Two weeks travelling between Alice Springs and Uluru is one of the greatest trips we have ever taken.
It is a trip like no other, taking you through wild red desert where your only companions are often kangaroos, camels, brumbies and even the odd dingo. The hiking trails are some of our favourite in the country, and you can cool off with a dip in one of the many natural water holes.
The sunrises and sunsets have to be seen to be believed and don’t get us started on the starry skies. Just writing it has made us both long to return.
In short this trip is a once in a lifetime experience and we guarantee if you follow this itinerary you will be blown away!
Alice Springs -> East McDonnells -> West McDonnells -> Kings Canyon -> Uluru
Preparing for an Outback Road Trip
Although the roads are in good condition (well, apart from the Mereenie Loop!) and there are plenty of people driving the route you will take, it pays to prepare and have supplies in case you breakdown, especially if you are travelling in the summer. The Outback is an unforgiving place where settlements can be hundreds of kilometres apart. No matter where you go, pack a lot of water and have spare food. This is vital.
Don’t start any journey without a full tank of petrol (and a lot of people fill up extra bottles of petrol as well). There are very few petrol stations in Central Australia, so don’t assume that you can fill up between your starting point and destination.
Best time to visit Alice Springs
Alice Springs is in the heart of the Outback and has extreme variations in temperature. The summers here are stiflingly hot all day and night, with the winters being warm in the day and very cold at night. You can read more about when to go on our article all about the best time to visit Alice Springs and Uluru.
We made this particular road trip in April and found the weather to be perfect for us, it was hot but manageable, especially as we regularly swam in the water holes.
Flights to Alice Springs
Alice Springs doesn’t have an international airport, so the only way to get here is to fly from another Australian city. There are regular flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Cairns, Darwin and Adelaide. As this is the centre of the country, most flights take between 2.5 - 3 hours.
We flew into Alice Springs and out of Uluru, but you could take this journey in the reverse too. We’d say that finishing at Uluru is the way to go though, as it truly is the most magical end to a trip you can imagine.
One way car hire drops are not a problem on this route.
Flights from Uluru (Ayer’s Rock Connellan Airport)
Uluru is serviced with a lot fewer flights than Alice, with the most frequent and convenient being to Sydney and Melbourne. There are also flights to Cairns, Adelaide and Brisbane.
Top tip: Grab a window seat on this route if you can, the view of Uluru from the air was magnificent.
If you have a drone, apply for a permit before you go. Unlike the rest of the world, the Northern Territory has taken the sensible steps of making it crystal clear where you can and can’t fly a drone. No one is allowed to fly a drone over Uluru and sacred aboriginal land, but those with a permit can fly in the vast majority of Central Australia.
Once you apply you’ll get clear instructions, but you’ll need a copy with you at all times. We did come across rangers who checked, but were happy for us to fly. It’s a refreshing change from the uncertainty of everywhere else.
Apply for your permit here.
Alice Springs to Uluru: An epic itinerary
Day 1 - An insight into life in the Outback, Alice Springs
This itinerary starts in Alice Springs, the largest town in Central Australia. The flight here is an adventure in itself as the land below changes from the lush green of coastal Australia to the deep red martian landscape of the Outback. The journey in can feel like a scenic flight, so get yourself a window seat.
After landing, head to the School of the Air for a glimpse of how different even simple things are in this part of the world. The majority of people in Central Australia live huge distances from each other, making schooling really difficult. To overcome this, they’ve created the “School of the Air” which originally involved children learning over the radio and mailing in their work to be marked by a teacher.
Since the internet, the schooling has changed and now makes use of the internet. This means classes can be streamed and work done through an online portal.
Whether or not you pop by when a class is in session is luck, we didn’t see one but still loved the experience.
Getting to the School of the Air
The School of the Air isn’t far from the centre of Alice Springs. You can park easily if you’ve hired a car.
In the afternoon, head to the Flying Doctors Museum. Similar to education, medical treatment is very challenging when you’re dealing with cattle ranches that are the size of small countries (a famous statistic is that there is a cattle ranch the size of Belgium in Central Australia). This means that doctors have to be flown to remote locations in times of emergency.
