A Guide to Road Tripping the Red Centre Way in the NT
    Northern Territory

    A Guide to Road Tripping the Red Centre Way in the NT

    April 25, 2024Tom Lanauze

    14 min read

    We have our own slice of the red planet here in the magical world of Oz. It’s an outback journey, millions of years in the making! Feel the famous red sand between your toes as you walk in the footsteps of one of the oldest civilisations on earth. Catch red sunsets and famous views of Uluru. Stumble upon hidden oases to swim and relax around, while breathtaking scenery captivates you as you explore one of the most unique and diverse landscapes on the planet.

    What’s more, this vast and imposing landscape remains an off the beaten track destination that’s hardly explored, yet accessible and always loved and enjoyed - the best kind of place in our eyes! This road trip route connects Alice Springs and Tjoritja West MacDonnell National Park, the stunning Kings Canyon region and of course the jewel in the crown, the World Heritage-listed Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

    On the Red Centre Way, no two days are ever the same.

    Below you will find our helpful travel guide for the Red Centre. It contains links straight to the CamperMate app to make it even easier to find these places and plan your ideal Red Centre road trip.

    Couple enjoying scenic walk by the water in the Red Centre

    Highlights of the Red Centre

    Alice Springs Known simply as “Alice” to the locals, this town is the gateway to the Red Centre and services an area the size of Texas. Aboriginal culture is a part of everyday life here thanks to the remoteness of the desert. There is an array of both paid and free attractions in and around the town providing something for everyone and every budget.

    Escaping into the wilderness is easy thanks to the many experiences nearby. Whether you’re enjoying a relaxing break in a swimming hole after hiking Kings Canyon or visiting the impressive sights of Uluru, Alice is the place to be!

    Tjoritja West MacDonnell National Park West of Alice Springs and at over 160 km long, this spiritual home to the Aranda people is the foundation of their cultural identity and home to some of the most breathtaking scenery in the area. This is a national park filled with natural attractions. You can swim it, cycle it, walk it or drive it!! Contained within are the always alluring swimming holes of Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormistin Gorge and Glen Helen Gorge. There are numerous short walking tracks along with longer half day, day and extended treks capped with the Larapinta trail at 223 km long. Many rare species of flora and fauna can be found here including the rock wallaby - perhaps the area's most well known fur baby.

    Kings Canyon and Watarrka National Park Watarrka National Park encompasses an impressive 70,000 hectares and is home to amazing local wildlife and a prominent Red Centre Aboriginal centre of culture.

    Both the Arrente and Luritja Aboriginal people have called this area home for more than 20,000 years making it an ideal place to learn about their mystical culture.

    Home to the towering Kings Canyon, the scenic rim walk takes you hundreds of feet in the air before descending into the famed Garden of Eden.

    Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park An area that needs no introduction, this UNESCO world heritage site is home to one of the oldest human civilisations in the world - the Anangu Aboriginal people.

    The unique geological formations of Kata Tjuta and Uluru, are as epic in size and formation as they are in cultural significance, and are known around the world as must see destinations on an Australian road trip itinerary.

    Where to Stay While Travelling the Red Centre

    CamperMate is loaded with unique places to camp, with both free and paid options for traveller convenience. Here are a few favourites, recommended by our more than 1.5 million users.

    Just click on the links below to be taken directly to the parks on the CamperMate App, to unlock special deals, discounts and to book your stay.

    Alice Springs Alice Springs makes an ideal place to spend a few days as a base camp for adventure in the Red Centre. It has a plethora of activities and things to do nearby to the bustling town including natural swimming options, mountain and cycling trails and wildlife experiences.

    It also has some of our favourite accommodation options in the area;

    • Alice Springs Tourist Park An oasis in the desert, the Alice Springs Tourist Park caters for all, with its beautifully shaded camping spots plus well-appointed cabins. It has all the services you need including a fully equipped kiosk, laundry, swimming pool, kids playground, amenities blocks and more for your convenience.
    • Discovery Parks – Alice Springs Located just 5 minutes from Alice Springs CBD is Discovery Parks – Alice Springs, a convenient spot to base yourself on your next adventure to the Northern Territory.

    Kings Canyon Kings Canyon is perfectly located halfway between Alice Springs and Uluru., making it an ideal stop on your Red Centre Way road trip.

    But it is so much more than that.

