You haven’t truly been to Australia if you haven't gone on a road trip. To see it all you need to ditch the surfboard and get onto the sand. Not the pearly white stuff that lines the beaches. I’m talking the vivid red sands of the Australian outback. You might find yourself thinking…. Why? Isn’t it just a desert? Can I even survive out there?
It’s not just a desert. It's home to one of the outback's - and the world’s - most iconic natural attractions, Uluru. Uluru is the traditional Aboriginal name for Ayers Rock. It's the enormous focal point of the Red Centre; a calling card for thousands of tourists. To see this epic rock is just one of those ‘do it before you die’ experiences. With this in mind, it had to be on my Aussie road trip itinerary.
The entire national park that surrounds Uluru is sacred to Aboriginal Australians, in particular to the local Anangu people. We have them to thank for allowing us to visit their beautiful land. I don't recommend climbing Uluru. There is nothing I love more than conquering a mountain, but this is a place of huge spiritual importance for the traditional owners, and it's disrespectful to climb their sacred site. Respect!
Uluru is one of those places you've seen a million times in photographs, but until you actually see it, you can't understand it's epic sense of scale and the feeling of the place. The ultimate event people come to see is the sunset and sunrise - watching the rock change colour is so impressive; it gets the hairs standing up on the back of your neck.
There are also hiking tracks to see more of the unique national park. My favourite was the base walk, a 9 kilometre trek around the rock itself. Looking up, you realise how steep and enormous it really is. This is an arid zone, so seeing rain here is pretty amazing. I was lucky enough to be one of the 4% of people to witness rain on Uluru, watching the rock erupt into an array of waterfalls.
Uluru has a less famous neighbour called Kata Tjuta, which are equally epic because the huge rocks tower over the desert. Also stunning at sunrise and sunset as they glow red, but the main card here is the walking track. Breathtaking views around every corner as you venture in amongst the enormous rocks.
Most tourists will fly to Uluru and spend under 48 hours there. What a shame, it's not the only thing there to see, is it? I wasn't going to undertake a road trip like that just for one rock… and that’s where my Red Centre adventure started. Here are some of my other top Red Centre experiences that will make you want to pack your bags and go!
Let’s start with the Devil’s Marbles. First of all, the name is awesome! Secondly, this will blow your mind. Huge boulders as far as the eye can see, it’s a huge playground of walking trails and adventure just waiting to be explored. Each marble is unique - it’s a challenge to find the coolest ones! Hunting for the 'postcard shots' is a fun game to play! This is one of those places that you can explore any time of the day and have a different experience.
I visited twice while in the Red Centre. The first time, I explored under a full moon, seeing everything as my eyes adjusted. On the second visit, it was all about watching the sunset change and glow red against the rocks and then gazing at the incredible stars above them. The nearest town is 500 kilometres from this unique spot, so the night sky is incredibly clear - perfect for marvelling at the Milky Way!
Ormiston Gorge is equally impressive, as well as the entire MacDonnell Ranges. The famous outback town of Alice Springs sits nestled in amongst the ranges. Working from Alice Springs you have multiple stops to visit, many with walking tracks and outback swimming holes. Ormiston Gorge certainly has that WOW factor. Steep gorge walls, swimming holes, endless views across the mountain ranges as well as wicked walking trails. If you're a die hard adventurer you can do the Larapinta Trail, 223 kilometres of hiking through the MacDonnell Ranges. Not surprising that it’s one of ‘Australia’s Great Walks’.
Kings Canyon is as majestic as it sounds. This superb canyon offers one of the best hikes in the Red Centre. You can spend the day hiking, looking out at views over the mountains, across the desert and into the daunting canyon itself. The rim walk allows you to walk around the top, then other tracks lead further into the canyon floor. The only thing that holds you back is your sense of adventure!
As Australians say ’Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints’. Enjoy exploring the Red Centre for yourself.
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