The museum is a fascinating insight into the work of this great charity and shows how difficult life in the Outback can be.
Getting to the Flying Doctors Museum
The Flying Doctors Museum is in the centre of Alice Springs and also has free parking if you are driving.
For sunset, head to Anzac Hill for beautiful views over the Alice Springs and the distant McDonnell Ranges. You can either drive to the top and park or walk up from the base, going through a little bit of Outback scrub. We’ve done both, the walk is easy and we’d usually opt to walk unless pushed for time.
The memorial at the top offers panoramic views in all directions and you can see for miles!
Getting to Anzac Hill
Like the Flying Doctor’s Museum, Anzac Hill is in the centre of Alice Springs. You can park at the top or walk up from Wills Terrace.
Where to stay in Alice Springs
Squeaky Windmill Boutique Tent B&B
If you really want to be among the red cliffs and in the desert, then Squeaky Windmill is the place for you! Set a few kilometres out of the centre of Alice Springs, Squeaky Windmill feels a long way away from the town and is located a short distance from Simpson’s Gap - one of the main attractions in the West MacDonnells.
Tents are comfortable and even have a little kitchenette. We loved our stay but be warned if you are staying in winter like we did then be prepared for extremely low temperatures! They have a reverse air con system to warm you up though.
If glamping isn’t your thing, then head to the DoubleTree in the centre of Alice Springs. We stayed in the DoubleTree on our first trip to Alice Springs and have been referring people here ever since. It is a really good value hotel with pool and jacuzzi in the shade for the hottest time in the day and decent sized, comfortable rooms.
The hotel has outback character and although it is a little dated, it is still great value for a Double Tree Hotel. It also has a good Indian/Thai restaurant in the hotel if you don’t fancy going into town.
Location wise you don’t get much better as it is a really short distance from the middle of town but far enough out to have a bit of peace and quiet. You are not far from Olive Pink Botanic Garden - our favourite place for breakfast in Alice.
Day 2 - The East McDonnells & Kangaroos
There’s no better place to start the day in Alice Springs than Olive Pink Botanic Garden. It does the most delicious breakfasts in town (but be prepared to wait a little), but the best thing is that you can have your breakfast with kangaroos and euros (a type of wallaroo, yes it’s a thing!).
Olive Pink has quite a few resident roos and you may get lucky and see a few beautiful Western Brown Kangaroos and maybe even a Euro like the ones below. They are wild but we’ve seen them every time we visited (which is about five times due to that amazing breakfast!).
Getting to Olive Pink Botanic Gardens
Olive Pink is a just a little way out of the centre of Alice Springs. If you stay at the Double Tree you’ll be on the same road!
After brekkie it’s time to hit the road and explore the often overlooked East McDonnell Ranges. The iconic Ross Highway connects all the main tourist places with the first being Emily Gap & Jessie Gap. These spots in the East McDonnells are the perfect introduction to the Outback with the iconic red cliffs, dried river beds and ancient landscapes.
You can also see some examples of the “catepillar dreaming” art from the Arrente Aboriginals in the area that are still strikingly vivid.
If you are visiting any time other than winter do bring a fly net. It isn’t as bad as the flies at Uluru but will allow you to explore the area in peace without constantly having to swat at your face.
Getting to Emily & Jessie Gap
Emily Gap is 15 km from the centre of Alice Springs with Jessie Gap being a further 7km east. You’ll need to drive along the Ross Highway which is in great condition, so you can take a 2wd drive to these sites.
After exploring the gaps, it’s time to head to our favourite place in the East McDonnell Ranges.
Trephina Gorge is everything you want from an outback landscape: huge red cliffs, excellent hiking trails and views to the surrounding landscape that go for miles.
There are a few walks here, but our favourite is the Trephina Gorge Walk. The 2km loop trail is a little steep at first, but soon flattens at the top of the ridge. This then takes you down to the dried up river bed and back to where you started. Overall it’s an easy trail but absolutely spectacular, it’s the first place we went back to when we revisited the area.