    This is a landscape millions of years in the making, home to the outback's very own “Garden of Eden” - an oasis in the desert. The area also boasts an abundance of native flora and fauna, contrasting landscapes of deserts and desert gardens, and aboriginal cultural experiences making this area a highlight for road trippers and travellers alike.

    • Discovery Parks Kings Canyon At Discovery Parks - Kings Canyon, the wonder of the Red Centre is always at your doorstep. Here you can relax under a canopy of stars at one of the most picturesque campgrounds in Australia. Enjoy uninterrupted views of Kings Canyon and any of the awesome activities in the area before having a hearty meal at one of their dining outlets. This park provides all the amenities needed after a busy day of adventuring, right in the middle of an ancient, rugged landscape. View unforgettable outback landscapes and a variety of accommodation from deluxe spa rooms to superior glamping tents.

    Tjoritja - West MacDonnell Ranges National Park Immerse yourself in this 800 million years old landscape - home to the Western Aranda Aboriginal people for tens of thousands of years. There is so much to see and do here, and with a range of tracks, nature and bush walks, and a swimming hole in Glen Helen Gorge, this is the perfect place to call in for a night at these rustic bush camps.

    Secret Swimming Holes

    Friends enjoy swimming at Ellery Creek Big Hole Northern Territory.jpg

    You would think finding a swimming hole in a desert would be more mirage than reality! Luckily CamperMate has you covered with the locations of some awesome, hidden swimming oases. The perfect refresher from hiking and exploring.

    • Ellery Creek Big Hole This picturesque swimming hole is the perfect place to cool off after enjoying the short walks around the area. It is one of our favourite places to have a picnic. The Aboriginal name for Ellery Big Hole is Udepata and this area is an internationally recognised geological site.
    • Glen Helen Gorge The Glen Helen Gorge is a great place to relax and view the West MacDonnell Ranges. You’ll also spot lots of local wildlife that have the same idea! As you soak in the water (and surroundings), watch the imposing Mount Sonder, one of the highest points in Central Australia change colours with the light.

    From towering sandstone canyons to a unique river ecosystem and wetland, the Glen Helen Gorge is a must see.

    • Ormiston Gorge Ormiston Gorge gets its name from the towering red walls that enclose this little oasis in the desert. It is a great place for a refreshing swim and to spot the unique native wildlife and plant life that this area is known for. The gorge forms part of a 3.5 hour circuit walk which is an often overlooked, fantastic walk. Don’t worry, the walk takes you via the main watering hole so you can have a well earned swim along the way.

    Best Hikes and Walks in the Red Centre

    Couple enjoying a scenic view on Kings Canyon Hike

    This area is filled with amazing walks and longer hikes, some of which are conveniently located at the swimming holes above.

    • Larapinta Trail This 231 kilometre trail is ranked as one of the planet's top 20 treks. It follows the rocky spine of the West MacDonnell Ranges from Alice Springs Telegraph Station all the way to one of the highest points in Central Australia - Mount Sonder. You can challenge yourself to the entire trail (14 days) or walk any of the 12 sections to match your comfort level and time commitments.
    • Walpa Gorge Walk This is one of the most popular short walks that takes you through Kata Tjuta’s valleys and steep gorges. It is a 2.6km return track that takes around an hour to complete and is easy enough for most fitness levels and ages. This short walk will take you through the steep canyons, past rare plants and ending at a grove of spearwood trees.
    • Kata Tjuta Valley of the Winds Walk If you’re going to do one longer walk during your time in the Red Centre, make it this one. At 7.6km long and moderately difficult in parts, allow roughly 3.5 - 4 hours and have a good level of fitness to complete comfortably, but the views of the unique rock formations of Kata Tjuta make it well worth it. The Mars-like landscape is stunning, and with hundreds of native wildlife and plant species to be seen, the biodiversity on offer here is amazing. Drinking water is available halfway along the circuit.
    • Uluru Base Walk View of Uluru at sunrise from Base Walk This walk to one of the most famous landmarks in the world is 10km and can be comfortably completed in 3.5 hours. This must-do walk is a classic to see the towering Uluru up close as you explore the entire edge of the rock formation. It has a very easy to follow trail that can be walked from either direction and is fine for all fitness levels. You will learn about theis ancient landscape which is the spiritual home of the Anangu people.
    • Kings Canyon Walks This 6.5km will take around 3 hours to complete and is often thought to be the best short walk in Central Australia. The most popular walk here is the Kings Canyon Rim Walk which is a stunning trail through the incredible Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park, yet another of the famous sites of the Red Centre in the Northern Territory. This loop trail is steep in places, and is best completed in a clockwise direction. About 45 min from the trail head, you have an optional detour to a stunning panoramic lookout. The trail continues on and offers a surprise lush oasis, with the secret Garden of Eden abundant in plant life and unusual rock formations.
    • Serpentine Gorge Serpentine Gorge is the name given to a narrow gap in the West MacDonnell Ranges, just west of Alice Springs. It has several sign-posted walking trails that take you along the shaded path of river red gums to the surreal water hole (30 minutes) or up to the lookout (45 minutes), high above the cliffs, to give you awesome views of the surrounding area. This watering hole is the last oasis during the dry season, making it a hub for local wildlife and is a site of special significance for the Western Arrernte Aboriginal people.
    • Simpsons Gap Close to Alice Springs, this is home to several convenient walks including one of the few permanent water holes in the area. This gives you a great opportunity to see local wildlife like the rare Black-footed Rock wallabies at dawn, as you take in the towering cliffs of Simpsons Range. This area contains parts of the Mulga Woodland and other (40) rare plants - the short Ghost Gum Walk (15 min) is a perfect nature walk to see the local flora and fauna while the longer woodland trail to rocky gap will take you roughly 5 hours. This is an important site for the local Aboriginal people thanks to their Eagle and Rock Wallaby dreaming trails that cross here.

