When we planned our Australia trip, I wanted see the Red Centre, mostly because of famous Uluru. My husband thought spending our time and money on seeing a big rock would be a waste, but once there he had to admit it was pretty special. Surprisingly though, the highlight of this trip was Kings Canyon. Read on for our itinerary, pictures and practical tips.
First, I will share our itinerary and activities. Then scroll down for some practical tips to take into account when planning a roadtrip through the Red Centre.
Day 1: Alice Springs
We started our trip from Alice Springs, arriving in the afternoon (from Cairns) and immediately making our way to the rental company to pick up our camper. Ours was a small hitop campervan, perfect for two persons and not too difficult to drive and park: it easily fitted on a regular parking spot! We knew there would not be many supermarkets once we started our roadtrip, so we stocked up that first day.
Afterwards we went looking for a camping and ended up at G’Day Mate Tourist Park. Since Alice Springs did not look particularly interesting to us and it was unbearably hot, we spent the rest of the day by the pool.
Day 2: Alice Springs – Kings Canyon
Time to start our roadtrip! We left early and started driving to Kings Canyon, which is around 500 kilometers from Alice Springs via sealed roads.
We arrived at Kings Canyon Resort in the afternoon and immediately drove to Watarrka National Park for the Kings Creek Walk. It is a short walk (2,5 kilometers) and there is plenty of shade, which makes this a good walk to start later in the day.
After our walk we bought two beers at the resort bar and made our way to the sunset viewing platform at the campsite. We watched a wonderful sunset over Kings Canyon.
Day 3: Kings Canyon – Ayers Rock
An early start again! It is recommended to start the Kings Canyon rim walk around sunrise, especially in summer since there is virtually no shade. The Kings Canyon rim walk starts with a large climb, consisting of around 1.000 ‘steps’ (or rather: stacked rocks). It was tough, but the view from the top is rewarding and afterwards there’s not much more climbing. The walk is around 6 kilometers and we loved every part of it. The rock structures are amazing. The rock domes that you can see during the walk are called ‘The Lost City’, since they look like an abandoned city. Also, there’s an area called ‘The Garden of Eden’, where you descend into the gorge to discover a very lush, green garden with a stream.
After the walk we returned to our campsite for a cup of coffee and a late breakfast, and then we started the drive to Ayers Rock. This is the ‘town’ nearest to Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park, even though it actually is just one huge resort. It has a post office, supermarket, town square and many bars and restaurants. And steep prices, but what do you expect if there’s only one place to stay? The campsite set us back 50 AUD, but amenities were clean and you really do not have another choice.
After finding a pitch and cooking a simple dinner in our camper, we drove to the Uluru sunset viewing area. We took some glasses and a bottle of wine with us and enjoyed the view. The shadows and colors of the rock change constantly as the sun sets, making for a great show. This was when we realized this place really is special.
Day 4: Ayers Rock
After sleeping a bit longer for once, we woke up slowly with breakfast and coffee. We then drove to Uluru to see the rock from up close. It is amazing and so different from what you would expect: it has a strange structure, with lots of ‘holes’ in it. We would have liked to do the Uluru ‘base walk’, which loops around the whole rock, but at 11:00 the temperature had already reached over 40 degrees Celsius. So instead we went to the Uluru visitor centre to learn more about Uluru and the aboriginal culture, and have lunch in the (airconditioned) restaurant. That evening, we watched the sunset from the campsite. Afterwards we fled to a bar at the resort for some drinks: the bush flies outside were driving us crazy and our camper was still very hot.
This picture shows the strange structure of Uluru
Day 5: Ayers Rock – Alice Springs
For this morning, we planned to do the ‘Valley of the Winds’ walk at Kata Tjuta. We left just after sunrise and drove to Kata Tjuta, which is over 50 kilometers away from the Ayers Rock Resort. After a quick stop at the sunrise viewing area, we started the walk. It was pretty difficult, with lots of loose rocks. Also, after the beautiful walk at Kings Canyon, we were a bit disappointed by the landscape. It was not that interesting, to be honest. So after maybe 30 minutes of walking, we decided not to continue and returned to the camper to start our drive back to Alice Springs.
That ended up being a good decision. We had to return the camper that afternoon and the driving was slow due to hard winds, so we ended up needing the extra time.
So that was our roadtrip. Beforehand, I thought 5 days – or actually 4 not counting the first day in Alice Springs, when we were not ‘on the road’ – would maybe be too short. But we really did not need an extra day. The heat is pretty exhausting and the bush flies drove us crazy, so we were happy to leave the Red Centre behind after having seen the highlights. We wouldn’t have missed it though!
- Stock up on food and drinks before you start. The only supermarket we came across during our roadtrip was at Ayers Rock, and it was expensive. We bought groceries for five days in Alice Springs.
- Make sure to buy enough water. We took around 3 bottles of water (4,5 liters) per day, plus some bottles of flavoured drinks for variation, adding up to 6 liters per day. It’s easy enough to store bottles in a campervan, so just take some extra with you.
- We did not know how well our fridge cooled, so did not buy any perishable products such as meat and fish (other than tuna from a can).
- Refuel at every roadhouse you come across. They can be far apart and you really do not want to run out of fuel!
- Make sure you insure your camper or car properly. Even though the sealed road is in pretty good condition, there’s loose dirt and small stones that easily damage your car and windshield, especially if a roadtrain is passing by. We ended up getting a chip in the windshield on the first day of our roadtrip. Luckily, we were insured well and it did not cost us. You can take some precautions yourself as well by keeping some extra distance from other cars.
- When going for a hike, bring:
- Plenty of water and some extra food (such as cereal bars).
- A hat and scarf or light cardigan, to protect yourself from the sun if necessary.
- Fly nets! There are so many bush flies. We bought fly nets before our trip but all the roadhouses in the Red Centre sell them as well (at a steeper price, of course).
Let me know if you have any other questions.