Any trip to the Red Centre begins and ends at Alice Springs
, the centre of Australia
. Supporting an area of many thousands of kilometres, Alice Springs
supports regions far beyond the reach of the immediate population
People come to the Red Centre for their first time to see our nation's icon - Ayers Rock (Uluru). Those who come again will have realised on their first visit that the region is enormous, the distances gigantic and best explored given time and self-sufficiency.
Four wheel driving has become the nation's favourite recreation
, although it is not limited to locals. With a country as harsh and large as this you can always find a place to hire a 4WD that is well equipped and suited to the Australian outback conditions to get you there. For those that prefer a bit of guidance there are countless companies that offer safaris, tag-alongs and even 4WD bus tours to enable you to see as much of the highlights in one visit.
You can't come to the Red Centre without seeing a few major features: Ayers Rock and the Olgas, in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, some 500kms south-west of Alice Springs
, at least some of the West MacDonnell Ranges
(Simpson's Gap - Ormiston Gorge
is all bitumen), Kings Canyon
and Arltunga Historic Reserve.
If you've got a bit more time, have a 4WD and are self-sufficient don't miss Rainbow Valley
, Chambers Pillar
, Boggy Hole
in the Finke Gorge and the magnificent gorges and quiet spaces of the East MacDonnell Ranges. You can also put your feet on the planimetric centre of Australia
at the Lambert Centre
just out of the Finke township.
The most important thing to remember about a trip to the Red Centre is to give yourself enough time to really soak up the atmosphere. It's a special place where the colours, the sounds and the textures really need to be savoured. The region offers some of the most varied walking trails within Australia
, especially throughout the West MacDonnell Ranges
. Vehicles are for travelling the great distances between attractions but once you've arrived a true appreciation of this timeless land is to put some leg work into it.
The Red Centre is one of the most photographed regions in the country and if you've always wanted to try your hand at this rewarding activity this might be the ideal place to start with rich warm colours, enchanting sunsets and never-ending clear skies.
Some excellent treks can be planned around Alice Springs
in almost every direction if you have a 4WD vehicle. The McDonald Ranges, Finke Gorge, Palm Valley
, New Crown, Old Andado
, Dalhousie Springs
, Mt Dare, are all excellent 4WD locations within reach of Alice Springs
To head west into the Region , the Anne Beadell, Gunbarrel Highway, or the alternative Great Central Road, are the best options for 4WDs. And the quickest route into the Kimberley is via the Tanami, whilst the Plenty Highway or Simpson Desert is the way to go east into Queensland. To head south, 4WDs will enjoy the Oodnadatta Track.
For 2WD vehicles the Stuart Highway provides the best access north to either Darwin in the , or towards in the south. The Barkley Highway is the main bitumen route for heading east into Queensland. 2WDs can go west towards Perth along the Great Central Road, but not the Gunbarrel Highway, which is strictly 4WD.
April - October is the ideal time to visit the Red Centre, while temperatures are less extreme. Mid summer can be oppressively hot and December - March is the wet season. Winter can be very cold at night, dropping to below 0°C, although day temperatures will still be in the low twenties.