    Activities to do in the Red Centre

    Couple having a romantic walk at the Field of Light in Uluru

    You will find a variety of activities to do in the Red Centre, so we have given you a list of our recommendations while in the region.

    • Field of Light Uluru After the incredible sunset, the real show begins. As far as you can see, Bruce Munro's art piece called "the field of lights" shines its 50,000 lights upon you. Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku meaning ‘looking at lots of beautiful lights’ in local Pitjantjatjara shines a whole new light on Uluru.
    • Outback Ballooning Imagine you're floating above the great outback in Australia's Red Centre, watching the sun creep up on a new morning. Join us for Australia's ONLY remote outback ballooning experience!
    • Kings Canyon Scenic Helicopter Flight Looking for a scenic flight over the Red Centre? Join this 15 minute helicopter flight over the Kings Canyon for a memorable outback experience. The sheer size and vast landscape of the Kings Canyon cannot be fully understood unless you see it from the air. ld.
    • Stunning Sunrise's and Sunsets at Kata Tjuta Viewpoint While always spectacular, this iconic red landscape and its famous rock formations are at their very best at dawn. You can watch the first and last rays of sun weave across the open landscape, watching as colours change and new landscapes come alive. The Kata Tjuta Dune viewing area at dawn and the Sunset viewing area – with Uluru 30km away in the background – at dusk are the best places to view from.

    Where to see Wonderful Wildlife

    Joey's cuddled up at NT Kangaroo Sanctuary

    A trip to the outback is filled with adventure as we uncover the unknown. A fun part of this is wildlife spotting - with nature you just never know what you are going to see. From kangaroos to rock wallabies and dingoes, donkeys, brumbies and camels, below are some of our favourite wildlife spotting areas to accompany the nature walks we listed above.

    • Alice Springs Desert Park Watch the Red Centre come to life at night at the Alice Springs Desert Park. The park's nocturnal tour will show you the abundance of wildlife that lives here as you spot desert animals including bilbies, echidnas and even malas.
    • The Garden of Eden Watarrka National Park encloses the Garden of Eden and Kings Canyon, with its 300-metre-high sandstone walls, walking trails, lush forests and permanent waterholes. The sheer red rock face of the canyon soars above dense forests of palms, ferns and cycads, sheltering them from the harsh desert, and providing refuge for many native animals including the euro - a cross between a wallaby and a kangaroo.
    • The Kangaroo Sanctuary The Kangaroo Sanctuary is a 188 acre wildlife sanctuary for rescued, orphaned baby kangaroos and adult kangaroos. Their mission is to educate and encourage people to rescue and care for kangaroos and other wildlife and animals.

    No two trips to the Red Centre are ever the same. The landscape and culture may be millions of years old, yet somehow the centre of Australia always comes up with new and exciting ways to surprise those that get off the beaten path and explore the vastness that is the Northern Territory.

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