Sheer drop at Kings Canyon

A Comprehensive Guide to The Red Centre

The Red Centre is found in the middle of the continent, mostly in the lower part of the Northern Territory. It is known as the Red Centre because of the red dirt that is found there. It is a magical part of Australia that is unique and surprising.

I have written this post as an overall guide to the area and you can find more detailed information about each area in individual posts.

If you would like to read about our adventures while we were in the area you can read my Big Lap posts especially Week 2, Week 3 and Week 4.

Uluru and Kata Tjuta

The famous Uluru image

Known as the spiritual centre of Australia, there is something special about this place. Visitors from all over the world flock here to see something remarkable – Uluru – a huge red rock rising out of the ground in the middle of nowhere.

Kata Tjuta is the less well known but no less remarkable jumble of huge rocks located about 50km away from Uluru. Both offer a number of interesting walks peppered with information boards to add to your cultural experience.

Kata Tjuta

I have more detailed information about this area in my post on Uluru and Kata Tjuta NP, but have detailed the essentials here.

National Park Passes

You will need to purchase a pass to the National Park to get up close to both Uluru and Kata Tjuta. A 3 day pass is $25 per adult and $12.50 per child. An annual pass is only marginally more expensive at $37.50 per adult or $15 per child.

I personally feel that 3 days is rushed, so I would recommend allowing yourself a bit of extra time and buying the annual pass. If you have budget or time restrictions you can get by seeing and doing the essentials in 3 days if you have to.

Uluru and Kata Tjuta Must Do’s

If you are on limited time and you have to choose a couple of things to do, the following are the Must Do items.

Uluru Walk

I would say the Base Walk is the Must Do, but any of the walks that get close to the rock will do if 10.6km is too long for you. I have more information about the walks on offer in my post on Uluru Kata Tjuta NP.

at the start of the liru walk

Uluru Sunset Viewing

This is the essential viewing and you will regret leaving if you have not done this. It really is amazing to watch the colours of Uluru change as the light changes at sunset. It can get crowded at the sunset viewing area, but there is plenty of room for all to see.

the colours change

The Cultural Centre

Make this your first stop so that you can learn some of the stories about the area by the traditional owners. It will contribute to the sights that you see as you walk around the area and will give you a greater understanding of what you are seeing.

Kata Tjuta

Some people skip Kata Tjuta in favour of Uluru. I would suggest that you make an effort to get out there and have at least a bit of a walk. The Walpa Gorge walk is only 2.6km and worth the effort. I have heard that the full 6km Valley of the Winds walk is incredible as well.

Yulara

Yulara is the townsite that has been created to service the tourism industry surrounding Uluru and Kata Tjuta. All of your accommodation and dining options are located here. There are various accommodation options from camping to 5 star resorts.

The whole area is accessible by car with sealed roads the whole way. There is one petrol station in town and the airport is a short distance away.

Mt Connor and Curtain Springs

Curtain Springs is a cattle station that is located only 80km from Uluru

Curtain Springs Free Camp

Many people decide to stay at the Curtain Springs Free Camp to save themselves some money and do the drive into the National Park for a day trip.

The free camp offers toilets and has showers that you can pay for at $3 per person. There is a restaurant on-site, small shop, liquor store and petrol station.

There is also a great view of Mt Connor right across the road, and the option of a variety of tours if you would like to get a closer look.

Mt Connor

Mt Connor

Another huge rock in the area, Mt Connor looks almost as big as Uluru. There is a lot less information around about the site which may be because it is located on privately owned land.

There are a couple of roadside lookouts that are great to stop and take some pictures, but the only way to get up close is to do one of the tours.

The tours were about $99 per person, available through Curtain Springs. We didn’t do the tour so don’t have much more information than that.

Mt Connor is also referred to as Fool-a-ru as it tricks many people as they approach Uluru via the Stuart Hwy. When people first see it they often think that it is their first sight of Uluru.

Kings Canyon

Kings Canyon is a must see while in the region and many people that visit say it even rivals Uluru as the most amazing attraction. (I would agree with this myself!)

Kings canyon rim walk

Wattarka National Park

Kings Canyon is located within Wattarka National Park which is easy to access via a sealed road. There were 4 walks that you could do – The 6km Rim walk being the most popular. This is the walk that we did and we loved it. It says that it is a 3-4 hour walk. It took us just over 5 hours but we stopped for quite a few rests and to have some lunch. We were also walking a bit slower than most as we were travelling with a five year old.

Walking Kings Canyon

Lala loved the walk by the way, though she was tired at the end of it. I write about it in our Week 4 Big Lap Post which you can find here.

Where to Stay at Kings Canyon

There are only 2 options for where to stay for your visit to Kings Canyon.

Kings Creek Station

Kings Creek Station is where we stayed. It is about 30km out from the National Park, which we found easy to drive in on the day that we did the walk. We enjoyed our stay here and were happy to unhook the camper and drive in and out without it.

Be warned that dingoes do roam through the camp at night, although as I understand it, this also happens at the resort.

Kings Canyon Resort

Kings Canyon Resort is the other option being a little closer to the National Park, only about 9km away. We haven’t stayed here ourselves so can’t comment on what it is like.

