Advice on Uluru, Kings Canyon, West MacDonnell Ranges Trip

Submitted: Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 14:32
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Hi Planning our first foray into the red centre in July this year. I've got a rough itinery worked out and was seeking advice on the best places to camp and things to see. Unfortunately SWMBO is a techer so we are limited to just 2 weeks. The propsed itinery is:
day start finish km time (hrs)
1 Fri pm AdelaidePort Augusta 331 4.5
2 sat Port Aug.Coober Pedy 539 6.33
3 sun Cbr PedyYulara 732 8.75
4 mon Yulara sightsee at ayres rock, olgas
5 tue Yulara sightsee at ayres rock, olgas
6 wed YularaKings Canyon 296 3.75
7 thu Kings CnynKings Canyon sightsee at kings canyon
8 fri Kings CnynPalm Valley 218 5 via mereenie loop
9 sat Palm Valley Sightsee at Palm Valley
10 sun Palm ValleyGlen Helen Gorge 134 2 will take full day with sightseeing
11 mon GH GorgeAlice Springs 132 2 will take full day with sightseeing
12 tue Alice Springs sightseeing
13 wed Alice Springs sightseeing
14 thu Alice Spr Coober Pedy 687 7.75
15 fri Cbr Pedy Adelaide 867 10.5

We will be driving a 90 series diesel prado towing a soft floor off road camper trailer.
Where do people recommend camping? Power is nice if my daughter needs to do homework at night, but is not essential as we have sufficient batteries for a couple of days. Ideally we would be able to have a campfire at night.
Should I shorten the time in Alice Springs and spend more time elsewhere?
What do people consider to be the must see sights en route.
I'm currently reading various magazines and tourist brochures, but interested in the opinions of this group.

Thanks
Graham
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Reply By: Bob of KAOS - Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 14:44

Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 14:44
'Unfortunately SWMBO is a techer so we are limited to just 2 weeks.'

My wife's a teacher (I think that's akin to a 'techer'). They get more holidays than anyone I know (3 lots of two weeks plus the long Christmas Holiday). I wouldn't mind being unfortunate with holidays like that. Mind you- they deserve them.

Bob
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Follow Up By: Bob of KAOS - Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 14:46

Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 14:46
PS She could fly home from Alice on the Sunday, giving you more time away.
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Follow Up By: Graham Watson - Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 16:26

Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 16:26
Damn those dodgy keyboards. I have thought about her and my Daughter flying home, and taking a few extra days to drive back. I have another weeks leave after school goes back. You're right they need those extra days off. I know my wife spends half her "holidays" preparing for the next term (and she is only working part time). The overall length of time they get is good, but the two week blocks (apart from christmas) put a limit on how far you can travel.

Graham
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Follow Up By: Bob of KAOS - Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 18:08

Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 18:08
Graham

I note that Tiger flies Alice to Adelaide for $58 on Saturdays. I'd get in early.

A lot less stressful for a Monday start than a long stint down a pretty boring track.

Bob
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Reply By: Member - Fred B (NT) - Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 14:51

Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 14:51
Make sure you visit the Alice Springs Desert Park.
regards
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Reply By: Rockape - Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 15:05

Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 15:05
Graham,
make sure you walk arounnd the top of Kings Canyon and also include the East McDonald range as well, pity you can't get down to Chambers Pillar.

If you are not used to distance, you or your wife may find it tiring, then again she hasn't got 30 kids in her ear all day.

Have a good trip and just watch your speed around Yulara, most is 40kph and Police do use a hand held radar.
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Follow Up By: Graham Watson - Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 16:20

Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 16:20
I do most of the driving by choice. With family in Sydney we have done regular 2 day hops fom Adelaide to Sydney and vice vrsa. Long days driving on bitumen are not the most pleasant in the world but sometimes unavoidable.
Hopefully we can stop the kids fighting in the back seat (16yo, 19yo & 21yo 8-) ).
I am planning to do the Oodnadatta track/Old Ghan Railway & Chambers Pillar up to Alice Springs on another occasion, and we will probably do the East McDonnell Ranges as part of that trip.

Graham
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 17:10

Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 17:10
Hi Rockape, Hi Graham

The East and the West MacDonnells are a week each on their own.

Graham, you will be driving past the West Macs on the way back to Alice from Glen Helen.

When you leave to Mereenie Loop to head north to Glen Helen, go into Gosse Bluff (4wd track, but we got our rig in with no trouble). It is a fascinating impact crater. Further north there is a good lookout overlooking the Crater in the distance. We were going the other way, so saw it from the lookout first - most impressive as the crater rises from the plains.

Redbank Gorge had more appeal for us than Glen Helen, but the camping here as in the East Macs is National Parks camping, without the facilities of the commercial park at Glen Helen.