If you have more time the 2.5km Panorama trail is also worth doing.
Make sure you take plenty of water, suncream, good shoes and a hat for this (and any) outback walk.
Getting to Trephina Gorge
Trephina Gorge is 50 km from Jessie Gap and should take about an hour to get to. The last part of the road is dirt track, so be prepared for a bumpy section. We did it easily in a 2wd though.
After a day in the East McDonnells, head back to Alice Springs for a truly special experience. A trip to the Kangaroo Sanctuary should be on every Australian itinerary. This magical place rescues orphaned joeys whose mothers have been killed in car accidents, but their babies survive (kangaroo pouches are very resilient and designed to protect their offspring).
The relentlessly hardworking Brolga and his girlfriend Tahnee go to extreme lengths to find these joeys and nurse them to health, ensuring they have a second chance at life. Without this sanctuary, hundreds of kangaroo joeys would be left to die at the roadside.
As part of the tour, you can see the adult kangaroos in the huge sanctuary hopping around at sunset while others are being fed. Brolga will take you round and teach you all about kangaroos and rearing them as a kangaroo mum would do in the wild.
However, the undoubted highlight is being able to hold a cute joey like Cat did here.
The money from the tours go towards the running of the sanctuary and medical supplies needed to help the kangaroos. The key thing here is that this isn’t a zoo. The kangaroos kept in the sanctuary are the ones that they can’t release back into the wild and the sanctuary comprises a huge amount of bush land, a kangaroo natural habitat.
Getting to the Kangaroo Sanctuary
You can only visit the Kangaroo Sanctuary on a tour operated by the Centre Bush Bus. You cannot just turn up at the sanctuary. The tour will pick you up from your hotel and take you to the sanctuary.
The bus isn’t always on time, but hold tight. You will get an amazing experience and you will have plenty of time with the roos.
Day 3 - West McDonnell Gaps & Chasms
It’s time to head out of Alice Springs, but not before seeing the reason why this town exists. The Telegraph Station was constructed to be a station for the teleraph line that relayed messages between Darwin and Adelaide, stretching the whole continent!
The Telegraph Station is how Alice Springs got its name, as it was named after Alice Todd, the wife of Charles Todd who was overseeing the overland telegraph project.
Nowadays there are a few buildings remaining and a rocky landscape to explore around the pretty dry waterhole. There are a number of easy walking trails where you will likely see a couple of euros and rock wallabies hopping between the rocks. The landscape is fantastic and best taken in from the trig point.
Getting to Alice Springs Telegraph Station
The Telegraph Station is 4km north of the centre of Alice Springs. There’s a huge amount of parking, or you could cycle here from the town centre along the designated bike trail.
Heading west, your first stop in the West McDonnell ranges is the beautiful Simpson’s Gap. This is one of the few places in the West McDonnell Ranges that has water year round and is a beautiful place that is full of wildlife. We saw hundreds of Zebra finches here and - if you’re lucky - you may see the resident black footed rock wallabies hopping around the rubble in the gap. Look hard because they are extremely well camouflaged.
You can also cycle here through a really scenic cycle path. Some people said you can do this on the full moon, but we tried and …… well….. it wasn’t too successful on a night that became very cloudy! You’re best sticking to cycling in the day or driving.
If you do cycle, it’s flat and easy riding with the trail in excellent condition and it is a wonderful way to experience the outback. The thorn in the side is that if you cycle from town you have already ridden over 7km before you hit the cycle path through the bush from which Simpsons Gap is a further 17km away. It is best to organise a bike drop off at the start to avoid this if like us you are not used to long bike rides!
Getting to Simpson’s Gap
Simpson’s Gap is 20 km outside of the centre of Alice Springs. The roads all the way here are well paved, so you don’t need the 4 x 4 for this part. If you choose to stay at Squeaky Windmill Boutique Tent B&B then you are just a few kilometres away.