Prices between the 2 options were very similar, both quite expensive for the limited services that they provide, but they have a monopoly on the area, so it is unavoidable. We stayed for 2 nights so that we would have the whole day to do the walk, but we saw many people come for only 1 night, go and do the walk and then head to their next location.

Henbury Meteorite Conservation Park

This was a real find and saved us quite a few extra kms to get to Alice Springs.

Henbury Meteor Craters

Ernest Giles Road

We cut through on the Ernest Giles Road which saved us about 200 extra kilometres. However, it is an unsealed road and can be 4wd only at certain times of the year. We let our tyres down and drove slowly and didn’t have any problems. I think that a 2wd could have done it ok if they had the gear to be able to lower and pump up their tyres again, but would think it is 4wd only if there had been any recent rain.

The Sealed Road

The meteorite conservation park is located only 9km off the Larapinta Highway and that bit would be easy for a 2wd vehicle to do, so you don’t have to have a 4wd to get in there. I would say it is definitely worth a stop, even for a short visit or lunch break.

The Meteorite Crater

There is a short 1.5km walk around four meteorite craters that were created about 4000 years ago. They were an incredible sight to see and there are a number of information boards around telling you what you are seeing.

walking around the meteorite rater

It is also possible to get right into the craters with a few paths heading into the craters themselves.

Camping at Henbury Meteorite Crater Reserve

Camping was only $7.70 per family per night. We stayed for 2 nights, but you could easily stay for 1 night and still have time to see everything there.

There are only 5 sites which were all full on both nights that we were there. Some other people did camp outside of the designated campsites and that didn’t seem like it was any problem.

There is an honesty box system to pay so make sure you take a variety of small notes and change so that you have the right money to pay. We had to raid Lala’s purse to have enough small change to stay for the second night, but we were so glad that we did.

Alice Springs

Alice Springs is the biggest city in Central Australia. There is so much to do, there is no way you will be able to do it all. Just choose the things you want to do the most and plan to come back another day to do the rest.

I am in the middle of writing a detailed post on Alice Springs which will have heaps of ideas for fun, free and low cost things to do while you are there.

Top 3 Things to do in Alice Springs

Here are my top 3 things to do in Alice Springs (excluding the MacDonnell Ranges NP which has it’s own section and individual post).

Desert Park

Ok, ok, we didn’t actually do this one! We ran out of time and money while we were there, but everyone raves about it and as far as I can tell it is the number one attraction – especially if you have kids. If you want to know what we did instead of this, check out my post on Alice Springs (once it is up) for heaps of other ideas.

Museum of Central Australia

If you do stop at the Henbury Meteorite Crater site, then the Museum of Central Australia is a must because it contains a piece of the Henbury Meteorite.

pieces of meteorite from Henbury meteorite crater site

It cost $20 for a family to visit the museum and it really focused on the natural and social history of the area.

Self Guided Walk

You can pick up a brochure from the visitor centre which outlines numerous historical buildings of interest. While you are there grab an art trail brochure for some extra information about some of the street art pieces that you will come across.

If you don’t manage to get your hands on a brochure just go for a wander through the main streets of town. There are heaps of information boards with details about what you are seeing to add another depth to your walk.

MacDonnell Ranges

Alice Springs is located in the middle of the MacDonnell Ranges. The ranges stretch to the West and to the East of Alice Springs. Many of the attractions of the ranges are close by and easy to access from Alice Springs. Many choose to do it as a day trip or there are plenty of camping options throughout as well.

The Western MacDonnell Ranges

The Western MacDonnell Ranges National Park is very close to Alice Springs with Simpsons Gap, the closest day use area being only 20km from the centre of town.

I am in the middle of writing a detailed post on the Western Macs NP so watch this space for more information.

The East Macs

The Eastern MacDonnell Ranges are a little more difficult to access as many of the sites require a 4wd to get to. There are a number of sights that are acessible by 2wd, including Trephina Gorge which has an amazing camp ground. The walk at Trephina Gorge was also one of our favourites.

Some of the amazing rock formations on the Trephina Gorge Walk.

The East Macs is definitely much quieter than the Western side, but seemed to have a few more sights of significance to the local Aboriginal people. More details to come in my MacDonnell Ranges post.

Petroglyphs of caterpillar and butterfly significance in the East Macs

The Devils Marbles

Keep driving North from Alice Springs along the Stuart Highway and you will come across the Devil’s Marbles (Karlu Karlu). These incredible formations have been created by water and erosion over millions of years.

some of the devil's marbles

Camping is available on site and there are a couple of short easy walks with many information boards explaining the process that formed the marble like rocks. You could easily spend a night here and take the time to explore the area, or you can turn it into a quick – stretch your legs – kind of stop as it doesn’t take long to have a look around.

Heading further North from the Devil’s Marbles, you begin to move out of the Red Centre. Daly Waters and Mataranka are the next major stops before you get to Katherine, then Darwin and Litchfield and Kakadu National Parks.

The Red Centre also stretches further south from Uluru and does include Cooper Pedy and Birdsville, but I have concentrated on the Northern Territory sections here.

I am constantly updating this website and adding new information. To keep in touch sign up to my newsletter here or hop on our Facebook page to follow our adventures. You can find our other weekly updates here.

Pinterest image for my guide to the red centre

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