Note if getting you Mereenie Loop pass from Kings Canyon, we found people were charged a lot more for it at Kings Canyon than we and others paid getting it at Glen Helen or Hermannsberg. Not big dollars though.

CP at Kings Canyon resort was nice, with views of the sun setting over the range. If you do the rim walk, which was the best walk of the area, start out early in the morning as the climb at the start is steep and best done in the cool.

My blogs as far as they have been done are on My Blogs here, but i only got as far as Kings Canyon, with Uluru - Kata Tjuta still being worked on. The ones already up include Alice Springs, the east and west MacDonnells, Chambers Pillar and the lovely Rainbow Valley. You can include a drive into the latter as it is a bit south of Alice and turns off the Stuart Highway.

When at Alice, a day at the Wildlife Park would be my first priority.

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Reply By: Member - Mfewster(SA) - Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 15:41

Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 15:41
You will be busy, but that looks pretty doable. Do you share the driving? If so, I might be tempted to leave early on day 1 and get to Coober Pedy on same day. Not difficult with two drivers. This gives you a day up your sleeve that you might want to add around Alice. Desert Park a must. Araluen Centre in Alice and the Museum of Central Australia are good, especially if you are interested in Art. We always recommend going up Anzac Hill in Alice (5 min from town Centre) just before first light and watching the Macdonald Ranges as the dawn light hits them.
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Follow Up By: Graham Watson - Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 16:32

Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 16:32
Unfortunately my wife is working in the morning on day 1. I figured if we left when she finished work we could at least get a couple of hours out of the city and save having to drive from Adelaide to Coober Pedy the next day.
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Reply By: Member - Murray R (VIC) - Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 16:43

Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 16:43
Graham
Kings Creek station is a good place to camp when at Kings Canyon, much cheaper than the resort. Goose Bluff is definatly worth a look on your way to Glen Helen. When on theMereenie loop you will see a 44 gal drum with TAKEM FOOT OFF writen on it, do what it says as there are two sharp 90 degree bends and have seen two roll overs there. THe Valley Of The Winds is a good walk at the Olgas [amazing the difference in rock composition between the Olgas and Ayres rock].
Have a good trip.
Murray
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 20:31

Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 20:31
Hi Murray

We were in that area 2008 and charges for both Kings Canyon Resort and Kings Creek Station were much the same so we chose Kings Canyon (which was then for two $33 powered and $27 unpowered). Nice spot, nice view and closer to get an early start for the rim walk.

A check on Badger's CP reports site shows that in 2009, people were paying $36 for two adults powered at both places.

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Follow Up By: Member - Murray R (VIC) - Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 23:34

Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 23:34
Motherhen
How things have changed, Stayed at the Resort in 2000 and then at Kings Station in 2003 with the station being much cheaper than the resort 2 yrs earlier. Agree about the view from the resort.

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Reply By: MEMBER - Darian, SA - Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 17:36

Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 17:36
It's doable ofcourse, but with 'reduced quality' IMV - 3 weeks would allow for a much better appreciation of the features in those areas (can appreciate your time limit though - we were schoolies too :-o).
Yulara - the 9km walk round the base of the rock is well worthwhile.
Olgas - wonderful - Valley of the Winds walk is very impressive.
Kings C - short Valley walk is so so, but the rim walk is wonderful..... plus !
Palm Valley - a great place - 2 short valley walks are good, but the longer Mpara walk should not be missed - very impressive.
Gosse Bluff (met. crater) on the way round to Glen Helen is worth the short drive in.
Re the Namatjira drive from Glen H into the Alice - Ormiston Gorge is a beauty - worth a good walk in there - the others after that as you move east can be a "bit repetitious" as I recall.
As for the Alice itself - my vote for a very short 2 days would be (after seeing the town centre, the lookout and doing the shopping :-o)........ 1. Araluen Cultural Precinct (6 different areas to look over - excellent - need a day for all of that I think) 2. Alice Springs Desert Park (3 hours would be ok probably).
As for camping - there are campgrounds at all the park locations you listed - and caravan parks in all the towns - with all of your daily driving, a simple life might be the best one - skip hunting for good bush camps maybe - Have a good 'un - the red centre is wonderful.... we've been there a few times and we'll be back for sure :-o).
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Reply By: Member - Barnesy - Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 17:38

Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 17:38
Try and get to Coober Pedy in 1 day.
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Reply By: Member - Bucky - Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 17:51

Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 17:51
Graham

You are doing part of our 3 month trip, but in reverse.

We just used the main resorts, and Park camp grounds. for that side of the trip..
Reason being, there ain't much else. anyway. !
You may need to get a powered site, if you are staying in one spot for more than 2-3 days, as your batterys will run down somewhat, as you are not really travelling great enuf distances or time to fully charge them up, during the day.