Further along Larapinta Drive is Standley Chasm, one of the narrowest gaps in the West McDonnell Ranges. The walk to the chasm is beautiful, going through the red cliffs before coming out to this incredibly narrow section.
There is also a nice walk that takes you to a mountain lookout at the front of Standley Chasm. From here you’ll see some beautiful views of the West McDonnell Ranges from up high.
Stanley Chasm is privately owned so it is one of the few spots in our itinerary where you have to pay to enter. The entrance fee is AUD $10 per person (just over US $7). We felt it was worth the money but can be skipped if your budget is tight.
Getting to Standley Chasm
Standley Chasm is 40km further on from Simpson’s Gap along the Larapinta Highway. The road from the highway is dirt track, but you should be ok in a 2wd which is all we had. Just make sure you go slowly!
For sunset, one of the best places in the outback is Ellery Creek Big Hole. This permanent waterhole is a popular swimming spot during the heat of the day, but at sunset everyone disappears, leaving this incredible scene to the lucky few who stay.
At the right time of year, the sun sets between the cliffs, creating a beautiful glow. Add in the peace and tranquility of this area and you have one of our favourite places in Central Australia.
Getting to Ellery Creek Big Hole
Ellery Creek Big Hole is 60 km on from Standley Chasm and should take about an hour to get to. The road from the highway is not paved, but drivable in a 2wd car.
There is a campsite near the waterhole which would be a beautiful spot for anyone wanting to camp in the outback. We chose to stay in nearby Glen Helen.
Getting to Glen Helen
For the night we recommend staying in Glen Helen which is 47km from Ellery Creek Big Hole (about 45 minutes). This place is a legendary homestead and staying here was a really memorable experience. We still regularly bring it up and would love to return one day.
Where to stay in Glen Helen
Glen Helen Homestead
The homestead at Glen Helen may not look much on the face of it. It’s rustic, quirky and fairly basic. However, this lodge has the best food in the outback (apart from the one night off a week the excellent chef has when the food then becomes forgettable outback grub) and in the evening it comes alive with live music and a cosy fire for those cold nights. There are also board games you can play.
The rooms are basic, but comfortable and you can choose from private rooms or dorms. As well as the food and music, Glen Helen is special for its location. The rooms open out onto huge red cliffs and the star gazing here is incredible as you are so far from any town.
Day 4 - West McDonnell Walks & Waterholes
Day four starts with this stunning walk at Ormiston Gorge. The Ormiston Pound Walk is a 9km loop that will take you into the hills, over the West McDonnells and into the gorge and waterhole at the end.
The walk is in pretty good condition (apart from a bit of rubble) and will take you through the ever changing landscape of the Outback, including through a section towards the end where the rock on the cliffs gleams purple. To say this walk is spectacular is an understatement.
At the end you can treat yourself to either a swim in the huge waterhole or grab an inner tube (pick one up from Glen Helen before you go) and float on the water in between the towering cliffs.
Note that the water is ice cold all year round so without a float or tube you won’t be able to stay long in the water. With a tube we happily floated here for hours..
Getting to Ormiston Gorge
Ormiston Gorge is only 11 km from Glen Helen and won’t take long to get to. The road from the highway is a dirt track, but drivable in a 2wd car.
Head west along Larapinta Drive to the epic Red Bank Gorge. Not as popular as many of the sights in the West McDonnells, Red Bank Gorge has huge cliffs surrounding this waterhole. It’s unlikely you’ll see many people here. We were the only ones on our visit, though it was winter, in hotter weather it would be busier. .
The 1.2km walk (one way) to the gorge is pretty rocky and will require some straight forward scrambling, but the effort is worth it. Just look at the drone video we took to see what this place is really like.
Getting to Red Bank Gorge
Red Bank Gorge is the furthest destination in the West McDonnell Ranges before the road goes onto Kings Canyon or back round to Alice Springs. It is 35km away from Ormiston Gorge but a decent amount of this is along a rough dirt track. You can do this by 2wd, but it won’t be very pleasant!
