Devils Marbles
North of Alice Springs, and on the way to Darwin, is one of the most enchanting places we’ve been to in Australia. The Devil’s Marbles are spectacular rock formations. Some are up to 5 meters in diameter. Some are mysteriously stacked on top of each other, offering the landscape the look of another planet. In Aboriginal Dreamtime stories, they are the eggs of the Rainbow Serpent.
There’s an amazing natural campground right in the middle of the unique splendor. Here you can witness the sunset from around your campfire, enjoy the solitude and contemplate nature. We were there during the low season, and no one else was there except the full moon and us. It was a mystical experience and one of our favorite experiences in the Northern Territory.
As you travel through the Australian Outback, you’ll discover lots of things to do and see. These are just some of the highlights of the Red Centre. There are many National Parks with gorges and swimming holes with outstanding natural scenery and wildlife.
Our advice is don’t rush; Northern Territory’s Red Centre is truly something unique that you don’t see in many places around the world. The vastness and the geological marvels will blow you away.