In saying that there are just a couple of bush camp sites about, but you will be better to camp up in the resorts, and just soak up all the site-seeing.

After you head towards the Mereenie loop, and gravel roads drop your tyre pressures, to 22psi, and 20 in the camper, and you will not get the bejesus shaken out of yourself. Also reduce your speed to 70-75 km/hr.
Those pressures will be reasonable for the trip into Palm Valley too. You cam pump them up at Hermansburg, as you will be back on the bitumen then.

Make sure you get to Stanley Chasm at 10:30 am, and just be in the chasm, when the sun goes from one side to the other.
Anzac Hill is brilliant, and we were so lucky as we were we bumped into a car full of tribal elders, on the way up to Darwin for a conference, and one of the guy's was only too eager to talk and explain things to us.. ..That 20-30 minutes was just "gold"

Spend a day and head out to Arltunga, and the Ross River Road.
if you have another spare day then Chamber's Pillar is a must. you cancamp there and do the sunset/sunrise thing too

The Reptile park/house in Alice is good, I cannot comment on the Desert Park, just outside Alice, on Larapinta Drive ( spelling ?)

Cheers Bucky


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Reply By: Holden4th - Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 19:40

Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 19:40
I think you're trying to fit too much into too short a period of time. Having been on a trip like this where you are constantly setting up and pulling down camp sites, leaving very early in the morning to get to the next destination, it all takes its toll and with a child on board she will be the first to suffer.

Adelaide to the Red Centre is about 1600 kms which you then have to go back on. There is 5 - 6 days driving for a start. This leaves you 8 - 9 days only to enjoy the Red Centre.

In Yulara you'll need to allow a whole day for the 'Rock' and a whole day for the Olgas. This will take 3 nights out of the possible 9 you've got.

Kings Canyon is magnificent and a minimum of two nights is a must if you want to really enjoy the sights. You'll then need a whole day to drive to the Alice and your time is running out at this point. Forget the Mereenie Loop, Palm Valley, Glen Helen, etc. The Alice has so much to offer you can easily use up the rest of your 9 days or you could decide to stay in one spot along that route.

Save the rest for another journey. The Macdonnells are just magnificent and warrant a week or so on their own.

What I'm saying is that if you take your time then the whole experience is so much better.
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 20:36

Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 20:36
Holden4th, i totally agree on the time needed.

We stayed three nights at Uluru, taking a full day on each. The day we got there was blowing a gale and very dusty - sightseeing out of the question. The walks are closed in high winds and high temperatures.

Again we had three nights at Palm Valley, although the this was just because it was nice; we could have done the walks over two days.

We chose to stay two nights at Kings Canyon just to do the rim walk early next morning which took all morning. We also wanted to stop in at Kathleen Gorge and there wasn't time to do both in the same day. I think the walk and try and get through the Mereenie Loop in one day is a tall ask too.

Mh
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Reply By: Member - Rob S (NSW) - Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 20:39

Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 20:39
Hi Graham.
I did a similar trip in july 06 from Sydney with the same amount of time you have.
One thing is in two weeks you can't see every thing.

I found i you arrive at places after lunch and set up camp still gives you enough time to sight see the main attractions.

Coober peedy i night, 2 nights in Yulara, 2 sunsets ,1 sun rise and walk the rock,
Meerinee loop,Kings canyon ,Palm valley ,2 nights in Alice is enough.
I went to chambers pillar, well worth it, than another night in Alice.
And then lamberts centre (geographical centre of Australia), Finke along the old ghan,down the Oodnadatta track, and Flinders ranges. in two weeks.
a bit pushed but doable.And that was towing a camper 1 driver.

You will heaps of time.


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Reply By: Member - Scrubby (VIC) - Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 22:04

Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 22:04
G`day Graham,

We were through this area last June.

A couple of bits of info..........

Ask around at Curtin Springs RH for a " handed on " entry pass for the Rock and Olgas, they are for three days and some people only use them for one day and then hand them on to others.

The souvenirs at Ripoff Rock are about three times dearer than the same ones in Alice .

The price of Diesel on the way out to the Rock was,
Ebenezer RH.............. $1.95
Curtin Springs RH........ $1.75
Yulara .................... $ 1.50

The Rim climb at Kings Canyon is a MUST DO. ( Take 2-3 ltrs of water each)

The " Gooday Mate " caravan park in Alice Springs was the cheapest and very good.

As others have said, the Desert Park in Alice is great.

Enjoy,

Scrubby




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Reply By: bockstar1 - Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 22:33

Saturday, Feb 13, 2010 at 22:33
As others have said, try to get to Coober Pedy in one day.

It's best to get the big travel days in early on a trip.Adelaide to CP is not too much of a stretch. We did Broken Hill to CP in a day (although it was a long day!!).