If you haven’t had enough of waterholes, then head back to Glen Helen Gorge for one more! Unlike Ormiston Gorge or Ellery Creek, Glen Helen is likely to be empty in the middle of the day and is a great place to go tubing.
Even if you’re don’t fancy a dip, it is an incredibly picturesque place to to visit.
Getting to Glen Helen Gorge
Glen Helen is 25km away from Red Bank Gorge. Once you reach the homestead, the waterhole is a 10 minute walk away. You can pick up a tube to float on from the reception.
For sunset, head to another beautiful spot - the Mount Sonder lookout. This viewpoint overlooks the beautiful West McDonnells in the distance and you can see Mount Sonder jut out in front of it. We love sunset here as the light illuminates the beauty of the Outback and just how colourful the landscape is. It is worth getting here early to give yourself time to savour this view.
We returned here again after dark as it is also an excellent place for star gazing. Bring warm clothes after dark, even in summer.
Getting to Mount Sonder Lookout
You won’t have to go far for this one as the lookout is just 1km away from Glen Helen!
Day 5 - The Mereenie Loop to Kings Canyon
For this route to Kings Canyon you need a 4wd. Don’t worry if you don’t have one you can drive on the main highway instead. Skip straight to day 6 if you don’t have a 4 x 4.
Before you go
This section needs preparation and a warning - do not attempt this unless you have a 4 x 4 car and are confident with off road driving. The Mereenie Loop is 150km of some of the roughest and worst road we have ever driven on. It is an endless track of corrugations that will shake you to your core, even if you have the right car set up correctly. In a 2wd car it is hell.
Once you have a 4 wheel drive car, let 20% of the air out of your tyres - this will soften some of the corrugations - and try to drive at a steady speed of about 60-70 kmph. It may be faster depending on the car, but rule of thumb is that going too slowly will make it worse.
You’ll also need a permit before you go. Pick this up from the Visitor’s Centre in Alice Springs for $5 AUD ($3.50 USD). Ensure you are fully supplied for this trip with a full tank of petrol, water, food, warm clothing and anything you need for a breakdown. If you get stuck on this patch of road, it could be a very long time before anyone comes to help.
If after reading this you don’t feel too confident, then take the fully pathed route to Kings Canyon. Head back to Alice Springs and then take the Stuart Highway south. From there you can drive round to Kings Canyon.
One thing that is frustrating with car rental in the Northern Territory is that you payments per day only includes 100km. With this itinerary (and virtually any in the Northern Territory) you will go over this and have to pay extra for every kilometre. Sadly, we haven’t found a single car rental company that doesn’t have this policy.
You can search for car hire below.
The Mereenie Loop
So after reading that, you’re probably wondering why on earth would we include this in the itinerary! Well it’s because the Mereenie Loop is wilder and more remote than anywhere we’ve ever been. You are so far from any town or civilisation that the road takes you to a place that is full of wildlife and huge landscapes.
On this road alone we saw camels cross the road in front of our car, wild brumbies galloping nearby and a dingo pop by to see what we were up to. The road turns a deep red and you feel like you’re on another planet. If you’re looking for the Outback that is truly untamed, then the Mereenie Loop is it. You’ll work hard with the off-roading, but you’ll experience a part of the Outback that few others do.
We had no experience of driving on this kind of road and in truth we hadn’t actually meant to take this road but in the end we were glad to have experienced it. As a beginner you can definitely do it, as we did, but just drive carefully.
Getting to the Mereenie Loop
The Mereenie Loop starts 70km from Glen Helen and is where Highway 2 suddenly stops being paved. These 150km will take you a long time, so make sure you leave early enough to ensure you’re not driving in the dark. It’s not a place you want to get stuck on at night.
Where to stay in Kings Canyon
Kings Canyon Resort
The reason we love Kings Canyon Resort so much is for the jacuzzis with a view in the superior rooms (read a bit more about that later!). The rooms are big, have comfortable beds and are the best option for exploring this part of Central Australia.