It's wonderful part of the world. You'll have a great time.

http://forums.overlander.com.au/viewtopic.php?p=850993&highlight=#850993

http://forums.overlander.com.au/viewtopic.php?p=850998&highlight=#850998

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Reply By: Member - Effie C (NT) - Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 00:21

Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 00:21
Graham
Is there any reason for stopping over night in Coober? as Port Augusta to Alice in a day is an easy drive and asyou are going to the rock then there are plenty of other places to stop and camp between the border and the rock, as others have said shift the miles early in the trip.
John
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Reply By: cycadcenter - Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 03:16

Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 03:16
'Hopefully we can stop the kids fighting in the back seat (16yo, 19yo & 21yo 8-) ).

WOW.......................

These are not "kids" but adults, seems to me it would be a little tight in the back seat of a Prado to travel that far.

Bruce
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Reply By: Member - Carl- Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 09:11

Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 09:11
Hi Graham.

Day 3 has you arriving at Ayres Rock late in the day. We found that the caravan park fills very quickly and you might miss out. Not certain if you can book at that one, so you might check. If not camp about 90 kilometers from Ayres Rock at a camp on the left hand side heading in. Get up early and do the rest in the morning, so you are at the caravan park not long after opening. We missed out and stayed at the cheapest hotel we could find ($420a night).

In Alice the Big 4 is fantastic and wins all the awards.

Check what else is happening in Alice. I think there are many big rallies this year and the entire town might be booked out. Other members might have a better idea of what is happening as well.
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 19:34

Sunday, Feb 14, 2010 at 19:34
Good point Carl

We by chance arrived in Alice early last July and were devastated to find our favourite CP was fully booked. The others were all very crowded and we were not happy with where we stayed as a result of this.

Curtin Springs Station is a good spot to stop to ensure arriving at Uluru in time to get a place in the CP. Camping is free for unpowered sites with a fee for showers, or a fee for powered sites (no further charge for showers) - or was in 2008. Mt Conner, which is of a similar size to Uluru, is on Cutin Springs Station.

Graham hasn't mentioned camp ground requirements, but if you do want to investigate this Graham, are you aware of Badger's Caravan Park Reports which consists of contributions by many travellers. The parks we stayed at and my reports can be seen on Badgers.

Mh
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Reply By: Graham Watson - Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 00:32

Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 00:32
Thanks all for the comments. The Alice Springs Desert Park sounds like a definite place to visit. I am not too worried if I don't get to see everything in Alice Springs as we will need to go back when we do the Eastern Macdonnell Ranges. The Kings Canyon rim walk was also on the list of must do activities. Still deciding whether or not to climb Uluru.
I will certainly give consideration to my wife and daughter flying back. I should have enough frequent flyer points to cover a QANTAS flight for them. (If they fly back I get to spend some time looking around woomera on the return drive & I get to listen to my own choice in music).
Given that this will be only a short trip with no real opportunities to dawdle we will pre book caravan parks where possible, which is why I am starting to plan now.

Thanks
Graham


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Reply By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 14:24

Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 14:24
Did something similar last year, and received great advice on this Forum, Motherhens reply was a big help

I second what was said in terms that the West Mac range is a week in itself. All you can with your limited time is to pick one or two features on the 130km stretch from Alice to Glen Helen and do them properly. Don't try and do them all, though Ochre Pits don't take long.

At Uluru the only place to stay is Voyage's resort camp ground, good facilities. They have a 7 aisle IGA so you can restock with just about anything you need.
At Kings Canyon I can't recommend Kings Creek Station highly enough. You will learn a lot about the area from the Conway family, the Voyage's Kings Canyon Resort is a scaled down carbon copy of Uluru. Just about every other place is staffed by overseas backpackers.

Meerenie Loop was an ordinary road, but no where near as daunting as people make out, all depends what your previous experiences have been. Yep lower your tyre pressures, the roughly 200km of dirt to Glen Helen is the only place you will need to do it, as everything else is good highway.

Depends how old your children are but our teenage kids found the Mac Range caravan park fantastic, plus they have plenty of night time activities. Best caravan park of our 3 weeks away (yeah maybe the most expensive but worth it), but Kings Ck Station was our favourite civilised spot we stayed.

Don't like your chances of having too many campfires, Glen Helen & Kings Canyon Station yes. You will have to collect firewood outside of NP.

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Follow Up By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 14:28

Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 14:28
PS

I thirds the fly in for some members of your family, on long trips due to family issues we have done it twice.
Not really much lost in not seeing the section form Port Augusta to Uluru. You can fly in/ out of Uluru or Alice Springs
Though if you haven't been thyere before, stop in at Woomera for lunch and also spend an hour at the Moons Plain about 20km north of Coober Pedy.
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