There are restaurants on site and breakfast (albeit not a good one) is included in the price. When we stayed there were also many dingoes hanging around.
Kings Creek Station
If the Kings Canyon Resort is just a stretch too far for your budget then you can also stay at the Kings Creek Station. This is the other place we were weighing up to stay in but in the end decided to splurge on the resort.
Day 6 - Kings Canyon
Hopefully you’ll have rested up from the bumpiest day of your life overnight and are ready for day 6!
Due to the heat, you will want to start early to ensure you’re at Kings Canyon as the trails close before 9am when the temperature is predicted to go above 36C (which happens a lot). If you arrive before this time you’ll be able to hike, no matter how hot it gets.
Our favourite is the 6km Kings Canyon Rim Walk which will take you to the top of the canyon and all round this incredible place. It is easily one of the best day walks in all of Australia. The walk is very steep at the beginning, but flattens out one you’ve reached the top of the rim. It undulates a bit, but the worst is over. If the staircase at the beginning seems a bit exposed note that it is the only section which is so steep and you will find it easier after that.
The Rim Walk serves up epic views all the way along and you’ll get to explore this huge red canyon from so many different angles. You might also see some lizards or wildlife along the way.
The trail is very exposed with no shade, so bring your suncream and water. Also if you are taking children, be aware there are huge unfenced drops throughout.
If like us you’re fanatical about walks you can also take the 2.6km return Kings Creek Walk. This takes you to another lovely lookout (pictured below) and is flat and easy.
Getting to Kings Canyon
The Kings Canyon Rim Walk is 10km from Kings Canyon Resort, along sealed roads making it a short journey.
From Kings Creek Station it’s 37.5km, roughly 35 minutes drive.
After all that walking you deserve a rest, so why not take in more of those fantastic outback views from the jacuzzi in your room! Yes, Kings Canyon Resort has Outback jacuzzis in each of the superior rooms. It may cost more than the usual rooms, but being able to soak your aching body that endured the Mereenie Loop and the Kings Canyon Rim Walk is priceless.
If you can drag yourself away from the Jacuzzi (and for this you should!), make the short walk to the Kings Canyon Resort Sunset Lookout Platform. This platform looks across the outback landscape to Kings Canyon and - if you get lucky - you may see the sky go on fire like we did. This was a truly memorable sunset!
Day 7 - Uluru
It’s time for the bucket list item: Uluru. This wonder should be on everyone’s list of places to see in the world and it is just as magical when you see it in real life as you imagined it to be.
This huge rock can be seen for miles in all directions and - with the neighbouring Kata Tjuta - is the only things that stands out on this incredibly flat landscape. Just seeing this area is one of the highlights of a trip to Australia.
The best place to start is to get up close to Uluru with the Uluru Base Walk. This 10km track is completely flat and goes all the way round Uluru. There are a couple of times you can get closer to the rock to explore waterholes and rock art (sadly most is in very poor condition) and other points of interest. You can also cycle this loop if preferred.
It is only when you get this close that you realise just how big Uluru really is! It is extremely exposed so pick your time of day wisely.
If you don’t fancy doing the whole circuit, we recommend getting here for the short ranger guided Mala Walk that leaves at 8am from October to April (Summer) and 10am from May to September (Winter). This will give you expert insight to the history or Uluru and the Ananagu Aboriginal people who live here. In fact even if you do the Base Walk then we’d recommend taking the ranger walk too.
Getting to the Uluru Base Walk
Uluru is 26km from Yulara (where all the hotels are situated) and it takes about 30 minutes to drive to. The base walk can be started at any of the multiple car parks around Uluru. We chose the car park at the Uluru Walking Point (marked on the map below).
Time for the experience of a lifetime with the Sounds of Silence Dinner. Starting in the late afternoon you’ll be whisked to a private spot in the desert outside of Yulara and greeted with a glass of champagne, a stunning view of Uluru and an aboriginal welcome and dance.
After the introduction you’ll have a sit down meal in front of the sunset - we were lucky enough to have Kata Tjuta in full view with an amazing sky.
However, the real highlight was after dinner. This was when all the lights were switched off and we saw the Milky Way and several planets above. The hosts then used laser pointers to show constellations and tell indigenous Australian stories.
Uluru has some of the best night skies in the world with very little light pollution and dry weather making the skies incredibly clear. Seeing the Milky Way in full glory was another memory from this trip we’ll never forget.
Getting to Uluru
Uluru is 300km from Kings Canyon Resort and should take four hours by car. The roads here are sealed and in great condition, so you can drive here by 2wd.
All hotels in Uluru are located in Yulara, a village 25 km away from Uluru. To visit the rock you will need to buy a pass from the ticket office on the road to Uluru. Entry costs $25 AUD ($37.50 USD) and enables you to get into the national park for up to five days.
Where to stay in Uluru
Desert Gardens - Novotel
The majority of hotels in Yulara are owned by Accor and we loved the Desert Gardens Hotel by Novotel. This hotel is modern, luxurious and the superior rooms have balconies with unforgettable views of Uluru (albeit far in the distance). After a long day of hiking and exploring, it was bliss to sink back into the comfy rooms at this hotel. It’s pricey, as you’ll find with almost everything in the outback but we were happy with our choice.
Emu Walks Apartments - Mercure
Another great option are the recently refurbished Emu Walks Apartments by Mercure. My parents stayed here and it had everything they needed: a comfortable bed, immaculately clean room and small kitchenette for making breakfast and tea (how very British!). Surprisingly there is an excellent supermarket in Yulara so you can easily save on cost by cooking all your meals.
Day 8 - Uluru
Sadly it’s the final day, but we’ve ended with a bang.
Sunrise at the Viewing Platform
Time to make an early start and see how Uluru changes colour with the changing of the light. Before the sun rises Uluru is a dark red/purple colour which gradually becomes the bright orange you are most familiar with as the sun rises.
We recommend heading to the Sunrise Viewing Platform, even though it oddly faces away from the sun rise (which happens in the opposite direction to Uluru). However, you’ll see both Uluru and Kata Tjuta change colour, even if the sun is rising behind you. There will be many people, but there’s plenty of space for everyone.
Getting to the Sunrise Viewing Platform
The viewing platform is on the road from Yulara to Uluru and should take about 30 minutes to drive to. It is marked on the map below.
Kata Tjuta is often overlooked for it’s more famous neighbour, but if Uluru didn’t exist Kata Tjuta would assume the place of a wonder of the world. Kata Tjuta is made up of several huge rocks and combined together becomes an amazing place to explore.
The highlight is the Valley of the Winds Walk, a 7.5km walk that goes in a loop around these amazing rock formations and we actually preferred it to the Uluru Base Walk. There are uphill sections and the path is a little slippery in places, but we believe most people can do this walk even if you take it slowly.
Like Kings Canyon, you will want to be on the trail before 9am as it closes when the temperature is above 36C.
Getting to Kata Tjuta
Kata Tjuta is on the same road you use to get to Uluru but turns off before you get there. It will take an hour from Yulara, being just over 60km away from the town.
If you have an extra night then definitely head out to the Uluru sunset view point in Yulara. The sun actually sets behind Kata Tjuta but it bathed both in a beautiful light.
There are two viewpoints in Yulara to choose from: the Pioneer Lookout has the best views of Kata Tjuta, but is a slightly longer walk from the hotels. The Imalung Lookout is very close by and has great views of Uluru, but isn’t quite as good for Kata Tjuta.
Essential items for the Outback
Unless you planning on visiting at the coldest part of the winter, a fly net is an essential item when visiting the Outback. These nets go over your hat and stop the flies from going in your face. Without one, you’ll be swatting away every 5 seconds…..
Reusable Water Bottle
The tap water in Australia is drinkable, so there’s no reason to buy single use bottled water! Bring your own bottle and fill up whenever you go out. This one is also double vacuum insulated, so it will keep your water nice and cool.
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